I’ve worked as a freelance writer for nearly 7 years now. It took me a long time to figure out how to earn $100+/hour for my services. If only I knew then what I do now, I could have earned great money from the beginning.
It’s possible to earn hundreds of dollars an hour as a freelance writer if you just follow the right strategy. Here’s how I figured it out:
Some Very Humble Beginnings
I first started freelancing to facilitate my desire to travel. I’m a trained anthropologist and wanted to move to my field site in Ethiopia (still living there, by the way). So I started doing really low paying writing work on Fiverr. I would write press releases for $5, and while that earned me enough money to live in rural Africa, I couldn’t keep that up. I deserved better pay than that.
So I started pitching my own clients and slowly grew my income. I was earning $40, $50, $60/hour. I became one of the top writers in my niche and knew I deserved more money. But few of my clients could afford to keep me on at a higher rate, so I was constantly having to hunt for new ones.
Finally, I revamped my strategy and suddenly everything was easier. New clients were willing to pay me $100, $200+ per hour. Here’s what I did:
I Changed My Pricing Strategy
Back in the day, I worked on eLance (which is now Upwork) charging an hourly rate for my writing services. I would also charge per word. When I changed my strategy, I stopped using freelancing platforms and started cold pitching potential clients offering a flat-rate fee for my services.
The truth is, no one wants to pay a freelancer $100+/hour for writing services. It’s not like hiring a lawyer or something. But once I started charging a flat-rate fee, I was able to do just that.
For example, I once charged a client a flat-rate fee of $440 for each article I wrote for them. It would take me about an hour and a half to finish one article. That’s $293 per hour! Once I started doing this with all my new clients, I never earned less than $100/hour again.
I Made Sure Everyone I Pitched Was a Millionaire
Since I wasn’t applying for gigs on job sites anymore, I had complete control over what kind of clients I pitched. It takes a lot of effort to land a client through cold pitching. You can send out 50 emails before getting a single response. With that in mind, I didn’t want to waste my time pitching companies that couldn’t afford to pay me the rates I wanted anyway.
So I started searching for and pitching companies that had lots of money. My writing niche is digital marketing. So I set up Google Alerts for keywords like “digital marketing funding” and “digital marketing expansion.” Then Google would come back with press releases from companies in my niche who’ve recently come into some money:
I’d click through to their website, check out their marketing content, and if it left something to be desired, I’d pitch them asking if they needed a writer. All of my highest paying clients over the years I got using this strategy.
I Never Negotiated
After that, almost all of the potential clients I pitched agreed to my set prices once we started discussions. Rarely, some would ask for a discount or package service to get more work out of me, but I always said no. They then had a choice to accept my rates or go find a cheaper freelancer elsewhere.
No matter what they did, I stayed firm. Why spend hours of my week working for less money when I could use that time to find better clients who would pay me more?
I also give myself a raise every year with each client, as all freelancers should. Ten percent is a good amount, or you can do even more if you’ve worked with them for more than a year. In all my years freelancing, I’ve only had one client leave because I raised my rates. So it’s a good strategy overall and like I said, good riddance!
Happily Ever After
Seven years later I still live in sunny Africa and work as a freelance writer. I know I wouldn’t have stuck with it if I was still earning $50/hour or less. I could become a millionaire with this freelancing strategy but I won’t, because I only work part-time. My husband and I have three adopted children who are the light of our lives. I devote the majority of my time to them, and only freelance between 10 and 20 hours per week.
But you could grow your freelance income into a million dollars by working hard and following the strategies I did.
Takeaways for You
Okay, here’s what you need to remember to start growing your freelance income like I did:
- Stop charging hourly
- Pay attention to how much time it takes you to write content, then charge a flat rate accordingly
- Pursue potential clients who have the budget to pay you well
- Never negotiate your prices
If you’re at square one and need help getting started freelancing, here’s a free course that can help:
Courtney Danyel is a course creator, business writer, and anthropologist, in that order. She can teach you how to build a successful freelance business using your existing skills at AcademiatoAffluence.com. Learn more about her writing services at CourtneyDanyel.com. Twitter @danyeltravels.