5 Slick Tips for Getting Better Writing Clients

Tips to get better writing clients

This is a guest post from Dan Stelter (not pictured above) who delves into how to get better writing clients - something we cover in the Freelance Writers Online course, which I just so happen to still have discount copies of...

While it seems most professions have a standard rate people expect to be charged, freelance writing is one of those with rates all over the board.

You can do the exact same work and charge ten times what you’re making when you find the right writing clients.

The sad truth is most freelance writers don’t charge nearly enough (and for some time I was one of them). Read Here’s How Much to Charge Your Freelance Writing Clients for more of what you can and should charge for your writing.

Say you make $50,000 in a year. Keep in mind that in the US as a freelancer you:

  • Pay more in taxes for being self-employed
  • Pay for your own vacation time
  • Are charged 3-4 times as much as employees for health insurance
  • Don’t get paid sick time

The bigger picture is that your ability to write is a talent few people have and it contributes greatly to the success of any business you help.

Once you’ve established how valuable you are and what you need to charge, here’s how you go about getting better paying clients.

1. Raise your prices

The only way you’ll get higher paying clients is by actually raising your rates. If you charge $50 for a blog article, raise it to $60. If it’s $60, go for $80.

Some writers get hung up and think they are “taking other people’s money.” In reality, you write that blog article once and your client can benefit from it for years and years to come.

If it’s going to help their business for that long, why shouldn’t you make good money on it? You’ll likely find if you’re creating something truly valuable for your client, they’ll be more than happy to pay that price.

The irony is, clients who are willing to pay more know the value of good online writing. As a result, they don’t complain as much as the little guys who don’t pay as much.

For example, I had a client who I charged $30 per blog article and who wouldn’t stop complaining. He would do a line-item analysis of every last word of my blog articles. Eventually, he ended up not paying on a bill.

I now have a client I charge $200 for 800 – 1000 words, and another I once charged $450 for that many words. The type of responses I received for these?

“That article was amazing!”

“That was a great article!”

No revision requests and no complaining.

Not. A. Word.

2. Let go of the content mills and job bidding sites

You should view content mills like you view a landlord who owns slum apartments. They’re just in it for the money and they’re sucking out every last penny they can possibly get.

You will never, repeat never, convince content mills or job bidding sites that you should be paid more. Their concern is one thing and one thing only: price.

With content mills, you’re racing to the bottom of the pricing barrel – and you have a large amount of people willing to compete for the lowest price!

Sure, you can get paid $15 per article and do 3-4 in an hour, but you’re going to scream when they all complain and want significant revisions.

Trust me – I’ve been there.

3. Reach out to prospective clients

To get the best paying clients, you need to reach out to them. It’s not as hard (or scary) as you may think. There are a number of different markets you can target directly, including:

  • Businesses
  • Marketing agencies (although they’re not the best paying)
  • Trade magazines with online content
  • Custom publishing companies
  • Government agencies

Personally, I go after businesses because that’s the type of writing I like (and it pays well).

Pitching directly for online writing clients is the fastest way to earn a full-time living from freelance writing online.

4. Build your own writer’s website

Kirsty has a nice little website here. Your website does not need to be complicated (even for getting very lucrative clients), but you absolutely need to have one.

It shows you take yourself seriously as a professional online writer.

All you need for pages is:

  • Home
  • About
  • Blog
  • Hire Me
  • Portfolio
  • Contact Me

Getting a website set up is fairly simple. Just choose a webhost like HostGator.com, install WordPress, install one of its many free themes, and then customize each page.

It gets limitlessly more complicated if you want it to, but that’s all you need to get started.

You can get samples for your portfolio by doing pro bono work for businesses or nonprofits, or by writing sample documents on topics you want to write on.

All you need to do to get started is to show you can write.

5. Target markets that can pay

If you’re writing for mostly very small, local businesses, you’ll have a hard time charging that $100 or more per hour rate. $50-$60 should come pretty easily though.

While we all love our small local businesses, most of the time they don’t have much – if any – budget for freelance writing.

Instead of trying to convince people your writing is valuable, target markets that already appreciate the value of your services.

The sweet spot is companies with $5-$50 million in annual revenue, and possibly even higher. They’re usually large enough to have a marketing manager and employee, but not large enough to have all their writing needs met.

One way I look for these companies is by using the INC 5000 list. This list distributes the information of 5000 of the fastest-growing companies in America by annual revenue. These have plenty of funds available for marketing but may need the extra help you can offer them.


