Textbroker doesn’t have much to do with writing fiction, but it has served as the backbone of my income as a freelance writer for many years. Writing for others gives me the freedom and time to write fiction for my own pleasure, and this post will hopefully help other writers who are open to ghostwriting as a way to turn words into cash.
I have heard other writers complain that there is no work at Textbroker or that the prices are all too low, and I have wondered how so many people could have a dramatically different experience than I have had. I don’t know the answer to that question, but when someone asked me tonight if I had any Textbroker secrets to success, I decided it’s time to share my strategies.
Don’t Rely Only on Textbroker
I want to stress upfront that it’s important to diversify if you depend on writing for income. While I make a large percentage of my income from this site, I also work through other platforms and with private clients in addition to earning a bit from fiction. If you think of it as choosing between Textbroker and another platform or content mills versus private clients versus magazines, you will limit your income. If writing is your full-time job or you want it to be in the future, diversification will only work in your favor.
SEO Your Profile
Fill your Textbroker profile out to completion, and then add keywords related to niches or subject areas that fit your interests. Many clients search the profiles for writers with skills that match their needs. You want those clients to find you easily, so think of as many keywords as possible. As you think of new subjects that interest you, go add to the list.
There is a lot more work at Textbroker (and most content sites) than what you see in the open orders. So many clients prefer to work with one writer through direct orders, and they find those writers by searching the profiles.
Give Your Samples Some Love
Put up three samples that represent the quality of your work. I haven’t updated my samples in years, but I still get direct-order requests and messages from new-to-me clients on a weekly basis based on those samples. You can think of this as free work, but it’s really not when those samples bring in many paying clients for years to come.
You can also direct clients to your profile if they request samples through team applications or the message system. I never write fresh samples for potential clients, but I do refer them to my profile to see the samples already established.
Raise Your Direct-Order Rate
I spent over a year raising my direct-order rate each time I got overloaded with work, trying to discourage new clients because I was overwhelmed. Each raise seemed to bring more clients, but these were clients willing to pay more.
I finally realized that I needed to set my rate according to my financial goals and what I know my skills are worth. My income more than doubled the first year that I permanently hiked up my rate. If you assume, as I did in the beginning, that lower rates will encourage more clients, it simply doesn’t play out that way.
Charge what you know you’re worth. Trust that your killer samples will show why you’re worth those rates. To make more, you have to ask for more.
If you don’t want to go too high due to your Textbroker star level, still give serious thought to the minimum rate you need to make in order to hit your financial goals. Set your direct-order rate to that minimum. As you gain clients, you can start to raise your rate and your financial goals.
Look for Prolific Clients
When I was at L4 on Textbroker, I would look in the open orders for clients with a need for ongoing content. They might post big batches at once, consistently drop orders over time or mention in their briefs that they have more work similar to the first order.
Many clients who post orders based on a geographical area turn out to be prolific with their needs as well. For instance, one of my biggest scores as an L4 writer was a real estate client with multiple projects requiring content for every state. More than three years later, I still complete a ton of work for that client.
After you find a client with ongoing needs, complete one or two of their open orders. When they respond with excellent feedback, send them a message inviting them to send work directly to you in the future. I tell them that I give direct-order clients priority, and then I follow through by doing all of my direct orders before I even look at the open orders. I rarely take open orders anymore because of this strategy. Clients like to feel special.
Remember, your direct-order rate is set higher than the open-order rates because it reflects your financial needs and what you know your skills are worth. When those open-order clients start sending you direct orders, you get a pay increase regardless of your Textbroker status.
Take advantage of the message system to genuinely help clients. If I see an open order that I know is going to sit forever because the client made a mistake in the directions or the keywords are going to make the work a PITA, I message the client to let them know. I explain why it’s a problem on the writer end of things, and then I offer to complete the work as a direct-order if they want to fix the issue and send it my way.
Many of those clients appreciate the help, and they send the order to me at my direct-order rate. Some of my favorite clients have started out with one of those, “Excuse me, but we have a problem” messages.
Know Your Limitations
I receive all kinds of requests at Textbroker, but I have learned to turn them away if they aren’t right for me at the time. It doesn’t matter how much an assignment pays if I will hate every second that I spend working on it. If I don’t have the skill or knowledge to do a great job on the order, it’s not going to turn into consistent work anyway.
I simply say no to assignments that don’t feel right or that aren’t a good fit for me. This frees up more time to write for clients who are a comfortable fit.
Get Smart About Long Orders
I have seen multiple writers declare in the Textbroker forums that they don’t write long orders for unknown clients. It’s just too much work and time to waste if the client rejects the order or asks for revisions.
