A Shockingly Simple Way To Get Paid More as a Freelance Writer

“How can I make more money?”

This question is probably asked by people in every industry and experience level every day whether they work for themselves or are an employee. What if I told you that you have a surprisingly easy way to get more money as a freelance writer?

In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how I repeatedly got more money from my clients –– including the exact email I used to get a 30% raise from one of my clients.

If you remember me from last time, I talked all about how dream gigs show up in my inbox thanks to the power of positioning. And positioning is incredibly important! If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, the 5 Second Movie version is that positioning works like this: Pretty Branding/Packaging + Searchable Proof of Your Accomplishments = quality work starts coming to you without having to look for it.

Having strong positioning will certainly help you get paid more out of the gate when accepting new clients and exploring opportunities elsewhere. It helps sieve out the riff-raff who will do obnoxious things like whine, “But so-and-so on Textbroker will do it for 2 cents a word! Why should *I* deign to pay YOU 10 CPW?!” Unlike the talk about positioning though, I’m going to focus a little less on getting new clients- which is what positioning largely helps with- and more on your existing clients and the places where you find work.

Because let’s say that things are picking up because of your great positioning now. You haven’t had to look for work in a while because it’s coming to you, and your current client roster is keeping you busy. You’re at the point where you have to start turning down work, and also thinking about if you should fire clients or not. But despite all that, it seems like the numbers in your bank account are hardly going up. Now what?

Ready for that shocking way to get more money? ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?




You read that right. Ask for more money.

“Gee, Captain Obvious,” you’re probably thinking as you just read that. “If it were THAT simple, freelance writers would make more money than those parasitic investment bankers who got a bailout. What the hell do you mean, just ask for more money? I can’t do that!”

Oh ye of little faith. Runaway capitalism and American labor discourse has crushed your spirit and thus ability to ask for more. I mean, look at these scaremongering articles that litter the internet. Yeah, there’s some truth in there but THIS stuck out and is one of the things that inspired me to write this: “Couldn’t get your boss to give you a raise? Try negotiating several times a month, for each new job you take on.”

I did a Professor Farnsworth-esque “Whaaaa?” and shook my head when I got to that sentence. How is this a BAD thing? Whoever thinks that’s bad didn’t give themselves a raise 4 times this year like I did. FROM THE SAME CLIENT. That doesn’t count the numerous other raises I got from other clients in addition to raising my rates on my own website. You’re lucky to get just one raise a year if you’re someone’s employee.

I know that asking for more sounds difficult. And scary.

But What’s Stopping You From Blatantly Asking for More Money?

Is it because you’re afraid the client will stop working with you?

That fear can be paralyzing. Chances are if they’ve stuck with you and have been good to work with, then you might not want to lose them. But you need to ask if you’re fine with losing that client or not. When you start getting really busy, it could be time to give this client the axe if they’re just not going to pay what you’re asking and they haven’t sent earth-shattering opportunities your way that you were super excited about.

If you’re stuck in that content mill mentality where you have to practically beg for what you’re worth, you need to change your attitude about this. DON’T BE AFRAID. That’s a client to toss anyway as you’re attracting more higher-paying clients who are easier to work with on account of your great positioning. Sometimes, you need to just stop deliberating and take a leap: your landlord doesn’t hesitate to raise your rent over time, stores don’t hesitate to charge you more for the same product, so you shouldn’t hem and haw about raising your prices either as your circumstances change.

When you work with a client directly, you have more control over the pricing and thus more wherewithal to just ask for more money. But don’t let working through a content service stop you– with some caveats.

Case in point, I put up the following disclaimer in my WriterAccess profile:

“Due to her client roster and level of professional recognition, Rachel only accepts new clients who will work with her at Level 6 pay and higher with a preferred starting rate of 13 CPW (17 CPW after the house’s cut.) Higher rates result in even more research and going the extra mile! Please contact your account manager for more details.”

This served two purposes: it ensured only new clients with deep pockets would come my way and weeded out the people who only wanted to pay bare minimum L6 rates. Since it’s the clients who routinely drop more money into their marketing efforts who also have account managers on this platform, that means I’m targeting the people who definitely have the money to pay those rates. And for those who don’t have account managers, it still means “Pay this or go elsewhere.”

