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Friday, May 17, 2013

Writers Worth: A Different Kind of Proposition

Today's guest post comes from the query free writer herself, Jennifer Mattern.

Writers: What's Your Value Proposition?

By Jennifer Mattern

In an earlier Writer's Worth post, Lori talked about how freelance writers need to accept their own worth in order to charge professional rates for their services. She talked about some of the ways you can realize your worth, such as knowing your competition and visualizing those low-balling clients trying to sell your loved ones on garbage gigs rather than you. Those are excellent ways to accept your worth internally. But there's something else I'd also recommend -- figuring out your value proposition.

You've probably heard terms like "value proposition" and "unique selling proposition (USP)" before in relation to marketing your services to buyers. But your value proposition can also help you realize your own worth first.

What is a Value Proposition?

Think of your value proposition as what you bring to the table.

If you think all you have to offer are articles, blog posts, white papers, or other finished products, you might not understand the full extent of what you really do for your clients -- the reasons they actually hire you. This is why I hear from content mill writers who say they're thrilled to get $15 per article. After all, they're just doing something they love, so they should be happy to get paid at all, right? Wrong.

What You Really Offer Clients

You don't simply offer words on a page. You offer that and so much more. Depending on the type of freelance writing you do, here are some examples of the real value you (and your words) provide:

  • Credibility for your client
  • An increased customer base
  • Marketing, sales, or PR expertise
  • Expert advice on your industry or your client's market
  • More time and freedom for your client to pursue other lucrative aspects of their business
  • And so much more!

Let's look at a more specific example. Say you write sales letters for clients trying to sell software. You don't just bring them text. You bring them increased sales (and therefore more money). You understand testing. You understand conversions. You understand the market. And you understand what makes your clients' customers tick.

You do more than write the actual copy. You're a marketing consultant. You're an advisor. You're the person clients go to because they don't have this kind of expertise themselves. They value your opinions. They want your feedback. Your job isn't just to say "tell me what you want and I'll write it all pretty-like." It's to act in an advisory capacity to help them expand their business through better writing. And you deserve to be paid well for that.

The same is true of any other type of freelance writer.

  • Freelance bloggers free their clients up to focus on marketing and monetization while attracting a loyal readership.
  • Freelance PR writers bring the expertise to help clients build earned media coverage, build industry recognition, and put out fires.
  • Technical writers can take complicated information and weave it into easy-to-understand formats for laymen and industry insiders alike (which many companies struggle to do effectively on their own).  
  • Magazine writers are the people who bring readers back every month and convince buyers to become subscribers, building the audience magazines then monetize.
  • Even content mill writers offer more than they realize -- the serious ones at least. They bring the mill sites better search engine rankings, more traffic, and therefore more ad dollars. They also lend mills any sense of credibility they might have (which is why content mills have so desperately tried to escape the "shallow content" label over the last year -- they need your credibility to survive).

Think of everything you really bring to the table as a freelance writer. What goals do you help clients reach? How do you help their businesses or organizations thrive? What benefits do they enjoy by hiring you over the competition?

List everything you might use as a selling point when talking to a prospect. And then remind yourself of this value proposition the next time you wonder if you're worth the professional rates you want to charge. I'd bet for many of you, you're worth even more.


Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and e-book author. She owns 3 Beat Media, the company behind blogs like All Freelance Writing and BizAmmo. She plans to launch a new site for freelance writers, indie publishers, and professional bloggers during the summer of 2013 called All Indie Writers.


Cathy Miller said...

Now if that doesn't clearly express a writer's worth, I don't know what does. Well done, Jenn.

We help clients keep marketing goals on track and they don't even have to pay us benefits. Although I wish they'd pick up my health insurance. ;-)

There is certainly a lot we bring to the table.

Paula said...

Wish they'd cover my health insurance, too, Cathy. Or at least contribute to an HSA.

Great post, Jenn. But what really gets me are people who only want to pay for those words on the page (or screen), with no consideration for the research, time, and effort put into gathering, understanding and organizing the information before we even write a word, and the time spent editing the copy to match their style and word limit. Maybe itemizing invoices spanning each of those tasks would help.

Jenn Mattern said...

Thanks ladies. :)

What I generally tell new writers re: health insurance is that your clients actually do cover it for you. At least if you remember to account for it in your rates. All the money you'd put toward a policy comes from them. You just have to remember to ask for enough. That and thinking of vacation time as "unpaid" are common issues I've seen with writers. Sure it's all covered and paid for. If we're setting our rates properly! :)

Paula - With clients like that, I just emphasize what's going into a piece -- especially when they act like they need something immediately, with no clue as to how much time it's going to take. It's like they think the words just flow out of us like perfect little rainbows from our infinite store of knowledge.

If a basic explanation that you need to account for research and editing time doesn't cut it for them, go ahead and itemize it. Then tell them you can do it faster or cheaper (if that's what they're pushing for) only if they're willing to invest the time into knocking several of those things off your list. Sometimes you have to show them exactly what you're saving them from having to do before they appreciate your true value.

Lori said...

Amen and bravo, Jenn! I love how you break this down into the various things beyond words that a good writer brings to a client. These people are using your skills to attract more clients and more money. Damn right they need you!

Thank you for the post, hon. I truly appreciate it.

Jenn Mattern said...

Never a problem Lori. :)

Sharon Hurley Hall said...

Love this, Jenn. It's a really clear statement of the true value of a good writer.

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