How I Finally Broke Out of Content Mill Sites and Landed My First Big Client…And How You Can Too!

The clouds parted and, at last, there's a light!

I’ve read all of the expert advice. I follow many blogs  (I love, love, love Copyblogger and Make a Living Writing…both fabulous blogs for freelance writers!) and have read many books about how to succeed as a freelance writer. But the advice just wasn’t sinking in.

I spent the majority of 2009 and 2010 working on sites like Elance, ODesk and Guru, and wasn’t getting the jobs nor the money I wanted. I eventually moved on to the content mill sites where I did a lot of work and just didn’t get paid. I don’t know which is worse, not getting the work or not getting paid for the work that I did. Either way, I knew I needed to break the pattern and find a way out of that situation. But, after a couple of years plugging away, I was tired, exhausted, defeated, and burned out.

I took a break.

This fall I knew I had to figure out the puzzle and start making real money freelancing as a writer. I knew I had a talent. I know I am a good writer. That was never the issue. So I set out to try to find real work as a freelance writer that pays.

I decided to look for work where writers look for work, places like Mediabistro and Problogger, and apply for work through their job sites. The one good thing about working for the content mill sites is I did have published work out there I could link to in order to show potential clients what I was capable of producing. I applied for several jobs and actually started to get some nibbles.

But the real problem came when I had to quote a rate. I have not been paid what I was worth which is why I needed a break in the first place. So setting my rate and sticking to it seemed a bit scary. I mean, what if I didn’t get work because no one wanted to pay me what I thought I was worth? I had a job offer for a paltry amount of money per article. Honestly, it was a rate akin to the amounts I made with the sweatshops. I was at a crossroads…should I take the measly-paying job? Or should I politely decline, explaining that I was a professional writer who couldn’t take such a below-standard pay rate?

I took the high road…I turned down the job.

It felt strange and I was a little disappointed. I had a slight melancholy over the missed opportunity. It was like I didn’t get asked to the prom by that special boy I had my eye on. I thought the job was gone, faded into the mist. But to my surprise, I received an e-mail back asking what my actual per-article rate would be which set up a nice conversation about value and the establishment of my 500-word-rate. I ended up getting a job as a senior contributor as opposed to the job I applied for, small time article writer. Instead of doing the little jobs with the company, I was assigned larger features that have a much bigger impact and higher rate. My first BIG FISH client with a respectable rate.

Obviously I was elated and overjoyed at finally breaking past the barrier. But I learned something very valuable and it’s what all the experts have been saying all along, I was just too stubborn to hear it. You have to value your work in order for anyone else to value your work. If you don’t think that you’re worth more than $10 for 500 word article, then you will not make more than that. If you see yourself making $100 for a blog post then that is the rate you should quote, and that’s the rate you will get. If you have any writing ability and a passion for making money at it, which if you are reading this you obviously have some talent with pen and paper, then you should be charging what you’re worth, not what you think you can get. Go ahead. Put it out there…see what happens! You might be surprised.

Writers are a gift to a world that is continuously losing the ability to communicate at the level of elegance writers hold close. We genuinely have something to offer and we deserve to be able to make an honest wage at our craft. We just have to stop letting others create doubt in our own abilities. So go out there and get the BIG FISH and don’t be afraid to ask for every bit of money that you want, because you are worth it.

Published in: on October 17, 2011 at 8:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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