Written By Angela J. Brown

How I Earn $100 an Hour as a Freelance Writer (Despite Being Plagiarized)

The year was 2012. I was barely three months into my foray into the freelance world, and I was doing okay (or so I thought.) I hadn’t done much research before signing up to take on clients through a job board to bring in a little extra cash. As a stay-at-home mom of two girls, I wanted work I could do from home. I earned a bachelor’s degree in communications (journalism) and worked as a reporter before stepping down and staying home with my girls, so it seemed a natural fit.

My going rate at the time was $9 an hour.

When I was approached by a client who wanted a few health and fitness articles written for his company, I sent my proposal, and we agreed that I’d write a few blog posts for $50.

The same week the contract came in, we received a phone call that my husband’s grandmother had fallen and hit her head. She was being rushed to a nearby hospital, and things weren’t looking favorable. We packed up our two toddlers (and my laptop) and met up with family in the hospital waiting room. We came to the hospital for hours at a time over the next few days. My husband watched the girls and talked with his family while I pounded away at the keyboard, trying to get the articles to my client by the deadline.

There was this pit in my stomach every time I worked on my article. I knew I should be focusing on my husband and his family, but I was trying to build a freelance career so that we could support our little family.  I pushed my guilt aside long enough to get the articles finished. My husband’s grandmother passed away a few days later.

The situation itself was frustrating. Instead of being able to provide emotional and physical support during an emotional time, I was cranking out articles for practically nothing, but what happened next made the whole thing 10-times worse.

Shortly after I submitted the articles, my client ghosted. Poof. There was no response to my article submissions, no payment. Nothing. I kept sending friendly reminders (and then not-so-friendly reminders). Still nothing.

After chatting with some other writers who had also had a client vanish on them, I looked for my articles online. I found them. This client stole all my work and posted them on multiple websites under his name. The client paid a total of $5 (I had at least some foresight to request a partial payment upfront). Unfortunately, this was not the only (or most expensive) loss I’ve had in the last six years. It was, however, the trigger that pushed me into being more selective with the clients I add to my roster.

I reported the client (to oDesk, now Upwork) and showed proof that this client had stolen my work. As far as I know, the company deleted his account. I also took the time to contact the websites where my article was posted and asked them to remove the posts. I didn’t waste too much time or energy after that because I felt my time was better spent moving on to new projects.

Now, six years (and hundreds of jobs) later, I average between $75 and $100 per hour. I even landed a client that pays me more than $600 per article.

Here’s what I learned:

Create a basement price, then ask for more: What’s the least amount of money you’re willing to earn for a project? Know what you can accept, and then ask for a little more in the bidding/negotiating process. Some clients may have a pre-determined price point (usually publications), but you may be able to arrange a later deadline or faster payment. It usually doesn’t hurt to ask, just be professional in your approach.

As an additional thought: when a client asks for your rates, ask for more than you think you should. I had a client ask my rate for blog posts last month, I gave him a number that’s twice what I usually charge, and he said yes, without hesitation. Even if he’d countered with a number that was lower than my initial offer, it probably would have been higher than my lowest price point. Don’t rip off your clients, but don’t be afraid to charge a fair rate either. 

Say no:  It may seem counterintuitive, but you don’t have to say yes to every single project that comes your way. Saying no to a client that offers a rate that’s too low, frees you up to work on better-paying projects.

At first, turning down projects was hard for me. I worried that saying no meant I wouldn’t be able to find more work. However, saying no actually gave more motivation to go out and get better clients. I’ve gotten comfortable with asking for higher rates after I’ve worked with a client for a while. I even stepped away from work with an on-going client because they refused to budge on my rate after three years.

Find a niche: I don’t write for every type of client anymore. I specialize in real estate and personal finance topics, and I target those type of clients and publications. Because I have many samples in both industries, it’s easier to justify my higher rates, and clients are more willing to pay them. I still take on some work that’s outside of those areas, but not as often as I used to.

Master your pitch: This is one of the most important things you can do to land more clients. Spend time working your pitch letters. Your pitch letters should feel personalized (though having some templates to make the process quicker is a great idea too), but they shouldn’t take forever to write because:

Pitch, pitch, pitch: I try to send out at least 2 to 5 LOIs per day (about 10 to 20 per week). I don’t hear back from most of them. Half of those who do respond can’t afford my rates. Sometimes, people, I’ve sent pitches to don’t respond for weeks or months, so it’s vital to keep pitching if you want steady work.

These pitches don’t have to be complicated, but they should be personal. Here is a sample of a pitch I sent that landed me a repeat contract with a real estate agent. (It took me less than five minutes to type this up).  I found this client from a job listing and this letter led to a $2,200 job.

Bob,

Hi! My name is Angela Brown and I’m a freelance real estate and finance writer with 13 years or professional writing and editing experience.

Adding a community page to your real estate website is an excellent way to add SEO organically, it’s also a great freebie tool you can offer people that will make them more likely to bookmark your page. When I was checking out your notes about what you were looking for, I got the idea of a page with different headers and paragraphs about each topic. This would also be a great place to add links (to schools, utility companies etc.), which your readers would appreciate (and search engines too!)

I have worked with clients like Wasatch Home and Estates (see sample here: https://www.wasatchhomesandestates.com/category/blog/)

I’ve also written for FinanceBuzz (sample: https://financebuzz.com/mortgage-questions-to-ask-your-lender).

