Freelance writing: How to change from a Commodity to Premium Service
I have been freelance writing for a few years now. When I first started out I recall writing for food and my very first gig was a humble $15 deal for some company who helped freelance writers. Today that $15 deal seems a long time ago as $1000 plus jobs are now more the norm.
It took me some time to work out how to crack the freelance writing nut and today I employ a number of freelancers who are where I was only a few years ago. This industry is not about working hard and writing well, it is about working smart and writing what is enjoyed. Far too many freelance writers will write anything just to survive and pay for a cup of coffee. However, once the industry is understood and one knows how to turn their writing from a commodity to a premium service that is vital, things change.
Most people in the freelance world I know are pretty solitary people, they love the freedom of working alone and see themselves as some kind of island. As an Island, you can be self-sustaining but that is it, like a subsistence farmer you do what you do to feed yourself. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this. There are many successful people in the freelance writing world work alone and make more money or find more happiness than anyone I know. These people have changed the way they operate and know their value.
I had to change the way I viewed my freelance writing for me to find the success that I am now riding on. There was a a pretty hard to bullet and my rates had to increase my rates. My approach had to clients had change and I learned to say “no” a lot more often. I have mastered how to find business and how to use platforms such as Fiverr and Fivesquid as marketing tools not income generators. I soon found the niches I like to write in and have recruited other freelance writers to write for clients who will only work with me. I do the final proof on most of the work I outsource and thus I can say “yes” to more clients and still offer exceptional levels of service.
Freelancers use Freelancers
Above all, I work closely with my outsourced freelancers, my rate is high enough to ensure I can pay them and still make a little profit on top. Ensuring I support and help grow my freelancers is vital for me, as I want to see them grow. In recent weeks I have lost 2 freelancers, not because they didn’t like working for me but because they gained a valuable portfolio and changed their own freelance writing game. To me, seeing others find their own success is first prize and trust me, I have also told many potential writers that they just won’t crack it for a variety of reasons.
By writing about what I enjoy as well as what I understand has been a key factor in turning my freelance writing business around. Likewise, where I find my clients has been critical. I am based in South Africa and while I have a number of local customers, it is difficult to secure the premium service fees I have set my eyes on. Looking to the United States and the United Kingdom I have found companies are far more mature in their approach working with freelancers. For some time I had a 90% South Africa 10% overseas client base and spent far too much time chasing payments and getting answers to questions. This was costing me money.
The Current Position
Today, my business is 20% South African, 10% African and 70% Overseas made up of UK, US and Australian clients. Payments are more often in advance and the briefs provided have greater clarity ensuring I can deliver better work on time. Many of my clients are long term projects and those that require one-off pieces invariably come back for more.
My freelance writing business does still have an aspect of commodity pricing. I will work on a price per word for clients who use me on a number of projects where my fee needs to be included in an initial quote. Perfect examples of these are web design companies; my rate with these clients makes for a win win situation and is now feeding my pipeline well. My rate is still a little above the average rate in many cases but I have seen my “commodity” recognised as a premium service or product needed for a job to be completed.
I am always open to discuss new projects, many I will write myself but have the capacity to take on more work than most. I recall a conversation I had about a year ago with John C. Maxwell Leadership Coach, Dieter Jansen where he told me that I would need to have staff writing for me. My answer was “never in a million years” but thankfully I began to see things differently and work smartly. Now I am doing exactly what one of the best leadership and best business mentors in South Africa said I would be doing when I thought I would not.
Posted on: October 7, 2017, by : Matthew Newnham