5 Freelance Writing Lessons: Reach 5-Figure Months

Reach 5-Figure Months as a Freelance Writer

This post, 5 Freelance Writing Lessons: Reach 5-Figure Months, is brought to you by Jessica Walrack. She’s an nDash community member, Founder of All Things Freelance Writing, and Personal Finance SEO Blog Writer.

Starting out as a freelance writer can feel like you’re in the Wild West — the terrain is wide open and unknown. You can work when you want, from where you want, with who you want. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that success demands certain behaviors. So, if you’re anything like me, you may begin to understand why past bosses were hard on you. 

Now, I’m just over nine years into my freelance writing journey and can tell you many stories! But today, I’m going to focus on the five most important lessons I’ve learned about building a successful freelance writing business. Hopefully, these can help you avoid common mistakes and fast-track your revenue growth.

5 ways to fast-track your freelance writing success

What do I wish I’d known when I started freelance writing? Here are 5 of the most important things. 

Diversify and optimize your freelance writing workload 

A writer smiling about her workPhoto by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

A new client once offered me four times what I was making per word. Four times! Shortly after, I danced around my house as I knew this would be life-changing. I took on as much as I could from this client, and all was going beautifully…..until they started missing payment dates. Another hit came when they lowered their pay rates and then did so again. All my eggs were in one basket, and my business was on very thin ice.

To prevent this problem, figure out how many days and hours you’re willing to work per month. Then, decide how much time you’re willing to give to any one client. For me, the max is now 20%. I typically write about 20 articles per month, so that means the maximum I can write for any one client is 4 pieces per month. My packages are designed accordingly. With this in place, I’m okay if one client bails or doesn’t pay on time, etc. Further, I have no problem drawing hard lines on my rates/requirements when necessary. 

Along with client diversification, it’s also helpful to understand the profitability of your current workload (here’s an example of a spreadsheet template for rates). Track how long each piece takes you, how much you make per item, and how the profit breaks down per day, hour, and word. Keeping these records makes it easy to see which projects are most profitable and where you may need to raise your rates or find new clients. 

Build a diversified online freelance writing presence 

Next, many new writers ask me where they can find work. It can be elusive at first. However, the truth is almost every single business today needs content and copy. A good place to start is reaching out to prospects via cold pitching, but I also recommend building an online presence so clients reach out to you. How? Here are a few ways. 

Bylined piecesMiami Herald screenshot; Jessica Walrack writing byline "How Do Student Loans Work?"

Freelance writing is cool because if you focus on landing bylined gigs, every single piece you write can double as a lead magnet/social proof. As you grow, you can land clients with higher domain authorities which gets you more exposure. This can be very helpful in attracting leads, especially if you are specializing in a particular niche.

Social mediaJessica Walrack LinkedIn screenshot; "Freelance Writer | Personal Finance Blogs and Articles | On-page SEO is my second language"

Social media is another place you should invest in building a presence. I’d say LinkedIn is the number one place to build a profile as a freelance writer right now, followed by Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. There are also many Facebook groups for freelance writers that are seriously helpful for finding work, growing your network, and getting answers about all kinds of situations you’re likely to encounter. 

WebsiteJessica Walrack Writing webpage screenshot. 5 Freelance Writing Lessons: Reach 5-Figure Months

I also recommend creating a website for your writing services. I waited a long time to do this because I didn’t think I needed it, but many people contacted me through my site. Bonus points if you set up an email marketing strategy! That’s been a bit too much for me currently, but I know it’s something I will be doing in the future. 

Note: Your website doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. I made mine in two days for under $100. I may upgrade it at some point, but it’s doing its job now. 

Be a partner in your client’s success

Two women smiling, chatting at window in officePhoto by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

One of the biggest ways to level up the value you offer is to bring knowledge to the table about how your writing can best help your client’s business. For me, as a writer that specializes in SEO content writing, that means providing insights on what I believe will perform best. I’m no longer only taking instructions to meet my client’s briefs. I am a partner in ensuring that the writing is driving revenue. This shift changes the relationship and the value I bring. Hence, it enables me to command a higher rate.

It will take some time to gain the knowledge and experience required to take on this partner role, and it’s not something you want to fake. However, it can be a very effective way to scale up as a writer. While I specialize in blogs, you can take more ownership in various types of writing, including emails, sales pages, ads, home page copy, etc. 

A good place to start is figuring out how success is measured, asking your clients how your writing is performing, and continuously studying how to improve. 

Choose a strategic writing niche  

I was a generalist for a long time for a few reasons. Above the rest, I didn’t want to exclude clients as I feared I wouldn’t get enough work. However, when I finally niched down, I learned the opposite was true. Demand skyrocketed, and I began getting contacted by some of the biggest names in the industry. My mind was blown. 

So I have learned there is great power in choosing a very narrow niche. That said, it’s important to choose one strategically because you could potentially pigeonhole yourself into a dead end. I generally recommend starting out as a generalist to identify a niche that ticks the following three boxes:

  • High demand
  • Competitive pay
  • Enjoyment

All three are very important. For me, niching down was twofold — including the industry (personal finance) and content type (SEO blogs).

Be a person people LOVE to work with 

Writer smiling at computerPhoto by Windows on Unsplash

Last but not least, you’ve gotta be a person people want to work with. You can do all the work in the world to get clients, niche down, and optimize your workload, but you won’t be successful if you aren’t making your clients happy. You have to deliver what they need, do what you say, communicate well and have fine attention to detail. Consistency will breed trust, and often, the ego needs to be checked at the door (no matter how successful you get). 

Understanding expedites revenue growth

People say hindsight is 20/20. In looking back on my freelance writing business journey, it’s clear that I could’ve grown much more quickly if I’d known the things I know now. I honestly did suffer a bit because of the concepts I just didn’t understand yet. And the crazy thing about running your own business is that your mastery of that business will directly correlate with your revenue. 

Learning one little lesson and gaining one little understanding has doubled my income at multiple points throughout my career.

Knowing this, I created an ungated place where freelance writers can come to learn from other experienced writers — All Things Freelance Writing. The mission is simple, to help other writers grow thriving businesses they enjoy (the enjoyment part is key). It’s a place where you can hear from writers who have “made it” and learn the lessons they think are most important for the writing community. 

Where can you find All Things Freelance Writing? 

Pick your favorite place!

Want to be connected to legitimate brands paying rates set by you? Join Jessica on nDash today!