Why I Don’t Compete On Price

 

Photo Courtesy of coffish H

Photo Courtesy of coffish H

I have a confession to make: when I first started out in the freelance writing business, I wrote for cheap.

Real cheap.

Less than $0.01 per word cheap.

That ain’t a typo. I wrote for less than one cent per word.

I was of the mindset that I had to accept low paying gigs because they were easier to obtain, and that I was just doing it to build up a few portfolio items.

A little later on, I became convinced that $0.01 per word was the “going price” for writing work online.

Thankfully, soon after, a number of prominent online writers and bloggers punched that idea squarely in the face, and ever since it has stayed down for the count.

Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing has told readers of her experience where she made $200 for her very first writing gig, without a hint of experience and not even a college degree.

As a result of her, and other freelance writers, I quickly realized my true value.

I no longer work for cheap. And here’s why:

It takes time to craft a great article

Time is one of the most valuable commodities of a freelance writer – it’s what we use in order to produce our services. However, many people who aren’t freelance writers consistently underestimate the amount of time that it takes to create a great piece of written content. The average rate for composing content is roughly 19 words per minute, which means that a blog post of 1000 words would take roughly 53 minutes to compose.

Of course, there is a lot of time spent on other areas besides simply composing content.

Time has to be spent on research, even for some topics that a writer may know. Of course, the content needs to be structured so that it flows before it is written. After being written, it needs to be edited, and then proof read.  The time taken from start to finish varies widely, but it often takes several hours for this process to take place. For example, popular blogger Neil Patel of Kissmetrics can take up to 4 hours composing a blog post. Writer and blogger Codrut Turcanu estimates that he spends at least 3 hours on each piece of content he produces.

Since time is a writer’s most important asset, it is of course important that this be charged accordingly. It simply isn’t feasible to charge $5 for a piece of content that takes 1, 2, or even 3 hours to write.

 

Reasonable prices mean higher quality

By charging prices, I can produce of higher quality. If I stuck to only low paying writing gigs, then I would have to sacrifice time for each article in order to make a livable wage. For example, at $5 per article, I would have to write 763 500 word articles, to earn the average monthly wage of $3815, based on a yearly salary of $45,790. Based on a 40 hour work week, that would mean I’d have to write 5 $5 articles per hour just to make the average monthly wage.

Of course, this is ignoring the fact that higher taxes, health insurance, and other factors would all take an extra bite out of the wage, meaning that I would have to write even more in order to attain the same take-home salary.

Since the quality of an article is largely dependent on the amount of time taken to research, organize, write, edit and proofread, this would of course lead to a drastic drop in the quality of work.  The best way to ensure that the quality is high is to simply not be rushed – a writer who is paid decently can afford to spend far more time crafting their content than one that is perpetually rushed.

 

Reasonable prices pay for a freelance writer’s skills

Like Liam Neeson in Taken, each writer has a particular set of skills.

Unlike Liam Neeson, these skills do not involve throttling kidnappers with my bare hands, although it is something I one day hope to work on.

All writers need writing skills – the ability to effectively use the written word in order to convince their readers to perform a particular action or to influence their thoughts and behaviors.

Many writers have honed their skills in a particular area or niche, or have added knowledge in other areas. For example, I have advanced degrees in Psychology. Other writers may have knowledge or experience in health, or engineering, or any myriad of topics under the sun. These people have skills, knowledge and experience that most other people don’t have. For this, it is incumbent that we charge accordingly for these skills and experience.

 

Reasonable prices provide a feeling of personal value

Commanding a decent freelance writing rate is important for my personal feeling of value and self-worth. By charging less than you know you should, a writer can quickly become jaded, disappointed in themselves, and also disappointed in the clients that they feel are taking them for a ride. Not only that, but they  are left feeling worn out  and frazzled from constantly having to churn out content quickly in order  to make  a decent wage.

When I wrote for low pay, I felt this way constantly. I dreaded having to start the work, knowing that even after the hard slog of writing the  content, I would  have to dip back into the well again for another low paying article.

Then I got my first client  who was  willing to provide decent  pay  – a client who volunteered to  increase my pay for the excellent work  I was doing! Suddenly I felt empowered, anxious to finish the work before the deadline. It made me feel good that someone was appreciating my work, and I did my best in order to repay that feeling of appreciation.

 

I no longer work for cheap. I don’t try to underbid or even compete with the other lowly paid freelance writers.  Raising my prices has allowed me to select clients that best suit my skills and expertise, and vice versa.  I don’t have to rush in order complete assignments, or have a feeling that I’m “wasting time” when trying to complete an article if it’s taken more than an hour. I don’t work for cheap because I value my clients, and most of all, I value myself.

 

 

What about you? Have you decided not to compete on price? Why/why not?   Please share your feedback below.

