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Freelance Blogging Pay Rates: Exposing Some Myths

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on June 2, 2014 in Freelance Blogging, Professional Blogging
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This post was originally published on June 20, 2009. But I wanted to share it again today (and update it a bit) as the issue of blogging pay rates is hotter than ever as more and more freelance bloggers come onto the scene. As some background, this was originally written in response to Kevin Muldoon's post, Bloggers Need to be Realistic About Blogging Rates. It was Muldoon's claim that you shouldn't charge $100+ for blog posts, because you'll get outbid and your clients won't earn enough of a return that led to this post. I suggest reading his first if you want to understand where my arguments below came from.

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As someone who both gets paid significantly more than $100 per post to blog for clients and who comes from a PR background, I have to point out some flaws in Kevin's logic (and I can't blame him for them -- they're common myths surrounding freelance blogging).

The two mistakes are in thinking that:

A) A monetary return is the only kind of return buyers are interested in.

B) Writers who earn a good amount of money through blogging are "few and far between."


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While it's  true that some (even many) buyers do in fact prioritize the bottom line when hiring bloggers, I can tell you from experience that there are plenty who do not.

Money Isn't Everything

A lot of buyers, especially those with bigger budgets who are capable of paying for authority bloggers, are not looking for a direct financial return. This is where the PR element comes in. Blogging is a public relations tool for a lot of businesses, from mom and pop shops to major corporations. The blogs may not even contain any ads or other direct revenue sources. That's not their purpose.

Their purpose is to serve as a communications link between the company and their publics (customers, clients, readers, members, and even members of their local community and colleagues in the industry). They're used to build further exposure and visibility on the Web. They often do that through company news, industry news and commentary, and educational posts--all things that can be outsourced.

For them the blog is a support tool, not a sales tool. And to many businesses, those goals are even more important than earning revenue from their blogs. One PR nightmare that isn't handled well can swiftly kill even the best sales efforts, and a blog gives them immediate access to their customers or other audiences when they need to answer looming questions or put out small fires.

Think of it in terms of other professions. Would you expect to pay $25 per hour for a lawyer? How about an accountant? Neither does anything to directly earn you money, so by that logic their time isn't worth much. You know that's not true. Value doesn't always correspond to direct income.

Those companies looking beyond direct income from their blogs likely wouldn't even think of touching a writer charging $25 per post or less. Many have worked with professional writers in other capacities (either as employees or as contractors). They're used to professional rate tiers, and they know the quality they'll get from paying those higher rates. It wouldn't be unusual for companies to turn to writers they've hired for other projects, already knowing their higher rates, instead of looking for someone new. That's one of the reasons you don't see a lot of gigs with high blogging pay rates publicly advertised.

"Hidden" Writer's Markets Lead to Misconceptions

These unadvertised gigs, or "hidden markets," are the key in the misunderstanding about how many freelance writers really do get paid well for their blogging services. Because we don't see a lot of these job offers publicly, it's easy to assume they don't exist. But that's not true. My own client base is a perfect example.

My lowest-paying blogging job when I originally wrote this post in 2009 was a little over $70 per post (which was a result of a discounted rate given for bulk orders -- something I no longer do or recommend). Blogging pay rates for all other clients at that time started at $150. As of now (2014) my starting rate for blog posts is $250, and it goes up from there based on word count tiers. As a more specific example, one of my more recent posts was a list-style post coming in at around 1000 words. I was paid $540 for that one, and that was including a minor discount I still give one of my oldest clients (something else I no longer do with newer clients). Blogging can be quite lucrative if you can get yourself on the radar of prospects with adequate budgets and an appreciation for what you bring to the table.

Here's the kicker:  I've never applied for any of those blogging jobs. They come from existing clients, referrals from those clients, or from people who sought me out after reading my work elsewhere (my blogs, forums, e-books, etc.--why it's important to build a writer platform folks).

Are Lazy Bloggers Bringing the Market Down?

Let me be blunt for a moment. If a writer insists they absolutely cannot find blogging jobs for more than $25 or so per post, either they're just being lazy or it's the market's way of telling them they need to up their game on the quality front.

