Less is more certainly doesn’t seem to be a phrase that’s apt for the 21st century when we all seem to be on the hunt for bigger and better. More is more, surely?
When it comes to freelancing writing it could be easy to think that, too. Surely more work means more money, more future clients, and more standing in the industry.
But let’s think about it – does it really?
How to Increase Your Freelance Writing Rate
Take writer #1. Let’s call him Arthur. Arthur works for seven hours a day, five days a week. He doesn’t seem to be short of clients, but he rarely has time to look for new ones which means he’s working for a similar freelance writing rate and similar companies time and time again.
He might have to rush a few pieces here and there so he can finish for the day (okay, let’s face it, he has to rush a lot of pieces). It’s difficult for Arthur to take any time off either, because he has to keep the same amount of hours and momentum up in order to keep earning enough.
Basically, Arthur is running on a metaphorical hamster wheel just to keep himself on level ground as a freelance writer. His busy schedule means there’s no time to improve his craft or to seek out better clients. Instead, he pounds along at the same, hair-raising speed until he, inevitably, burns out.
Now let’s take writer #2. Let’s call her Gladys. Gladys works for four hours a day, five days a week. She spends two of those hours actually producing work and the other two marketing her services and making connections with potential clients.
Surely Gladys’ business must be failing? How is she making ends meet working only two billable hours a day?
See, Gladys has really taken the less is more mentality to heart and it’s benefited her in more ways than one.
Firstly, Gladys has set aside a decent proportion of time to find better-paying clients so she can boost her freelance writing rate. When she finds a better paying client she can eliminate one of her lower-paying gigs.
That’s right, she can just kick it right out of the equation.
Whilst Arthur’s churning out pieces for the same clients year after year and keeping the same freelance writing rate, Gladys is actively building her business.
The reality is that Gladys is much more likely to charge a higher freelance writing rate than Arthur even though she’s working considerably less hours each day because she’s thinking ahead. She’s thinking about the future and the longevity of her business.
But how do I get a higher freelance writing rate when I’m first starting out? I hear you ask.
Very valid question.
We all have to start somewhere, and for a lot of us that place is and was on the content mills. Pay isn’t great but the work is plentiful. However, there’s a very real danger of turning into Arthur in no time at all because we’re churning out piece after piece just to stay adrift.
But when it seems like time AND money is thin on the ground, how can you sacrifice paying work for what seems like an endless slog up a mountain only to find there’s nothing worth seeing up there (a.k.a. marketing)?
My advice is to set aside just half an hour every day to marketing in the beginning. That’s right, just half an hour. It could be whilst you’re eating lunch or whilst you have your first (or second or third) cup of coffee of the day.
What do you do in that half an hour?
Something. Anything. Even if you just send out one letter of intention (LOI – more on these to come soon!), connect with one awesome brand on Twitter, or draft a post for your personal blog. You could even set yourself a schedule, so on Mondays you work on your Twitter presence, on Tuesdays you research local companies, etc etc.
It doesn’t matter what you do in that half an hour as long as you do something that’s working towards getting better clients and a higher freelance writing rate.
If you’re hitting all the right places and connecting with all the right people you should be able to see the fruits of your labour pretty quickly.
For example, I started sending out LOI’s to travel-related companies two weeks ago and I’ve already had 5 bites. That’s 5 potential new clients in just two weeks.
Then, when the work starts to come in you can do a Gladys: drop your lowest-paying gig in order to take on a higher paying one. If you continue slotting in higher paying gigs to replace lower paying gigs, your business is very unlikely to stagnate.
You’re always pushing forward. Always on the hunt for bigger and better (but, let’s remember, not necessarily more!).
But it’s not just money where less is more is a good mantra.
More Reasons Why the Less is More Mantra is Essential
- Quality of Work Goes Up
When you’re pushed for time with too many projects it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and rush them just so you can get them out of your sight.
Working with less clients means your brain isn’t so busy all of the time, giving you a chance to actually think about the work you’re doing and produce it to the best of your ability.
- Your Health Improves
Let’s think of poor old Arthur for a moment. He’s sitting at his desk, hunched over, churning out 7 hours’ worth of solid writing every day. Does he have time for lunch? Who knows? Is his posture affected? Probably. Does he regret going freelance in the first place? More than likely.
If you’re working with less clients you’re less likely to hit the burnout stage because there’s actually space and time to, you know, breathe.
- You Can Hone Your Skills
Like most things in this world, the writing industry is constantly changing and evolving. If you want to make it you have to be on the ball pretty much every minute of every day.
That means buffing up on the latest trends, honing your craft, and constantly striving to be better at what you do. When you finish a 7-hour day on the hamster wheel it’s unlikely you’re going to want to write another word. But, if you’re working with less clients on less projects, you’ll have the time to better yourself which, at the end of the day, places you ahead of the game.
So few writers spend time getting better at… well, writing. It amazes me. But I realise why – so many writers don’t have the time to hone their craft, carry out their paid work, AND market themselves. Something’s gotta give, and it’s usually the skills-building.
So as you can see, less is more is a mantra us writers should be chanting to ourselves every day (unless we’re checking our bank accounts). It really is as simple as setting aside half an hour a day to really boost your business and get your name out there.
If you’re in in for the long haul it’s vital to keep moving forward so you and your business don’t stagnate. Otherwise you’ll be job hunting in no time at all and that makes me sad.
[disclaim]If you’re looking to become a freelance writer, don’t forget to check out the resources page I have lovingly put together, which features a wealth of tools, job boards, blogs, and books for all you freelance writers out there! [/disclaim]