But it also inadvertently resulted in several new Love Lists and contacts who actually found themselves clamoring to hire me. I know that some of them will be people who just put me on a wishlist the same way one does for a pair of designer boots they hope to afford someday. Or are waiting to go out of season. Except these rates will probably go up, not down, by then. But there’s others who contacted me out of the blue, like this client (emphasis mine):


I am looking for someone to write a couple articles/blog posts a month for me on a variety of topics in the tax/accounting/finance/small business area (choice would mostly be yours). I don’t have a deadline and can be done all at once or as needed. I would say 2 articles/month to start is fair.

Each article would require at least 500 words and I would like a link to a primary source (such as IRS publication, regulation, court case, etc) in each one. I appreciate your background and would be willing to pay your full rate of $0.13/word if it works out. In an ideal world, I would also have you post directly to my website’s blog after the first batch of articles have been approved.

If you wanted to submit topics you could or if you want me to give you topics let me know about that too. I’m very flexible on everything but quality writing.

When you get back let me know your availability.




That, friends, is what happened when I didn’t hesitate to ask for the new minimum I’d accept. I not only got what I asked and without having to do anything to get it (this client came right to me), but how often do you see the phrase “I don’t have a deadline” in the writing for hire world? Especially on content sites? Usually they want it fast, fast, fast and for the lowest rate they can squeeze out of talent management!

For context, default L6 pay on WriterAccess is 7 CPW to the writer. This was the start of a great new professional relationship, but how to get my existing clients up to that level?

What is the Context of Your Professional Relationship?

If there’s one thing that asking for more money as a freelancer has in common with asking for a raise as an employee, it’s that you need some kind of tractable proof to justify that raise.

Don’t think about how much of your income this client comprises, where do you fit in with their goals? If you’ve been doing quality work for a long time and the client has expressed great satisfaction for it, even going on to say things like “That blog post got us so much traffic!” or “We had so many leads convert from that great e-book you wrote” that’s your cue to ask for a raise.

But when do you do it? And how long do you need to have been working for them? That’s the tricky part when you freelance. There’s no magic bullet one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Because when you’re an employee, you have that annual performance evaluation. Or if a smaller company, the holiday season when the boss is more likely to be in a giving mood once you remind them of how much value they derive from your labor. You also likely don’t ask for a raise six months into the job.

But it’s totally okay to ask for a raise from a writing client after six months of work, depending on how much work it was and how much they disclose of their overall performance to you. Once the client has told you how much benefit your work has brought them? USE IT. And don’t be afraid to.

Next, look at the client’s behaviors. Have they typically given you bonuses without your asking for them? If on a content platform, elected to pay you for the whole word count if you were under the specified amount (or paid for overages if you went over)?

I have a client who just randomly hurls money at me. That’s who gave me a raise four times this year. Dude has access to a seemingly bottomless expense account and because I have a skillset that’s very hard to replace, he will keep giving me virtually whatever I ask. Hence my diplomatically asking for more money last week since I knew he’d deliver:

“Hey Client, I have to do a ton of research for this set of orders. I also did topic research for new posts and whatnot which I think merits extra pay. Since you’ve been a fantastic client and great to work with, I had you grandfathered in at the old base rate of 10 CPW once I got promoted to L6. But I’m getting so busy that I dumped most of my old clients who wouldn’t go up since I’m getting all these new ones who will pay far more and I’d still love to keep working with you. Can you bump the pay up to 13 CPW? Thanks!”

I still get random money hits in addition to 13 CPW now. Specifically, I got another $56 for this set of orders. That adds up fast over many sets of orders.

So, being a good writer isn’t enough: pay attention to your relationship with each client. Some content writing relationships are very passive where you just do the assignment with little to no communication. The more active relationships are going to play a major role in successfully getting raises, let alone negotiating them several times a year.

Who is the Principal or Agent?

If you’ve taken any business law courses in your post-secondary education, you may remember principal-agent issues. They’re something you should research on your own through legal sites and talking to attorneys because principal-agent matters are very important to anyone who freelances or participates in the gig economy.

Especially writers: we often work through smokescreens like content sites.

