With the increased use of technology in the workplace, businesses are exploring newer options to reduce employee costs. The rising significance of remote work and freelancing is a result of such exploration. Organizations are increasingly relying on freelancers to reduce their cost of hiring and selection. Freelancers constituted 53% of the workforce in the USA alone at the end of 2019.
Being a freelancer has so many perks – you get to choose your clients, your hours, and the kind of work you want to do. In a study conducted by LinkedIn, 40% of the millennials have admitted that flexibility of work is a primary concern. For many, freelancing isn’t just a reprieve from the 9-5 job or the freedom to work when they want to. It is a way for them to convert their passion into a career.
While freelancing seems like the perfect form of employment, it does come with its dark sides. With the rising number of freelancers, it has become a demand-influenced market. That means, they must struggle harder than employees who look for traditional jobs to find work.
Some companies are capitalizing on this vortex and offer companies a unified platform to hire freelancers from. While this provides both freelancers and companies with a chance to build a mutually beneficial relationship, it creates a price-war instead of a hunt for talent. Businesses look for ways to cut costs; the person that offers them the services they need at the cheapest rates is the one who would be hired.
That is when the freelancing market has split into two: price-differentiated market and talent-differentiated market. There are some services that any run-of-the-mill freelancer can’t provide. So if you hone your skill, finely, you have a chance to earn more money than 70% of the workers, with a median rate of $28 per hour in the US. In the talent-differentiated market, at least, the scales are tipped a little in favour of the freelancers.
When you’re starting, most guides, career gurus, and magazines will tell you that if you get a gig that pays you $1 a word, you’ll be able to earn a 6-figure income per year. But no matter what your experience, the volume of work remains constant. Projects that pay such a high rate for each piece that you’ve written are hard to come by. Even when they do, ensuring that your query letter is the one that clinches the deal is going to be a tough task.
There are some things that you can do to increase that number at the bottom of your bank statement. While many of these work like magic, others require you to exercise the 3P’s of professional growth — patience, perseverance, and practice. For now, here are some ways that help you get more income from your freelancing business.
1) Negotiate Upfront
Whether you would be writing for columns, magazines, blogs, or trades, most editors and managers expect you to negotiate. Most experienced freelancers negotiate as if their entire business depends on it. When editors start getting used to this, they begin to expect negotiations when hiring freelancers. So, when you readily agree to their rates, it raises some red flags about your competency and skill. While your later work might help dispel those impressions, you’ll just have to work harder to do so.
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen when you do negotiate with them? At best, they’d probably tell you that they were working on a shoe-string budget and can’t afford to pay higher than the proposed rates. At that point, you can decide if you want to take up that assignment or not. At least in asking, you’ve made sure that there isn’t room for getting more money than is being offered to you.
2. Ask for More than Money
If your editor or project leader doesn’t budge on the amount they’re willing to pay you, you can always negotiate for other, less tangible things. If you’re writing for a column or a magazine, you can negotiate giving up lesser rights. If you’re writing for blogs, you could ask for a longer bio, more links back to your website, or having your photo printed with the piece. All these help in improving your publicity, and therefore, your brand value.
Selling the rights to their work is the last thing any writer would want to do. Sometimes, they compromise because they need that paycheck. They also worry that driving hard bargains will affect their relationship with the editor or the project manager, thus jeopardizing any future work they could get. Most standard employment contracts require you to give up claims to any benefits that your work would generate in exchange for a steady flow of income. That is a choice that freelancers make. That does not mean that giving up your rights is the only way to secure the project. Your negotiation strategies could include asking for a higher share of benefits from any use of your work
3. Explore New Revenue Sources
When you propose a piece to an editor, you don’t have to wait for them to respond or mould your writing to suit their needs. Ideas can generate more than one article because there are so many elements to explore in each facet of the concept. When you propose an idea, one thing that you could do is come up with an alternative approach to the same concept. A piece on improving employee productivity could be approached from the angle of work-life balance, better work environment, better hygiene factors in incentivizing employees, or offering more than just a place for them to churn out deliverables like in a factory.
All these tangents are a potential opportunity for businesses. While the same company might not like all three, or any of them for that matter, you could approach multiple editors and organizations with each angle. Instead of waiting for them to suggest what they want you to focus on, you’d have provided what you can work well with. Each of those tangents will lead to several sub-tangents that will generate more revenue for you. In the end, the freelancing game is all about the number of projects you can get and how long you can milk those projects.
