Tag Archives: content writing services

Why sometimes I don’t turn down low-paying content writing assignments

I just accepted a content writing assignment where the client has dictated almost all the terms, including how much he wants to pay me. OK “dictated” is a bit of an exaggeration, as he had simply suggested how much content he requires, and how much he will be able to pay. My first instinct was to politely let him know that I won’t be able to do the work, but then something made me accept it.

Over all these years – I’m not saying I’m perfect – I have developed knack for understanding what my clients are trying to convey. There are some clients who simply don’t want to pay what I’m asking for because either they don’t see value in what I’m going to deliver them, or they don’t take their content seriously. Some don’t want to pay because they cannot and at the same time, would like me to write for them. Here in lies the big difference.

I don’t mind writing content for clients (not always because then it will not be financially sustainable for me) who cannot pay my rates but nonetheless would like me to write for them. They have a genuine problem, but what impresses me is that they understand the value of good content. But how do I know which client is serious and which one is just haggling?

A serious client lets me know up front that look, this is how much I can pay. He or she also provides me all the business details and lets me know why he or she wants the content and why I’m the right person. They even call me a couple of times.

I repeatedly claim on my website that I’m constantly trying to build relationships instead of increasing my clients’ list. Yes, it’s good to have more clients, it’s good to have well-paying clients and it’s also good to earn lots of money, but earning lots of money in bouts is not good, especially when you know that you can help someone in the real sense. My personal experience has been, whenever I have worked for people who can actually use my services and I have delivered what I have promised, they stick with me. For years. They may not be able to pay me lots of money for a single project, but since they always work with me, their small instalments add up to bigger amounts. Yes, again, money is important, but the satisfaction that I derive out of the fact that my content helped them grow their businesses is also a great bonus.

Am I doing a favor? Not at all. I work in a business environment and when businesses grow they also generate more business opportunities. As I mentioned above, almost all those people who approached me for low-paying content writing assignments and whose work I did in turn down, turned out to be my “permanent” clients. They keep on paying me and a big chunk of my income comes from these people. So they are my assets.

It’s not always possible though, and not everybody is looking for such a relationship. Most of my clients are fine with my rates, they want content, they pay for it, and we both get on with our lives.


Why my hourly rate has been a hit among my clients

When, around a couple of months ago, I switched to an hourly rate model, although I was sure that it was the right decision, I wasn’t exactly sure how my clients in India would react.

In western countries an hourly rate is the norm so I haven’t had any problem with 90% of my work (less than 10% of my work comes from India). In fact they used to find my previous way of charging – per document and on top of that different rates for different documents like the homepage, other primary pages of the website, articles, blog posts, press releases, etc. – quite confusing and, in many cases, unacceptable.

With the new charging model, per document, and even per project, I am making a lot less than what I used to make, but I have more work, my conversion rate has perhaps doubled, and above everything, I know that for every minute I spend working on a document, I am being paid for that time. It’s a nice feeling.

My conversion rate has almost doubled and I can think of 2 reasons why:

  1. I have started charging an hourly rate so there is no ambiguity — whether I’m working on the homepage, other pages, writing blog posts or even making design changes to an existing website, I’m charging my hourly rate and my clients know that.
  2. Since at the time I made the switch I had no idea on what basis I should charge an advance, I stopped taking an advance

Prior to charging an hourly rate I could never think of not asking for an advance but I really don’t know what happened and suddenly I felt, there was no need.

In this way, there is no financial uncertainty for the client. He or she knows that I’m not going to disappear after taking an advance. It is in my interest to turn in the work in good quality and on time and I’m perfectly fine with that.

And what about if one of these clients don’t pay after I have submitted the work?

Well, I will take it as a part of doing my job. I am getting enough work, so even if a couple of clients don’t pay (such a case, surprisingly, thankfully, happens just once or twice a year) it hardly matters.

I’m enjoying my work more and I’m less insecure. The quality of my work has improved considerably and so has my confidence as a writer.

Another consequence of me switching to an hourly rate is that I have altogether stopped working with content writers. I am doing all the work.

Of course, later on, I will again be outsourcing some of my work but this time I will make sure that the final version that leaves my computer will be mine and not that content writer’s.

And my Indian clients?

Some are fine with the way I charge, and some are not. It has been a mixed reaction. On the other hand, clients of Indian origin who are living abroad have reacted favorably.


Why I charge the way I do for my content writing services

Content writing services come at different rates. Not that my rates are higher compared to experienced and professional content writers, but sometimes some clients do ask why they should pay me my rates when they can get similar content at much less? This is a valid question to be frank because even I would pay less were I in their position and so initially it would be difficult for me to justify my rates for my content writing services.