Those who do nothing but troll job boards and bidding sites looking for blogging jobs are on the lazy side. That's not how you get the bulk of the high-paying gigs out there (and if you've been reading this blog for a while now, you absolutely know that--if more of those $100+ jobs were publicly advertised, I'd include them in our job listings).

Look. If you're happy with that $25 per article, by all means take it. It's better than the $5 gigs (and $25 gigs are being increasingly advertised, so they're not that hard to find if you don't want to be bothered with building your platform). Just don't allow someone's bad advice to stop you from charging what your time is worth to you.

You're in Business Too!

The worst part of it was where Kevin suggests we all think about it from the client's point of view, noting that they don't all have big budgets and those supported solely by advertising probably can't afford blogging pay rates of $100 per post, even if they'd like to.

Want a reality check? Here it is. If they can't afford to pay for a top notch writer, then they're not in a position yet to have one on their team. Period. It's not a writer's fault that a business owner got into blogging with unrealistic expectations and an inadequate budget to account for them. Many companies are out there either already blogging or looking to get started, and they have perfectly adequate budgets. And for the record, no, you don't have to look for large corporate clients. Most of mine are small business owners and webmasters. You might be surprised at how many do have sufficient budgets to hire professional writers at professional rates to take care of their blogging, especially if you're willing to be a ghostwriter and let the business owner take credit.


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If some are happy with $25 article writers, let them have them. There's nothing wrong with that. But if your time is worth more than that to you based on your skills, credentials, and demand, then don't lower your standards to meet someone else's expectations. The reality is that blogging is only a low-paying job if you allow it to be.

Writers, remember this: if a client can't afford to pay the rates you're asking, move on. All it means is that they're not in your target market. Let the clients worry about their bottom line. You're in business too, so you just worry about yours.

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If you're new to freelance blogging and you aren't sure what your own blogging rates should be, consider using my freelance rate calculator. The main version you see automatically allows you to determine rates based on a yearly income target (it calculates hourly rates which you can then turn into per-post or per-word rates if you prefer). If you click the "Advanced Freelance Rate Calculator" link at the top of the calculator, you can use another version which helps you determine the minimum hourly rate you need to charge to reach your financial goals. If you go that route, don't forget to tack on extra if you have extensive experience, great credentials, or other reasons for charging a premium.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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27 Comments

  1. Jessie June 20, 2009 Reply

    Jenn,
    First off, you are my hero. I would not be a happy freelance writer if not for you.
    Second, if you want to talk about a PR tool, this very blog post is a perfect example of how you are a master of your work.
    Third, onto the topic at hand. I have no problem demanding writing rates of $45 per hour. To you, I am sure that seems very low. For me, I am new to my writing niche and I do not have any formal education. However, my rates will rise when I have actual proof that my writing’s quality has improved. I think that a seasoned freelancer should write for $80 per hour minimum. Just not there yet!
    Granted, a blog post may take half an hour or it may take four hours. I tend to charge literally by the hour and take an upfront deposit. I always advertise my rates, I don’t bid on projects that near slave labor…
    Thanks to you, I know the phrase “those clients and those projects ARE NOT my market” and I am not afraid to stand up for my freelance writing.
    Thanks again Jenn!
    –Jessie

    • Jennifer Mattern June 20, 2009 Reply

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with a rate of $45 per hour. You’re charging what your time is worth to you based on the career you’ve built thus far, and it’s completely achievable. And that’s exactly the right way to go about setting rates! :)

      I just find it unnerving that anyone would have the gall to tell freelancers that the budget constraints of potential buyers in the general marketplace mean they should accept lower rates, rather than understanding precisely what you do–that if the client can’t afford you, you find others who can. The low-budget blog owner is far from the only market out there. I’m always glad to hear from others who “get it” Jessie, so keep at it! :)

  2. Jennifer Mattern June 20, 2009 Reply

    On reading his post again, I actually found myself rather infuriated that someone who hires bloggers is telling the overall blogger pool what they should be willing to accept. Seems a bit self-serving if you ask me.

