Are Your Freelance Writing Rates "Highway Robbery?"

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on February 5, 2009 in Finance, Freelance Writing Business
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In one community I'm very active in, there's a particular member who always gives me a good laugh (unintentionally). He repeatedly claims that the rates professional writers charge are "highway robbery," essentially because he feels articles are easy and / or quick to write. Originally I figured he was probably just burned by a lousy writer in the past, or jealous because he can't command those higher rates himself (and by "high" rates I'm only talking about $50-75 per article, which in fact is relatively low in the grand scheme of professional writing).

I used to just think he was a nut about writers, but I saw him react to someone else's post in a completely unrelated area the same way. Someone posted about very successful earnings they had for the month, and this guy went on and on whining about how it wasn't right to post about such things. At that point there was no doubt. Jealousy was definitely playing a role (all he seems to be able to talk about is that people should charge the bare minimum, and never make money a motivation--apparently in anything, but especially in business).

Now, as far as I'm concerned, the guy's just ridiculous. It does, however, bring up an interesting topic that I'd like your thoughts on.

First, has anyone ever used a phrase like "highway robbery" to describe your freelance writing rates? And if so, how did you react?

Personally, I very rarely get a complaint about rates. I make it a point to publish them publicly, so people who don't have the budget for them simply don't contact me (I don't aggravate them by making them waste time asking for a quote that's out of their budget).

On those rare occasions where someone does have a problem with the rates, I generally either ignore them (if they're not a client, and just contacting me to be antagonistic about it), or if it's a client I have no problem referring them to someone else.


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I have a somewhat strict policy - if my schedule is relatively full (and it often is), then I don't offer lower rates. If there are enough people willing to pay my standard rates, then those are the projects I take on. If it's a slower time of the year, I might compromise with them in some way (not generally just offering a discount, but rather tailoring what I'm offering to fit their budget - the lower budget might be quoted with fewer edits, with the client providing some of the research material, perhaps a shorter piece, etc.). The first reaction, though, is always to refer them elsewhere to someone who might be able to give them exactly what they want for their exact budget.

Why?

While it means losing a few clients here and there, in fact most of the people I refer elsewhere end up coming back to me for projects down the road (why it's vital to only refer people you trust - your referrals can say a lot about you).

In other words, when someone feels like my rates are "highway robbery" or anything along those lines, I let them know they're welcome to look elsewhere, and they're welcome to come back if they ever need something in the future where my rates fit within their budget.

So how do you handle complaints about your rates or requests to work for significantly less than your standard rates?

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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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7 Comments

  1. Yo
    Yo February 5, 2009 Reply

    I have some folks approach me and ask my rates for projects (even though my rates are posted on my website). They want discounts for bulk work, and don’t understand the difference between bulk work and long term work. I give discounts for long term work because it’s something I can hopefully rely on for a period of time. Bulk work just means more work short term, and does not generally get a discount. When I explain my rates to these folks, they generally state they can’t afford it and we all wish each other luck. I’ve not had any bad experiences. I have taken low paying gigs during times when I freaked myself out and convinced myself that I’d never make it. That is always a mistake because then you get locked in to these projects that pay nothing and take time away from the big clients that eventually come. Either way, ly last low paying contract is almost over- I WON’T make that mistake again- partially thanks to Jen’s book.

  2. Stephanie Smith February 5, 2009 Reply

    I was approached about five years ago by a commercial website that wanted copy for their catalog for $5 per article. When I told them my rates, the editor indignantly told me she had dozens of writers willing to write for the rate she quoted. I stood my ground, and the website cratered about two months later. Evidently the “dozens of writers” were not good enough to sell the products on the website.

  3. Kathleen February 6, 2009 Reply

    Very interesting discussion. I’ve never had a problem with my rates because they’ve always been fairly low. Once I had someone contact me and decide I was too high.

    Then I had a potential client contact me via email for a quote. I decided (with encouragement from my husband) that I had enough low paying work to keep me going 24/7. So I shot her a higher quote and told her to call me if she wanted to discuss more. Guess what? She called.

    Thankfully, many people realize that you get what you pay for. Cheap rates often equal lousy writing.

  4. Jennifer Mattern February 7, 2009 Reply

    Yo – I offer bulk rates on certain types of projects, but don’t take on a lot of those projects simply because I make more elsewhere. It can come in handy though. For example, I offer several packages for press releases. Individually, the regular rate is $179 each. At the largest package rate, they’re $125 each. What this does is encourage regular clients to order more – not really individual clients, but middlemen clients (like a marketing, SEO, or design firm that has me write releases regularly for their clients – these are some of my favorite projects too). But if bulk rates wouldn’t do anything to help you, I’d say to stick to your regular rates.

    Stephanie – Live and learn, right? Good for you for being willing to stand your ground on that. And in the end, you were probably much better off without a now-defunct company taking up space in your portfolio.

    Kathleen – Good for you too! That’s often how rate increases happen – you just have to go for it! :)

  5. Jennifer L February 9, 2009 Reply

    I’m feeling very cranky these days about people who want to procure top-quality work…without being willing to pay for it. I just had a potential client drop off the face of the earth because I actually quoted what I believe is a reasonable price for what I would be producing for him. I can’t afford to work like a dog and not make anything for my efforts and not have any time left over to pursue better-paying assignments! I don’t think any of us can, right?

  6. Jennifer Mattern February 10, 2009 Reply

    Leave those gigs to the magical freelance fairies who work at lightning speed and have no bills to pay.

  7. DeborahDera February 15, 2009 Reply

    What do you think of the “standard average rates” published at the beginning of the Writer’s Market guide? Any opinions?

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