How to make money and win clients as a freelance writer

How to make money and win clients as a freelance writer
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation

Posted: Wed 24th Apr 2013

More and more of us - writers especially - are working for ourselves in our growing freelance economy. But as a writer, how do you make sure you get work and make money in a competitive field? Rachael Oku, author of Become a Freelance Writer offers this advice for pitching perfectly to editors (and it's good for other freelancers, too!).

Freelance writer | Rachael Oku

No matter how great a writer you are and how good your brand is, without a knack for pitching and selling your work to new clients you'll struggle to make money, writes Rachael (left). You need to have a pitch that is no less than perfect - as a writer, your communication must be faultless. Coupled with this, you'll need to do something to set yourself apart. Video pitches, for instance, are a great way of demonstrating your communication skills, showing your personality and injecting some fun into a process that can often be a writer's most tedious task.

How to make money as a freelance writer

But the most important thing when it comes to turning your talent into profit is knowing your worth. Avoid wasting time competing with the masses for low paid work. Instead, focus on the better-paying gigs and do everything in your power to win them. Be prepared to hold out for a few well-paying clients. This will afford you the time and motivation to produce your best work and allow more free time to find new, quality clients. Here are a few things to have in the back of your mind when applying and pitching for work:

- Approach the editors, publications and clients that you know pay the best, first.

- Prioritise jobs that stand to bring in the most money.

- Unless you're starting out, stick to what you know best. In the long run it'll be faster to write about what you know and you'll more than likely be able to make more money by leveraging your knowledge to your advantage.

- Be aware of what your competitors are doing. What services are they providing and at what prices?

- Offer your services at 10-15 per cent more than you'd accept, allowing yourself room to negotiate. This works in your favour if a client is driving a hard bargain or if you're pitching to someone you'd really like to build a relationship with: offer them a 10-15per cent discount on your initial quote.

"Offer your services at 10-15 per cent more than you'd accept, allowing yourself room to negotiate. This works in your favour if a client is driving a hard bargain."

Negotiation  Arm wrestling

- If you quote for a job and work gets added, provide an updated quote.

- Be open to long hours and tight deadlines. Speed costs money, enabling you to charge more.

- Consider who the client is. What will they be happy with vs. what will you be happy with?

- Calculate the risk involved in any particular project against what you stand to gain. If the job offers great exposure, consider working for a reduced fee.

- Always be on the lookout for new revenue streams.

- Offer bulk deals. If a client's interested in hiring your services for a big project or for repeat business, cut them a deal. Whether you can afford to give a hefty discount, or can only make a gesture, it'll be appreciated either way and could be what keeps them coming back in future.

- Increase your prices once a year.

- Always make time to check in with old clients and see if they have anything new in the pipeline.

How to win clients as a freelance writer

Cold calling: Cold calling isn't fun. But it isn't supposed to be. Gone are the days when it was the only method of getting hold of the powerful editors and clients. Yet somehow cold calling remains among the most successful. My personal approach is to put in a call to a specific company or department of a publication and have a brief chat. If possible, I anonymously find out what they're working on and who is the best person to email regarding commissions, new titles etc. I then see what stories I have in my bank (ideas and titles that are stored on my hard drive) and tailor them to the topics that are most relevant to said publication or company. I email the contact who has been recommended to me and will then follow up with another call a week later. Query letters (pitching): Getting the tone of pitches and query letters right is as an art form. They're essential tools in getting a decision maker excited about your work. The aim is to introduce yourself and your ideas succinctly; leaving the person you're pitching to wanting more. For writers, most pitches will come in the form of query letters. These need to be snappy and to the point without being over-zealous and off-putting.  The most popular layout is the hook, a mini-synopsis and finally, your biography. Her are my tips for writing a spot-on query letter:

- Research the people and company you're pitching to. Read their work, follow them on social media, get to understand what's important to them and what they are looking for from a writer.

- Address your prospect by name and thank them for their time.

- Imagine that you're the editor or client receiving a query letter. Consider what you'd like it to say and how it would hold your attention.

"Getting the tone of pitches and query letters right is an art form. They need to be snappy and to the point without being over-zealous and off-putting."

Pitching for business | Fountain pen and letter

- Know your USP inside out.

- Keep it short and get straight to the point. Try to summarise your writing idea(s) in the fewest words possible (fewer than 300). Do not exceed one page.

- Include the proposed titles of your work and respective word counts in your mini-synopsis.

- Don't forget to include links to your website/examples of your work.

- Be enthusiastic about your abilities, but beware of going overboard.

- Keep information on a need-to-know basis. If an editor or client wants your CV they'll ask for it.

- Avoid mentioning fees and terms at such an early stage.

- Ask directly to follow up with a meeting. Be polite, but don't give your prospect a chance to be vague.

- If using snail mail, include a stamped self-addressed envelope encouraging the prospect to reply.

You can find examples of successful query letters and advice on the following websites:

Get the complete guide to the business of writing for just £5

Rachael's new book Become a Freelance Writer: Your complete guide to the business of writing is available as an ebook for just £5 from the Enterprise Nation shop. Click on the link below to find out more and buy your copy! [product id="72220"] Photo credits: Marco Raaphorst (top), Dan Bennett (arm wrestlers), Toshiyuki Imai (fountain pen) via Compfight cc

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