If you're looking in the wrong places, you'll have a hard time finding high paying freelance gigs.
One of the most common questions I receive has to do with finding high paying freelance gigs. When I presented on the subject of getting and keeping high paying freelance gigs at FinCon15, one of my slides dealt with five realities of where you're more likely to find these gigs.
As you look for ways to increase what you make as a freelance writer, keep in mind the realities of high paying freelance gigs:
1. You Won't Find Them on Large, Free Sites
Barrier to entry has always been one of the main determinants of value. That's why you aren't likely to find high paying work on websites that anyone can access. Instead, look for more exclusive job resources. I find that lesser-known sites like Media Bistro have slightly higher quality leads. Additionally, I've always liked the Freelance Writers Den for its job board, where the “cheap” gigs pay at least $50 an article/post.
While you can get reasonably paying work on larger, free sites, and these sites can be good places to start, you're more likely to get to the next pay level by joining paid sites and looking for more exclusive leads.
2. High Paying Freelance Gigs are Almost NEVER on Bidding Sites
Freelance bidding sites are the worst. They're great for people looking for cheap content, but for freelancers hoping to get paid, bidding sites are founts of frustration. You lowball yourself in the hopes of doing uninspired work for people who will, in fact, nickel and dime you for every little thing. It took about two jobs on a freelance bidding site for me to decide to never, ever go there again. I'll go back to a content broker before I return to a freelance bidding site.
3. Content Brokers Offer Mediocre Rates, But Regular Work
When I started as a freelance writer, I made use of content brokers. The pay is mediocre at best, and can often be somewhat on the low side. The upside, though, is that there is usually plenty of work that is easy to do, and often no one involved is very picky. If you are looking for the ability to pay rent and put food on the table, just to make it work for now, content brokers can be the way to go. I spent years working with content brokers so that my son was taken care of and my family had a roof. The pay isn't anything fantastic, but the work is plentiful and you get what you need.
4. Clients that Find You are Willing to Pay More
As my career progressed, and as I built my reputation as a freelance writer (particularly in the financial space), I discovered that clients were willing to pay more when they came to me. I was being offered $100 or $200 per post by clients that approached me and told me their rates, as opposed to the rates posted on the bigger websites. In many cases, clients who come looking for you know who you are, what you do, and the value you provide. These are folks who know that they need to pay to secure you, and they are willing to do so.
You can use social media, networking, and other means to get the word out about you. While you do need to self-promote more these days than I needed to when I started, your work will speak for you more than just about anything else. “I've seen you everywhere” was common for me to hear early on from clients who came to find me. Do good work, make the effort to network, and you'll have more clients looking for you. It's been years since I've had to apply for a gig.
5. Your Best Results are Likely When Clients Ask for Your Rate
Most of my current high paying freelance gigs are the result of clients finding me and then asking me about my rates. These clients are more likely to be willing to pay what you quote, particularly if they are associated with big brands or agencies. These clients have the marketing budgets to include you, and you might be able to negotiate long-term work. While not everyone who asks for your rate is going to agree to it (or even be able to afford it), you stand a better chance of selling yourself as being worth it when some comes to you and asks how much you want to be paid.
For the most part, it doesn't just “happen” that you get high paying freelance gigs. You have to lay a solid foundation, work for it, and go where the high paying jobs are.