Today’s question comes from David, a seasoned freelancer and tech journalist.
I am a full-time freelance technology journalist / writer / corporate writer for the tech space. I have been doing this full-time from the start, and for 16 years now. Last year I earned just into six figures for the first time. I expect that by working fast, finishing as many projects as I can weekly or daily, I can maintain and perhaps increase that income. I seem to have marketing down. I currently have 8 to 10 new potential clients contacting me out of the blue as often as monthly and occasionally within a single week alone. I find that by sticking to the kind of work I want to do and my pricing, about 2 to 3 of every 8 to 10 come to the point of wanting to follow through and hire me. I typically end up having all the work I can handle at least a month ahead, and sometimes into the foreseeable future.
I charge by the job, based on a per-word rate X the word count. Offering hourly rates killed my business and not everyone works with a per-word rate. Everyone is happy to work with a flat rate per project. What I have found is that there is a ceiling in this business on what any client, even a Fortune 100 company in the tech industry will pay. I am finding there are other things they will buy, such as consulting on story ideas, editorial calendar planning, and, for content providers looking to serve a new industry and topic area, and understanding of that technical field and what is important to that readership. I work faster to get more done in the same amount of time while maintaining quality. I am confident, thoughtful, and professional. I could go on about all the things I do to market and ramp up clients, work, and remuneration.
What is the next level for me? What can I add in marketing, content types, subject matter, and approaches to what I already do in order to grow my business and my income?
Let’s summarize with some bullet points:
- Full time journalist & writer in the tech space
- You just hit 6 figures per year
- You have 8 to 10 new leads per month, converting to 2 to 3 sales
- You pick the best work, but could close more sales if you wanted to
- You’re booked up at least a month in advance
- You charge per word
- You’re at the ceiling for what a client will pay
Congratulations on building up such a successful business and reputation. You’re earning well and have a continuous stream of new business. One of the biggest pains in freelancing is the peak and trough of work, and it looks like you’ve got that nailed.
As you can see, working on a per word basis has a ceiling. Even if the content you’re producing is the best in the world – quote $3 per word and watch them balk!
You mention that every client is happy to work on an agreed fixed price. That’s because they know what they’re in for from the outset, and it also mitigates their risk that you would pad out the content (that’s not a criticism of your integrity, more a realistic fear that any client would have on a per X arrangement). That being said, realize that you’re still working on a per word basis in the client’s eyes. The client knows that $700 for a 2,000 word editorial works out at $0.35 per word.
I see a couple paths forward, which are not mutually exclusive: