As a freelance writer, I’ve often found myself between a rock and a hard place. You probably have, too. It’s that uncomfortable place where you want to accept a job because you’re short on money, but you also have your pride. It’s a common issue with freelancers, to hold yourself in lesser regard and think you’re not worth fair pay. In reality, you’re shortchanging yourself and the whole profession, and we’re all better than that. But you can combat these tendencies. It’s about building confidence, taking your craft seriously, and learning how to set rates.
Stop Giving Them Permission
We determine how our clients view us and what value they place on our time and work. The word freelancer itself sometimes gives off the wrong impression and generates low respect. The relationship is seen as a one-time lower-cost line item than a valuable partnership. But this is perpetuated by the freelancers themselves. When we get desperate for work and start accepting pennies for pay, we’re sending the message that it’s okay to pay pennies.
You’re more than a freelancer
You’re not merely a freelancer, you’re a business owner, and this gives you instant credibility. You’re a professional who’s well versed in your field, and you solve problems for other businesses. As a business owner, you’re more than just a writer for someone’s project. Using this mentality, you have no control over your future. The truth is, you determine if the pay is worth it. You decide how to best tackle the article and which sources to use. So take some control back, because you determine more than the words that go on the page.
Let’s Talk About this Pay Thing
Pay is a big sticking point within the freelancing community. When you’re first starting, you want to land a client and get articles written. This is acceptable for a hot minute – and then you need to think bigger.
Change your perspective
As a freelancer, you’re self-employed. That means you’re responsible for your self-employment taxes, health insurance, liability insurance, overhead, base pay, and profit. If you look at this from the perspective of what an employee makes and do the math, this means a freelancer needs to make about $63,000 to break even with an employee that makes $50,000. You can’t afford to work for less than minimum wage, which – let’s be honest – a lot of us are guilty of doing.
Deciding what to charge
For fast writers, charging by the word is generally your best bet. If you get distracted easily, you might not want to charge by the hour. Charging a flat rate is a middle-ground option. How much research needs to be done? If it’s a lot, increase your rate. Rates don’t have to be set in stone; each project – and client – is different. My rule of thumb is that I won’t work for less than minimum wage. I can figure this out no matter how I’m charging because I have a good idea of how fast I work. When you’re starting out, it’s okay to charge $0.01 a word, but you can’t settle for this forever. You’ve done the work to become a legitimate writer, so it’s only fair that you charge what you’re worth.
Overcoming your fear of the ask
Approaching a client with your pay scale can be scary. This is where confidence comes in and where you get to hear me say, “fake it until you make it.” Be serious enough about getting paid that you allow yourself to overcome any insecurities and show the value of written work to the client. You can’t worry about what someone else is willing to accept for payment because there will always be a writer willing to work for less.
What about paying the bills?
Yes, you have bills to pay, and yes, you can continue to take minimal pay in this situation, too. Just remember that you’re setting yourself up for clients who only want to pay you at this level, and you’re not building your business. When you’re not writing an article for pay, find a way to improve on your craft or choose one of these other options for filling in your downtime during a lull.
Bottom Line for Top Dollar
Here’s the bottom line: to achieve top dollar, you have to value yourself enough to go after it. We need to stop selling ourselves short and accepting ludicrous pay. Again, you can take whatever you determine your worth to be, but it hurts everyone in this business when you continue to accept $5 for 1000 words after you’ve established yourself. That’s why platforms like ours that offer fair pay are a great place to start.
Angela B. is a creative, well-rounded freelancer with over 10 years of experience in both writing and editing. She has driven content for hospitals, non-profits, counseling centers, publishing companies, and businesses. Angela has guest blogged about the freelancing life on the popular blog The Work at Home Woman, written for local magazines, and has a book available on Amazon. After receiving her Bachelor’s of Education from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, Angela taught 2nd graders for eight years.