A few months ago, I had a mentoring client who was writing articles for about $15 apiece for content mills, who wanted to know how she could earn a living through freelance writing.
I told her that to make more money, she needed to stop writing for $15 an article.
She replied, “If I don’t write for the content mills, nobody will ever see my work.”
Here’s the thing, I told her: The editors who pay well are certainly not scouring the content mills for writers. Even if your writing is great (and I know it is), many of the articles on content mills are poorly written and badly researched, and editors don’t need to sift through all that junk to find a writer when they already have hoardes of good writers coming to them.
My client was skeptical, but I managed to convince her to try sending letters of introduction to some trade magazines.
Ten days later, my mentee e-mailed to let me know that she just landed an assignment for $300 — “That’s like 20 articles for the content mill!” she said.
Many writers are afraid to let go of work that doesn’t quite suit them, whether the assignments don’t pay well, the editors are PITAs, or the work is deathly boring. But in my 14 years’ experience, I’ve found that when you let go of something that isn’t working for you, it makes room for better things to flow in. And flow in they will.
This could be some metaphysical thing about the way energy flows — or it may be the cold, hard fact that when you stop writing for clients that aren’t good for you, you have more time to get out there and market yourself to clients that will be good for you. If you’re spending all your time churning out articles for content mills, you have to work pretty hard and for long hours to make any kind of decent money. That leaves no time to pitch the markets that will pay you well.
I challenge you: Let go of your worst client. You don’t even have to burn bridges — when the client asks you to do an assignment, you can simply tell them that you’re all booked up right now but will get back to them when your schedule opens. Then use the time you’ve saved to work on your writer website, write queries, send letters of introduction, work the social media, or use any of the marketing tactics that will help you attract better work.
If you take this challenge, please report back and let us know how it went! My bet is that you’ll soon find better work and be able to leave the low-paying or PITA clients behind for good. [lf]