Did you read the title to this piece and scoff.
It’s all about the money, right?
This is your job, if you’re not getting paid to write then you’re not a professional, you’re just an enthusiastic hobbyist. Someone who runs a blog and helps others out of the kindness of their heart.
Now, I’m not trying to say that you’re a callous git for wanting nothing but money, but have you ever stopped to consider the long-term benefits of voluntary (gasp!) or lower paid work? You might be surprised at how it can help your career.
Many of us trade the stability of a nine to five for the freedom and creativity of a career in freelance writing. Unfortunately the trade-off also comes with an unstable earning potential.
Due to the uncertain profitability of a freelance career there’s an understandable focus on the short-term gains of payment. Any jobs not meeting your minimum requirements are immediately dismissed as a waste of time. But what if I told you that sometimes ignoring short-term payments can pay dividends with a well established long-term plan?
It’s not a crazy idea or a figment of my imagination. There are people out there who’ve built huge businesses off the back of low paying or voluntary work and I think it’s achievable for anyone.
Whilst it may be achievable for us all, it’s definitely not easy. Not all work is going to pay off in the long run and you need to be aware of the various red flag terms that sometimes look great but will leave you short on cash with nothing to show for it.
Payment Terms to Avoid
For the last six months or so I’ve been creating a weekly newsletter to the subscribers of this site. I sift through the various writing job boards to find gigs that pay an acceptable rate for freelance writers. I collect the relevant links and send them to the HaW subscribers to save them the time of having to trawl these websites themselves.
Since the newsletter’s creation I’ve noticed that payment terms for jobs tend to fall into a number of pre determined brackets. Whilst ignoring the short-term payments for certain jobs to help build a long-term plan can pay off, the majority of payment terms are a joke and need to be avoided at all costs.
Bad Payment Terms
Revenue Share – The problem with revenue share is that you’re not guaranteed any payment. You could spend hours working on a piece for it to get a few dozen views and a handful of ad clicks. A lot of the sites that offer revenue share payments don’t have a big enough readership to make decent money from PPC advertising meaning that you’re going to earn a big, fat zero.
For a lot of sites it’s an easy way to promise a writer payment based on unrealistic and unachievable goals. A lot of sites are effectively getting writers to work for free.
Per Page View – The first writing team I was added to operated on a page view payment scheme. I ended up not writing anything for them in the end as the goals were unachievable.
To earn $10 your article had to receive 5000 views. You were then given a $5 bonus for every subsequent 1000 views. Now if you’re working for a site that brings in tens or even hundreds of thousands of visitors every month this isn’t a problem. Trouble is, most large sites with huge traffic earn enough to take the easy route and pay their writers a flat fee for their work.
After a little digging I discovered the site I was writing for had average article views around the 100-200 mark. To write an article that quickly jumped to 5000 was nearly impossible. Again, these guys had writers working for free.
Get a Piece Published on a High Ranking Site – These ads often pay an acceptable rate, usually around the $100 mark. The difference is you’re told what topic to write about and are expected to get an article on that topic published on a high-ranking site. I’ve not done this kind of work myself but I imagine it’s a way for smaller companies and websites to gain good backlinks and increase their placing in the SERPs.
Now I’ve got no problem with guest posting. It’s a great way to increase your visibility, get your name out there and get great traffic from the backlinks. The problem with this kind of job is that payment depends on you actually getting your post accepted. If it’s not accepted, you’re not paid.
You’re effectively pitching articles to big sites for a third-party, my question is why don’t you just do the same job for yourself? If you have expertise in the area why not build up your own portfolio and backlinks leading to a more profitable personal business?
Maybe I’m missing the point.
The Payment You Deserve
Flat Rate Payment – Flat rate payments are the go to for many more trustworthy companies and websites. They might make their money through ad revenue and rely on high page views, but your payment doesn’t depend on them.
These organisations are successful enough to have an editorial team who know whether your article is a good fit for the site and whether it’s going to resonate with their audience. They don’t need to ‘incentivise’ you with unrealistic page view or PPC goals.
Whether an hourly rate or per article fee payment depends on your ability. The way it should be.
Exposure – This is the part that I really wanted to talk about but it seems I got a little distracted on my way here! Jobs that explicitly offer ‘great exposure’ aren’t usually worth your time. It’s not difficult to discern whether a website is actually going to offer great exposure or whether they’re attempting to dupe writers with the promise of fool’s gold.
Guest posting is a great example of how exposure can be used to grow your business and I’d like to use Firepole Marketing’s Danny Iny as an example.
Danny built a huge audience from a prolific spate of guest posting on high authority sites such as Copyblogger. The guest posts brought huge amounts of traffic to Danny and let him build a substantial email list, many of whom expressed an interest in how Danny had managed to get published on so many sites leading to the creation of the Write Like Freddy Course (there’s a story behind the name!).
This was Danny’s first course which retails at $137. It was also the first step to him building Firepole Marketing into a company which, if I remember correctly from one of his recent webinars, cleared 7 figures in 2014.
Whilst Danny managed to build an impressive following for himself through his guest post strategy he also built a network of other industry influencers. These influencers proved to be extremely helpful to Danny’s business as they assisted in the promotion of his existing and upcoming products. Through these contacts Danny has increased his visibility and prospect base immeasurably.
Danny demonstrated the power of this method around three months ago in the run up to the release of his latest product. A number of high authority sites for writers and bloggers published articles written by Danny, all of which were promoting his new product.
I don’t know for certain but I’m pretty certain that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people would have received emails and blog updates regarding Danny and his products during this period. Even if Danny only converts 1% of his readers he’s going to be sitting pretty as the product sells for a couple of hundred dollars!
Focusing on building your brand recognition and professional network might not be the most profitable method in the short-term, but as Danny Iny has shown it can pay off extremely well with a long-term plan in mind. As is always the case in business, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Weigh up every job carefully and look at the benefits it brings both in the short and long-term for cash and furthering your larger marketing plan.
So yes, freelance writing is all about the money. It is a career after all. The difference is in deciding whether you want to focus on lots of short-term smaller income streams or build something big that will pay off well in the long-term.
Image – Miran Rijavec