I think this sample, which I ghostwrote for a client might give you the best idea for the tone and type of writing that would work for your community pages: (https://nebula.wsimg.com/4ff34a609b7cbeef3479ec8f2eb0e0e9?AccessKeyId=DAF2EC90865FCE4DD457&disposition=0&alloworigin=1)

I’d love to chat with you a little more about your content needs. Would you be interested in jumping on a call?

Angela

 

Have a contract: I almost NEVER work without a contract. I did, technically, have an agreement with the client that ripped me off, but now I’m even more vigilant creating one that offers more protection.  Your contract details the type of work you will send, the deadline, and when your client must pay. Having a detailed contract also prevents your client from changing the scope of the project at the last minute.

The most important thing I’ve learned: The value of my work. There are plenty of clients that want to pay bargain basement rates, but you don’t have to work for them. It took me far too long to realize that writing is a skill and a talent, one that deserves fair pay. Protect yourself from slug clients, and don’t let setbacks stop you from pursuing a freelancing career if it’s what you want to do.


Angela J. Brown is a Salt Lake City based real eastate and finance writer. Learn more about her at angelajbrown.com

Your Comments:

  1. Bob Congdon says:

    Excellent, practical information. Its focus gets to the root of my own feelings at the time. Invaluable information. Thanks.

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      Thanks for reading. Keep pushing forward. Freelance work can be surprisingly exhausting, but it’s worth it!

  2. Johnny Kuadzi says:

    Great, insightful and informative! I shall get there!

  3. Sharon Alexandra says:

    Excellent article. Valuable information, engaging, and inspirational.Thank you!

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. It certainly didn’t feel inspirational at the time, but it was a huge learning experience! Hopefully, it helps someone else from making the same mistakes I did 🙂

  4. Johanna says:

    Thank you, Angela! Great advice!

  5. Laurencia Cohen says:

    I am just starting out. I love to write, but I’m not sure where to start…can you suggest or help in anyway?

  6. Melanie Massaro says:

    Angela,

    Great article. I’m still in the training phase of copywriting, and I shall heed your sage advice about having writing contracts and how much to charge. I’m thinking about either the pet industry or health for my niche. I’m a retired RN, and I think that I could write about health topics.

    Do you have any opinions about direct mail copywriting vs B2B writing?

    Thanks again for writing an informative article with excellent advice for all copywriters!

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      I’ve never done direct mail copywriting. It’s just not my schtick. B2B writing can be very lucrative, but you should be more specific about your industry. I think your background as an RN is fantastic. Maybe approach medical companies for B2B, they can usually pay pretty well 😉

  7. Sara says:

    Hello! Thanks for the very informative post. I have a few very well-paying clients, and also a number of those that complain that my minimum rates are too high. Thanks for the advice which I will now use to only accept fair paying and interesting jobs 🙂

  8. MJ says:

    Excellent advice! You’ve proven it’s okay to err as long as you learn and cease repeating. It’s also great to share experience in an effort to assist others—after all, the more anyone writes, the better he or she becomes.

    The most challenging portion for me, as a single mother, is that after receiving my degree, I’m so busy paying off my loans and supporting my kiddies it’s super tough fitting any writing in at all.

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      Oh, I sill make mistakes, it’s just part of the process, but I’ve made much better choices! I’ve been fortunate to be able to jump into this full time. Try taking on one project a month to build up a portfolio. It’s usually just a few hours and you’ll gradually have more pieces to use!

  9. Alicia Ogunmiloro says:

    Thanks for the pitch advice. I’m just starting and needed some tips about writing a pitch. I’ve written a few just to get a hang of it but they seem too computerized and business instead of me. Reading yours and understanding where I can be friendly and not too uptight gave me new hope.

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      That was really hard for me at first. All of my pitches sounded like resumes. For sure, keep it professional, but it’s okay to be more casual and personable too!

  10. Alice Lynn Adams says:

    Besides just launching “Tate’s Imagination Station!” which is my first children’s book wrote in a teen’s perspective, I’m just starting out in freelance. You give me some great
    ideas and valuable insight. Thanks!

  11. Kevin O. Grier says:

    Please let us know if the publisher of the stolen articles was ever prosecuted.
    Please be more specific about procedures to avoid this problem and how to
    get justice if it happens.
    At best provide us with a link so we can further research these circumstances.

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      No they were never prosecuted. It was a $50 project. Not worth the time or effort it would have cost to get that money back. (Never mind that I charged WAY too little).

      The purpose of this article wasn’t to talk about getting justice, it was to talk about moving on and making my business successful despite being ripped off.

  12. Charleigh says:

    Hi Angela,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and valuable insight. May I ask where you got your contract? Did you write it yourself or did you start with a template?

    Thank you!

  13. Charleigh says:

    Hi Angela,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and valuable insight. Where did you get your contract from? Did you write it yourself or use a template?

    • Angela J. Brown says:

      I wrote it myself. I just have a quick order I usually work through. Greeting (including their name), a comment about them or their company, a piece of advice related to their needs, and a short bit about my experience. It works to have that formula in my head because I can type them out quickly and get more pitches out.

  14. Phillip Lyngdoh says:

    Hi Angela,
    Your article is brilliantly insightful. Some of us new freelancers who are just taking steps trying to make an honest earning through our writing skills get easily duped. I’ve been fleeced twice by some thug clients on Skype. It’s devastating.
    Thank you for your timely advice. That bit about the contract is really helpful.

  15. Gabriel says:

    Reading this could not have happened at a better time for me. Thanks!

  16. ezera says:

    Hi Angella, thanks for such an inspirational article, i hope with this I am able move on, trusting my inner ability and make a bargain. Thank you

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