We've discussed the benefits of specialization and how that can lead to higher earnings as a freelance Web writer. However, the real key to earning a decent income freelance writing online is proving your value to your clients. Specialization plays a major role (if you're offering a certain amount of depth or understanding others can't, you're providing more value).
Today let's talk about other things you can do to prove your value to prospective writing clients - things you can do to justify your fees and not get paid bottom-of-the-barrel rates:
- Case Studies - If you specialize in writing marketing copy for websites, you can demonstrate your value by publishing case studies of work with past clients (for example, show how much conversions increased with the use of your copy). If you specialize in SEO content you may want to offer a case study on how successful your articles were in attracting search engine traffic for a client, in comparison to other content on their site. Obviously, you'll need permission (and information) from past clients to use this approach, but it does work.
- Testimonials - Even if clients don't want you publishing traffic stats, conversion rates, etc., you can ask them if they'd offer a testimonial for your website. New clients will very likely factor that feedback into their decision to hire you, especially if they're familiar with any of your past clients whose testimonials you've published.
- Pricing - Like it or not, even your rates give a potential client some idea of the value you provide. Remember, value does not equal price / cost. Pricing is just one component of overall value (what they're ultimately getting when they hire you - ex. they're not just getting articles; they're getting authority content that will build or improve their own reputation, attract organic traffic, and bring in natural backlinks). If you undervalue your own work, or constantly let yourself get "talked down" to much lower rates, the client isn't going to value your work as much as they would if you know your own worth, understand what you're really offering, and stick by your rates (which reflect what you're offering).
- Demand - Here's another "like it or not" for you: clients tend to see more value in a writer whose services are in constant demand. If you keep your schedule full and the client comes to you, you have a better chance of getting paid higher rates than if you run to the client begging for work constantly. That's not to say you should never approach the client. For example you can followup with previous clients to mention a special offer, check in with past clients who may have pre-paid for something but never completed the order (I have a few clients who regularly do this, so I touch base periodically to see if they're ready to finish up their prepaid articles, press releases, etc.), or you can solicit work by advertising your services somewhere. Look at it this way though - if a prospective client sees that others value your work enough to keep you pretty busy, there's a better chance they'll do the same (and if they don't, you can always move on because you're not desperate for the gig).
- A Little Something Extra - One thing you can do no matter what phase of your career you're in is to offer something extra - an add-on or "bonus" if you will. You can do this in a lot of ways. For example, you might say "order four articles and get the fifth one free." Obviously you would have already accounted for this in your overall rate structure, but to the prospective client what they see is that they're getting more for their money. Another approach would be to offer a free consultation (a marketing copywriter might consult for 30-60 minutes with the client on ideas to further market their website beyond the copy they were hired to write). The great thing about this is that you get to learn more about the client's needs (which means you may be able to pitch them on additional services to help them meet those needs).
What other ideas do you have when it comes to demonstrating value to clients? How do you get them to pay you more than the highly-talked about $5 per article types of rates? Perhaps more importantly, how do you realize your value yourself?