Stress-free Freelance Writing

Does stress-free freelance writing exist? If you have been a freelance writer full-time for a while, you may be thinking, “NO WAY!!!” I would like to challenge you and say that it is possible to have little to no stress in your freelance writing career. I have definitely experienced tons of stressful moments over the past few years, but I have learned how to cope with the various issues that arise.

There are a few common situations that can cause stress for a freelance writer. These include finances, deadlines, and difficult clients.

To relieve financial stress, consider charging more, picking up extra projects, or getting a job and cutting down to part-time writing until you build up some savings. Always search for projects that will be easier, faster, and more profitable. If you budget well and stay on top of your clients for payment, you should be able to be somewhat at ease financially. Don’t rely on any one source to pay your bills. Have multiple streams of income in case one fails. An emergency savings account is beneficial as well.

Deadlines are important, so meet them. If you feel too much pressure, negotiate with your clients for extensions. Spread out the deadlines for multiple projects so that you don’t have to worry about having several projects due on the same day. Also allow yourself at least a day more than you think your project will take just in case there is a problem. Try to get work done as far ahead of deadline as possible. There is nothing better than knowing that everything is done and you don’t need to rush.

Dealing with tough clients takes some practice. Always be professional and courteous. If you do your best to please them and they are still not happy, let them go. You can’t please everyone. To avoid the problems that end in project cancellation, set clear project guidelines from the beginning (deadlines, payment, instructions, etc.) and confirm the details with the client. Make sure that the expectations on both sides are as clear as possible and understood by both parties.

Stress-free freelance writing? It is possible, at least sometimes. You can’t avoid stress altogether (not in this business) but you can take control, breathe, and keep the tension down.

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How much do freelance writers earn?

What is the average salary of a freelance writer? That is an interesting question, and I would say $12,000-$24,000 a year, more with experience and a solid client base. The rewards of a freelance writing career are far greater than the monetary rewards, but at the same time, income is important. This is especially true if you plan to make a living as a writer.

Factors that affect a writer’s income

-how much they charge (per word, per article, per hour, etc.)

-level of skills and experience

-client retention (Does the writer have clients who return, or just one time clients?)

-networking/marketing ability/efforts

-how many projects they can handle

-the types of projects done/writing niche (some types of writing just get compensated better than others)

How can a writer earn more?

Persistence. If you are determined to earn a living as a writer, you will do it, eventually. You have to be willing to put in long hours of networking, marketing, promoting and applying for work. The wider you cast you net, so to speak, the more fish you will catch.

Charging higher rates is tricky. It can be done, however, the market is unfortunately weighed down by writers who accept pittance for their work, which makes competition difficult. This is yet again where persistence is needed. If you value your work highly, and always offer the best quality to your clients, there will be those who are willing to pay for that quality. Depending on the niche, you may be able to charge quite a bit (a few dollars per word). Your rates should also match your experience.

Keep clients coming back. The more repeat clients you can get the better. Over three years, I have managed to retain five clients. Many of my other clients have used my services two-five times. Treat every client as if they are special, and always do your best work. When you search for jobs, look for long-term work. Not every project will lead to more work, but it does happen, and you should try to close projects well, and keep lines of communication open.

Manage your time well. The more time you put in, the more work you can get done, and the more networking and marketing you can do. If you are disciplined with your time, you will be able to spend the time necessary to build a solid client base and keep new work coming in. Time management is probably the most crucial element in earning a living as a freelance writer. The less time you waste, the more money you will make.

Be patient. After a few years, you will get better at determining what will bring in the most money for you. There is still a lot of money in copyrighting for businesses and magazines. Web content writing is needed more and more all of the time, however, these jobs tend to pay less. With time and dedication, you can grow your business gradually and get to the point where you make a couple thousand or more per month. Just know that it is not easy.

What Should I Charge?

A common issue that freelance writers face is pricing. How much should one charge for an article, ghostwriting a book, writing content for a web page? The answer to this question will not be easy at first, but you will learn. Here is one way to start.

My personal rule of thumb, for new writers especially, is not to work for less than a penny per word or a certain fixed rate per hour. Entry level office jobs pay at least $12 per hour, and if you have absolutely no experience, your hourly rate should come out to at least that much. A standard per hour rate should be a minimum of $20 per hour (again with little or no experience). Freelance writers often make $100 or more per hour, and that should be a goal to strive after.

You will have to determine for yourself how much you want to make. Set an annual goal and break it down all the way to the hour. Then create a list of services, eg web articles, press releases, editing,research, ghostwriting, and set a price range for each. It is good to be flexible, and set a minimum and maximum cost for each category. Consider how much time certain tasks take (you might need to guess at first, but you can always adjust your pricing later). Charge based on these factors:

-experience

-who will have the rights (I charge a higher price if I don’t get the byline)

-how much research (if any) is involved

-how long will it take to complete

-will they want revisions (I give one free and charge for additional/extensive revisions)

-What is the average writer charging for the work? (The Writer’s Market always has a chart on this) According to salary.com, the average web writer makes around $45,000 a year. Break that down, and set your pricing around that or higher.

Pricing will ultimately depend on your cost of living, your goals, and how much you value your knowledge and skills. If you value your writing highly, you will set a price that is respectable. The best piece of advice that I can offer is to be consistent in your pricing, and never work for less than you think you are worth.

Value Your Writing, and Your Time

Many freelance writers undercharge for their work. It is probably the most common mistake new freelance writers make.

Pricing is a complicated issue. Every freelance writer has different needs and a different level of experience. My first writing job was to write 500 words articles, that required some light internet research, and the pay was only $1 per article. I found that the pay was too low once I realize how long it took me to complete each article. It was the equivalent of $2 per hour and that is just ridiculous.

I would say that as a general rule of thumb, don’t settle for less than a penny per word. Think about the time it will take you to research and write, and what your income goals are. It is okay to start a little lower at the beginning, but as you gain experience, you should be gaining more income as well. The temptation when starting out is to settle for any pay to gain experience. Set a minimum standard and don’t compromise it. People need content, and you will find someone who is willing to pay what you require.

Thinking in terms of “per hour” as opposed to “per article” can help. If you are offered an assignment, think about these things:

-Does it require research?

-Do you know the subject well, or not very much at all?

-Does the client expect you to revise?

-Is the deadline reasonable?

Obviously, research and revisions will take up your time. A per article price might seem great at first, but it takes you night and day to complete, it is probably not worth it. A freelance writer should make above $15-$20 per hour. That is on the lower end of the business. If you are just beginning, and you have no portfolio and no experience, you might start as low as $10 per hour, but I wouldn’t accept jobs that come out to much lower than that to start (not after the experience I told you about). It may take time to accurately access how long a certain project will take you, because you never really know your speed until you have been doing it for a while.

Don’t fall for the “bulk rate” offers that some buyers might suggest. Don’t lower your price dramatically for the promise of “a lot of work.” It would only take your time away from better per hour rate opportunities out there. Value your writing, and your time. Don’t charge outrageously if you don’t have the quality or experience, but don’t work for pennies, either.

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