If you’ve made a resolution to make more money as a freelance writer this year, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step toward getting there – setting a goal.
There are two basic ways to accomplish that goal: earn more and spend less.
This week, I’m running a two-part series on running a more profitable freelance writing business. Today’s installment focuses on generating more income.
Here are 10 suggestions for making that happen:
1. Up your rates. If you’ve been writing for the same clients for a while ask for a raise. Explain why you think you deserve a higher fee – you’ve never missed a deadline, you consistently come up with pitches they like, you’ve graduated to writing for a higher tier of publications and they all pay more. Whatever it is, be prepared to be your own best advocate in negotiations.
2. Increase your productivity. If you normally take 10 hours to research and write a 1,000-word assignment, try finishing in 8 hours instead. Do that for four stories in one month and you’ll have enough time to take one additional assignment – at $1 a word that would be an extra $1,000. Do that 12 times and you’ll make $12,000 more this year. Read my suggestions for speeding up your work in this post on how to write fast. Find it hard not to get distracted by Facebook and Twitter? Use apps like StayFocusd or Leechblock to block yourself from online distractions. Find out more about apps to block distractions and increase productivity in this post I wrote for SecondAct.com: Software for Social Media Junkies.
3. Work longer hours. If you’re already working a 40+ hour work week, I don’t recommend piling on many more hours. I spent 2010 doing that and although it was financially my best year ever, I was always tired and didn’t have enough time off to recharge. But if you’re only freelancing part-time, consider adding some hours or days to your schedule. Maybe it’s time to go from 2 to 3 days a week. If you’re freelancing on top of a Monday-Friday job, could you switch to a 4-day work week to give yourself one weekday for freelancing? If you’re a SAHM and writing as a way to get back into the workforce, could you hire a babysitter a few mornings a week, or let your kids stay in after-school care a few afternoons a week to give yourself some more writing time? Since you’ll be adding child-care expenses make sure you’re bringing in enough work to cover it with plenty left over. Here’s more great advice on part-time freelancing in a WordCount guest post by Gretchen Roberts: 5 ways to earn full-time income from part-time freelancing.
4. Write for publications that pay more. If you’ve spent the last year or two writing for publications that pay 25 cents or 50 cents a word, it’s time to break into higher-paying markets. If you’re not sure where to find them, try Susan Johnston’s ebook, The Urban Muse Writer’s Guide to Online Writing Markets.
5. Sell reprints. If you retain rights to your work, resell them to other markets. Regional parenting magazines are a good place to start, as many buy reprints. Here’s a post on making money from reprints from the WM Freelance blog: Make Extra Money With Reprints.
6. Repurpose existing material in other ways. Reprints aren’t the only way to make money from existing material. You can repackage stories or blog posts into ebooks, or use them as the basis for paid speaking engagements. Here’s a WordCount post on ebooks: How to write and market an ebook.
7. Run ads on your blog. This assumes you have a blog; if you don’t have one, get one. Read about starting a blog here, here and here. Join an ad network like Google AdSense or BlogHer (disclaimer: I’m doing a freelance editing project for BlogHer right now, though it doesn’t have anything to do with their ad network). If you’re interested in learning more about BlogHer read this: Thinking of joining BlogHer ad network? Here’s what to know. Or solicit advertisers on your own.
8. Branch out. As opportunities to write for newspapers, women’s magazines and other traditional freelance markets dry up, others are appearing. Specialty online-only news sites are everywhere and many use freelancers. Publishers who produce custom publications – in print or online – are booming, and some don’t have as many writers as they need. Not sure where or how to start? Writers’ conferences are a good place to pick up tips for branching out, and for meeting editors. Organizations such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors host annual conferences – I’m speaking at their Writing Boot Camp in April – but you don’t have to fly to New York to get this type of training. There are plenty of state and local conferences as well. See lists of writers conferences on Teen Writers Bloc and Thoughtful Reflections.
9. Specialize. I know a lot of freelancers who are self-avowed generalists, and some do quite well at it. I’ve taken a different tack and specialized in a handful of subject. The more you know about a subject, the more money you can command writing about it. Here’s more on how to be a niche writer.
10. Take editing work. If you’ve organized, work well with others, know the ins and outs of grammar, understand what goes into making a good story and can explain that to someone else, and have a handle on the content management systems (CMS) that most publications use today, you’ve got what it takes to be a freelance editor. Generally speaking, freelance editing work pays fairly well, and lots of publications farm out editing work. You can find out about editing gigs in the same places you find out about freelance writing work, in market guides, at writers conferences and online at sites such as Mediabistro, JournalismJobs, and Freelance Success ($99/yr).