It seems counter-intuitive, right? Aren’t freelance writers supposed to take whatever gigs they can get? Actually, NO!
But when you see an attention-grabbing number like $10,000 or other nice even numbers like “an extra $500 a week”, your first instinct is that you’re being taken for a ride or that this particular participant in the gig economy is artificially inflating those numbers to sucker more people into doing the work available. However, the “X factor” in those success stories is that people who make comfortable livings as freelance creators learned how to say no.
It wasn’t that they simply lucked out with good clients, or were in the right place at the right time. Those things absolutely count. But they’re not the driving force that will keep well-paying work and quality clients coming through.
It’s knowing when to say no, and exuding the confidence that comes with that ability.
Realizing You Are Worthy of Saying No
There’s been interesting developments and dualities within the gig economy in recent years. Whether it’s career-ruining absolute trash fires like the passage of AB5 in California while other mediums like music and video games are reaching this critical mass with utterly broken distribution, there’s still unprecedented opportunities for creatives and hustlers to carve out stable client bases in various niches.
However, one of the biggest challenges that writers have to face is that we internalize the propaganda concerning how writers are valued.
Freelance talent in general, but especially writers, are frequently underestimated by public policy and our peers alike. Because some people are not having luck finding clients, or a strategy to get better work failed, it’s easy to take this attitude that no one can succeed in this field, and definitely not you. Just because you may have to start out with lower-paying clients than you’d like though doesn’t mean it’s going to be permanent, unless you have enough confidence to start saying no.
There’s only so much you can take my word for though, so let’s see what the Department of Labor has to say. The lower end of employed writers makes $31,700 or less while the top 10% have earnings exceeding $121,000. Of course, this data is not fully comparable to freelance earnings because our rates can vary so wildly and what little data gets collected on freelance writers usually goes by your profit, not gross revenue, on your tax return. BUT it proves that there is definitely value to the field and people will pay for it, regardless of what people around you have to say and what you’ve been told by politicians and pundits that freelance creators must be these noble starving artists.
My dude, you’re writing copy for dentists’ offices and IT services. Not the Great American Novel or dialog for Hideo Kojima’s latest masterpiece. But even if you were, your work has value and thus you can say no to work you deem too low-paying. Even if you haven’t broken into that top 10%, the numbers are right in front of you. It also doesn’t hurt to check out the WriterAccess Professional Skill and Price Guide to reference for negotiations.
Why Say No?
After you’ve realized that your labor has value and you don’t have to take every gig that comes your way like how you may have been taught, now it’s time to start saying no.
I got an email from the talent manager at another writing site I work with. He was offering 800-word blog posts for $90 apiece but I said no. i can get easily twice that, if not more, from other clients. The $90 can sound tempting if I’m not very busy, that covers this month’s internet bill or most of a MetroCard. Depending on where you are in your career, that may even sound like great pay. But I’m going to keep saying no, nice of a guy as he is.
Why? Because CONSISTENTLY saying no to these rates shows you mean business and can’t be pushed around to take less. He’ll stop sending me those 30-50 CPW leads if I take the $90. Because once the client or talent manager sees you’ll accept less from a client you have an arm’s length relationship with, they’ll start expecting more for less instead of determining how they can get more value out of writers who charge more. Be nice and polite about it, you don’t want to burn bridges. But remain steadfast.
Plus, when you say no, you sound like a badass baller. That client or talent manager just might come back with a higher offer. Learn more about negotiation skills on the WriterAccess blog!
An experienced entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and general business writer, Rachel P.‘s consulting business is tailored to professional development for indie developers and other creative professionals. In addition to serving clients in need of professional development and work-life balance, Rachel also works with companies who wish to do business with game developers and professional sector workers who need assistance in acquiring and retaining game developer clients. She has helped tax offices, attorneys, and insurance brokers sell several thousand dollars worth of services through both her sales and writing skills.