Why Can’t I Keep My Best Writers?

This is a question we get quite often, so in this post, we thought we’d pull back the curtain and show you how things work from the perspective of a freelance writer in a bid to help you, as a site owner, gain a better understanding of their world, which should help you maintain your professional relationships with top-quality writers in the long term.

When a freelance writer is first starting out in the business, he’s an unknown quantity.  Since nobody really knows what he’s capable of, he doesn’t earn much money per assignment, generally taking whatever’s available to build his reputation initially.  At this stage, it’s very much a volume business.

What inevitably happens though, in the case of talented writers (which of course, are exactly the kind you want to attract and keep!) is that there are only so many writing hours in a day.

The moment the budding writer starts getting a reputation for quality, he suddenly finds himself much more in demand and has to start making hard choices about which assignments to take as a matter of survival.  Since most of our freelancers either supplement their incomes via writing, or have embraced freelancing as a lifestyle, working full time at it, they have to adopt this mindset to keep the bills paid.

In most cases, writers at this stage aren’t thinking in terms of raising their rates, they simply start gravitating toward the better paying assignments they have to choose from and work their way down to the lowest paying jobs if there’s any time left in the course of a work day.  Whether they’re consciously focused on it or not, this has the indirect effect of increasing their rates.

If you’ve been working for a freelancer for a number of months and suddenly, you’re finding that he (or she) isn’t as available to take work than he was in months past, this is likely what you’re seeing.  They’re not slighting you, and they’re not intentionally trying to avoid you, it’s just that as word gets out about the quality of their work, they have to start making tough choices about which assignment to take on, with an emphasis on what keeps the lights on.

Good communication is the key here.  If you seem to be losing touch with one of your favorite writers, be proactive!  Reach out to them and ask how they’re doing and how the freelancing world is treating them.  Make sure you let them know that you value their work and their contributions to your enterprise and ask what you can do to ensure that your relationship with them continues in the longer term.

If you take that approach, most writers will be upfront about their current situation, and it will quickly become apparent if you’re being priced out of the market for that writer.  At that point, you can make some decisions about what you may be able to do to entice them to remain with you.  Usually this takes the form of a modest bump in the rate you’re paying them, combined with assurances that you can provide them a steady, reliable stream of work.

To a freelancer, a steady stream of work has value beyond the per word rate, so you don’t have to be their best paying client (although that certainly helps!) if you can guarantee them a certain number of assignments per month.  A great writer can add tremendous value to your business.  It pays to spend some time nurturing those relationships.

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