Why I’ll Hire You – The Money Side

by Anne Wayman

Money for freelance writers

I’m delighted to introduce Lauri Friedman – another writer buddy of mine.

by Lauri S. Friedman

I’ve been a freelance writer/editor for going on a decade now. But I also subcontract work to other freelancers. This puts me in the unique position of also employing writers, which gives me insight into what gets a prospective employer’s attention. A few points come up over and over again, as I was reminded this week as I searched for writers, editors, and copyeditors for new projects. Today we’ll focus on money because that topic is at the forefront of any deal being brokered.

  1. Talk about Money. Never act like someone is doing you a favor by paying you. I prefer it when potential subcontractors ask about fees and invoicing protocols in a direct manner and early on – it gives me confidence they are professional. They may love what they do, but ultimately work is work, and work gets paid. There is no reason to talk about money “gracefully” or “respectfully.” Money is part of—the main part of—any deal, and shouldn’t be treated any more sensitively or delicately than word counts, cover art, sidebars, or any other project spec.

This week I was attracted to a potential writer who let me know matter-of-factly that she charges $30 per hour for editing and $50 per hour for writing, and offered me several at-a-glance samples that immediately proved she was worth her rate. She blew out another writer who literally wrote: “I don’t know what your budget is, but I’m sure we can come to some sort of an arrangement. More important to me than the money is the fact that I truly have a deep passion for writing.” A very circuitous and wimpy (not to mention poorly written) way of letting me know that she doesn’t have enough experience to understand that it is OK to want to work for money, rather than because it satisfies a passion.


  1. Don’t Lowball. When you do talk about money, know what you’re worth and don’t underbid. While value is important, I am not looking to cut corners when I hire. I want to find someone who is worth what they charge because I am hiring them to save me time and headaches. That costs, and I’m willing to pay for it. Anyone in the position of hiring would much rather feel they are getting a high quality person at a reasonable rate than a low quality person at a chintzy rate. Hirers are well aware they get what they pay for, and the overwhelming majority would prefer to pay someone more to get the job done right.
  2. When Bidding, It Is Better to Aim High. For several obvious reasons, including: the worst the client can say is “that’s more than our budget, how about $X;” because you can always go down but not up; because it helps the client feel they are getting good value. Let’s say you tell me you charge $6,000 for a set of services, but my budget is only $4,000. If we are able agree on $5,000 for the work, I feel I am getting a high quality person for a deal. Had you pitched $4,000 initially, or even $4,500, I probably wouldn’t be as likely to view you as an exceptional person who I was getting at a great price.
  3. Set Your Prices Somewhere in the Middle. When offered a range of products—whether it be carseats, humidifiers, or ground beef—most people tend to choose the moderately priced option. They worry that buying the cheapest product will either be a poor investment or harm them in some way. They also have a hard time understanding what the most expensive product offers them that the other choices do not.

Remember this when setting your pricing. For example, this week I spoke with three potential copyeditors. “Bob” charged $13 per hour; “Carol” charged $18 per hour; “Stephanie” charged $25 an hour. In the end I hired Carol. Because she has more experience (reflected in both her rate and resume), I am confident she will do a better job than Bob. Yet she is a much better value than Stephanie, who wasn’t able to adequately show me what I would be getting for that extra $7 per hour.

If you hire people, what turns you on or off about the way potential candidates talk about their rates?

If you apply for jobs, how do you handle financial discussions with potential employers?

Lauri S. Friedman is the founder of LSF Editorial, a writing, editing, ghostwriting, and packaging company. Check her out at www.lsfeditorial.com.

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindi September 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thank you for this information, Lauri. It helps to hear a writer who hires other writers talk about the value and importance of being clear about the money we charge for the value we offer.

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Anne September 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I love it when I can get ‘the other side’ to tell their story. Glad you found it valuable.

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Amelia Ramstead September 8, 2011 at 12:17 pm

This is great information. Number one is definitely the hardest for me. Talking about money always feels “dirty” in some way. I have to remind myself that I am worth it. I’ve read before that men talk about money differently than women. When you are interviewing writers has that been your experience? Do men tend to be more direct about pricing?
Amelia Ramstead recently posted..Covering Your First Press EventMy Profile

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Anne September 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I think so Amelia, but I think its more a self-worth issue than a gender one, of course, some would argue that’s gender based… good topic for me to muse on one day.

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Benjamin Hunting September 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

I disagree with the last tip. You should set your prices based on the value you bring to a client’s project – not based on what other writers or editors are charging.
Benjamin Hunting recently posted..Chapters and its Disappearing BooksMy Profile

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Benjamin Hunting September 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

Unfortunately, this posted before I was finished writing it.

The example that you give of Stephanie does not really support your point. You say that the reason you would not hire her is because she couldn’t prove to you with her work examples that she was worth her price above your other options. That would seem to indicate that Stephanie is pricing herself above what she brings to the table in terms of bringing value to a project, which is a different situation.

I also disagree that clients have difficulty understanding the value of higher priced options. Perhaps if your pricing is significantly higher than the going market rate this is true, but in my experience, price is only one aspect of why a client hires a freelancer. Ultimately, it’s about what you can do for them and how you can help advance their project goals that is important – that is what you are selling, not your asking price.

Charge what you are worth. You will find clients who are willing to pay for your true value.
Benjamin Hunting recently posted..Chapters and its Disappearing BooksMy Profile

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Anne September 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Write an opposing view Benjamin, for me or for you.

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Anne September 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Benjamin, I both agree with you and don’t… I tend to have some awareness of prices others charge and then proceed to mostly ignore it.

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Gary May 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It’s probably worth pointing out that many of these tips also apply to freelancers in other areas, not just to writers – so thank you Lauri :-)

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Anne May 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Hi Gary… Gary’s one of the best tech guys in the world… and he knows wordpress like he wrote it (maybe he did). Yes, freelancers no matter what we do, face the same problems.

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