Every now and again some bloggers who write about freelance writing will admonish their audience saying they should never write for low pay. Some even go so far as to suggest a beginning writer is better off writing for free than accepting a gig that only pays $5 or $10 or so.
That doesn’t mean I approve of the so-called content mills, bidding sites, employers who advertise “we want perfection for $5 per 500 words,” etc. I’m sorry they can pay so little and get something written that is apparently good enough. I do notice that these ads tend to repeat, leading me to believe that most of the people responding don’t stick very long, but that’s another topic.
In fact there was a time when I agreed with this philosophy and told writers not to accept such poorly paid gigs.
Then a reader of my blog wrote me and explained how the $2 and $3 articles she was able to dash off made a huge positive difference to her family.
I really don’t know
The truth is I don’t really know how much you should charge for your writing or if the lower paid gigs are going to work for you or not. To think that I do is simple arrogance. When I read that gal’s email I gulped and got off my high horse.
I disagree with the notion that it’s somehow poor form to accept low pay for a writing gig. I disagree that taking a low paying gig drags the price down for the rest of us – it doesn’t. More about that in a moment.
Why low paying gis may work for you
Here are some of the reasons why a low paying writing job even be a good idea:
Getting paid the first time is thrilling, even if it’s for very little. It somehow makes the possibility of earning a living writing seem more doable. Finding a gig that repeatedly pays even a small amount can help build your confidence.
It’s really hard to start at high rates. In fact, I’d say you have to be lucky to be able to get more than $10-$25 per 500 word post in the beginning or more that $10-15 an hour. It happens. Authors do occasionally sell their first novel or non-fiction book for a truly decent advance. New writers have been known to stumble into well paying gigs. And sometimes those new to freelancing know someone who will pay them more than the low rate – they have an ‘in’ in other words. Most of us, however, have to get some credits before we can command higher pay. Sure you can write samples for yourself, but having a two or three you were paid for can also help.
It’s not that hard to move your rate up once you’ve gotten started. Assuming your writing is decent, not perfect, not great, but decent, once you have two or three cheapie articles under your belt you can begin to ask for more. Maybe not from the folks who paid you pennies, but from others. You can begin to set minimums, like no work under $25 per article or even $25 an hour. It takes raising your sites, looking in new places and being willing to ask.
Lower paid gigs may help you move into a new niche. Once you’ve got some credits and are getting better money, you may want to move into a new niche or area of writing. Try your higher rates first, but if you need to, be willing to come down.
Lower pay may be enough for you. You don’t have to feel badly because you choose to work at lower rates. I know several writers who keep their hand in with the lower rates because they know they can always generate a fast hundred bucks or so. Getting paid something may indeed be better than writing for free. And maybe being sure you can bring in low rates makes it worth your time.
Freelance writing is a diverse as those of us who are freelance writers. Sure, you can learn from those of us who have gone before, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t free to do it your way.
What do you say? Have you ever worked for a low fee? Have you found ways to earn more? Does low-paying writing work for you? Let’s talk about it in comments.
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