    To any new bloggers out there, be careful who you’re taking advice from. You’re far better off sticking with people who have gone before you and succeeded in the industry than people who are potentially future clients. They’re not going to get anything out of it one way or the other – we don’t save money if you choose to go the cheap route, and those who are actually established aren’t worried about a little bit of increased competition out there, especially in a growing field.

    I’ve seen the same thing happen for years in webmaster communities when it comes to Web writers in general. The buyers insist that a penny per word is “standard” (which any professional writer knows is bullshit), and when that’s the information new writers see when they get started, too many actually believe it. They work for slave wages because they’re lied to and told that they have to. I’m just glad there are so many pros out there setting them in a better direction (although more would certainly be better). I’ve seen a few great writers wake up to the reality of what’s possible and go on to earn more than 10 times their starting rates fairly quickly. But I still get the same questions from newbies desperate to figure out a better way. Blogging, like SEO Web content, can pay very well. It’s all up to the writer whether they listen to the lies and focus on the wrong target market or tell the cheapskates to shove it and actually respect their own work.

    It also drives me nuts to see someone saying that the benefits of hiring a great writer are “minimal.” That usually means one of two things. Either they haven’t actually seen great writing, or they don’t have a clue what to do with it. Slapping it on the site and letting it sit isn’t the buyer’s only job. A writer writes. If the owner can’t promote the content effectively, it’s not the writer who screwed up on the benefit front. Authority content carries great value, well beyond the initial bottom line. (“Value” being a concept Kevin really doesn’t seem to understand based on that post – value does not simply correspond with profit made.) Thankfully, many business owners do understand that and they know how to get the most out of it.

  3. Jessie June 20, 2009 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Jessie June 21, 2009 Reply

    Yes. It is terribly difficult to not be able to grab each new freelancer who believes this crap–and the people who say it–and tell them how it is.
    I’m glad that people like you will be there to share the truth.

  5. Damaria Senne June 21, 2009 Reply

    You hit the nail on the head, Jen.

    I’m also a blogger whose clients use the blog as a PR tool or an advocacy tool (in the case of non-profits).

    None of my clients expect their blogs to make them money. They need an authority blogger because they need someone who understands their business/cause, and can communicate their message effectively. On the blogs I speak on their behalf, and you don’t get that kind of representation from a $25 per blog post.

    And nope, my gigs were not advertised either. I did other types of writing projects for them, and when they decided to start blogs, it was natural that I do the work, at professional rates.

  6. Mary Davis June 21, 2009 Reply

    Wonderful points you make, Jenn. I appreciate your being upfront about the rates you command. This shows others what is possible. Jessie’s comments are great as well, demonstrating someone who’s been successful in acquiring decent rates as someone new to the process. The only part I take exception with is that anyone who takes less than $25 a post is simply being lazy. Not lazy, uninformed and unaware, I’d say.

    • Jennifer Mattern June 21, 2009 Reply

      Sorry if it wasn’t clear Mary, but the “lazy” comment wasn’t in regards to people who choose to accept those rates of $25 or so per post. I’m talking about the ones who constantly complain on forums, via email, etc. that there’s absolutely nothing else out there because they’re not willing to do the work to get those gigs (building their platform and visibility). If a writer chooses to work for those rates because they’re happy with them, and because they really do prefer only having to look through job ads for the advertised gigs, then more power to them (I wouldn’t classify $25 per post as similar to the $5 per post gigs which are nothing but exploiting writers).

      The lazy ones are the ones who come to me (or others) complaining there’s nothing better out there. We tell them how to go about getting the better, unadvertised gigs. And then a few weeks or months later they come back complaining about the same thing. When we ask what they’ve done in the meantime, it’s nothing. No blog. No professional site. No activity on the forums other than advertising and complaining about the market. They usually go through the cycle more than once, expecting that one day the writers who have done the work are just going to start outsourcing or referring gigs to them or something (I’ve had more than a few people beg me to do this in the past). I can’t think of a better word for that than “lazy.”