11 comments to Why I Don’t Compete On Price

  1. Thanks for the mention, Daryl! Glad I was able to point you toward higher rates.

    • Daryl George says:

      Thanks Carol! You’re definitely instrumental in helping me and a lot of other freelance writers leave the penny pinching markets.

  2. Jenny Barron says:

    A week or two ago you commented that I was writing for way too low. I shot back that at least I got to pick and choose my work. Since then I’ve realized you were dead right. But honestly, I have no idea how much TO charge.

    I’ve put up a page for my services and posted a classified ad on Warrior Forum, but I’m not really getting traction ($20 for every bump is not profitable when it takes a day to move off of the first page lol). I know my prices are higher than most (because people are charging less than a penny per word!) but less than some others. I think my articles are priced lower than my worth but higher than what people are willing to pay. I think my eBook prices are pretty good though.

    My question is – how do I start getting clients? Oh my gosh eLance is rediculous, as is TextBroker and oDesk – the competition to earn scraps is soul crushing. I can’t keep making money at iWriter, because decent writing jobs with intelligible instructions are few and far between. The WF classified ad has brought in ONE client for a 300 word article- and that joker wanted me to write a fake review of his WSO *shakes her head* so it’s been refunded.

    So, How do I get clients? Once they use me they love me – but I need to get them in the door.

    Then, how much SHOULD I be charging? Clueless.

    By the way, my writing style here is nothing like my professional writing – I am just spewing thoughts at the moment. hehe

    Thanks for planting that seed in my head a couple of weeks ago. It’s been like a thorn in my side, but you know, the good kind.

    • Daryl George says:

      Hey Jenny –

      Your writing style is just fine!

      I’ve also had a look at your website, and even though I only saw one page, what I saw was extremely well done. That being said, I think adding more content to your website (e.g. an about page, testimonials, a blog, etc) would go a long way in adding value to your site

      Here’s my two cents – you need to revamp the way that you’re selecting your clients, and the way that you’re perceiving the entire market.

      WHO is the type of client that you’re targeting? I can tell you that mine certainly aren’t hanging out on Warrior Forum and Elance.

      If you target a market where the majority of clients are low paying, then you will be likely to get low paying clients! It’s really that simple.

      A decent living *can* be made from Elance and Warrior Forum – but it requires ignoring the vast majority of clients and jobs that pay 1 or 2 cents per word and focus on those paying more.

      There are a number of resources that have listings of sites that pay 10 cents per article and more…find them and pitch to them!

      Select your ideal target client and pitch to them as well. Every business should have a blog, but many of them don’t. Show them how you would add value to your site.

      There are lots of ways to move up in the market. But you can’t expect to target a low paying client base and not expect to get low paying clients.

      Cheers
      Also, have a look at other freelance writers in your niche and find out who they write for. Pitch those clients that they write for!

      • Jenny Barron says:

        Excellent advice, all of it. The site definitely needs some beefing up for Sure.

        I think I got stuck in the “who knows they need content other than marketers” mindset. Silly, that!

        I’ll tell you what- it costs more in time trying to find the jobs that pay decent on the sites we mentioned than actual profit ends up being anyway.

        Ok I have food for thought there. Going to read that post you linked and look for some other resources and not worry about whether that WF ad gets anywhere. Write it off as a passive tactic – maybe someday someone willing to pay something decent will click on it. In the meantime, I’ll pursue bigger fish with deeper wallets (and the mindsets to match).

        Thank you kindly :D

      • Harry says:

        Great work man! I just wish I had found this blog a little more earlier.

        “WHO is the type of client that you’re targeting?” That’s direct response 101 – which I use for all of my other websites and marketing campaigns.

        Just didn’t think of using it for the writing side of things because I perceived it as a part-time gig and just let it at that.

  3. […] the price of other competitors should not be a major factor in your pricing. As a matter of fact, I personally do  not compete on price.  If you believe that you have to “aim low” to gain clients, you are inadvertently […]

  4. Eric Evans says:

    Hello Daryl,

    Thank you for this post. Really? You started out in the freelance writing business for less than $0.01 per word? I really can’t imagine that!

    -Eric

  5. You arrive at a good place when you make the decision to not compete on price. Sure, you might loose customers sometimes, but that’s ok. You’ll attract better business this way.

    Years ago, when I was selling custom web designs, I competed on price. I’d often give customers discounts simply to earn their business. And you know what, those customers ended up being the most demanding customers. Always wanting more, for a cheaper price and getting upset when I said no or demanding additional fees for my time.

    It’s always a losing proposition for the business owner when you’re competing on price. So I say good on you.

    • Daryl George says:

      Thanks Ricardo! Indeed, the cheapest customers tend to be the most demanding ones, and it’s often counterproductive to work with them period, much less a lower rate than usual.

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