Case Study: How to Be a Freelance Writer & Earn $50+/hr

UPDATE: Just a quick update, this is the testimonial scored from the gig that this case study follows. Hope you enjoy the article. Please share it on social media if it helps you out. Remember, for this approach to work, you must genuinely care about producing real results for your clients.

update: How to be a freelance writer getting paid well
At some point in your life, you decided to become a freelance writer, or some other freelance profession. And you know what? It was a pretty smart move.

You can travel the world or work from home and you don’t have to answer to someone who makes David Brent from The Office seem so frighteningly real.

There’s just one teensy problem.

You’re not getting paid enough for your work because you feel like you have to low-ball your rates just to score a gig.

There’s a good reason for that. And no, it’s not because it’s a competitive market. It’s because you’re not focusing your client communication on their results.

As I mentioned in the Freedomlancers course, people don’t hire you to do work; they hire you to produce results for them. The work they’re asking you for just happens to be what the client believes will produce the desired result.

But guess what? You’re the expert. And that means you need to know three things:

  1. The results your client wants to achieve
  2. How much money those results are worth to the client
  3. How to achieve and surpass that result with your freelance work

I recently acquired an easy $50/hr retainer. For me, that’s a minimum fee so it’s no big deal. But I’m genuinely interested in learning about their sector and it’s nice to have regular retainers with interesting clients to keep the cash flow healthy.

More important is how I did it. And if you’re a blogger who’s not making at least this amount per hour, you’re probably doing it wrong.

As a quick heads up, the screenshots in this article mean it’s a bit of a scrollathon. But don’t worry, the energy expended via your index finger will pay dividends later.

And remember, this isn’t about gaming potential clients. It’s about engaging with them authentically and showing them that you can and will help them achieve their goals.

The job description

As I’ve said before, I make most of my Freelancing income via Elance for the simple fact it’s easy to secure a $50/hr minimum here with the right processes. My best is around $200/hr and I’m figuring out a process to nail down a $100/hr minimum.

The job description is pretty straightforward so you can read it as is. After this screenshot, I’ll use annotations or highlights on the important bits. I’ve blanked out my clients just for the sake of respecting their privacy.

the freelance writing case study job description

How to write a decent proposal

If you’ve taken the Freedomlancers course, you’ve had a detailed explanation of the strategies used in this proposal and more besides. If you haven’t and you’d like to see more freelancer proposal writing strategies illustrated point-by-point and several case studies, you should check it out.

how_i_wrote_my_proposal_blog

                                                    (Click the image for a full-size version)

The price objection begins

In the below response, you’ll see the client cleverly shows how he has “a lot of great offers” in this job before asking me for my price. He also clearly states I will be “competing” with other writers for the job. The hope is that I’ll be keen for the work and so drop my rates. Sadly, that is the response for many freelance writers out there who are keen for work. As we’ll soon see, you should never sell yourself short.

the freelance client's price objection

Lay down the foundation for the strategy

Recognising there’s a price objection inbound and knowing that the client found my proposal “interesting”, I’m just as unwilling to go below my minimum $50/hr minimum fee as ever.

I illustrate why it’s higher, knowing that he’s probably hired “cheaper” writers. I tell him I’m happy to help with ideas, show him I’m interested in his audience, goals and his return on investment (i.e, his results).

freelance_writing_quote_response

The inevitable price projection comes. However, because we’ve opened our proposal with a little rapport, added a little further rapport with the company complement and said that we’re happy to help with content ideas before the proposal is even accepted, the client is willing to give us a shot.

an example client response from someone who normally hires cheaper writers

A good question is; if we had bid at $55 per article in the original proposal, do you think he would have given us a second glance? Considering he’d already hired two writers for much cheaper, it seems unlikely.

That’s the power of this strategy. Gain interest, build rapport, then lay the price down with a pre-determined plan to demonstrate your value.

Let’s continue.