      And yes, there are certainly some that are just unaware. But there are also a lot of great writers out there telling them there are better options and how to find them. With everything so easily accessible on the Web, I don’t really think there’s a good excuse for them to be uninformed–not for long at least. Everyone should conduct some basic market research before jumping into business for themselves, including freelancers. That includes evaluating the competition, and getting an idea of what kinds of rates are charged by people with similar credentials. Perhaps more disappointing than the fact that some writers buy into the garbage blog owners spew about rates in the overall marketplace is the fact that so many freelancers don’t take the time to do that research up front. But that’s a topic worth a post of its own – maybe this week.

  7. Angela Booth June 21, 2009 Reply

    Love this: “Writers who earn a good amount of money through blogging are “few and far between.”

    Heh. He should get out more. In 2004, back when I was still taking for-pay blog jobs, I and other pro writers were charging around $1500 per week for five 100-word posts, and one longer article of around 600 to 800 words.

    This was on a six-month contract.

    At the time, I enjoyed these writing gigs, and there were many of them available. I was working with a company which was selling a heavy-duty intranet blogging application to corps, and the marketing manager was constantly hassling me to find more writers…

    Jenn, I’m busy this morning, and I just glanced over your article (no time to read Kevin’s post) but I just wanted to pop in and mention that inexperienced writers judge that ALL writers are in the same boat. I was getting paid $1500 a week back in 2004, and I was far from the top earner in the field.

    Writers are earning that today, and much more.

    They don’t find these jobs on job boards however, nor do they frequent forums and other venues. They’re too busy writing.

    I just hope your post opens the eyes of a few writers who could be more successful if they realized that there are many more opportunities than they’re aware of.

    Now, back to writing for money — I’ve got two deadlines today. :-)

  8. Jennifer Mattern June 21, 2009 Reply

    Those gigs are definitely still out there Angela–you’re absolutely right! Corporate blogging is a big money job, because not all writers can do it well. I know quite a few through my PR work. It’s far more prevalent in that crowd than in the traditional “blogging for money” crowd (the ones blogs on blogging seem to target, while neglecting the other huge segments of the blogging field). It’s also a perfect area for freelance business writers to get into–those who understand corporate communications and PR (but even that’s not necessary).

  9. Antony Hayes December 6, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanx for the heads up, your post is definately inspiring. I have recently become a full time writer and charge $25 minumum per post. Over the last few weeks I have understood that writing gigs are not found on job boards and very rarely on freelance bidding websites. I would like to increase my income, however I am having difficulty finding clients and was wondering if you have any tips on that front?

    Short of spending time searching on google that could be spent writing do you have other suggestions? I have created an online portfolio and will work to market that once it increases.

    Any advice would be appreciated,

    Regards,

    Antony.
    Writer@timetobefree.com

    So far I have been

  10. Anne Wayman June 2, 2014 Reply

    Jenn, you and I see this pay rate thing exactly the same way… and when a client tells me s/he can get it done for, I dunno, $10, $20 bucks a post I say good luck, go for it. I do not need that person on my client list.
    Anne Wayman recently posted…5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Manage MoneyMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 2, 2014 Reply

      That’s my policy too Anne. And over the years, quite a few of those clients who went the cheap route actually came back to me later. Surprise, surprise. They weren’t thrilled with what they could get for that lower budget. On the plus side, when they come back they stop haggling because they have a new appreciation for what a pro brings to the table. :)

  11. Alicia Rades June 2, 2014 Reply

    Wonderful article!

    I think a lot of these misconceptions come about because people hear that freelance blogging is so easy to break into. That’s true. It is. But then that creates this idea that it’s easy to DO, which it isn’t. It takes a lot of work to end up with decent-paying clients, and I’ve known a lot of freelance writers/bloggers who aren’t willing to put in that work.
    Alicia Rades recently posted…The Truth About Making Money Blogging You Don’t UnderstandMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 2, 2014 Reply

      It’s sad, but you’re right. Many writers don’t want to do the work. They just want to write. And they expect the gigs to fall into their laps through job boards and sites like Elance. But it doesn’t work that way. If most of the really high paying clients advertised in these kinds of places, they’d be bombarded with a huge number of applications (largely from unqualified writers motivated by the pay rate alone). They don’t have the time to deal with that mess.

