You don’t have to wait ten years to figure out how to make a reliable income. You can start right now, today.
There are three things I know about you:
- You work hard, write well, and care passionately about the work you do. But you’re not earning the money you deserve or living the life of freedom you once envisioned for yourself.
- Your marketing is ad hoc, often inspired by guilt and feelings of “I should.”
- The cash flow in your business sucks. You’re tired of chasing clients for money, of having no idea what you’ll make the next month, and scared of letting go of awful clients for what it might do to you financially.
How do I know? I’ve been there. And I’ve done that.
It took me over ten years to figure out that it doesn’t have to be this hard.
I wrote for some of the world’s most prestigious publications—The New York Times, TIME, CNN, ABC News, The Christian Science Monitor, Ms., GlobalPost, The Independent, Vogue, Glamour, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and many more. And yet, cash flow was always a problem in my business. There were feasts (and what awesome feasts they were!) but there were also the famines.
When I became the sole breadwinner for my family a few years ago, the famines became a lot harder to bear. They almost paralyzed us.
I had to come up with a system for keeping the cash flowing through my business fast. And I did.
That process and that system of getting recurring income is what I want to share with you now.
You don’t have to wait ten years to figure out how to be a freelancer who makes a regular income. You can start right now. Today.
Let me show you how.
Step 1: Create your freelancing roadmap
The very first thing you must do when you start thinking about regular income and how much money you need to be bringing in each month is to calculate your numbers.
My formula for this calculation is pretty simple.
- How much do you need to make per month just to keep the lights on? This is the very minimum you need to earn each month in order to continue freelancing.
- How many hours can you realistically work each month?
Answer those two questions before reading ahead.
Let’s assume you need to make $3,000 every month. We’ll also assume you have about 40 hours a week or 160 hours a month in which to do this.
Now we all know you won’t be writing for all those 40 hours. You’ll need to do some administrative work, marketing, and checking of emails, so let’s just assume you can write for half the time, which is about 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month.
With me so far?
Now, to make $3,000 a month writing 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month, you would need to be paid $37.50 an hour. That’s your base rate.
Doable, right? It’s a pretty low rate. You can easily get work for $37.50 an hour to keep yourself afloat.
(And if you can’t, if making $37.50 is a struggle for you, you need to sign buy The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing right this very minute and learn how to get some high-paying work through the door asap.)
While you want to make a lot more than $3,000 a month, if you could bring in that much from recurring revenue in your business, it would give you room to breathe, right?
If you didn’t have to worry about marketing every single day just to pay the rent, you’d be able to focus on those bigger clients, correct?
So let’s do that.
It’s difficult to get clients who will pay you $200 an hour every month with little to no marketing right away, but you can easily get the $38-an-hour gigs.
Don’t worry about how the rate is beneath you, how experienced you are, or how much more you want to be making. You won’t have to stick to this rate for long. But if you’re at absolute rock bottom, you need to give yourself a break from the panic. This is how you do that.
So, that’s step 1.
Step 2: Replace low-paying clients with high-paying ones
Now. It’s two months later. You’ve got $3,000 a month coming in regularly and you’re confident you won’t need to move your husband and children into your parents’ basement next month. You’re steady. Stable.
It’s time to grow.
Now you go intense with the marketing.
What you’ll do now is go big with your marketing. Massive. Doing it as if nothing else matters. However, here’s the part that’s different: You’ll only focus on high-paying clients that have the potential to become regular or anchor clients. And every time you add a new higher-paying client, you let go of a lower-paying one.
You keep doing this until you’ve replaced all your low-paying clients. Then you turn around and do it again. And again. And again. Until you’re at a point where you’re happy with the work and income and all your regular clients are people who not only pay you well but whom you also you adore working with.
So, where the heck do you find these people? Good question.
Here are my top tips.
1. Your existing clients
Okay, so if you haven’t already asked your existing clients if they have regular content needs—HELLO?—just get off this page right now and go do that.
I mean it. Seriously.
Email all your clients and ask them if you can take your every-now-and-again gig with them, whatever it is, and convert it into a monthly thing. Give them a discount if it helps. Regular work—at least in the beginning—is far more valuable than high-paying work because it keeps you afloat. Obviously, I’d rather you have both, but if you need to give a discount or cut your rates slightly so you can have money coming in each and every month with no extra marketing effort, do it.
2. One-off clients
That agency director you did one blog post for and then never heard from again? Follow up.
That editor who assigned two stories and you never again pitched anything to? Pitch her.
That website owner who asked you to do the entire content for her redesign? Ask her if she’s starting up a newsletter or has other content needs.
You get the drift here, right? If they’ve worked with you once and liked your work, they may want to work with you again. And if they’re open to working with you again, they may consider working with you on a recurring basis.
3. Contact agencies
Content agencies are a fantastic source of regular and recurring income for many freelancers. They have many different clients, all sorts of projects, and are often in need of reliable freelancers. If you can make an impression at a high-level agency, you can make very good money on a recurring basis.
(Read more about the types of content clients and how to pitch each one here.)
4. Your professional networks
Finally, your freelance colleagues are a fantastic source of information about clients. Look through their LinkedIn profiles to see who they’re working with, participate in Facebook groups where people are actively sharing information, and of course—I hope this doesn’t need to be said—be generous with sharing information, too.
When everyone pools their resources together, it becomes very easy to see where the opportunities are and how you can take advantage of them.
Recurring income can be a massive boon in a freelance writer’s life, especially if there are creative projects you want to work on that don’t bring in the cash immediately. Having clients who repeatedly give you work and regular income helps you create time for those projects and achieve greater happiness and satisfaction with your writing.
This is how you get it.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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