Want to make money writing, but your freelance writing life sometimes feels insanely difficult?
You know…like you’re trying to roll a big, greasy ball up a steep hill.
You may be working too hard because you’re working against the natural order.
To make money writing, you need to understand the fundamental laws under which all freelancers operate.
Much like Newton’s laws of motion, there are some basic laws that govern the world of freelancing.
Understand and work with them, and it’ll be easier to grow your income. Ignore or remain ignorant of them, and it’s hard to get any traction.
What are these basic laws of freelancing to make money writing?
I have seven (and a handy, downloadable infographic version you can keep — scroll down to the bottom of this post):
1. THE LAW OF NICHES & PAY
Writing work of one kind tends to lead to more work of that same kind, from similar clients and at a similar pay rate.
Writers often toil away in content mills, writing about plumbing pipes or DUIs or whatever. Then, they’re baffled that it doesn’t help them land $1-a-word copywriting gigs about medical devices. That they’re stuck writing the short junk for $20.
Lay the groundwork for freelance success
But the fact is, whatever you write today lays the groundwork for what you can readily get paid to write tomorrow. It forms the portfolio you can show prospects.
- The easiest way to get more freelance jobs and make money writing is with samples that are highly similar to the type of writing you’re trying to get hired for. Because lawyers don’t have time to teach you the law, and software marketers don’t have time to teach you tech.
Everyone is looking for a writer who’ll be plug-and-play for their stuff. Hence the need for similar samples.
What’s the solution?
You’ve got to scheme a way to write something that resembles the sort of writing you’d like to get paid to do in the future.
Doing a small pro bono assignment for the clip is not a bad thing, if it positions your portfolio to help you move up to the work you want. You can often cobble together several pieces of related work to make the case that you’re the writer, a method I call simple addition.
2. THE LAW OF CLIENT RELATIVITY
Getting rid of a problem client creates a vacuum which naturally attracts a new and better client.
This law is a bit mysterious — think of it as the black hole of freelance writing. But I’ve seen it in action so many times that I believe in it wholeheartedly.
What kind of clients are you attracting?
When you’re writing for a ton of crap clients, it’s hard to attract good clients. It’s like the universe is sensing that crummy pay is what you want.
By contrast, when writers get up the gumption to dump their biggest loser, and they start telling folks they’ve got some open time in their schedule, a better prospect soon appears.
I think the reason this law works is that it takes so much negative mental energy to work with the bad client. Ending that allows your positive energy to flow out into the universe, which responds by sending a better client.
3. THE LAW OF EXPANDING WORK
Freelance work tends to expand to fill all available time, no matter how small the assignment.
This is a law all freelancers must beware. You’re probably familiar with this effect. Let me ask you…
Ever juggled 3 assignments in a week flat, and somehow got it all done? You felt empowered and proud of yourself.
But the next 3 weeks, you had only one small assignment to do. Yet somehow, it took every minute of those 3 weeks. Am I right?
This is the law of expanding work in action.
When we have no other work, writers will research too much. We let interviews drag on too long. We waste time on Facebook. Your efficiency goes in the toilet.
Meanwhile, a dim bell is ringing in the back of your head that says you should be clearing some blocks of time for marketing, hello? But you struggle to make it happen.
Here’s the solution: Start tracking your hours. Think about what you’re earning from the assignment, and the hourly rate you need — and then assign the project only that many hours.
Refuse to let a small assignment suck up all the oxygen. Create shorter deadlines for yourself. Give yourself a research-time limit. And for heck’s sake, start time-blocking some marketing actions onto your calendar, to make sure they get done.
4. THE LAW OF EASY UPSELLS
It’s easier to get more work from an existing client than to find a new client.
This one kind of says what it means. Writers all hate marketing, so it stands to reason that it’s easier to simply ask existing clients if there’s more you could do for them — perhaps a new free report for their blog subscribers, hm?
Many writers are shy about pitching upsells, so let me give you a tip: Cast your upsell as an expression of caring about making their business succeed.
“We’re working hard on weekly blog content, but I notice your opt-in box for capturing emails offers no instant free product they can download. Those are proven to make signups skyrocket.
“I know opt-ins have been low, which means you’re not optimizing the value of that blog content. What if we create an enticing free report, to juice up opt-ins and build your lead list?”
In other words, you’re not pitching this because you need to book an extra $1,500 project this month and make money writing to pay the rent, no-no. It’s because you want them to make more money. Gets ’em every time.
5. THE LAW OF MARKETING VALUE
A freelancer’s income tends to increase in direct proportion to the amount of energy they invest in marketing.
One writer recently described themselves to me as a “reluctant marketer.” Naturally, she was also a broke writer.
Too many writers try to live off whatever flows in the door. In general, that’s a recipe for poverty.
On the other hand, writers who are serious about doing proactive, regular marketing every month (no matter how slammed with paying work they are!)… those writers tend to earn more.
They’ve simply got more lines in the water, so they tend to catch more fish. More lines leads to more nibbles, more client meetings, and more assignments. It gives you the ability to pick and choose the better-paid gigs, instead of desperately scrabbling for anything you can get.
Accept that you’re in business, just like the apparel boutique on Main Street. You wouldn’t expect that shop to stay in business with zero marketing, right? Well, you’re no different.
6. THE LAW OF ASKING
Freelancers are rarely paid more than they ask for — so make asking for raises a regular part of your business routine.
Here’s something crazy I hear writers say a lot:
“I was not offered any more money, it was only $100 an article.”
The reality? You did not ask for more money, and you felt desperate, so you took a writing job where you’re underpaid.
Wake up, writers…
The luck fairy is not going to bring you $100-an-hour rates. You’ll have to spec out how long it takes you to do things and learn to bid by the project.
Once you start asking if there’s wiggle room in that budget, you’ll be shocked at how often you can get paid more. Just for asking.
Asking for raises is what all professionals do. Learn how to ask for a raise, and make asking a habit.
Snap out of passive mode and realize it’s up to you to make your income grow. At the very least, ask for more from new clients. Remember, the cost of living just keeps going up — so your rates should, too.
7. THE LAW OF FREELANCE KARMA
The way you treat clients will return to you, in similar treatment you receive from future clients.
Ever felt like telling off a client? Or quitting in a huff and leaving them in the lurch?
Do your writing career a favor, and don’t. In business, it really doesn’t pay to be mean.
That tyrannical editor may rule over a $20-a-post content mill post today, but tomorrow they could turn up at a place that pays $500. They also know people, and they talk.
- If you need to quit, or it’s not working out, keep it professional. Give notice. Refer them someone, if you can. Then, calmly move on.
Remember, your most valuable treasure in this life is your good name. Don’t let one annoying client make you lose your cool and get a bad rep. They’re just not worth it.
Know the laws to make money writing
Do these laws clear a few things up for you? I hope so!
Once you work with the basic flow of freelance writing, it’ll be easier to move up and earn what you want.
Want to keep a handy copy of these laws, to remind you about them? Here’s an infographic link:
Do you have freelance laws you follow? Share yours in the comments.