A few months ago I asked on Twitter and LinkedIn what my friends would like to read about on the Web Writing Advice blog. One person said, “How can I tell if a freelance client will pay well?” Ohh, this is an excellent question, and there’s actually quite a bit to unpack here. So, here are my thoughts.
When I’m looking at freelance writing job posts, or preparing to reply to an email from a potential client, I channel my inner journalist.
The quick answer to this reader’s question is to ask lots of questions! Be an informed freelancer.
Initial Communication Matters
When I first start chatting with a managing editor or the person who might hire me, I ask how they collaborate with freelancers. Here are a few questions I that come up, and their answers help me understand more about them and their preparedness to work with a freelancer.
- Do you have an onboarding process?
- How do your freelancers submit/edit content?
- Do you have a sample assignment brief I may review?
- May I review your editorial calendar and writing guidelines?
- How often does your accounting department process freelancer invoices?
First off, if any of these questions are met with hesitation and an I don’t know answer, they aren’t very well organized. This also probably means they aren’t sure of their budget and rates. When a client doesn’t have a firm handle on their needs, they likely aren’t offering the best rates.
Disclosure: This blog is reader-supported, which means this post contains affiliate links and advertisements. I earn a small commission if you shop through them, which helps fund this website so I can continue to bring you amazing content. Thank you! ~Angela
The Upfront Freelance Client
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve had potential clients reach out to me with an assignment summary, SEO keywords they’d like woven into the article, a word count range for the project, a list of potential resources and their rate for the piece.
I love these interactions because I can quickly see if the project, and payment, align with my schedule and monetary goals. I wish more freelance project job ads were this clear, focused and upfront.
A Crazy Reality, From My Desk to Yours
Let me tell you a little story. Years ago when I landed my first content marketing client with a huge household name that nearly everyone would recognize, I figured the project would also come with a fat paycheck.
I was wrong! The budget was tiny!
Did I work for them? Yes! I was new in the freelance writing business and wanted to have a few samples of work for this company to show other potential clients. It helped me build my clout as a writer; It was impressive to have a big name in my writing portfolio.
However, over the years I can confidently say the size of a company, and the popularity of a brand, doesn’t determine whether or not they will pay well. I’ve written for tiny start-ups offering $1-$2/word rates because they understand the value of working with a professional writer to make their new website shine.
Finally, Just Ask About Money
I know the thought of chatting about rates may send a shiver up your spine, but it’s no secret you get paid to work. My rule of thumb is to bring up fees in the second conversation if the potential client didn’t do it in the first interaction.
After they share detailed information about their project (type of content, word count, type of sources, etc.) I will give them a rate estimate. If the amount is accepted, then we move forward. If they say that it’s not really in their budget, I ask them what they have in mind. Once they answer, I can decide if it’s worth my energy and time to take on the project or negotiate the rate.
Bottom line: I can tell a freelance client will pay well if they are organized when they initially communicate with me about their content needs, they openly and freely chat about rates and they don’t negatively question my rate quote.
How can you tell a potential freelance client will pay well? Do you have some green flags you look for? Tell me in the comments below!
Want more writing and marketing tips?