4. Don’t Stick to One Market
Recycling, polishing, or reselling your articles is a great way to ensure you have a steady business going. When you explore more than one market or more than one country, you’ll have opportunities to sell the articles you’ve sold to someone else already. That is because most businesses want a fresh angle on a story you’ve already presented or the first publication rights in their own country.
Some companies might also want the same content curated to their audience. That means if you can edit your pieces to suit the cultural nuances of the new market, you can make some additional money without having to invest so much time and so many resources.
However, with the increasing availability of information irrespective of its source location, some companies might be unwilling to take the story. Even if that happens, you can work on some add-ons. You’ve conducted extensive research, and you know all that there is to write on the topic. Think beyond writing. Use sidebars or a slideshow for the website.
Create a video explaining everything that you’ve already written. You could send a draft and offer the editors’ ideas for improving it. New markets that way ensure that you get to milk your research until it runs completely dry. You’d never know which editor would be grateful for the visual content you’ve given them. What will you get out of this apart from their gratitude? Well, I’m sure some cash is one of them.
5. Set Income Goals
When you land your first $1-a-word piece, it is easy to think you’ll make a six-figure income before the year is complete. Sometimes, that goal can be impractical. You need to make more realistic plans – more achievable. Set monthly income goals and then divide that into weekly or daily goals. That will help you understand what volume of work you must accomplish to meet your goals. Knowing how much work you need to achieve will tell you what productivity targets you need to set for yourself. Once you’ve met those targets, you’ll know that your yearly goal is within reach.
Understanding your productivity targets will also help you in figuring out the marketing strategies you need to employ to improve your chances of landing projects and assignments. Sometimes, in this process, you may even need to consider additional sources of revenue. Several blogs will allow a link back to your sales page or your product line. If you have an e-book that you’ve written, your marketing strategies could be tailored to bring people back to your page for subscribing to that e-book. If you already have a published book, you could consider teaching a course on it. You could contact writers’ associations and offer to speak at some of their events.
At the end of the day, you need to improve your brand image so employers will want to engage you. The more publicity you garner that way, the more you’ll improve your chances of landing high-paying assignments.
You can never underestimate the power of collaborations in generating higher revenue for you. There are so many subject-matter experts out there who don’t have the relevant skills to put their ideas on paper. Most of them hire freelancers, ghost-writers, or co-authors to get their ideas out into the world.
Partnering with these experts will not enhance your portfolio, but also generate contacts for your work. The chances are that these experts already have an established audience or fan-base, so getting their work out into the world or finding agents will not be a tough task. So, when you write for these experts, you know that your work will sell.
Finding these experts is not a tough job, either. There will always be advertisements on writer boards, newsletters or magazines, or job platforms. But you can also look beyond that. When looking for experts, you don’t have to consider only academic knowledge. Your neighbour who’s appeared on TV for talk shows, or a politician renowned for his debates, is just as much an expert as any academician you could ever find.
7. Think in Hours and Not Words:
Consider a scenario: Two editors offer you a job. One agrees to pay you $2 a word, and another offers a lumpsum payment of $200 for the entire project. On the face of it, the first one seems like the obvious choice. Now, if I were to tell you that the first project would take a considerable amount of research and technical writing, while the second can be whipped up in a matter of a few hours, would your answer change?
When considering accepting an offer as a freelancer, you need to understand what that project entails. Some tasks might be easy for you because of your experience or the knowledge you’ve gained from your previous research activities. Choosing these tasks not only saves you time but also consumes fewer creative resources. Like any creative person would tell you, it is only ever so much you can write at a time without being exhausted or experiencing a block. The pay alone shouldn’t be the differentiator always. You should also think in terms of the time it’d take to complete it, and the frustration it’d cause you.
8. Get Proactive in Settling Your Invoices:
Most writers hesitate in following up with the editors or the accounting department for their payment because they don’t want to antagonize the people who would give them more assignments. If everyone thought that way, you’d never have to pay your phone bill or your electricity bill. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. Those companies don’t sit around meekly waiting for your payment if you don’t pay them within a stipulated time.
Your approach to your work as a freelancer should be similar because you have contributed value-addition to their business. As part of the contract, they are obligated to pay you money. The logic is simple. If you don’t value your time and respect your work, you can’t expect them to.