When I first started taking on clients and making money as a paid writer, I took on whatever projects came my way. They were mostly smaller, more specific projects, like homepage copy, a press release, or an individual blog post.
I was pricing myself at the top of the bell curve for average per-word pricing, or making it up as I went along, often undervaluing myself.
One of my earliest clients actually asked if I was interested in possibly setting up a monthly fee, and continuing to work together.
I confidently answered, “Of course. Let me send you a proposal.”
As soon as I hung up the phone, I started to do some math.
OK, if I am doing 4 blogs per month, and each blog takes me 3 hours to come up with a topic, research, write, edit, and post, then that is 12 hours per month. If I charge $300, then that is $25 per hour. Respectable, but I am currently making more than that per hour. Well, they also mentioned possibly needing editing for website copy, so I should build in some padding. OK, $400 feels good.”
And that’s how I got to $400 per month for my first monthly retainer. In the end, I was undervaluing my time, as well as underestimating the time commitment, but it was a great learning experience.
It was clear that using a monthly retainer was a much more stable way to make an income and accounted for the fact that I hate to track hours. I immediately offered that as an option for all clients.
As soon as I started working with a couple of monthly clients, it was obvious that was the direction I needed to go. I loved having regular, specific and diverse work, building longer and stronger relationships with my clients, the steady pay, and more.
As I continued to build my business, I got referrals, and marketed myself, and made new contacts. I soon got up to 9 monthly clients!
I was busy, I had a reliable income, and was able to working on longer-term projects. It was far more gratifying than writing a single blog post or article for random different clients.
I still like to have a project, such as ghostwriting or editing a book, outside of my monthly clients, because I love doing those things. Those bigger projects make me happy, and I love being exposed to new books and being involved with them.
A couple of my monthly clients are weekly blogging, a couple are ghostwriting, a couple are editing, and more. I have so much variety, and I love every moment of it.
The beauty of having monthly clients is that you have a reliable income coming in, but with so many different ones, I get to stay on my toes and have diversity in what I’m doing and with whom I’m working.
Now, when a prospective client comes to me and asks about pricing and working together, I tell them about my monthly fees, what that might include, and we discuss their specific needs. I no longer even mention per-word pricing; I discuss how I structure my monthly clients, my time, and what I can do for them.
I no longer market myself as doing one-off articles and blogs. In fact, I really don’t market myself at all anymore. My monthly clients and I have built great relationships, and they refer people to me and recommend me to people all the time. Almost all of my current clients came as referrals!
I was also able to scale up my pricing. This came as a byproduct of learning how much time different things really take me, and my overall compensation goals. As with many service-based entrepreneurs, it also came about from realizing the actual worth and value of my work. …if everyone could write well, no one would pay me to do it!
I love that this business model came to me from a client, and that I have been able to continue growing and expanding my business and my skills. I certainly make significantly more money than I did when I was taking on various singular articles and I love it!