I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; Kenyan writers are some of the best in the planet. But most of us are making a huge mistake.
I have been monitoring what people ask the most and realized that there is one big problem that is hindering the progress of most Kenyan writers.
It was funny to note that I was also once also making this mistake.
The mistake is avoiding what I call the direct client approach – where you have a real working relationship with a client, instead of just working in a site where you don’t really know who you’re writing for.
Here’s exactly how Kenyans are avoiding the direct client approach:
- Many ditch bidding sites (like Upwork) for sites like iWriter and Fiverr.
- Not cold-pitching
- Not setting up a blog
- Not looking for clients on social media
- Not checking out job boards
Is there a problem with sites like iWriter and Fiverr?
Yes and no.
These are great sites that have helped me and many other Kenyans to make a lot of money.
But the earnings potential is really low for most. There is a high rejection rate in iWriter. Fiverr orders can slow down all of a sudden and some of these content mills come and go (remember ArticleTeller and CrowdSource?).
My biggest concern is the fact that avoiding the direct client approach is only hindering us from making more money and having potentially great, long-term working relationships.
Reasons Why Kenyan Writers Avoid the Direct Client Approach
- It is tiresome to wait for bids to be accepted
- It is even more exhausting to wait for responses to cold emails.
- It takes time to create a good portfolio
- Creating a writer website takes time and money
- Getting featured in major publications takes time
- Some fear getting conned
- Sometimes you need to do tests (don’t we all just hate tests?)
- You may get interviewed (arrghh didn’t you start freelancing to avoid interviews in the first place?)
- You don’t earn immediately after starting. You have to create profiles, take tests, create a writer site, create a prospects list…
- Some people are plain lazy and love fast cash.
I believe you must be thinking of some more possible reasons right now if you’re a Kenyan freelance writer.
What I did
I started off with Freelancer where I made thousands of dollars. I was then conned by a couple of guys and life almost stopped… or at least that’s what I felt.
I then discovered iWriter and put all my resources there. After a while, I was making enough money with iWriter only. Later I joined Elance (now Upwork). I kept trying out many other client acquisition methods.
I also started blogging so as to ensure others don’t make the mistakes I did. I also bought AffiloBlueprint and started being an active affiliate marketer. It’s been great earning as a blogger for all these years.
After a while, iWriter started having fewer jobs than usual. Rejection rate increased and later Kenya was banned for a couple of days. Later on, Kenya was reinstated but some IPs remained banned.
iWriter is great but the major problems there include very few jobs in the Standard level, short turnaround times, and the fact that it is so easy for clients to reject articles. In fact, I think it is the site with the highest rejection rate.
What do you expect though? I was once a client there and rejection only takes the push of a button. There are no milestones set, clients don’t struggle to get writers and there is no room for a dispute unless a client uses a rejected article.
It therefore makes it the easiest site to reject articles.
After seeing these iWriter problems, I joined Fiverr and started getting quite some orders. The same story happened here, orders reduced at some point for all sellers across the world.
Fiverr is one of the best freelancing sites out there. It has the very low rejection rates since once the client makes an order, you get the cash, even if they give you a bad review. Most good writers there have 98-100% positive reviews.
After Fiverr, I started looking for local and international clients (who approach me directly and not through any broker site) for big time writing jobs.
Upwork is awesome and I still use it on and off to get clients along with job boards and Craigslist.
I no longer recommend Freelancer. Nowadays the pay there is extremely low, there are many scammers, and it has all these unwarranted charges.
What about the pay?
Yes, some people argue that you get paid better in non-bidding sites.
Is this true? Not for the smart writer.
If you are an Elite or Elite Plus writer in iWriter, you’ll earn between $8 and $30 per article. In Fiverr, you can decide to be paid whatever you want, even if you’ll say you’ll write 100 words for $10, meaning you get $50 per 500 words.
For some, the pay may not be as great because of the high rejection rate and low job count at some points. In fact, if you purely rely on iWriter, you’ll find that you will have a lot of $0 days, where you don’t get a good article to write about or the ones you write are rejected.
When it comes to Fiverr, orders are unpredictable. Therefore, even if you charge high, you’ll still have many $0 days when no one orders your gig.
In Upwork you can get jobs that pay between $30 and even $100 per article. You can get such rates in job boards, Craigslist and social media as well.
If you choose to do cold-pitching or blogging to attract clients, you can land clients paying $100 to even $500+ per article.
Therefore, you can’t compare the earning potential of content mills with the direct client approach, which pays way higher.
Reasons Why You Should Use the Direct Client Approach
1. Clients value you more
It is not as easy to get jobs but since both you and the client will have worked hard at it, clients tend to value you more and as long as you meet your end of the deal, you can easily get long-term clients. This is unlike the easy come; easy go clients on sites like iWriter.
2. Long term work
You can count on the approach for your daily bread and make plans with your expected cash. For example, one of the clients I once landed needed thousands of articles. We agreed on a minimum number of articles per week. As long as I met his minimum, the payment was guaranteed.
3. Lower rejection rate
As stated in point number 1, clients value you more in this direct approach. This is because you go through a rigorous interview before getting assigned a job. In fact, in Upwork, just completing the profile is a long story. But once you’ve landed a client, most of your work will be accepted. In fact, most times instead of rejecting, they will ask you to make revisions.
4. Milestone/Escrow and Hourly Payments
As long as you insist that clients pay you via milestone/escrow, you are guaranteed to get paid. This is because the money gets out of their hands to the site. Therefore most will not mess up knowing that they have no control over their cash.
In Upwork, when you get hourly jobs, you are paid automatically every week as long as the client approves your timesheets.
Both the hourly and escrow system guarantee you payment.
5. Bulk Work
Most entrepreneurs, online or offline will tell you that there is value in bulk work. In fact, due to my vast experience, some clients hire me to manage all their content. This means that I don’t have to write them all myself, but I can outsource it to my team of expert writers and cash in on the difference.
6. Upfront Payments
I always insist that my direct clients pay me upfront. If I’m getting the client via Upwork, they have to create 100% milestone. If they come to me via my blogs, they order by paying 50-100% upfront. This not only makes me feel secure that a client will pay fully, but it also increases my cashflow.
7. Higher Pay
We all love this. It does take hard work to get a single client, but you end up getting paid more (e.g. $50 to $500 plus per article) and having long-term clients (thus higher earnings per client). Here, hard work really does pay.
What to do now
If you have followed the entire story above, it should be now clearer to you that the direct client approach works.
I know it takes time to set up a writer website, craft great pitches, crawl through job boards and start getting jobs in using this method. I just thought of writing this post when I realized most Kenyan writers were wasting so much time and resources in sites that were not doing them much good.
Yes, you don’t have to use this approach, but you could be losing out on your big break. I always advise writers to spread their wings and have at least 4 streams of income.
Since most people hate bidding/pitching, just do two to five pitches a day and soon you’ll land your first client. Continue with this trend and you’ll always be getting better clients to replace the poor paying clients.
For more in-depth tips, join my free mini-course for writers.
See you in the comments section.