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I was raised not to talk about how much money you make. But today, I am going to break that rule (Sorry, Dad). Throughout my career as a content marketing writer I have been grateful to other writers, especially Kelly James-Enger, for their honesty about money and although it’s a bit uncomfortable, I’m going to share as well. When I discovered that other freelancers were making six figures, I realized that it was possible for me and began to up my game. I think that as freelancers it is important to go there and talk about money (in as much detail as our contracts allow) since it really only helps the freelancing community at large.
Ok, so technically, I broke the 6 figure mark by only $300, but six figures is six figures. And I took six weeks totally off from work and worked only a few hours a week another four to six weeks throughout the year. I did a happy dance in my kitchen at the end of November when I made my goal while my co-workers (also known as my three dogs – Hank, Katie and Larry) looked at me like I was crazy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I had my best year ever as a content marketing writer and realized that there are some unconventional reasons why I believe that I made six figures this year.
1. I had fewer clients. This may seem counterintuitive since on the surface it is logical to think that you need more clients to make more money. But 2014 was one of my lower years as a freelancer income wise, and I think it was due to the fact that I had a pile of 14 1099’s from 2014 sitting on my desk in January. When you work on small to medium projects for many different clients, you lose productivity because the first few projects always take longer as you learn the client’s expectations, tone and topics. Having long-term clients also decreases your marketing time and downtime, which also dramatically increases your income. This year I have close to half as many clients as last year, but several of my 1099’s will be for $20K.
2. I developed a high paying and in demand niche. I thought that I had a great niche with personal finance and technology, but this year I took it a step further and developed a niche in big data analytics. I added this niche to my website and LinkedIn to help promote my expertise as well. My income increased dramatically because it is an in-demand niche with very few qualified writers. Another benefit is that when are very familiar with a topic, you can write high quality articles in a very short amount of time so you end up with a high hourly rate. Without specializing deeper into the technology niche, I am positive that I would not have broken six figures.
3. I learned to be a better negotiator. I’m a people pleaser and want everyone to like me. While this trait has been great for developing long term client relationships, it has also caused me to significantly underprice myself on many occasions. This first step for me was to realize this about myself and be aware that my initial instinct for pricing was most likely too low. I also learned that I am much bolder in email and much less likely to agree to a low price over email than in a phone call. So whenever possible, I had all of my rate discussions over email. If someone asked for a rate quote over the phone I said that I needed to think about it so I would send my proposal in an email in a few hours.
4. I treated my freelance content marketing writing career truly as a business. This year when people asked me what I did, I started answering “I own my own freelance writing business.” I found that this simple shift in my answer to an often asked question helped change my mindset as well. I began investing in my business by updating my website (I highly recommend Sumy Designs) with a professional design, outsourcing more work to my virtual assistant and attending Content Marketing World.
5. I only worked with nice people. I am sensitive (probably one of the most sensitive people you will ever meet) and find it very stressful to work with jerky people. And when I am stressed, then I am more likely to give into the urge to binge watch whatever I am currently addicted to on Netflix, which needless to say doesn’t help my bottom line. On the contrary, when I work with people that I really enjoy and feel a part of a team, my productivity is off the chart. I started to not only turn down clients that were not very nice, but actually try to only work with clients whose work style and personality brought out the best in me.
6. I made time for writing that I enjoy. For most us being a writer isn’t just our job, but also who we are. Writing is our hobby, our stress relief, our therapy and how we give back to the world. But none of these needs are fulfilled when we spend all of our time writing about ROTH IRA’s, data analytics or whatever other titillating topics that cross your desk.
Over the summer, I began to submit personal essays to The Mid and found that it fed my soul (yes, I know I’m being dramatic) to write about my life and things that mattered to me. The pay stunk, but honestly, it was worth every minute I spent and every dollar I didn’t earn someplace else. I am 100 percent positive that my six figure year was in large part due to me writing these essays, which helped me keep from getting burned out on the dry topics written in a business tone.
While I know I couldn’t have broken the six figure mark without the first four things, I honestly think that the main difference this year was that I worked with nice people and made time for writing that made me happy. I also felt very fullfilled through my volunteer work with the American Society of Journalists & Authors. And when it comes down to it, I think that we are all much more productive when we are enjoying our job and love going to work each day, even if it just involves walking through the kitchen to our office.
What do you think contributed to you making more or less money this year?