I have a confession to make: when I first started out in the freelance writing business, I wrote for 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 realised my real 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 proofread. 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 estimate 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 is 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 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 salary 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 mainly dependent on the amount of time taken to research, organise, 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 behaviours.
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 continually 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 to 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.