26 Tips for Becoming a Top-Paid Freelance Copywriter
It’s true that people get what they pay for.
When you undercharge your copywriting clients, you have to make up that difference by taking on a lot more projects. Every additional project means less time you can devote to each client.
Naturally, the more money you can earn per project, the greater time and energy you can provide each client. Higher fees are a way for you and your clients to get the most out of your copywriting skills.
Here are 26 ways to raise your rates and become a top-paid freelance copywriter:
- Niche down: Specialists almost always command higher fees than generalists.
- Speak at an industry event: I’m not talking about writing events. Find ways to speak at events your customers attend— not your peers or competitors.
- Have an opinion: Top writers are paid for their mind as much as they are their words.
- Land “leverage” clients: Do all you can to get at least one client in your portfolio that future clients will recognize. Leverage clients can get you a foot in the door or might even refer you to similar companies.
- Write for reputable publications: If clients find you because you’re in their favorite publication, they’re already expecting to pay top dollar to work with you. Precisely because a system they respect has already vetted you.
- Become prolific: Great writing is learned through countless hours behind a pen or keyboard. Write, write, write.
- Be easy to work with: Have a process. Be kind to clients. Deliver what you promise when you promise. People will pay more for writers they can count on.
- Learn to express your value: No business hires a writer just for their words. There’s always an underlying business objective: sales, leads, simplification, saving time. Learn what your skills are worth to the client and then use that value in your proposal.
- Do the hard work: The bigger the challenge, the bigger the possible paycheck and the lower the competition. Any writer can throw together a 500-word blog post. It takes a different breed of writer to draft a clear, well-researched whitepaper.
- Never bill by the hour: Consider which option has more sticker shock: “A landing page costs $1,000” or “It’ll take me 4 hours to write your landing page at $250 per hour.” Same price, but people will get the sticker shock at the hourly.
- Ask for referrals: Word-of-mouth marketing works better than just about anything. A simple recommendation from a trusted friend is powerful, and it will get clients to trust you from the outset.
- Market to more businesses than you can handle: If you receive two or three times as many inquiries as you can possibly take on, then you always have an option about who to work with. Also it’s basic economics: the more demand for your services, the higher the price you can charge.
- Add social proof to your portfolio: Use brand logos, customer referrals, or case studies to show that people trust and love your work. As my football coach used to say, “When you get to the end zone, you’re allowed to celebrate, but act like you’ve been there before.”
- Network with other top freelancers (especially in other specialties): You can establish robust referral channels by connecting with the right freelancers. As they receive inquiries they can’t handle, they may pass them on to you.
- Avoid content mills: Most businesses who hire freelancers on sites like Upwork are shopping based on price. Even if you find decent clients through these channels, it will almost always be at the expense of lowering your rates to stay competitive.
- Get nerdy: Learn to talk the talk. When potential clients get on the phone with you for the first time, they’ll be impressed if you already have the latest news and industry jargon top of mind. Read the same magazines, follow the same thought-leaders, and listen to the same podcasts as your clients.
- Learn technical skills: Have you taken courses in SEO, direct marketing, lead gen, newsletter optimization, UX? A little technical know-how can help you stand out from the competition. Plus, a degree or certificate never hurt your chances of getting hired.
- Become a subject matter expert: Write a book, get a column, or build a powerful online presence. Show your expertise in public by teaching others how to follow in your footsteps.
- Become so good they can’t ignore you: Practice may not make your perfect, but it sure can make you better than the competition. Always do your best work.
- Give yourself a raise: At the end of the day, freelancers choose what they charge. If you’re landing almost every project you apply for, chances are you’re not charging enough for your skill level. Go ahead and give yourself a 15% raise before you send that next bid.
- Offer corporate trainings: Start teaching your best writing secrets to potential clients. If they like your training, they may decide just to hire you for implementation. And since you’re starting the relationship as a teacher or consultant, they’re already expecting a higher-than-average fee.
- Avoid markets without budgets: Not all industries are created equal. If you want to charge top market rates, you have to go where the money is.
- Stick with it for the long run: Many companies will pay a lot more money for a copywriter who can honestly say they’ve got decades of writing experience. If you want to be a top-paid writer, just outlast your competition.
- Form meaningful relationships with decision-makers: Someone gives the marketing department their budget. If you can skip the marketing department to negotiate with the higher decision-maker, you’ll likely find a bigger available budget.
- Deliver measurable results: If you can show that your ad copy delivers a significant uptick in sales, you can leverage those numbers to justify an incredible rate.
- Blend consulting and copywriting: Don’t just sell your words. Sell your ideas. If you have a strong grasp of a certain subject or know how to solve a particular problem, then combine those skills to sell yourself as a copywriting consultant and charge a higher fee for the added value. Strategy work pays more than one-off commodity services.
Which tips did I overlook?
Let me know some of your favorite tactics for commanding higher rates as a freelance copywriter. We can discuss in the comments below.