As a freelance writer you’ll often find yourself working for significantly less than you’d like. Building relationships with clients often means lowering your rate to get them on board, and while building a solid client base like this can be done very effectively, it often takes a good deal of time and effort over months, or even years.
This low-key approach is suitable for those building a freelance writing business slowly, or with support from families, but very often it’s simply not feasible; in situations where you need to generate an income reasonably quickly or you’re not happy being underpaid for the first few months of a job, there are other options.
Here’s a rundown of how to get into the best paying jobs in freelance writing.
According to US national salary data, the average freelance technical writer can command anywhere between $30,000 and $80,000 per year. Amongst freelance writers it’s considered one of the most lucrative and consistent types of contract around. However, it takes very specific knowledge to even start approaching companies and organisations.
This route is particularly beneficial for those who have previous experience in a specialized field. This can be anything from printing machines and wind farms to airline logistics and computer software.
Starting From Nothing
However, if you have no experience in any particular industry, it’s still possible to create a niche. All you need in order to approach companies or apply for tenders is to demonstrable experience. The best way to do this is to write for free until you get that first contract. Open source software is the perfect way to gain a portfolio of work that looks like paid work. Visit somewhere like snapfiles.com and approach open source or small developers asking to do their technical documents for them.
Building On Your Portfolio
Once you have a body of work – or expertise – behind you, the first place to start is your local STC (Society for Technical Communication) where you can get a wealth of information, education and job leads from a de facto source. Finding technical writing jobs online is never a problem, and you can even use sites such as Elance and PeoplePerHour. Be aware that competition for these roles can be competitive, as the technical writing jobs pay a significant amount more than traditional blogging and sales writing.
There are hundreds of tender sites out there, usually location-based (as not all tenders can be done remotely). Bidnet, Global Tenders, Hellotrade and TED provide global, US-, Europe- or world-wide public and private tenders. Once you have identified an opportunity you can fulfil, either as an individual or business, you need to be able to put in the perfect tender.
The Perfect Tender
The problem with larger jobs is that you’ll often be competing against the established professional outfits with greater experience of tender writing. There’s a whole other article on how to write the perfect tender, but as general pointers (please get more specifics before you write yours), you need to be utterly meticulous in your detail.
Start by answering the tender’s questions fully and concisely. Then add in the sales; you need to know your competition and – most importantly – their weaknesses, to be able to nullify an opponent’s bid. Unlike many other ways of generating work as a freelance writer, your bid will be studied in detail. This is very difficult to do, but there are plenty of resources out there to help you, not least the tender document itself.
Working for public sector offices as a freelance writer can often mean the very best rates.
Indeed, I have worked as a freelancer on national projects, getting paid significantly more per hour than the in-house person leading the project. These are the golden eggs of freelance writing, and you should look to get on board with public sector opportunities as soon as possible.
The ‘Stable’ System
Many government offices (and many charities) work on a ‘stable’ system. This means that rather than put their tenders out to the world, they forward every tender to particular group of established freelancers or contractors. Getting on this list is your primary concern. However, this is not easy.
Often you will have to supply financial, personal and professional details, which will then be checked, along with your work. It is a demanding process, but once you’re in, you’ll have a good few years of very lucrative work coming to you (your ‘stable’ time usually only lasts a set period).
Getting In Touch
Getting in touch with government offices is never an easy task, and finding the right person to accept your tender is key.
While you can’t circumvent the tender process – as there will always be strict regulations to follow – you can give yourself a head start on the competition by finding the decision makers and giving them a call. Sometimes this is simply impossible, but it’s always worth making yourself known.
Remember that while your entire tender will be scrutinised, the most important element remains your LOI (letter of introduction). Take time with this and make sure it will appeal to the reader with benefits over features, the right tone and consistent language.
Don’t Forget The Little People
One of the most often overlooked avenues of lucrative work are old faithful’s like Elance, iFreelance and other such low-scale bidding sites. Checking once per day across numerous sites will offer you opportunities you would otherwise not find. Of course, these sites are well known for offering singularly low wages, but you can easily find excellent opportunities for higher paying jobs. It makes sense that if you’re going for higher paid jobs, you need to have a better proposal than you would for lower paid ones.
Award And Grant Writing
One of the best niches to fit yourself into is ‘award and grant’ application writing. With plenty of research and a few examples behind you (which you can do pro bono for charities, for example), this kind of writing can provide an excellent way of increasing your earnings.
A good rule of thumb when writing these kinds of applications – and something you should make clear to clients – is that you can only expect a successful return of around one in ten.
Blow Them Away With Your Freelance Writing
Whatever job you’re going for, you need to blow them away. This means slick presentation, incredibly concise introduction writing and the right back-up materials, such as websites, PDFs and apps. Make sure you’re confident that you can complete the job in an exemplary fashion, so that your client will have no choice but to rehire you the next time.
Thank you to my Guest Post Author: David Ingram
David is an avid blogger and writer, specialising in property and personal finance. By day he works for Hunters Estate Agents in Marylebone as a Copywriter, by night he contributes to various blogs and online magazines.