Writer Marketing – How to Focus on Value [2015 Update]

When I started out in freelancing on the web, the conversation was all about price – price per word, price per hour, price per article. That kind of conversation really hurts writers because it places the focus on the wrong aspect of writing (the word count or time count) rather than the right aspect: the value of your work for clients and for you.

Writer Marketing – How to Focus on Value

Price vs Value – Hard Lessons

Of course, I learned this the hard way. Some of my early freelancing gigs were for a copywriting agency which paid a set fee per word. At the time, I was happy to have the work, because it meant I was actually making money from writing, but I soon realized that not all word counts were alike. There were some articles where I knew the subject so well that I needed no research to turn out something good. There were others where I had to do lots of research before writing, and still others where picky clients made the process a nightmare. All paid the same per word rate, but they all took a different toll in terms of time, effort and emotional energy.

Changing the Conversation with Writing Clients

And then there’s the fact that the work you do has value for your clients, otherwise they wouldn’t ask you to do it. A few months ago, one of my editors emailed me to say that one of my articles had achieved an unprecedentedly high click through rate when it went out in their weekly marketing email. For her, that article has value beyond the word count because it brings people to the site to see what the company has to offer. That’s what good content does, and that’s the conversation that writers need to have with clients. Let’s face it; there is always someone who can write cheaper than you, but can they do it better?

While of course I have a rate in mind for my services, when I talk to potential clients, it’s all about the value that I bring, and I make this clear on my professional website too. Even if I don’t call them that, I outline features and benefits (and by the way, if you want to know how to nail this, you should really talk to my fellow carnie Tea Silvestre or attend her marketing soiree).

Showing Value to Writing Clients

The features include an interest in everything, sound research skills and more than 20 years of writing experience covering everything from academic writing to journalism to blogging in a conversational style. There’s also clear and regular communication and adherence to deadlines. The benefits are still a work in progress, but I show how the characteristics I have as a writer can enable them to create content that will attract and appeal to their customers and will help position them as experts in their niche. I also cite statistics which show the importance of business blogging for generating leads and sales. So the benefits to my clients are more authority and more money – two things which all of them want.

Don’t Forget the Intangibles

Clients don’t just buy the actual time you spend writing the piece, they also buy your years of writing experience, your skill in researching and crafting, your ability to identify the points that will resonate with their customers and many other intangibles that help the content you write shine. When I market to customers, beyond writing related skills and abilities, I also bring proven shareable content, responsiveness to comments, and my own online social circle. All of those add to the value I bring by potentially introducing the company to new people.

There’s one final story to share with you – and it’s a short one. At least three times this year, I’ve had an email that started: “I saw your work on Crazy Egg.” That’s immediately changed the conversation, because I know those potential clients have already seen the quality of the work, the social shares and the comments – and they realize that doesn’t come cheap. It puts me in a better position when it’s time to talk money.

5 Steps to Marketing Your Value as a Writer

So how can you market your value as a writer and shift the conversation from price? Try this:

  1. Document what you do with every piece of writing, from idea generation and research to responding to comments and sharing socially. See how long it actually takes (longer than you think, right?)
  2. Use this to work out a baseline earnings figure, then add a premium for every year of writing experience or industry experience that you have. If you start to feel faint discomfort mixed with excitement then you’re probably getting to the right sort of figure.
  3. Update your marketing material to reflect the value you bring, then quote this higher figure for every new gig. Someone will say yes and you will feel more valued.
  4. Communicate regularly with clients (admittedly a case of do as I say not as I do because I could do this more often) to underline your value by sharing information on issues that might affect your business.
  5. Put a link to your best or most recent piece of bylined work in your email signature. That markets you every time you send an email.

How do you showcase your value to clients when marketing? Share your best tip in the comments.

This post is part of the business blogging Word Carnival with the theme of marketing on value rather than price. Check out the rest of the fabulous posts on this link.

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About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been mentoring writers here at Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Check me out on sharonhh.com. Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.


  1. Great post Sharon! It really does come down to confidence a lot of the time. But like you said, someone is bound to say “yes,” and that’s all it takes to increase confidence in the rates we charge and what we’re worth.

  2. Never underestimate value. Love this, Sharon and the mix of practical with intangibles. Once clients taste the value, few are willing to go back to the cheap stuff. 😉

  3. This is a must-read post for EVERY freelance writer. Great tips and I’m off to share it with all my writer friends and clients.
    And big hugs for sharing the link to the Soiree, too! Yes — understanding the difference between features and benefits is a HUGE part of the pricing process.