Time for a little reciprocity

One of many considerations potential clients must have is whether or not you’re a successful freelance writer. There’s a school of thought that says you should never take on a new client until seven days after the job has been agreed. If you come across like you’re super busy, questions are raised in the client’s mind about why that might be…

If you’re a web designer or some other profession where the workload is inherently much larger than a couple of articles (even if those articles contribute to a longer-term content marketing strategy and profitable ongoing retainer), let your clients know you’re busy. Even if you’re not, mention you’re busy and that you’ll get back to them in 24 hours. Don’t start work for at least a week thereafter…

how_to_get_paid_more

At this point, add this item to your to-do list and don’t forget. If you get back to them in around 24 hours, you’ll build congruence and rapport. But if you don’t, it’s basically game over because you can kiss your credibility goodbye.

Around 24 hours later…

I get back to the client with not only content ideas, but a specific and proven strategy around which to build a content marketing campaign in a way that gets the results they’re looking for.

If you’re a freelance writer who creates online content for businesses, keyword research is a skill you must master. There’s a lot of content out there (such as this great read from Moz.com) and free tools for the job, many of which are awesome. Taking time to learn this skill will pay dividends not only in your freelance writing, but other projects you take on later.

If you work in another profession, this might not be as relevant to you. But the important thing to recognise is to learn the proven strategies that get the results your clients want and then present those instead.

You’ll notice I made a typing error below. I recommend being super careful with client responses but the fact is, I’m a human being and occasionally I screw up. I have difficulty proofreading when my workload gets too much. It’s something I’m working on and I apologise.

show how your freelance writing produces quantifiable results

(Click the image for a full-size version)

If you’d like to see the attachment I sent to the client, you can download it from here.

The client’s response to my writing suggestions

Okay, so the client tweaked the first writing suggestion based on his particular circumstances, but the important point to see is highlighted at the top.

the client's response to my suggestions

Time to show how your writing pays for itself

Okay, so your client now knows how you can help them work towards their goal which, in this case, is using quality writing to help produce organic traffic via the search engines. If you can do that, then your client can generate leads. And if they can generate leads, they can generate sales and money to pay for your rates.

how to carefully request your freelance writing client for average sale value

With sufficient rapport built, I ask how much the average sale value is, offering to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) if necessary just to show that I appreciate that it’s sensitive information. If you tried to ask this before sufficient rapport is built, it might not go so well.

The client responded with the below.


the client responds without a problem

Now, it’s a matter of simple mathematics

Whether you follow the exact route I took to get the average sale value or you do it in a more direct way is up to you. The important thing is that once you know it, justifying higher prices for your freelance work is a simple mathematical equation. Not a race to the lowest price.

And this is the essence of making sure you get paid what you’re worth. It’s the difference between “competing against” other freelancer writers to the cheapest possible price and you becoming a professional who helps clients get the results they want and who gets paid accordingly.

The bottom line is, whether you’re doing an annual content marketing campaign with weekly posts, building a website, making videos, or whatever you do as a freelance career, producing 4 sales over the course of a year is mighty realistic to say the least.

Here’s my response.

how_to_get_paid_more_for_your_writing

And, we’re done. This secures me with another $200 per month for 4 hours work living in a country with a $600 per month living costs. It helps covers my travelling while I work on other personal and business projects.

Freelance_writing_gig_successfully_secured

Room for improvement

Now that you’ve read this article, remember that this is a strategy I’m working on refining. There might be quicker ways to get the same result and there’s certainly ways to secure more money up front. Right now, I’ll see how this goes, make sure the client is tracking his marketing material and how many sales are being produced by my work.

When that number starts to increase, I’ll begin discussing more money based on the fact that the work is making him solid returns.

But meanwhile, if you’re keen on becoming a freelance writer who gets paid well but are struggling with other writers willing to work for crazily low sums of money, this should help you in the right direction to securing that $50 per hour minimum rate.

Oh, and here’s a 50% discount on the Freedomlancers course. You’re most welcome.

Mark

2 thoughts on “Case Study: How to Be a Freelance Writer & Earn $50+/hr”

  1. I haven’t used Elance in a long time, but your proposal strategy is solid! Proving that your content will pay for itself is something I’ve never tried, I’m definitely going to apply that, outside of Elance too.

    1. Hey Lindsay,

      Yes, it will work everywhere for sure. Even without this method I was still scoring $50-$200 per hour on Elance. It’s just about finding the right clients. But, with a results-driven proposal strategy, it’s much easier to bring people round, even if their budget was lower to start with. Glad you found it helpful!

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