Want to know a secret? Come closer, let me whisper… OK, here’s the secret: the key to success in freelance writing (in every business) is getting people to come back.
(This article was updated on May 30, 2014: scroll to the end to see why this update is important for Web writers today.)
Here’s what I told a writing student last week, when he said he needed more clients: “You don’t need MORE clients. You need to get more of your current clients coming back.”
It’s much easier to turn your current clients — and future clients — into on-going gigs than it is to keep finding new people to hire you.
Here’s the way to get on-going gigs from your clients: develop “retainer” services.
While there are many ways to get clients on retainer, content writing is an easy way.
Let’s think about your clients for a moment. WHY do clients want, and desperately need, content writing services?
In a nutshell: it’s cheaper than advertising. Advertising is crushingly expensive. Not only is it expensive, it’s also a one-shot deal. A business or publication pays for advertising. Once the ad runs, it’s done. Sort of like fireworks, you light them, there’s a sound and light display, and that’s the end of it.
Content stays online forever, and can be repurposed in many, many ways, so it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Hiring YOU is CHEAP compared to advertising. There’s a huge return on investment (ROI) for content. Moreover, most businesses which are savvy enough to “get” content, amortize its creation.
Content Is All About Getting Found, and Making Sales
Since the global economic crisis of 2008, businesses have turned to the Web. For your clients, Web content means getting found, and making sales. Your ability to create content which draws traffic ensures that you can get your clients onto a retainer.
A “retainer” is money a client pays you up-front, for services you perform regularly. The operative word is “up-front.”
Content Writing Retainer Services You Can Offer
Remember we said that content needs to be fresh to be found?
Make a list of Web content writing services you can offer.
For example, you could offer:
* A series of daily tweets: 5 tweets every weekday. These tweets would be snippets taken from content you’d already created for the client. You’d use a service like HootSuite to schedule the tweets;
* One 500 word article a week, posted to the client’s Google+ account. Google+ tends to have SEO ranking benefits with Google. Additionally, you’d update four pages on the client’s website. (Fresh, remember);
* One case study a month posted to the client’s website, plus two blog posts a week posted to the client’s blog;
* One press release a month; five tweets a week; one daily blog post…
You tailor your content services according to the client. Therefore, if your client doesn’t have a blog, getting the blog established would be a priority. For your retainer, you could offer three blog posts a week, with one post a day to Google+, as well as three daily tweets to the client’s Twitter account.
How Much Could You Charge for On-Going Gigs?
Remember that your clients can amortize the cost of your content writing. (To “amortize” is to gradually write off the cost of an asset.) Point this out to your clients.
Additionally, point out that “fresh” content is appealing to the search engines. This means more traffic, and more sales.
I took a straw poll among some writers, to ask them how they priced their retainer content writing services:
* Some writers charge a retainer of $1,000 or more a month, then decide at the start of the month what they’ll create for the client, according to how much traffic (and what kind of traffic) the client’s site is getting;
* Some writers have a fixed number of words they’ll write for a client. If they’re writing 3,000 words, they’ll charge 50 cents a word, which is $1,500 up-front. One writer writes 15,000 words a month for one of her clients. She charges the client $7,500 a month — up front.
By “up front” we mean that the client pays you, at the start of the month, and then you start writing. You don’t write until you get paid.
Big tip: price your content writing services appropriately. You’re creating assets for your client, and you’re saving your client advertising costs.
Why Do Clients Like Retainers?
Once you’re creating content for a client, and he can see that he gets more traffic because of that content, a retainer makes sense.
The client doesn’t have to think about it. He knows what he’s getting. He also knows that the content is cheap, compared to advertising, and that he can amortize the cost.
For you, Web content writing is a goldmine.
Update: May 30, 2014
When this article was originally published, over a year ago, I emphasized “SEO” Web content writing. While search engine optimization is still important, I suggest that you place less stress on it. ALL Web content needs optimization, so you do it automatically anyway.
Google’s gone through so many changes that “SEO” has stopped being a sales point. “SEO” content is now a commodity. Besides, most new writers wouldn’t know SEO if it bit them on their rear end, yet they blithely offer it. It’s completely devalued in many clients’ minds.
As we’ve said, OF COURSE you add basic optimization to your content — general meta data, and some promotion. However, since “SEO” nowadays is looked on as something as a cheap trick in many quarters, avoid it as a sales point.
The More Things Change, the More Money You Can Make
Today, a Web writer’s job is challenging, because the competition for attention is huge. This can be frightening, or it can be liberating – choose to be liberated.
You’ll make more money from your writing when you become a master content creator on the new Web.
Learn more… and increase your writing income today.
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