  4. I find pricing for writing one of the toughest things to do. I default back on a standard “price per page” type of thing but there are definitely other considerations beyond word count. Writing for something I know or like is a whole lot easier, less time consuming (and thus less expensive) than doing something that either requires research or is (let’s face it) boring. There’s a premium for boring!

    Plus there is a whole swath of barely literate people who think that because they own a pencil they can write 🙂

    I love your idea of documenting what you do as a writer! It’s NOT obvious to anyone who doesn’t do it. And sometimes seeing all those pieces can show someone that having a pencil or even a thesaurus isn’t good enough. You start to make their pain point more acute (omg, I don’t have time for all THAT!)

    Good stuff, great advice!

    • Those barely literate people are the bane of a professional writer’s life, aren’t they, Carol Lynn, because either clients expect the earth for peanuts or they think hiring writers is a waste of time because of the quality of work they’ve had in the past.

  5. You may be the unofficial cheerleader for writers everywhere, Sharon!

    You packed in a lot of valuable advice, especially for writers who, for whatever reasons, seem to habitually underestimate our talents, skills and values. We need to appreciate our own contributions if we expect our clients to do the same.

  6. Many congrats on your success with Crazy Egg, Sharon! Well-deserved! 🙂

    Love this:
    “If you start to feel faint discomfort mixed with excitement then you’re probably getting to the right sort of figure.” As a general rule, I think many of us tend to put a much lower price tag on our actual worth. Your pearls of wisdom will help to turn that around!

    I’m with Carol Lynn — GREAT idea to document what you do as a writer. Keeping a record or journal will bring your worth to the forefront and be a constant reminder of all those all-important “intangibles” you’ve noted.

    I’m also with Tea: This is, without question, a must-read for freelance writers!

    • Thanks, Melanie. It’s tough to go for that higher rate the first time, but after a while, it gets a little easier. After all, if you don’t ask, often you don’t get.

  7. Sharon! Outstanding – as has been said before, a must-read. Love the way you break the notion of marketing value down into understandable bits… Thanks so much.

  8. Loved this line about setting your price: “..add a premium for every year of writing experience… If you start to feel faint discomfort mixed with excitement then you’re probably getting to the right sort of figure.” Such great advice. Really works for any kind of freelancer or business owner. Really enjoyed your piece, Sharon!

  9. Great advice Sharon…I have a client that I write blog posts for periodically and I really have not approached a different price for him as I should and your post really give me some things to consider. Thanks again…

    • Go for it, Michelle. If you’re already writing for the client, he already appreciates your value – all you have to do now is collect some stats on what he gets from the content you write and you’ve got a good argument for adjusting your rate.

  10. Fantastic advice, Sharon! It’s so hard (especially when you’re just starting out as a freelance writer) to imagine raising your prices enough to where you can comfortably make a living. To do that, you definitely have to be able to clearly show prospective customers what value you offer—and experience really matters.

  11. Sharon these tips are great for all consultants and freelancers. Let’s take photoshop / graphic design as an example. Anyone can slap together a logo or web header. But to get a professional result that reflects your brand and has the desired effect – well that takes experience. Love this!

    • Don’t I know it, Nicole. Your Photoshop example is great – when I did my first website, I created my header myself because of budget. Now, I’d always hire a professional – looking at those first efforts makes me cringe!

  12. You know I start off with a really valuable question for my clients. The way the answer let’s me know if I should work with them or not.

    “Are you just looking for clicks, likes, views, or followers, or are you looking for something that will grow your bottom-line?”

    Of course everybody will answer with the second option, but just about everybody gets mired in a struggle for the first. Asking this question reframes their mindset to get them into the right attitude to work with me. Rather than a panacea to get a plan, rather than a miracle cure they get hard work, rather than overnight success they get a gradual, stable success built on the bricks of hours invested in their own business.

    Yes, clicks, likes, whatever – lead to dollars – sometimes. But without the foundation in place to replicate what you’ve done, without the knowledge of how to turn momentary success into lasting, recurring success, those clicks and the money that comes with them are etherial at best.

  13. Sharon, I think the key part of your post for me is “Changing the Conversation with the Clients.” It’s about taking charge of YOUR business (and how many writers forget that A – they’re running a business, and B – that it is their business?). Once you realize your own value, you’ll have an easier time asserting what your business needs. You can then leave behind clients whose terms don’t fit.