  12. Peter Bowerman June 3, 2014 Reply

    Great post, Jenn, and important message. You can substitute ANY kind of commercial-type writing for “blog posts” here, and there’s been similar discussions for years on many forums.

    Bottom line, writers need to shift their thinking. There are clients at all different fee thresholds. There are plenty out there who think $25 for a blog post is, “whew, a bit pricey,” and there are plenty who won’t bat an eyelash at $150-$250.

    It’s all about paradigms. If all you’re finding (because you’re looking ONLY on job boards) are clients willing to pay $25 a post, you’ll come to believe that’s the reality everywhere. But start digging elsewhere, AND hone your skills, and whole different worlds come into focus.

    As Jenn points out, the reasons why a client may hire someone to blog for them may go far beyond the typical return on investment. And when far different motivations are at work, you’re typically talking about far different types of organizations, and far better pay scales.

    Too many writers (especially those starting out) think that job boards (eLance, Odesk, etc.) are the alpha and the omega of prospecting methods. And since a zillion other writers are thinking the same thing, you end up in a situation with far great supply of writers than demand for them, which will reliably drop rates into the toilet.

    And that’s where honing your skills come in. If you have generic blog-writing skills shared by countless others, then you don’t deserve to be paid more if the clients for whom you’re writing don’t need skills any better than that, AND they have countless other interchangeable writers to choose from.

    Simply put, don’t blame the clients in these venues – they’re simply responding to what’s in front of them.

    But, develop a specialty in a particular industry or set yourself apart in some other way, AND start proactively contacting companies directly, and you’ll find richer opportunities.

    And (Jenn, hope you’ll forgive a brief plug here), you might check out “The Well-Fed Writer” (www.wellfedwriter.com) for a pretty comprehensive exploration of the commercial writing field (one of those “parallel universes” of writing work), where hourlies start at $50-60 and go up from there.

    Good luck, all!

    PB

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 3, 2014 Reply

      “Too many writers (especially those starting out) think that job boards (eLance, Odesk, etc.) are the alpha and the omega of prospecting methods. And since a zillion other writers are thinking the same thing, you end up in a situation with far great supply of writers than demand for them, which will reliably drop rates into the toilet.”

      This is exactly it. And it’s why when writers come to me asking “where can I find higher paying writing gigs,” I constantly point out that they’re asking the wrong question. They shouldn’t be asking “where” to find them, but rather “how.” Once they get past the idea that there’s some magical hidden place filled with amazing writing gigs all the pros are snagging, then they’re in the right frame of mind to out out there and approach prospects or find ways to attract them.

      And I never mind you promoting your book here Peter. You know it’s one of my personal favorites, and I highly recommend it whenever I meet a new writer looking for resources. :)
      Jennifer Mattern recently posted…Freelance Blogging Pay Rates: Exposing Some MythsMy Profile

  13. Cathy Miller June 3, 2014 Reply

    So spot on, Jenn. I figure I spent over 30 years acquiring the technical knowledge for my niche and that’s worth something.

    I love when prospects seek me out because they “like my style”. It’s very flattering. More than one prospect told me they were unable to afford my rates but it did not diminish my appreciation for the recognition. We left the correspondence with mutual respect and professionalism.
    Cathy Miller recently posted…25 Sneaky, Overused, Abused Blog Post WordsMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 3, 2014 Reply

      That’s always nice Cathy. Even when those folks can’t afford to hire you, it can still lead to referrals and they can always come back later if their budget increases or they start working for another employer with deeper pockets. That’s why it’s so important not to burn bridges automatically because someone doesn’t have the budget to work with you.
      Jennifer Mattern recently posted…Freelance Blogging Pay Rates: Exposing Some MythsMy Profile

  14. Peter Bowerman June 3, 2014 Reply

    “…when writers come to me asking “where can I find higher paying writing gigs,” I constantly point out that they’re asking the wrong question. They shouldn’t be asking ‘where’ to find them, but rather ‘how.'”