But then there is a reason I get paid what I charge and most of my clients see the value in them and hence pay for my content writing services. This is not one of those “why hire me” blog posts, I’m just going to help you come up with some questions when you’re thinking of partnering with a person who is ready to work for a lot less than what I charge. Here are the questions:

Does your content writer have a website?

No, this is not a rhetorical question, it actually makes a big difference. I’m not asking this because I have a website to promote my content writing services. Of course you may find good writers on one of those freelancers websites or the rapidly coming up “virtual assistants” websites, but when they promote their services from such places, they don’t have a stake. Take for instance my website, I started it in 2004, and ever since then it must have gone through at least 20 changes in terms of design and 100s of ongoing changes in terms of content.

It means I take my business and my online presence pretty seriously and invest lots of time trying to maintain a credible presence. Again, how does it matter how much credibility I enjoy if you can easily get cheaper content from a person who has no visible and verifiable credibility?

If you’re okay with a person who can vanish any day while you are in the midst of a hectic strategy transformation then by all means, go with that person. If you are fine with a person who has no stake and who can afford to be erratic with his or her services, then of course, you should opt for that person.

But if you’re really serious about promoting your business through effective content writing then you must collaborate with a person you can totally rely upon. A person who has a well-established business website. A person who provides services like a business, and not like someone who doesn’t even want to invest in a measly website in order to promote his or her services. When you run your own business from your own website, it shows you have confidence and you know that you can deliver.

Does your content writer have a presence on the Internet?

Again, it might not matter to you but to many businesses it does. For reliable services you need reliable people. People who have created some presence. When it comes to having a presence on the Internet

  • I publish multiple blogs and especially my content writing blog
  • I have a vibrant presence on Twitter and Facebook (it might matter, and it might not matter, differs from person to person)
  • Search for “amrit hallan” on Google.com or any other major search engine and you will find zillions of pages referring to my work and content that I have written for various websites

Why does it matter to have a presence when all you have to do is write content? If you have a serious content writing requirement, then you need a serious and reliable content writer. You need a content writer that can be traced and tracked all the time and not just at a particular place but at multiple places. When you have an online presence that is reflected through various websites it means you are exposing yourself to scrutiny.

So why do you think most of the low-charging content writers don’t have a decent online presence to boast of?

Simply because, it takes effort. It’s not a joke to submit 100s of articles to various websites and blogs without getting paid. It is not easy to publish quality blog posts just to maintain a presence. You need focus, you need to work hard, you need to value your work, and you need to see the value of your effort. The low-charging content writers cannot simply afford to put in so much time and effort. They don’t develop their skills because most of the time they are making up for the low amount they are charging. You are constantly getting low-quality content and you don’t even realize it, because somehow they convince you that all that matters is good search engine rankings. They either don’t know or they don’t convey to you that more than the search engine traffic what you need is a higher conversion rate and this can only be achieved by high-quality content.

So how come they are able to charge so less?

By drudgery, literally. They work really hard, in fact so hard that it is very difficult for them to produce quality content. Since they are charging so little, they have to make up some way, especially when the cost of living is not exactly as low as it used to be a few years ago. They don’t have time to improve themselves and they don’t have time to be innovative and creative. If you have enough time and patience just go through 4-5 of their articles and you will notice a stark similarity with just a few words changed here and there. They have mastered 20 odd expressions and they keep repeating them throughout the copy.

Why you’re not overpaying when working with me?

You get quality content, of course. Since I have already charged you whatever I feel comfortable with, I have the luxury to spend ample amount of time on your work and let my creativity flow. I’m not measly about how many words I should use and how much time I have got. I bring with myself years of experience. I don’t have to worry about how to complete your work quickly so that I can move on to the next document (although this doesn’t mean I needlessly spend time on individual documents). Besides, since I am a business person myself, I prepare your content – whether I do it myself or through various writers – keeping your business needs in mind. My extensive experience affords me with sufficient insight into how your audience is going to react to the content I’m providing you.

I don’t give you content just to please you and get money from you, I give you content that can take your business forward. Sometimes you won’t agree with me; I will try my best to explain to you why my approach is good for your business.


A successful content writer must have a unique voice

“Are you the same person who wrote content for your own website?” recently a client asked when he didn’t like what I had written, and I must admit even I wasn’t very proud of what I had delivered and was already contemplating revising it. “I hired you because I wanted my content in your style,” he continued.

It happens quite often that my clients hire me when they are impressed with what I have written and how I have written on my website. Even when new writers approach me I focus less on their writing prowess and more on their unique style. I believe that every content writer must have a unique voice, a distinct style of writing. Can it be possible, especially when you are writing for different businesses? After all, why would a particular business want YOUR voice rather than its CEO’s? A valid question.

