Who Can Afford to Write for Cheap?

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on November 6, 2012 in Finance
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“You want to hire me, but you don’t want to pay my rates. Tell me again how accepting a project that pays far less than what I need to survive on is going to benefit me.”

My honesty is never this brutal, but it’s sometimes exactly what I want to say to those clients who want to hire me, but want to pay me in chicken feed. My time is far more valuable and so is yours.

Think About It…

Why should a client benefit from your hard work without paying the cost? Imagine if you walked into a nice restaurant and demanded to pay only $4 for a steak because that’s what Burger King charges for burgers? Beef is beef, right? If you’re lucky, they’ll put you out without calling the police. It's the same for writing.

Yes, there are "writers" and writers who charge far less. But, you don’t have to be bullied into accepting lower rates because of what one client thinks, especially if you’ve researched your rate and you know it makes sense. Clients who want to pay for cheap writing should hire writers with low rates. It's that simple.

Spend Your Time Wisely

You may reason that a little bit of money is better than no money at all. Something isn’t better than nothing when you can spend that time doing something that would lead to better paying writing jobs. For example, instead of spending 8 hours writing 10 articles for $100, you could instead research some better paying markets and send out 8 (or possibly more) pitches or inquiries. One of those pitches may lead to a long-term gig that pays more for less work.

I’ll be honest, it takes a few weeks for some pitches to come to fruition. The cheap jobs often pay quickly, which is one of the things that makes them more attractive. A couple hundred dollars now is more useful right now than double that in two or three weeks, especially when your bills are due soon.


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Fortunately, it doesn’t always take that long to sign up a new client. Some projects will start right away. Negotiate an upfront deposit and you’ll have some money in your pocket.

Don’t Be Fooled

“I have more work for you,” is a popular line with low-paying clients. The promise of more cheap work is not a consolation prize. The last thing you need is to spend more of your time on more low-paying projects. Here's a more amicable negotiation: offer them fewer articles to fit within their budget, e.g. 2 to 4 for $100 instead of the 10 they're asking for.

It’s not easy to walk away when you’re first starting out, you’re eager to get paid for your writing, and you have bills to pay. But, burnout comes quicker than you can imagine. Save yourself and figure out another way.

Don’t Give Up

There are more clients out there and many recognize that good, quality writing isn't cheap. A Business Insider article says there are more than 644 million active websites out there. Those who need writers probably won't have a “Now Hiring” banner flashing across the top of their sites. Some may not realize they need a writer. Visit a few sites in your niche. Get their contact information and drop an email saying what you do and how you can help them. You’d be surprised at how many “cold” pitches can turn into hard cash.

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

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3 Comments

  1. Amandah November 6, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for this inspiring post. Lately, I’ve been working on my own projects. I finally wrote the logline and synopsis to my half-hour comedy and need to write the treatment. I’ve spoken with two publishers, but I haven’t heard anything yet. I’m inspired to write my own material, market, and sell it. I’d also like to use a few of my projects as “teaching” tools for teens.

    It doesn’t pay to take on low paying assignments. It may be wise to have a part-time job and or full-time job while you build your writing business. Having a day job pays the bills and helps you pursue your dreams.

  2. Keith November 7, 2012 Reply

    For the last few years i have been a freelance writer often relying on freelance sites such as ODesk where the pay is not always great but after starting my own contentwritingservice i have managed to secure well paying gigs.As much as you want to pay your bills it pays to secure your real worth.

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