I was doing a bit of blog reading this morning, and came across this quote in regards to freelance writers bidding low on writing jobs when they're new:
"A novice copywriter can start with a low price at first. Companies will eventually increase the pay of a copywriter who always submits quality work."
I see this being said to new writers of all varieties all the time, and the fact of the matter is that it's not always true. As a matter of fact, most clients aren't likely to suddenly start paying you more just for doing the job you were contracted to do, because you chose to sucker them in with a low rate that you didn't advertise as temporary.
Frankly, I look at this as being two things:
- Stupid - You don't have to bid low to build a reputation anywhere. That's not to say that you should be charging as much as someone with years of experience beyond you or better credentials. However, before you ever bid on any freelance writing gig, you should already know what kinds of projects you want, in what rate ranges, and with what kind of target client market (the ones who need or want your services and who can afford to pay your writing rates). You do nothing but a disservice for yourself if you waste time marketing yourself to folks outside of that target market. Why? Because you don't earn what you need to be earning, and you then have to spend extra (unpaid) time down the road either trying to make a case for being paid more or marketing yourself to the proper market the next time around. Build a portfolio before you start pitching your services, and you can let clients see that you're worth what you're quoting or charging. (And yes, you can build a portfolio with no experience.)
- Dishonest - Maybe it's just me, but as far as I'm concerned, if you bid one amount fully planning to up the rates in the near future (and you don't make that clear up front), you're being dishonest with your client. When they hire you, they're thinking they're getting a great deal. If that deal is going to end, you need to make it clear. It's one thing for you to re-adjust your rates yearly as normal business. It's also not a big deal if you're offering a discount for a limited time, on first orders, etc. and you make that clear up front (so the client knows your rates are going up after the introductory order). But it's something else entirely to go into what amounts to a professional relationship with the idea of sucking someone in to milk them for more later. Is that common in marketing? Sure. But you're not simply marketing products here - you're marketing yourself, and that involves building relationships on trust.
So folks (new writers especially) - stop thinking you have to start ridiculously low in the beginning. If you've done your job on the marketing and business planning front before jumping in, there's really no good excuse for it. Don't screw yourself over in the long run by wasting time on the wrong target markets, and don't make yourself look bad in such a heavily referral-driven industry by attempting to "bait" clients with rates you won't be able to live up to after just a few projects.
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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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