Your Freelance Writing Rates are Hurting My Reputation

As a freelance writer, you’ve got competition. And as more and more “writers” enter the market, that competition is going to become nothing short of fierce.

Being underbid by subpar writers is a huge problem for professionals in the industry. There are thousands of candidates who are competing for your work. They offer rates as low as a penny per word – sometimes less. Of course, clients who seek writers are also looking out for their bottom line. They hire these “writers,” and as a result, they get what they pay for.

Don’t compete with them. You are a professional, and it’s imperative that you act like one. Lowering your rates or charging clients less than you’re worth is not only harmful to you. It’s harmful to the industry.

Setting Your Freelance Rates

I love to see talented writers who are new to the profession. In a world where it seems as if all language skills have been flushed down the toilet, it’s encouraging to see talent, even among beginning writers.

What I don’t like to see is talented writers who are selling their services for pennies per word. Sure, as you build your reputation, your portfolio and your business, you likely won’t be charging $.25 per word.

But don’t work for $.02. Every time you send a proposal or a pitch to a client, claiming that you’ll complete that 1,000 word piece for $20, you cheapen the industry. You cheapen our profession, and you insult writers (like myself) who have taken a long time to get where we are.

Setting your rates as a beginning writer is tricky. You may have no idea where to begin, and you may feel the temptation to start low until you build a client base.

Resist that temptation. Set a consistent rate. Say, $.10 per word. Post that rate on your website or portfolio. Then charge it.

You Are a Business

“Hello, Autos Plus, how may I help you?”

“Good morning, I was calling to ask about your pricing for an oil change.”

“An oil change is $35 plus tax. If you’d like your tires rotated, we can do that for just 5 bucks more.”

“Great, thanks!”

Succinct and professional, right?! Is that how you run your business?

Try this conversation on for size.

“Hello, STx3 Content, how may I help you?”

“Good morning, I was calling to ask about your rates for a 500 word blog post.”

“Sure! For a simple blog post, I charge $.15 per word. But if you promise me that you’ll offer me continuing work in the future, I can drop that rate down to $.02 in the hopes that you’ll keep that promise.”

“Um… okay.”

Not very professional, was it? The answer should have been a clear, concise “Seventy-five dollars.” Easy peasy.

Don’t hem and haw over your pricing. Speak it like it is, and if your client doesn’t like it, fine. He can go hire one of the non-native speakers who can write him an incoherent paragraph or two for five bucks.

You’re a professional. Act like it.

When to Change Your Rates

I’m going to backpedal a bit here. There are a few instances in which you may be inclined (and right) to change your rates.

I’ll admit that I have a client whom I charge a significantly lower rate per word than others. First of all, he was my very first client. Not only has he stuck with me for all these years, but he also gave me a second chance when I didn’t deserve one.

I charge him less. No one else.

You may find someone like my client along your career path. There may also be other times at which you should change your rates.

  • Let’s say you network with a client who offers to pay in advance for a huge bulk order. Say, 100 blog posts to be distributed over the course of a few months. Take it! Offer a few cents’ discount as an incentive. Be sure you follow through.
  • Maybe you’ve recently been published in The New Yorker or another publication. Resume and portfolio changes can lead to changes in your freelancing rates.
  • If you’re contracting with a client who wants an unusual amount of research – for example, he may want phone interviews with sources – charge more. You need to be paid for your time.
  • Published authors with proven sales will likely be able to charge higher rates. No, this doesn’t mean you, self-published author with two sales.

As you advance in your career, your rates will change. The scope of your projects will change, too. For instance, I’m the Queen of Press Releases. I stated in an earlier post that I charge a bit higher rate for those.

No writer should commit to the same rate throughout his entire career. But knowing when to change your rates is critical to maintaining a professional appearance.

Freelancing Survival of the Fittest

I’m not a mean-spirited person, but I’ll say this: Darwin’s theory prevails. Two monkeys on a trampoline landing on the keys of a typewriter could compose better deliverables than some of the writers out there.

Those monkeys will sort themselves out. As the desire for quantity of content evolves into a critical need for quality content, those apes will fall off that trampoline, leaving you and me.

I, for one, am not going anywhere. And I hope you don’t either. But in order to ensure that you and I still experience success years down the road, it’s imperative that we both act like professionals.

Don’t charge my clients two cents per word.

When you do that, you perpetuate the idea that anyone can be a writer. I promise you – not everyone can be a writer. Not everyone should be a writer.

Let’s both do our best to preserve the integrity of our chosen career path. If you promise me that you’ll charge for your talent, I’ll make the same promise to you. Apes be damned – we’re worth the paycheck we demand.

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