I’m excited to welcome back Laura Pennington to the blog! You might remember her from when she shared how she made her first $20k month as a freelance SEO writer.
Now Laura is here to give her expert advice on how to make a higher level of income each and every month.
Because hitting your goal once is great, but hitting it consistently is the key to a successful and sustainable business.
Take it away, Laura!
As your business and desire grow, it’s natural to wonder how you can uplevel your business not just once, but permanently.
I was able to up my revenue by nearly 70 percent in 2017 thanks to the work I put into growing my freelance writing business.
Whether you’ve been at it a couple months or years but want to break into the next level, this post will help you identify exactly what you need to do to enhance your business in a big way.
Tip #1: Double down on your most valuable and easily produced offering
What are you BEST at?
If that also happens to be the type of work you’re the fastest at and one that you price well, you’ve found the freelance writing trifecta.
Sure, you can offer all kinds of services and make a good living as a freelance writer. I hit the $5k/month mark as a generalist.
But I also knew that what took me to $5k wouldn’t get me to $10k and beyond.
So I focused on what I do the fastest and get paid the best to do: writing SEO blogs for lawyers.
While about 10 percent of my current client load would fall under the category of something other than SEO blogging, it’s usually because it’s an add-on service for one of my SEO clients. This could be things like legal copywriting for marketing material or a client who also wants me to write a press release once a month.
This means I spend all day in my wheelhouse.
That means focus, expertise, only asking one thing of my brain at a time, and more money for me.
It also means turning down things that are the wrong fit.
Just today, I got an email offering me a fixed-schedule, 20-hour/week job as a project manager.
And I didn’t hesitate to turn it down because I make more money writing and focusing on my #1 best seller.
And on that note… let’s talk about my second tip.
Tip #2: Avoid trading dollars for hours whenever you can
Taking on hourly jobs is sometimes unavoidable.
A perfect example: my legal copywriting client sends me random amounts of things to work on. It just doesn’t make sense for me to charge them any other way.
But every other job I take on I try to convert to a highly paid retainer immediately. One that isn’t based on me selling minutes or hours (because hello, you only have so many of those to give away).
It’s not just the fact that time is limited — it’s also the fact that there’s a mentality of charging someone hourly. Once it starts, it’s hard to raise your rates, the client may feel like they don’t know what they’re getting because they don’t know how long it will take you, etc. This all leads to a culture of confusion at best and distrust at worst.
You also shouldn’t be penalized because you work fast or have a client who feels taken advantage of because you took six hours to do something they thought would only take two.
Try to convert every project you can into clear, fixed-price milestones.
Clarity is key to long-term success with higher earnings as a freelance writing business owner.
Tip #3: Implement a minimum
Want to eliminate the clients who simply aren’t giving you enough work? It’s worth it.
Think of it this way — every month, if you have a client who orders one blog post, you have to:
- Come up with a topic
- Get approval
- Write a draft
- Respond to edits
- Complete interviews, research, etc. to supplement the blog post
So even if you priced that blog post highly, you’re spending a TON of mental energy to write only one blog post.
As I grew my freelance writing business, I knew I could write better content for my clients and make more money if I avoided small projects. So first I implemented a $200 per month minimum. Then $500. Then $1000. Doing this helps me avoid having to onboard someone who is not the right fit. I’m sure to clarify upfront the kinds of projects I am available to work on.
This means that all my clients are high-value and strong production retainers. No mental energy or time expended on a project too small to be worth it.
Tip #4: Fire all your bad clients
This is not just for money reasons — it’s also for your mental state.
That client who demands ridiculous revisions four weeks after the fact?
The one who wants to pay by check sixty days after you’ve invoiced?
The one who questions every comma even though you’ve put them in the right place?
Knowing where to lay boundaries in terms of who you allow to control your time is vital for developing a freelance writing business that generates upward of $15k/month. It might seem counterintuitive to fire clients to make money, but let’s be honest: you can’t bring on any amazing clients when all your time is sucked up by someone who doesn’t appreciate you.
If, by chance, you do meet an amazing ideal client, you’re so burned out that you don’t make a good impression.
As your business grows, you have to be willing to let money go. Trust me. It will come back to you in the form of another, better client.
It’s Tough, But Worth It
Let me give you a few examples of when I’ve had to do this. And let me tell you, while it does get easier, it’s never easy to do this:
- A $5k/month writing retainer with a client who was beyond difficult in our initial conversations
- A $500/month job involving only one blog post, but from a guy who wanted me to be on call with text messages
- A project that went from a $100k proposal to a $25k offer (turned down because the client was disorganized)
Holding firm is like your way of telling the universe, “Oh, hello there. By the way, I only accept the best. So I’m just going to let these bad opportunities jump on back into the sea of freelance work because I know better things are coming.”
And the crazy thing is, it works. You’ll find yourself fully booked if you telegraph confidence and clarify your best possible offer!
I’m a huge fan of always growing, so Laura’s tips are right up my alley. Why stay stagnant in your business when you could be learning and earning more?
Want to learn from Laura on how you can start making money with a freelance writing business? Be sure to check out her Freelance Writer Starter Pack course with Yuwanda Black!
Great advice! Tip 1 and 4 are golden for freelancers in any industry. Half the battle is gaining the confidence and experience to do it.
Hi Laura, great post!
I have a question: Does SEO writing consist of writing articles and blog posts with the right ‘key words’? I think I might have the wrong idea about it is.
Thanks in advance!
Great blog, Laura! Thank you!
This resonates with me as I have my own small business and get a feeling for clients who are too picky or unreliable very early on.
In the 5 years of having my own cleaning business I don't worry when a client drops off, because another one just seems to pop up, often from word-of-mouth. So, yes like Laura, I might earn a little less for a while but know it will pick up.
Great blog, Laura! Thank you!
Half the battle is gaining the confidence and experience to do it.
These are a lit of steps. The one I’ve used is to stop trading dollars for hours, but so far, only baby steps.
And what’s my most highly valued skill? Wow, how do you answer that?
So much great advice! Thank you.
I haven’t actually start my freelance writing biz yet, but love that all the ideas that come from Caitlin’s blogs pertain to all freelance businesses. Even my Massage Biz has improved thanks to Caitlin’s training and connections. I’m so thankful that I invested in Proofread Anywhere courses.
I must say this is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing this story.
Great blog! I took notes for the future when I start my business. As they say, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Question: what is SEO?
Those tips sound great. Hopefully I will be able to use them soon!