3 Ways to Take Your Freelance Writing to the Next Level

I consider writing for a living to be a pretty sweet career opportunity. And if you're reading this blog, I imagine you do too. But as great as freelance writing can be, it does have limits. You're essentially charging people for your time, even if you don't bill on an hourly basis. You can't mass produce freelance work the same way you can with products.

You can grow your freelance writing business in a number of ways -- such as charging more and improving your productivity. You can also change target markets to work with higher paying clients. But even that has limits, especially if you're not interested in working with the next tier of client (such as not wanting to take on corporate work when you're happy working for small businesses).

Don't get me wrong. You can earn a great living as a freelance writer. And for most people, they'll probably be happy with their income when they reach the higher end of their specialty. And that's fantastic. But some freelancers will want to continue to grow beyond that point.

I'm one of those writers. I love writing for clients. But sometimes it isn't enough to satisfy the growth junkie in me. So I moved beyond solely taking on freelance work. If you're interested in doing something similar, there are several ways you could go about it. Let's look at a few examples.

From Freelance to Firm

If you think you'd be happy managing a business as opposed to doing all of the writing work alone, you might consider transitioning from freelance writing to running a firm of some sort. For example, if you've written SEO content for years, you might consider running a broader SEO firm that specializes predominantly in content creation. You would manage the company, find the clients, etc., and you would hire contractors or employees to write the content. You could certainly take on some of the writing yourself too.

You might also create a larger company such as a consulting firm. For example, if you've written successful sales copy for years, you might launch a consulting firm that combines marketing consulting and copywriting. Again, you could still do a lot of the work for clients yourself, but you could also bring in employees or contractors who let you increase your total incoming business.

You don't even have to stick to a services-oriented firm. For instance, my own company -- 3 Beat Media -- involves client services, Web development / publishing, and book / e-book publishing. And there are plans to move into other forms of media in the future.

Publish Books and E-books

Speaking of books and e-book publishing, as writers one of our biggest challenges is moving beyond the limits of time. There are only so many billable hours. And while that time can be re-sold to a degree (such as selling limited rights to multiple clients), you generally can't resell your work indefinitely. But you can sell many copies of books and e-books.

Books and e-books (and reports) give you a way to turn your writing into products that can be sold over and over again. You can expand your freelance writing business by adding one or more products to the mix, or even transition entirely to publishing if you prefer. If nothing else, selling products can help bridge the income gaps if you go through the feast / famine cycle.

Offer Add-On Services

I mentioned this briefly above in reference to starting a larger firm with employees or contractors (like adding consulting services to your copywriting work). But you can do the same thing independently on a freelance basis, especially if you're on the top-end of your market where there are fewer prospects willing to pay top-tier rates. Instead of trying to grab more of these prospects, you can find ways to up-sell your existing clients with new but related services.

For example, if you write press releases. you might consider offering press release distribution services as well. Or if you write Web content, you might offer social media marketing services to promote that content. Think about what clients might do with your writing, and offer to do it for them -- for a fee.

How else might you move beyond freelancing if you want to continually grow your income potential? Tell us how you did it, or share your ideas, in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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6 thoughts on “3 Ways to Take Your Freelance Writing to the Next Level”

  1. So true. Freelance writers who are entrepreneurial could seek other opportunities that complement their writing or are outside of it.


    Partnering with another writer or someone in marketing/PR, events, SEO company, etc. could work. For example, the owner of a film production company hired me to write a screenplay for an independent feature film. The owner has a vision for the company and said to me, “There could be more work for you once we complete this project from start (writing) to finish (filming).” It’s exciting!

    Branching out

    I recently started selling greeting card copy. I received my first payment last week. I made a copy of the check, taped the company’s business card to it, and hung it up on my wall. It reminds me of what I can accomplish. I can’t wait until I receive my ‘sample’ greeting cards.

    Final thoughts

    Writers can also write their own material from YA to non-fiction. Those with a passion for teaching can coach or teach aspiring writers. There’s no limit to what a person can accomplish. The only limit is the one that’s self-imposed.

    • The only thing I’d caution against is relying too much on added services. They have the same problem in that you only have so many billable hours available. It’s most useful when you can charge higher rates for specific services or if you’re struggling to fill your billable hours with solely writing gigs.

      Partners work a lot like middlemen clients, and that can be a great thing. Either they bring you work from their own clients or projects or you both do that (in the case of solo writers, designers, etc.).

      Great ideas. 🙂

  2. Great post, and as someone who is currently experimenting the ebook model (after 15 years of writing books for traditional publishers), I think that’s a great opportunity for writers. The time-consuming part, though, isn’t writing the book or ebook–it’s selling it, so I suggest that writers focus on books that they already have some kind of background in. I’ve published books with traditional publishers on successful freelancing, for example, so I’m doing stand-alon ebooks on the same subject (getting your first article published, etc).

    Second, another idea is to consider hiring help for some of your “grunt work.” For example, I’ve had a freelance research assistant (a journalism major or recent grad) for the last decade or so. I tell her what I need–say background research on a particular subject from Medline) and she pulls things for me to look at. I’ve also used an assistant to do simple interviews, etc for book projects. It saves my time for what I actually get paid to do–write.

    • These days, it’s good for authors to get those marketing skills anyway given that publishers expect them to do more and more of that work anyway as time goes by. I agree the book focus can be important. Publishing a book for your target client base could be a great idea because you already market to them, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

  3. I never know how to charge for press release distribution. That’s something that’s time-intensive and individual to each business, as far as building the distribution list and/or pulling the appropriate listings from a bigger list. That’s not something I’m willing to spend hours on without compensation, especially since it takes a long time to build a good distribution list in the first place. More and more places demand that the “writer have contacts” rather than using the company’s distribution list. If I’m going to use my hard-researched list, I’m going to be compensated. How do you suggest figuring out the price to distribute?

    • Before writing full-time, I ran a PR firm. So press release writing and distribution was a regular activity for me. In that case what I charged depended on what the client wanted. If they just wanted distribution on PRWeb, there was a nominal fee for posting it there (based on my hourly rate and the amount of time that took). If they wanted a custom list, they paid my hourly consulting rate of $150 per hour. I never worked from a standard list because I consider that bad practice in media relations. I’d only do wire / online distribution or completely customized media lists. But if you have your own database, you could just set a flat fee for access to it (similar to renting space in a newsletter, which is really paying for access to the subscriber list).

      Since cutting the PR consulting, I’ve decided on a simple solution to release distribution. I don’t do it anymore. Clients pay me to write the releases and they take care of distribution on their own. That works for me because I work with small and online businesses who tend to prefer wire distribution over custom lists and manual distribution. So it doesn’t take them a lot of time to do that themselves.


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