Raise your hands—how many of you set a goal to grow your freelance writing income in 2016?
And at this point, I’m actually farther away from my monthly target than I was in 2015, which is depressing to see myself admit that in writing.
I mean, no, I don’t work as a freelancer for the privilege to be taxed in the highest income bracket. It’s more about not getting reprimanded by HR and losing vacation days because I took an extra seven minutes on my lunch break. (Not like that every happened or anything…)
But I do want to make a decent living. And while it’s a good idea to set a goal to up your monthly income level…how the heck do you actually DO it?
How do you get more clients willing to sign on for a monthly agreement, guaranteeing a reliable income stream? How do you alter your positioning to get prospects to take notice and book you? How do you plan out marketing efforts that will get you the results you’re after?
I wanted to know, so I asked some of the Web’s top freelance writers how they’re planning on increasing their incomes in 2016, and this is what they told me.
“I’m productizing a service and launching a full-fledged business called Case Study Buddy,” says Joel Klettke of Business Casual Copywriting. “I’ve identified a type of content that is extremely high-value to businesses (so the margin is there to charge), but also very repeatable and easy to train other writers on.”
Joel’s to the point that he’s launching an actual business around his offering, but going that far isn’t necessary.
Think about the writing services you offer and if any of them could be broken down into templates or processes that would be easy to replicate instead of starting from scratch every single time. Do the social media posts you produce all seem to have the same basic patterns? What about the email series that announces a product launch?
If you can streamline your own working process, you can offer a “packaged” version of your service and significantly increase your freelance writing income without taking too much of your time.
“Focus on where you are the bottleneck and remove that,” says Jason Quey of The Storyteller Marketer. “What can be hired out to a VA, college student, freelancer, or agency? I start by looking for tasks that I constantly repeat over and over again that require no knowledge of marketing,” he explains. “Things like finding email addresses, building relationships and connecting with people on LinkedIn, or adding articles to Twitter and LinkedIn with Buffer.”
When he identifies one of those things, he writes out how to do it—step-by-step with screenshots—so he can hand the task over to someone else to complete it… freeing up his time to focus on things that’ll actually generate revenue.
“I also plan to start doing more guest posting again,” says Jen Havice of Make Mention Media. “I’ve held off for the past few months as I’m working on repositioning my business to be more industry and niche specific. The most important thing you can do is develop content that truly serves your overall value proposition,” she advises of this strategy. “Unless you’re really focused on who you’re targeting and the problems you can solve, it’s too easy to fall into ‘spinning your wheels’ mode. My goal this year is to stop spinning and start moving forward.”
In other words, don’t just write free content for the sake of writing free content. Write posts for blogs that your target market already reads, and only write content that’ll pique their interest in what you do and entice them to click back to your website…increasing your email list and your pitch inquiries.
“I’m working more closely with complementary talent; in this case, an analytics person and a designer,” says Joel Klettke. “There is strength in numbers, and the value of what I can provide to clients increases exponentially when I can add in the value of measurement and design.”
So if a client hires Joel to write a landing page, he can offer them design, analytics, and A/B testing on the page to guarantee the best results possible for the work they’re hiring him to do.
The best part is, beyond charging for the writing and the fees he pays his partners for their work, he can add an up-charge for bundling the services in such a seamless way… increasing his income for virtually the same amount of work.
John Doherty of Credo found that switching from hourly billing to project-based billing made a world of difference in growing his income.
“I’ve sold SEO services in the past on an hourly rate basis,” he says. “But then you are a slave to billable hours. Instead, I’ve started pricing projects based on how many hours I think the project will take me…If an audit has historically taken me 40 hours, I charge $10,000. If I get it done quicker, then I’ve made more per hour. If I get it done slower, then I didn’t do my due diligence or control for scope creep in the contract.”
And while it’s more common for writers to charge on a per-post basis for blogging instead of hourly, it can be hard not to fall into the hourly trap if a client comes to you with a more flexible set of tasks that he needs done.
For example, if a client needs social media management and editing of sales materials, that can be hard to break down into a project fee.
But using John’s approach, you can set parameters for the amount of social media management and editing work you’ll do and charge by the project instead of bearing yourself down with time tracking.
Not just an eBook that’s free to make and easy to download. You know, one of those “real” ones on Amazon to give you some serious credibility.
Jen Havice is publishing a new book on Amazon that she plans to both sell for revenue and use as an authority piece to get more podcast interviews, expanding her online reach even more.
Danavir Sarria of CopyMonk also plans to use publishing to his advantage this year.
“You can send it directly to clients you want to work with,” he says, “and if you get any interested leads who don’t know about it and aren’t sure about hiring you, you can just send them the book for free so that their confidence and certainty about hiring you skyrockets.”
Time for some of my own advice.
I was reasonably happy with my 2015 income…it’s the highest I’ve ever had. But I knew that if I wanted to really grow my writing business into something that would let me keep traveling, save for a house, retire at a reasonable age, and have halfway decent health insurance, I needed to kick things up a notch and start making some serious cash.
Unfortunately, I’m terrible at kicking my own ass into gear.
So by joining a mentoring group this year, I’m essentially hiring someone to kick my ass for me by asking me what the hell’s wrong with me when I don’t follow through on the commitments I’ve made to myself.
These can be costly depending on how involved your coach is in your day-to-day, but mine is rather inexpensive—around $100 per month for weekly groups calls and group support of other entrepreneurs. I’m excited to see what the payoff is.
After collecting and writing about all this great advice, I’m excited to work in Jen’s advice on targeted guest posting and Joel’s advice on finding something to sell that’s easy to replicate. (And I’ve also started documenting my processes, per Jason’s advice.)
What was your favorite piece of advice listed? And what are you doing to grow your income in 2016? Let us know in the comments.
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