There are plenty of discussions about what a freelance writer makes, or how much per hour freelance writers should charge, but have you ever considered what you can do to make your writing more valuable?
Some writers contend that never accepting low-paying writing gigs and insisting on higher rates is the answer to higher freelancer pay. This is sort of the free market version of union bargaining. If no one will write for you at $5 per hour, then you would have to pay more than $5 per hour.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t really work out in real life. For starters, there is almost always someone willing to write for lower rates, whether they are overseas writers where the cost of living is low and good work is scarce, or if they are new writers just starting out who are looking to build up a portfolio of published work. Secondly, the whole concept assumes that everyone CAN pay more than $5 per hour. Check any job posting board you like and you’ll find dozens of people who would love to have some professional writing for their projects, but who can’t afford to pay ANYTHING, let alone more money per hour.
What can professional writers do to increase their rates?
The only thing that you can control is to increase the value of your writing.
Making Freelance Writing Worth More Money
As a professional freelance writer, much of what you bring to the table is intangible. That is, that it can’t be quantified or demonstrated in a specific manner. Consider something like air conditioning. It can be measurably shown that an air conditioner makes a room, or a house, cooler. If you were interested enough in hard data, you could setup instruments and experiments and show that an air conditioner makes a room 15 degrees cooler. This is tangible.
Professional writing doesn’t work that way. Full-fledged illiteracy isn’t very common in America. That means that anyone CAN write just about anything from blog posts, to web pages, to magazine articles, to books, and so on. What anyone with two brain cells knows, is that not everyone can write those things well. However, it is difficult to create a measurable standard of "well" or "good".
While one could devise criteria that counted hard data like number of spelling errors, grammatical errors, and so on, such a measurement would be of limited use. While it is true that not everyone can write with perfect English, no spelling errors, and proper grammar, those who can are hardly rare.
The professional skills that are actually uncommon, and worth paying for, are harder to measure.
If those who can write spelling error-free documents with perfect grammar are still fairly common, it can be said that somewhat less people can also write with accurate, yet easy to read sentences, and an overall structure that creates something that people are likely to be read all the way to the end, and that will be respected upon finishing.
Even fewer people can write such things on demand and meet a deadline. And, even fewer can do all of these things while seamlessly switching between writing writing styles and formats depending on whether the audience is hip teenagers, or technical engineers, or high-ranking executives.
Ironically, even if these skills could be properly quantified, the professional writer has few ways to demonstrate that it even matters. There are thousands (millions?) of websites who get by just fine on content that is both poorly written and of dubious factual basis. The brochure riddled with nonsensical writing and unwieldy run-on sentences can’t be all bad if the small business owner who writes continues to be successful and generate sales.
Which brings us to one of the things a freelance writer can do to increase the value of their writing, at least when writing for online publications and websites.
When a client hires a professional writer to generate copy, or text for a website, whether it is a blog, a ecommerce site, an advice site, or just someone who wants to display more ads, there is one statistical measurement that will not only matter to the client, but that can be influenced by the writer.
Anyone willing to pay someone for online writing has installed Google Analytics or some other tracking software to see how, and in what way, people use their site. The more people that arrive because of your article or that stay on the site because of your article, the better. If your particular webpage or article or post also happens to end up ranking highly for its topic, that is even more good news.
A client who gets that kind of result from your writing is much more likely to not only be a repeat client, but to potentially value your writing more highly as well. Whether it’s next week or next year that you inform such a client that you are raising your rates, they are much more likely to not only keep hiring you, but be glad to do it. After all, you’ve demonstrated tangible value.
Linking to Your Professional Writing
I recently started a free WordPress blog call A Freelancer’s Writings. It doesn’t have much content, and probably never will, but I plan to write enough to keep it from looking like trash. Especially since my very first post, which linked to about 5 different published writings of mine, was marked as spam by Akismet.
Basically, all that blog is, is a way for me to link to my various writings that are published online, whether by paying clients, pro bono clients, or on my own websites. It certainly won’t propel any of my writings to #1 in Google search results, but every incoming link helps, especially since I can control the anchor text of the links.
While you may not be interested in starting a blog (or another blog, depending on your particular situation) just to link your writings, you should always be on the lookout to link to your writings. Whether it is a link from your own, preferably related blog, or line in a discussion about how you wrote something that might be relevant along with a link, those efforts will eventually pay off in the form of happier clients, and higher freelancing rates.
Along the way, you’ll also be helping build your own brand, as more and more of your articles are more widely read thanks to both their quality and value, and their improved SERP rankings.