The market for freelancers is exploding right now – there are plenty of gigs, but there’s also plenty of competition.
When it comes to landing a job, freelancing expert Sophie Lizard says the biggest mistake people make is competing on price. Since there will always be someone in the world willing to write a blog post for less money than you, trying to undercut other bloggers’ rates just means you’ll never make much money.
“You have to figure out what rate you need to earn to make a gig worthwhile, and politely refuse to dip below that rate unless there’s some kind of big non-money reward to the gig, like getting published on the biggest blog in your niche or getting a testimonial from a really well-known and respected client,” she says.
In addition, it’s bad form to try to land jobs by putting other freelancers down.
“Basing your proposal on the idea that ‘those other writers all suck so you should hire me’ just makes you look arrogant and kind of an asshat,” she says. “Nobody wants to start a long-term working relationship with an asshat, so focus on what makes you brilliant rather than what makes other bloggers suck.”
Sophie, the founder of Be a Freelance Blogger, recently caught up with us to share her sage and (obviously) sassy advice developing smart habits and landing gigs that pay.
Hi, Sophie! Can you tell us about your site Be a Freelance Blogger? When and why did you start it?
I started building the site in the summer of 2012 and launched the blog at the start of 2013. I was sick to death of seeing writers struggle to make a decent living, and I knew I could show them how to build a freelance blogging career that would give them a fair income for their work.
I decided to focus on freelance blogging rather than freelance writing in general because blogging has one big benefit compared with other types of freelance writing: Most clients need regular blog posts, so once they’ve hired you, you’ll keep getting paid each week or month.
Why are you passionate about helping other freelancers?
Because I can! I’m a chronic explainer – I’ve always enjoyed helping people and showing them how things work. So it was a natural progression for me to start helping other freelancers, because freelance blogging is something that I know inside out.
What’s the market like for freelance bloggers these days? How easy is it to find work?
The market is HUGE in terms of the number of gigs available, but it’s also really varied in terms of pay. I’ve mentored freelance bloggers who started out writing for content mills at $5 per 500-word blog post.
That’s a shockingly low rate – no sensible person would expect to get good-quality posts for such little money – but some clients just don’t know the value of a brilliant blog post. It’s easy to get hired at the low end of the market, but low-paying gigs bring out the worst in freelance writers because they pick up bad habits like rushing their work or skimping on research, all in an attempt to bring their income up a little.
It takes a bit more effort to get fair rates, like at least 10 cents per word for a beginner and 25 cents plus for someone with experience. But it’s still pretty simple once you know how. A lot of it is based on research, communication and the strength of your experience, so I teach freelance writers how to find and approach potential clients and how to demonstrate their suitability for a blogging project.
What are some smart habits every wannabe blogger should get into?
I think the smartest habit a freelance blogger can get into is to view blogging as a business. As long as you’re blinded by gratitude every time you get a paycheck, you’re not seeing the truth: The only person you need to be grateful to for your income is yourself. You’re the one who has to develop the right skills, you’re the one who has to make contact with potential clients, you’re the one who has to get to know their business, do the research and the writing and keep an audience interested. When you’re in the habit of seeing it that way, you stop treating it like a “paying hobby,” and you start to get better gigs because you know what value you’re giving the client.
Another smart habit is to stay organized. Get used to plugging every deadline into a calendar, scheduling yourself to do the work at least a few days before the deadline, and then working when the calendar says to.
You can still be flexible – for example, I keep one working day empty each week, which means that if I decide to play truant one day and don’t do everything on my calendar, I can move those tasks over to my next empty day to catch up.
On the flipside, what do you think are some bad habits that bloggers get into that can hurt their productivity and hire-ability?
Like I said, trying to write inhumanly fast to compensate for a low pay rate is a really bad habit that I’ve seen in a lot of freelance bloggers. It’s awesome if you can write fast, but it’s totally NOT awesome if what you’re writing isn’t your best quality. Because the quality of your work, and the results it gets for the client, those are what win you your next gig, you know?
The other big bad habit is laziness. Let me just say that again so we’re 100 percent clear: yep, LAZINESS. People like to put pretty names on it, like “procrastination” or “writer’s block” or “performance anxiety,” but here’s how I see it: If you know you should be doing something important, and you’re not doing it, then you’re being lazy. I’m often lazy myself! You have to push yourself to get shit done; nobody else can do that for you.
The only exception is people with health conditions that prevent them focusing their mind. For those people, I’ve been there and I sympathize. If you’re suffering from severe depression or panic attacks or an attention disorder, that’s not “all in your mind” – it’s a problem of your nervous system, so see a medical professional to help you manage it.
How can freelancers help themselves get hired?
By getting better at explaining *why* someone should hire them! Telling a potential client how many blog posts you can deliver isn’t going to cut it. You need to tell them how their life will be better when they publish your posts, and what makes your posts better for them than other people’s.
Aside from writing, what other skills should freelance bloggers be developing today to make themselves more marketable?
The clue is in the question: To make yourself more marketable, you have to learn to do good marketing! Getting hired at a fair rate has more to do with your marketing ability than it ever does with your writing skills. Learn to identify your ideal client, understand what they want and where you’ll find them. Learn how to get their attention and how to write a strong pitch or proposal focused on what they want. This is all stuff I teach in The Freelance Blogger’s Client Hunting Masterclass.
What advice do you have on setting rates for your blogging – what’s the going rate for bloggers these days?
I recommend beginners aim for at least 10 cents per word, or $50 per blog post. At the middle of the market, $100 is a fair rate for a short blog post, say between 250 and 500 words. At the top of the market, posts are often longer. I earn anything from $150 for a short post to $1,000-plus for feature-length posts. If you need some help setting your rates, there’s a simple tool for that in my free report, The Be a Freelance Blogger Rate Guide.
What are the biggest headlines/trends you’re noticing in the freelancing blogging world these days?
Blog posts are getting longer and longer. Five years ago, most of my clients were looking for 300-ish words. Three years ago it was 500 words. A year ago, 800 words. Now I get requests to write blog posts that are 2,000 words or longer – and much more detailed, more like a tutorial or a magazine feature.
Bloggers who can offer other media along with their post, like for example custom graphics or video clips, are doing well from what I can see.
And a lot of clients want to know if you’ve got a big social media following and if you’ll promote the posts you write for your clients. That’s become a common question when people hire a freelance blogger.
Find Sophie on LinkedIn and Twitter.