I make at least half of my income from long orders of at least 2,000 words, and I have a strategy for new-to-me clients that has yet to let me down. I write the opening for the order and then send it to the client in the messaging system, asking them to approve the tone and direction of the piece before I continue.
If they don’t respond, I drop the order and send another message explaining that I’m willing to continue with the project if they want to resend the order after they have a chance to look over the opening. Many of those orders do eventually pop back up with an approval, and I have never had a problem with the client in the end.
If they respond with an approval, then I write the order. I have never had a problem with these clients, and many have turned into long-term customers.
If they never respond, then I consider it a bad egg that I probably avoided. I have never had a client respond negatively to the opening, but in that case, I would drop the order and wish them luck finding a writer who fits their style.
The Editors & Grammar…Oh, the Grammar “Nazis”
I hear so many complaints about Textbroker, and most are centered on the editors. I don’t look forward to reviews and don’t always agree with the comments on my work, but it doesn’t bother me for a few reasons:
- Reviews are completed on work that is already accepted by the client. My clients never see those reviews. It’s purely between me and Textbroker.
- The editors are often right! I do make mistakes, and I appreciate that they point out when I slip up. They may sometimes get a little threatening in tone, but I think they use copy-and-paste comments designed to scare you into editing better. I do edit extensively, but I’m human.
- I don’t even have to read the editor comments if I don’t want to. I do, and I’ll explain why in a moment, but I don’t have to because they tell me my “new” rating in the email that announces I’ve been rated.
I have never been demoted over a single error in one order, and I simply don’t believe writers who say that they have been. Even as an L5 writer, I will occasionally miss something when I edit. I put sticky notes on my laptop so that I’m more conscious of that mistake until I am sure that I’ve solved the problem.
I firmly believe that correcting your mistakes and learning as you go will get you to L5 and help you stay there. They don’t want perfection, but they also don’t want to point out the same mistake over and over. If you just aren’t listening to their corrections, they will likely drop you down a level. Make every effort to study up on the mistakes you make and correct the issue, and I think you’ll get rewarded. This is what I did, and I believe it is what got me into the L5 clubhouse.
What if you don’t care about grammar and you don’t want to study up on your mistakes or actively edit your work? You probably won’t get to L5 and may not even survive L4 at Textbroker. It’s not the end of the world because you will find a platform that doesn’t care as much about grammar.
I believe that I have grown tremendously as a writer thanks to Textbroker editors who pointed out every single mistake that I made in my early days. I paid attention, and I’m a better writer today because of that. I don’t follow all of Textbroker’s grammar preferences when writing for clients outside of the platform, but I can credit the site for teaching me enough that I know when I’m “breaking” one of their “rules.” It’s no different than altering tone and style for different clients, and as writers we do that every day.
What About Oxford Commas?
I have seen so many people complain that Textbroker downgraded them for using the Oxford comma. I don’t believe that happens because I have used it at times myself. What Textbroker editors look for is consistency within a piece. If you use the Oxford once, you need to use it to the very end. Or leave it out if you prefer, but do so consistently.
The Dreaded Proofreading Test
I was one of the many who took the proofreading test every three months and was disappointed over and over. I think I tried three times before swearing it off forever. But then someone gave out a link to the grammar section of the Textbroker blog, which is a complete guide to what their editors look for in ratings.
I studied every blog post available, which took about an hour at that time. I made notes on an index card for every rule that I hadn’t mastered yet, and then I kept that index card next to me while retaking the proofreading test. I passed it that time with a 90%!
All it took was learning what Textbroker expected, which is no different from looking at a style guide for a client. I also kept that cheat sheet with me when writing my orders, using it as a checklist to make sure that I got it all right in every order. I was promoted to L5 shortly after, and I could see the improved quality of my writing thanks to studying those grammar blogs.
I don’t even think about the rules or my cheat sheet these days because I know it all now. I do put sticky notes on my laptop whenever I miss something in an order that is rated because I want to make sure it doesn’t become a repeat offense that could (justifiably) knock me down a level. See, this is why I read my reviews even though I don’t always agree with the editors.
So, I’m going to give that link out right here. If you think you can’t pass Textbroker’s proofreading test, follow this link and study every post. Make your own cheat sheet for rules that you still need to master. Go down that list each time you edit an order, and follow the rules you learned when you take the test again.
But wait, this will take a lot of work! Yes, it will, just as learning the expectations of a new client or studying a print magazine’s content takes some work. It’s the work that we do as writers, so you have to decide if you really want to do this to make a living. Anything worth achieving is going to take some effort.