Becoming a successful freelance writer takes a lot more than just writing good copy, follow these tips to earn more money from your freelance writing business.
Repeat Business is the Key to Become a Successful Freelance Writer
This is the number one key to success, and it goes for most types of freelancing businesses not just freelance writing, build up regular clients that send you work repeatedly. Deliver great copy, go out of your way to impress people and get the right types of clients (those with budget and opportunities for recurring copywriting work) and the writing briefs will keep coming your way.
This strategy does take time to establish, you aren’t going to find a bunch of great clients with regular work to offer overnight, but over time, and by using some of the approaches below you will make it to the top of their list.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Whilst repeat business is great, do not become overly reliant on just one or two clients. It is almost inevitable that something may happen to that client that is totally out of your control which means work from them dries up. The person you have built the key relationship with may move on, the company may cease to trade or change direction etc. etc.
So never get yourself into a position where the loss of one or two clients would hit you hard financially. Make sure you have a decent client base, so no one client makes up more than circa 20% of your revenue.
Ok, so I think I’ve made my point that repeat business is vital to earning great money from freelance writing but how do you actually get this repeat business. Well, it’s all about dazzling your clients by basically being better than the rest, by going that extra mile to impress them, building a relationship and keeping you front of mind.
When you first take on a client, ask them plenty of questions about their business. People usually love talking about their business (particularly if they are the owner) and they love the fact that you are actually interested and taking the time to find out more.
I personally love speaking to clients, new and existing, about their business. How is it going, what’s their USP, how the mechanics of the business works. All of this knowledge helps me to produce better results for them.
Do Your Own Research
As well as asking the client questions, do some research on the business. Who are the competitors, what types of things do they write about, what type of marketing do they do, who are their customers, what do they say about the company/its products/services etc.
If you have access to a keyword research tool (Ahrefs, SEMrush, SimilarWeb etc.), then use it to find out what the top search terms are both for them and competitors. This will all help you to write better, more targeted content.
Show an interest in what your client does and engage with their business. This could involve going so far as trying their product or service so you have first-hand experience of it. All of this comes naturally to me, I work with all sorts of business and some of them are fascinating as to how they actually work behind the scenes and clients seem to love that I’m interested.
As you build up knowledge of a client then start throwing in some of your own ideas for articles. This is basically you generating your own work, as if the client likes it, then the next question is usually ‘great idea, can you produce the article for us?’.
I’d say you need a fairly good understanding of your client, their objectives, their customers etc. for these ideas to be good ones. So give it a bit of time.
Create Great Copy
It goes without saying that being a talented writer who can produce great copy is of core importance. If the fundamental service you are offering, writing, is sub-par then you have a problem.
Skilled writers are rarely born overnight though, most have honed their writing craft over years, so practice and a continued strive to improve are the key. Having a writing mentor or other freelance writers to bounce things off and get feedback on your copy is a very useful way to improve your writing skills.
Edit & Proofread Ruthlessly
Always make sure you edit and proofread any copy, even if it’s a draft, before you send it to the client.
For copywriting, keeping things as succinct and flowing as possible is something that usually comes from numerous rounds of editing.
For blog posts sometimes brevity is not the goal as Google seems to love long-form content but the content you’re writing still needs to flow and be well structured. Long articles can quickly lose the reader if the writing style isn’t engaging or the article isn’t well-formatted.
Check Your Grammar
Perfect grammar is a rare talent these days and we can all slip up on occasion. So I read everything I write at least twice.
In this day and age thankfully, there is also technology to help us spot grammatical mistakes, so I use Grammarly Pro to check both my spelling and grammar. It’s not perfect but it’s a great pair of second eyes that picks up most common mistakes. I also like the fact that it comes with a browser plugin so I can use it with Google Docs as well as an MS Word Add-on so you can use it inside Word. Very handy.