Most of the negotiations above that I described all happened through WriterAccess. But other websites might not be so amenable, especially if clients come to them for price more than quality. Learn from my other industry, the games industry, on this: Spiderweb Software prices their games much higher on their own site compared to the saturation on Steam and so on. You’re not only not competing with other writers on your own site, but you also have to factor in billing, contract preparation, and other boring administrative tasks the content sites will take care of for you. The way that clients behave on other writing sites is important to factor in as well: if you price yourself what you’re worth on a site that attracts race-to-the-bottom types of clients, except to get no contact or pointless pushback. If you’re in a place that fosters quality writing for good money though, you have more leeway to charge what you’re worth– and ask for more later.

Putting the sites where you work aside, let’s look at who is actually hiring you to do the writing. Are you dealing with the client directly or a marketing agency?

It’s more likely to be fruitless if you negotiate with a marketing agency, even if you have a rarer skill set. The agency is likely to be hellbent on saving their client as much money as possible and not having to ask them for more. Because the agency also serves as a smokescreen between you and the end client, they are less likely to see your value.

To be clear, I’m not bashing marketing agencies here. I’ve maintained wonderful professional relationships with quite a few both through content sites like WriterAccess as well as privately. But because they are managing their clients’ marketing budgets, it’s rare that my requests for higher pay resulted in success. One ignored my request and the rest said it depended on their end clients (had about a 50% success rate.) Of course, if you get a higher-end agency client that is working with you privately opposed to a content site and has many clients with bottomless expense accounts like the one I described? Negotiate away!

A direct client is more likely to also directly see the value you provide in addition to other things you can do for them. An agency can provide a stable amount of writing work if you’re able to consistently meet deadlines and provide quality writing: but a direct client may find themselves wanting more of your skills aside from writing over time, and putting you in an excellent position to ask for more money. Possibly multiple raises in the same year!

The Moving Parts of Getting Paid More

So, to recap– the first piece of the puzzle is getting over the fear of asking for more. Granted, there’s situations in the freelance writing world where you have less bargaining power. Content mills are one place as are those race-to-the-bottom job bidding websites (As I say in my freelancing classes and one-on-one coaching sessions, “If you go looking for work in a garbage dump, you’re only to find garbage gigs.”)

But simply having the audacity to ask for more, even in places like that, can generate interest alone. The clients will want to know why you think you’re worth that. You may be surprised to find that after you ask for more, clients WILL respond to it and you also get to weed out the crappy ones who want to nickel-and-dime you.

Next, you need to think about your relationship with that client. Charging new higher rates coupled with strong positioning solves the problem of getting new clients to pay you more. But when deciding how long you want to grandfather in your existing clients for, or if you should raise your rate halfway between the old rate and new one, take a look at your relationship with them as well as your effect on their bottom line. How many times a year do you think you could get a raise out of them? Remember, you can do that in this profession! You’re not at a job where you’re restricted to one annual raise if you’re lucky.

You also need to determine how many different principals and agents (or smokescreens) are at play in this business relationship. A client you work with directly, whether privately or through a smokescreen like WriterAccess or CloudPeeps, is more likely to be amenable to raises than a marketing agency or other third party that is hiring you to do work for a different end client.

Got it? It’s quality/skills – relationship – principal/agent, but you can only focus on those things after you’ve gotten over the fear of asking for more. Fear is a powerful deterrent, but it will only hold you back.

We get scared that we’ll be all alone if we don’t settle for a partner we’re not crazy about.

Scared of losing friends when you hit your thirties and that barrage of wedding and shower invitations turns up.

Scared that you won’t be able to pay your bills if you don’t’ settle for this crappy job or gig that has sucky pay “but I need the money”.

Scared that things will never get better.

Fear’s not a motivator. It’s a deterrent. You may not realize it’s holding you back. It’s what forces us to settle for less-than-stellar things in life, definitely not the least of which is pay.

But I just showed you what happens when you ask for more. Now do it. Find one client you can ask for more from. Start with a client who endlessly praises your work and has been steady for some time. It’ll build you up for negotiations that seem scarier, like asking for $1/word or more.

Now go forth and make it happen!


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