They say charging more and getting better clients is really about confidence, and I think it is. Don’t feel guilty about it. (I still do sometimes – it’s a struggle.)

You are not “ripping people off" though. You are providing a valuable service to someone who finds you valuable. If someone doesn’t agree with your pricing, they are going to be a bad client (without exception). And, when you land those higher-paying clients, your confidence and stress levels (and your wallet) will thank you for it!

Good luck in your freelance writing endeavours and feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section below.

Dan Stelter is a SEO consultant and freelance copywriter in Chicago who specializes in helping businesses make more money from their marketing materials and websites. Visit his website at www.freelancewriterinchicago.com or learn more at The Smarter Copywriting & SEO blog.

Image couresty of Christina Saint Marche via photopin

11 Comments

  • Rosie @1ManBandAccts

    Reply Reply December 17, 2013

    I’m someone who receives the emails from freelance writers pitching for work. Most get deleted with no reply. I have yet to receive one email that makes me stop and think, ‘oh, this person is different and not like the other 350 who contacted me this year when it’s first thing on a Monday morning and these PEOPLE are taking up space in my inbox’.

    You can’t do a generic email and just change out the names. It might work in an industry that isn’t savvy (ok, like the rest of mine – I’m in accounting). One look at my website should tell anyone I am not that person.

    Now I’m not going to hire anyone off an email pitch (personal choice) but the day when I receive one that makes me go ‘aha!’ and not sigh and click delete, that’ll be good. I’ll probably go find them on twitter (hey, include a link in your pitch?), have a look around, good networking comes that way.

    I’d be very happy to help if someone wants to write an article on cold pitching.

  • Dan Stelter

    Reply Reply December 17, 2013

    Well thanks for your honest feedback Rosie. There’s not much on pitching specifically in this article – it focuses more on strategy.

    That being said, what would you look for in a pitch that would really peak your interest?

  • Diana

    Reply Reply December 18, 2013

    I agree with everything you say here, Dan, except one – putting content mills in the same boat as bidding sites.

    I have found some pretty decent clients through those websites willing to pay $100+ per post or a squeeze page or another type of content item around 500 words or less… not a writer though (marketing consultant) so writing articles and blog posts is something i do occasionally, not for a living – but still, i am pretty sure you can find good clients on freelance sites like oDesk and Elance – you just need to position yourself the right way and in front of the right clients. 🙂

    • Dan Stelter

      Reply Reply December 18, 2013

      That is very interesting, Diana. I have never heard of that. But if it works for you, then more power to you.

      • Diana

        Reply Reply December 18, 2013

        now that i re-read my comment – it may not be clear that when i say “those sites” i mean bidding sites like oDesk and Elance – there i have found decent clients.

        I have never used content mills but from what i hear – they offer crazy low paid writing gigs…

        More power to you, too! 🙂

  • Jeanette

    Reply Reply December 26, 2013

    I really love your website:) I just started and trying to set up my own freelance writer business. It is so much to think about and it is really great to have the opportunity to visit your place and read:) Tomorrow I am writing interview for a google news website and I’m starting to get a little nervous, but I hope it will turn out great.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply December 26, 2013

      Thanks Jeanette, I’m glad you find the site useful. It’s true that there’s a lot to take in when first starting out but it’s just a case of keeping at it! All the best with everything. 🙂

  • Alicia Rades

    Reply Reply January 12, 2014

    Great post. However, I’m curious how people actually land clients with their writer website. Perhaps you can address this.

    • Dan Stelter

      Reply Reply January 16, 2014

      A few things:

      You can build links with organic SEO to get traffic (takes up to a year)
      Cold-call and leave voicemail/web address with businesses
      Cold e-mail and send people to your website
      Run PPC campaigns and send people to a landing page

      These are all their own blog posts, or series of blog posts, but the point is you have to follow some tactic for getting people to your site.

  • Lisa Finn

    Reply Reply April 15, 2014

    Great article. However there’s one more thing I believe makes a great writer’s website and that is testimonials. Prospective clients love to read about how happy your sparkling prose makes your other clients! My advice for freelancers just starting out: Save every email or compliment you get from editors, clients or anyone else who sings your writing praises. Then make a testimonial page when you have at least 6. I’m also a ghostwriter and, while I can’t use my clients’ names in testimonials, I do plan on adding their comments to my testimonial page and then just saying the industry instead of the person’s name. Kinda tricky, but there’s a way to do it so it holds weight, but protects my clients’ privacy.

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