    Love it. MY turn to say, “That is exactly it.” ;)

    Seriously, really well put. It’s about a *process,* not a place. And the unspoken in that truism (sorry to say) is that to make much higher rates as a writer, you have to work harder to ferret out the work (which usually comes about over time, and after contacting and cultivating a prospect vs. finding the right person who will immediately hand you an assignment), and be a lot more skilled.

    Which, incidentally, is pretty much the case with anything else in the world that can pay really well. ;)

    At the risk of stepping on a few toes here, a serviceable analogy is the idea of “day labor.” You know, those places, in most big cities, where people looking for some work that day will all congregate, and people looking for temporary labor for a day or two, will go there and pick a few people.

    Rates are always low, by definition, because there’s more people looking for work than work itself. As opposed to actually conducting a more serious job search. It’s a lot more work and takes a higher level of skills, but the payoff can be a full-time job paying a good salary.

    Not too far off from writers hunting for work on job sites vs. more active hunting for work…

    PB

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 3, 2014 Reply

      The same goes for the “query-free” approach I take with the emphasis on inbound marketing more than pursuing your own prospects. It can sound easier to have clients come to you, but that’s not really the case. Effective marketing is hard work, no matter what avenues you pursue. You get what you give. Who would have guessed, right? ;)

      I think that’s a pretty good analogy! You can’t congregate with the low-priced competition and wait for someone with deep pockets to come along and pick you over everyone else. You have to know who you’re targeting. And you either have to pursue them directly (with queries, cold calls, etc.) or you have to get to know their motivations well enough to otherwise draw them to you over their other options. Both involve a lot of effort on the writer’s part beyond checking a stream of offered gigs.

  15. Adrienne Andreae June 3, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jenn,
    Great post! I feel like this is the myth that will not die.

    I was wondering why you don’t do bulk rates anymore? I charge decent rates even for bulk packages, but I sometimes I wonder if this is a good idea or not.
    Adrienne Andreae recently posted…7 Ways to Prepare for the Social Media ApocalypseMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 3, 2014 Reply

      I’m not a big fan of bulk rates, thought I won’t say they’re bad for everyone. If a writer is just starting out and they need to bring in a decent amount income quickly, bulk rates can be an incentive for buyers. When you’re new and you just want something tide you over for a bit, that’s fine.

      But here’s the thing. Doing more work isn’t easier. Quite the opposite. And while it might sound nice on the client’s end that they get a discount for committing to more work, it’s not really fair to the freelancer. After all, if you’re devoting a large portion of your billable hours to one client, you’re taking a huge risk. If that client drops you, you could be screwed. Taking increased risk isn’t something that should accompany lower pay, in my opinion.

      That said, it’s also about demand. If you have enough prospects coming to you that you can fill your schedule regularly or even set up a waiting list, why offer anyone a discount? It doesn’t make much sense. That’s the point I was at when I decided to stop offering those discounts to new clients. I simply didn’t need to. If people are willing to pay your full rates, those are the gigs you take.

      But again, if we’re talking about kicking off a new writing career, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with bulk rates as long as you keep the discounts reasonable. I’d suggest actually raising bulk rates if you plan to do this though — give clients an incentive to buy more now and still meet your financial goals. You should never discount so low that you can’t earn what you really need.

  16. Adrienne Andreae June 4, 2014 Reply

    Thanks! I think you nailed it. I’m getting to that point where I don’t know if I really need to offer them anymore.
    Adrienne Andreae recently posted…7 Ways to Prepare for the Social Media ApocalypseMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 4, 2014 Reply

      As always, all you can do if go with what you think is best for your business. But if you feel that you’re in a good place to stop offering them, I’d say go for it. You can always reintroduce them later if things don’t work out. Or another option would be to keep your existing clients on previously-negotiated bulk rates, but stop offering them to new clients. That gives you a chance to ease into something new, and you can slowly ease older clients off that model (or replace them with higher paying clients if they won’t budge) over time.

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