For the first few years of my freelance writing career, I wrote many blog posts in the $100-$150/range. At first, I was thrilled to get paid for my work, but I soon realized it wasn’t sustainable for me to write enough to make the income I needed.
About then, I realized many freelancers were making way more than that, and I started wondering about the difference between a $100 blog post and a $600 corporate article. Was it length? Pulitzer-prize-winning writing? In-depth reporting?
You might be surprised. I asked one writer if she’d share a link to one of her $600 corporate articles so I had a reference point. She did, and I thought, “Wow! This isn’t so different from a lot of things I write.”
That’s when I realized that the biggest difference was in my head. Finding better-paying clients was possible but I had to look the part. That’s called “positioning,” specifically for us, “freelancer positioning.”
What Does “Freelancer Positioning” Mean?
“The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.”
If that’s too heady, consider a large grocery store. They can have 15 pasta sauce varieties, 20 kinds of iced tea, and endless yogurt options.
And what about bottled drinking water? That section showcases positioning well. It’s not new — everyone knows what bottled water is — but there are so many choices!
Do you want tap water in a bottle or something that feels a little more upscale, like Evian or Fiji water? Or maybe you want bubbles in your water like Perrier? Perhaps you prefer flavored water.
You’ll probably buy the cheapest if you’re in a money-saving mode and need water for a crowd. If you’re going for taste or want to feel a bit pampered, you’ll choose something a little more expensive.
It’s all water, but the brain perceives each brand differently. That’s positioning, and it’s the key to making more money as a writer.
8 Ways to Use Freelancer Positioning to Position Yourself as a Professional Writer
1. Have a Credible Online Presence
When was the last time you googled yourself? What shows up? Is it your LinkedIn profile? Is it published bylines? Polish your online presence, so it looks professional.
At a minimum, you want a solid LinkedIn profile that addresses who you are, your credentials, and the types of writing you do for whom. LinkedIn can also serve as a portfolio for your work, so it’s a great start for newer professional writers.
2. Have a Portfolio That Gives You Control Over Your Freelancer Positioning
When starting out, you might keep links to your published work in a Google doc to send to potential clients. As you gain experience, you can add a page to your website and add links on LinkedIn. On my website, I have a page for pet writing and a separate page for my B2B technology writing. I also have a document with the most recent links to send the most relevant pieces to potential prospects without expecting them to wade through dozens of articles.
3. Make It Easy for the Client to Say “Yes”
Every single day, I see someone posting they’re looking for freelance writers, and the would-be writer answers, “interested.”
The prospect has enough on their plate without spending hours on finding a writer. Here’s how you can make it easy for them to say “Yes” to you. Imagine the prospect asks for writers with a background in horticulture, and that’s you.
You can message them with an introduction that says, “Hi, I’m so-and-so and I write for All Plants Weekly, Horticulture Today, and Landscaper’s Anonymous. Here are a couple of recent samples. [Links] I’d love to talk with you about your needs.”
If you were a tired and overworked prospect, don’t you think you’d be excited to work with a writer who makes it easy for them to say, “Yes?”
4. Be Professional
If you can be reliable, pleasant, and capable, you’re 75% of the way there. I’ve heard countless stories of freelancers who disappeared, didn’t turn in the work, or worked themselves out of an assignment by not living up to their commitments.
5. Use Professional Software
There’s so much invoicing, proposal, and digital signature software available, there’s no reason not to use it. It’s easy and makes you look the part of a professional instantly. Best of all, it keeps track of stuff for you, so if you’re like me and want to look at who is your best-paying client of the year, you can see that at a glance.
6. Have Self-Confidence
Yes, I realize it’s hard to have confidence about something if you’ve never done it before, but that’s also a great reason to say “Yes” to any initial paid assignments. Once you do something, you get a confidence boost. Do what it takes to get those initial assignments, even if they don’t pay the greatest. The more work you do, the easier that self-confidence comes to you.
7. Have Boundaries
Many freelancers have horror stories about client relationships gone awry. For me, it was the Brooklyn restauranteur calling me at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. A clear Statement of Work can set the right expectations on both sides. You’ll want it to include what you’ll do in what time frame and for how much.
And to position yourself as someone who has boundaries, include a section on your website about your process. That tells prospects you have a system for doing business that applies across all clients.
8. Know What Questions to Ask Your Potential New Client
A writer needs specific information before they can even start writing. You’ll want to ask, if your client doesn’t give you a client brief with the information you need.
Questions you should get answers to include: Who’s the audience? What’s the goal of the content? What do you want the reader to do next after reading? Are there writing guidelines or examples of the type of writing they want?
You’ll also want to define the expectations. That includes how long the piece is, the goals, the number of revisions, and when you’ll deliver it.
As you can see, all freelance writing businesses are not the same. The writers who think about improving their writing and business processes reap the rewards! How will you use freelancer positioning to position your business for better rates?