SEO Copywriters (& Other Freelance Writers): How to Bill and Get Paid Quickly
Writing SEO copy is different from a lot of other freelance writing jobs in that it’s quick – in turnaround and in pay. With the proliferation of firms offering SEO copywriting services, it’s easy to get burned as an SEO writer if you don’t know the mechanics of how to bill and get paid quickly. This is exactly what we’ll discuss here.
Note: Even though this article speaks to SEO writers, the advice here can be used by any freelance writer who wants to structure their billing system so that they get paid quickly.
Before getting into detail about billing though, let’s back up a moment look at the industry as a whole.
SEO Copywriting: The Types of Firms Who Use SEO Writers
When I first started writing SEO copy in 2007, most of my clients were internet marketing firms – I’d say 85-90% of them were. Nowadays, they probably make up about 75% of my business. Some other clients though have been we design firms, computer services firms, individual online marketers, and various types of small businesses.
Why I Targeted Internet Marketing Firms When I First Started Out as an SEO Copywriter
In the beginning, I targeted search engine optimization marketers (eg, internet marketing firms) because it made perfect sense to do so. They were the first bunch to understand the need for SEO copywriting services, hence, they were able to sell this service to their clients. This meant that I, as an SEO writer, did not have to go through convincing clients to hire me.
You see, a lot of small business owners don’t understand search engine optimization and how SEO content fits into it. And, since people don’t buy what they don’t understand – even if it means that it can bring them great returns – it would have been harder for me to land clients that way.
I got so much work so quick when I first started doing SEO writing that within a couple of months, I literally had to hire other freelance (SEO) writers to help me out.
SEO Copywriting: A Fast-Paced Niche in a Fast-Paced Marketing Medium
Unlike traditional freelance writing where there’s a lot of back and forth with the client, SEO writing is different, in a few ways, ie:
How SEO Writing Differs from Traditional Freelance Writing Jobs
Bulk Orders: Once a client are convinced that you know what SEO copy is and they are comfortable with the quality of your work, they will place orders in bulk. I’ve gotten multiple requests in one day from a single client. It usually goes something like this:
Yuwanda, can I have five articles on “Antique Jewelry.”
Then two hours later, I’ll get another email that says, give me 10 on “mortgages Texas” (that’s the keyword phrase).
And by day’s end, another email will float in that says, “Give me 5 on “wedding cake toppers. By Friday is fine.” It may be Tuesday afternoon.
And, when you’re charging $25-$35 a pop, you can see how it can add up quickly!
Quality of SEO Writing: I say this with a word of caution, but a lot of companies are not as particular about quality when it comes to SEO content. This doesn’t mean the don’t want grammatically correct, interesting copy, but SEO articles usually don’t require statistics, background research, a “call to action” statement, etc.
What clients want is just grammatically correct copy that is optimized correctly for the keyword phrase(s) at hand – and that’s it. Clients will usually email you a list of keyword phrases that they want you to compose content for. SEO articles in the 350-500 word category. SEO blog posts fall in the 50-300 word range.
SEO Copywriting is Quick Turnaround: You may complete an order in as little as a day. Or, they may give you a few days. Rarely though do the deadlines stretch to a week or more, unless you have “standing orders.”
For example, for a few clients, I have monthly standing orders. One is a client who orders 10 blog posts a month. They are due the last day of the month. He then posts them to his blog the next month. I bill this client monthly.
When I first started out, I used to bill clients upon completion of each job. But, that got too hectic very quickly. Nowadays, I bill every Friday for all jobs completed during that week. My weeks run Saturday to Friday (as an SEO writer, get used to working weekends – especially when you first start out).
There’s Not a Lot of Back and Forth in SEO Writing: If you’ve ever written a sales letter, for example, for a client, then you know that there can be a lot of back and forth. And since you can’t bill until you complete a project, it can be weeks (or longer) before you get paid.
SEO copywriting is not like this. You do a job, then bill immediately. It’s an industry norm. In fact, most clients (at least the ones I have) prefer it this way.
Now that you know how SEO writing differs from traditional freelance writing, following is how to bill and get paid quickly. This is how I operate my SEO copywriting services company.
3 Tips SEO Copywriters Should Use to Bill & Get Paid Quickly
Get at Least a Partial Payment Upfront: For new clients, this should be your company policy. How much you get up front is up to you. I suggest anywhere half, with the remainder due “immediately upon completion” of the project. This way, if the client turns out to be a dud, at least you will have gotten some monies..
Get a PayPal Account: It’s free and easy to open one. And, as an SEO copywriter, most clients will expect you to have one. FYI, with PayPal, you can receive payment via credit cards and echecks. This makes it easy for clients to pay and you don’t have to divulge any of your sensitive banking information. Furthermore, the client doesn’t have to divulge theirs to you.
This is exactly why PayPal is a preferred mode of payment for many who do business on the web. It’s payment security for both parties.
Don’t Do Too Much Work Upfront: What I mean by this is, if a client is falling behind on paying invoices - even if you’ve received an upfront payment - don’t keep continuing to work for them. Wait until they’ve caught up some of the outstanding invoices.
Otherwise, you run the risk of being owed hundreds or thousands of dollars, with no chance of collecting it. A lot of new SEO writers get burned at least once before they learn this lesson. Take the advice just below, and you don’t have to be one of them.
To avoid this, simply have a company policy where a company can’t have more than, for example, $300 in outstanding invoices, before you take on more work. This way, if they decide not to pay, then the most you’ve lost is $300 - as opposed to possibly thousands.
SEO writing is a profession where the work comes fast and furious. It’s easy for busy SEO copywriters to write a couple of thousand dollars worth of articles in as little as a week. I know, I've done it many times. These billing tips ensure that you get paid for it.
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