When I say unique voice I don’t mean you get typecast. A professional content writer must be able to write on behalf of the business he or she is writing for and I will never dispute that. Voice means enlivening your writing. It must feel alive. When it is alive it engages your readers and when your readers are engaged they’re more open to doing business with you. Interestingly, your writing feels alive when you write in your own, distinct style. You simply let yourself lose and grow completely comfortable with your art. Of course before that you should be totally comfortable with the tool you are using, in this case, your command over the language. If you want to feel creative and authentic you must know your language inside out. I don’t mean you should be a walking thesaurus but you should be able to articulate yourself compellingly and convincingly. It is like, if you want to walk on a rope first you should be able to walk on the ground.

So how can you develop a unique voice as a content writer?

  • Keep improving. Keep honing your skill — this is most important. Never think that you have learned all. People all over the world write beautifully and you can learn from everybody. You don’t have to be perfect. More than being perfect you have to be fluent and you must be totally at ease with words and sentence formation. Amazingly, 80% of writers who approach me for assignments cannot even write a single paragraph without mistakes. I am not saying you have to be perfect or should have a PhD in language, but it really alarms me when someone says, “I would like to wrote web writing for you.”
  • Write every day. My classical vocal guruji (teacher) used to say that even the maestros begin to fumble when they haven’t practiced for a few days. So practice has to be regular, everyday. Write at the smallest pretext. Write at every opportunity. Even when you’re not getting paid assignments, keep writing. Maintain a blog or an online journal. Participate on online debates over social media and networking websites. Write for news websites. Have illuminating e-mail conversations with your friends and relatives even if they don’t reciprocate. Write as much as you can. The more you write the better you get at it. Of course this needs be combined with learning.
  • Have daily dose of reading. By reading I don’t mean visiting your favorite blogs (although there is nothing wrong in it), read the newspapers, read well-known columnists, read literary giants and whatever quality literature you can come across. You can sound as “cool” in your writing as you want later on but first you must get your fundamentals right. Only then you will be able to feel comfortable in your art.
  • Develop an opinion. Unless you have an opinion you cannot develop a unique voice as a professional content writer. Opinion gives you an attitude. It also gives you a direction. It gives you confidence (although overconfidence can be detrimental to your professional and personal life).
  • Develop an expertise. Merely being a better writer is of no value. You need some knowledge in specific fields. For instance, I am good at Internet marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing strategy and a little bit of web design and PHP programming. You might be good at math, interpersonal skills, Scientology, extraterrestrial life or biology. An expertise may not help you in your day-to-day content writing profession but it will give you a basic idea of what all it takes to properly know something. It gets you used to learning and acquiring knowledge. It also inculcates maturity in your writing and other communications.

I have seen people writing pretty well without having a unique voice but they are mostly copying styles. They seem great until you stumble upon the writing of a person they are trying to imitate.


How to maintain a content writing schedule

Once you have decided that publishing content on your blog or website is critical to the success of your business you need to maintain a well-defined content writing and publishing schedule. But why do you need a content writing schedule?

I wouldn’t exactly call it a problem but the problem with content writing to promote your business is that it doesn’t show results immediately. When you keep publishing content you begin to feel an effect after a couple of months and it can be very difficult to continuously do something when you know that you are not going to benefit from it in the near future. This becomes more difficult if you need to take out time or budget at the expense of another business activity that can manifest an earlier result. I totally understand the compulsion of putting content writing and publishing on the back burner in order to take care of the imminent necessities.

Even if you outsource your content writing requirement you may need to spend at least some time figuring out exactly what you want. Additionally you will have to pay the person who is writing content for you and you might think why spend money on this activity?

Nonetheless, you neglect content publishing at the cost of your business because if your competitors are doing this they are definitely at an advantage and you must already be lagging behind if they have been publishing regular content for a while now.

It is not necessary to run a tight schedule when it comes to writing content and getting it published under your website or blog. The crucial point here is setting a rhythm. Cannot publish everyday? No problem, publish every alternative day. Cannot achieve even that? Fine, publish something once in a week. Some sort of weekly content is better than having no content at all. You need targeted content to improve your search engine rankings, increase direct traffic from social media and other websites, and above all, improve your conversion rate. You don’t need to rush. Focus on the most important first. What are the topics that can make a quick impact on your bottom line? Make a list of keywords and search terms you would like to get more traffic for and start generating content around them. If you’re working with the content writer you can discuss with him or her what content you immediately require, and then accordingly you can draw up your content writing schedule.

As mentioned above, start with the most important and try not to miss the scheduled postings. Avoid being ambitious in the beginning if you know you’re not going into content writing and content publishing in a big way. Gradually, as you observe your business growing you can increase the intensity and frequency of your content publishing strategy.