Market Research for Freelance Writers

When you work as a freelance writer, you run a business. And when you run a business, market research is essential to your continued growth. Yet I often see freelancers make rash decisions about their businesses with no market research whatsoever to help them make those choices. They just wing it.

First, why is that? Are they simply not serious about their businesses (maybe treating them more as hobbies)? Are they uninformed about how to handle market research? Or is it something in between? Whether you've been there yourself or you know others who are, what do you think?

Next, what are some of the most important types of market research for freelance writers in your opinion? Here are a couple of examples to get us started.

1. Researching the competition when setting freelance writing rates

2. Researching a publication's guidelines and past issues before querying them

3. Researching market saturation (how much demand there seems to be in your specialty area vs the number of freelancers offering those services)

What would you add to the list to give new freelance writers a better idea of what kinds of market research they should consider?


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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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5 thoughts on “Market Research for Freelance Writers”

  1. Lol this is akin to asking the lady on Facebook who always complains about her spouse, why she doesn’t divorce him. I think people are lazy and they don’t want answers so much as reinforcement to back up what they’ve already decided they are going to do. In order to do real market research, you must be comfortable with finding out that your original idea won’t work or that you have to handle things differently than you imagine. And that sounds like work to me.


  2. To a degree, you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of lazy people involved in freelancing — not the pros who (as we know) work their asses off, but all the folks who jump in with no forethought because they wrongly assume it’s easy. They expect almost effortless income, which is silly. For those folks, market research just isn’t going to happen. They’ll troll some job boards, maybe churn out a few content mill pieces, and eventually they’ll walk away.

    But what about the newbies who understand that freelance writing is a business, but they aren’t sure what they should evaluate beyond those job boards and competitor’s websites? Is there anything specific you’d tell them to look into beyond the obvious?

  3. First I would tell them to look at:

    -Writer’s Market


    -Union average rates (I think Freelancer’s Union and a Canadian outfit have these)

    -Marketing department connections in your industry

    Then, take a look at what you NEED to charge in order to support yourself (include taxes, vacation, Paypal fees, sick time, insurance, etc.) then, if you are still within range of the averages of all those other rates that you considered (above), then add a little more to compensate for the added values you bring (specialized knowledge, industry experience, etc.).

    But it will also depend on where you want your work to come from. You can do all this but then if you sell yourself to Adsense only sites (not all, but many) you are going to have to settle for the going rate in that segment.

    A lot of setting rates is about knowing yourself, knowing your target client, and knowing the industry itself–so there is no one-size-fits-all answer (as you well know).


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