Don’t Get Complacent
Don’t make the mistake of getting complacent with a client that you have a long term relationship with. It may take them a while to spot that you aren’t putting the effort in, or it may not, but they will eventually look elsewhere. Trust is important.
There are plenty of other good freelance writers out there, but ideal clients with well-paying jobs are hard-won so hang on to them. Great freelance writing jobs don’t come along every day.
Deliver more than expected at least some of the time. This could range from anything from delivering potential customers, additional content, spotting errors on the customer’s website, some keyword research, advice etc.
Customers will love the extra effort, particularly if it offers added value.
Beat Your Deadlines
Try and consistently deliver ahead of time. If you’re the one communicating the deadline to the client then allow yourself some headroom to make it easier to deliver earlier than stated.
When asked for a timeline make sure you consider all factors e.g. current workload, research time, editing and proofreading time etc.
If you’re going to miss an agreed date then communicate with the client. Most clients are pretty relaxed but you don’t want them sitting there waiting for something that isn’t going to arrive. Drop them an email and just be honest, and say when you will have the work completed by.
Take Changes on the Chin
The customer knows their audience and their business better than you do. They may not be a copywriter but their opinion is valid and constructive feedback helps you deliver better results for them.
Don’t get too precious about your work and be open to client edits. Seasoned freelancers take this on the chin and don’t take it personally.
Be Easy to Work With
We all like working with people we get on with and trust. So be friendly and accommodating at all times. The client doesn’t need to know that your having a really busy and stressed out day or week, present a professional but friendly image.
If they have a particular way of working then try and adapt to that. If they organise all their work in Trello boards for example then fit to that system. If they prefer Skype to Zoom then go with that.
Meet with Clients Virtually or Face-To-Face (if you can)
For establishing rapport with a client, particularly a new potential client, nothing beats meeting customers face to face even if that’s virtually rather than in person.
If they are a long-term client then set up regular catch-up meetings.
Offer Extra Services – Stack Your Skills
Lots of writers offer additional services that naturally sit alongside copywriting or content writing. Once you’ve built up a relationship with a customer and they trust you they will often ask if you are able to help them or can recommend someone that can.
So it’s worth stacking your skills or building a network of trusted people you can work with.
Some examples of the wide range of services you can offer and I get asked for on a regular basis:
Freelance content writing & SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) go hand in hand. You don’t need to be an SEO specialist, know everything under the sun about search engines or have technical skills.
As a content writer, you need to know how to structure your content for search engines. So you could just offer a review service where you take existing content on the client site and offer to restructure and optimise it for search engines.
Or, as your SEO writing skills develop you can start building this out to offering keyword research and other on-page SEO services.
– Rank Tracking
Buy yourself some rank tracking software and offer this service to your clients. This is actually a really easy add-on because once you set it up it pretty much runs itself and just sends the report every month to the client and to you.
This can often lead to additional work as the business owner may contact you to say, ‘I’ve just noticed that my ranking for this popular keyword has gone up or down, what can we do about it?’
The two rank tracking services I recommend for this – because they have an agency capability where you can brand the reports, setup different clients etc. are SERPWatch or NightWatch. Both are a similar price and have similar functionality so try both of them out and pick your favourite.
– Link Building
Offering link building works particularly well if you specialise as a freelance writer in a specific niche. If you have lots of complementary writing clients where they are in a similar niche you can spot opportunities to add backlinks to your clients.
I’m not talking here about setting yourself up as a full-blown backlink agency, there are specialists companies out there that do this and it’s very time-consuming. What I’m talking about here is leveraging the different clients you produce content for and spotting opportunities within that.
Definitely be upfront with everyone with this one, agree on a backlink bounty system with your clients and be clear that this only works when it is mutually beneficial to all parties.
Successful content writers and copywriters make money. You don’t need to be the best writer on the planet to have a great freelance writing career but you do need to treat it like a business. Having a number of long-term retained customers is much better than constantly hunting for potential clients.