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Freelance Writers – Should You Reduce Your Rate for Steady Work?

reduce your rateOver in our forum someone told of a client who asked “Will you reduce your rate for steady work?” The question, of course, does this sort of request make sense for the writer?

Generally speaking I don’t think it makes sense to reduce your rate for the promise of steady work.

Writing is not like making widgets

The bulk discount is based on the idea that the maker takes less time and effort per item when they are making dozens or hundreds etc. of the item as opposed to making one. Everything a writer writes is original and ideally not like anything else she or anyone else has written.

The only possible exception I can think of is when the subject matter is highly complex and there’s a steep learning curve. It might make sense for the writer to discount their rate a bit after they’ve learned the ropes. After all, they will probably need to spend less time on the writing when they’ve gained needed knowledge. The argument can be made that a small discount might be in order.

Even steady work comes to an end

The promise of steady work, usually in the form of weekly or monthly writing, is tempting. An income that is anything but predictable is probably the biggest downside of freelance writing.

Like all gigs, however, this one will also come to an end. It may end in weeks or months or even years, but it will end. The chances are it will end with little notice. In other words, it’s like a regular job which also can end suddenly.

It is possible sometimes to get the client to sign a contract or letter of intention that they will hire you for X amount of time. But they are unlikely to sign something that will act as a real guarantee to you.

In the long run the promise of steady work is a promise that’s unlikely to be fulfilled even when the client has the best of intentions.

If you do decide to reduce your rate

If you do decide to reduce your rate, reduce it only a little. No more, in my opinion than five percent, and half of that would be better.

Before you make the decision review how you set your rate. If it’s fair, it’s fair with or without steady work from a client. It’s so easy to give away the store as it were because you want to be nice or you’re afraid you’ll loose the client if you don’t meet their request.

While there’s nothing wrong with them asking for a discount it’s also true there is absolutely nothing wrong with you saying no.

What you might say to your client

It can be difficult to re-negotiate a deal downward, which is what the client is asking when they ask you to reduce your rate. That is, if you let it, it can feel like your not on an equal footing. Think about that – they need a writer, you’re the writer  they picked.

Don’t be afraid to say something like “since every piece of writing I do is unique I don’t offer discounts.” Or you could ask a question like “what’s happened to change your mind about our pricing?”

If, as I’m suggesting, you do push back, once you make your statement or ask your question, don’t speak again until they do. Let them respond. They may say that the current rate is fine and drop it all together. Or they may tell you why they think they are entitled to or need a discount. If they push hard you have to decide if you’re willing to lose a client or counter with a two percent discount. It’s also okay if they push you to say you need time to think it through and will give them a call later in the week.

There’s no requirement to reduce your rate for steady work.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Good to hear from you Mark, and you make excellent points. A lot of it depends on how the writer sees themselves and their work I think.

  • Hi, Anne,

    I know it has been a while. I have been editing and dealing with my health issues, but I am still around.

    As for this point, you know I have commented on this a number of times, and this time the article is directed at my previous points, such as the fear of losing clients and why said clients request for a discount or reduction in overall rate.

    First, the existence of content mills hits independent freelancers hard because the former cater to businesses that want cheap work, or, as we like to refer to it, “getting something for nothing.” These content mills (generated through corporations) get paid handsomely to accommodate their clients, especially if the latter are also corporate and want to save a buck or two. These clients can be very influential, and the content mills, unsurprisingly, look out for other businesses by providing attractively low rates where the writers get next-to-nothing.

    When it comes to new businesses that are on a limited budget, negotiating is understandable, but writers beware! Do your research on your client, if you know who it is, to determine whether or not that entity is being honest or lying to get discounts. You want to be flexible and helpful, but you do NOT want to be taken. Deal with honest clients, not dishonest ones.

    As for the fear of losing their clients, independent freelancers feel justified in light of the realities mentioned above. When clients approach these freelancers, they hope to get minimal charge, and when the freelancers refuse, the clients move on to another freelancer who would be willing to give them what they want or to any one of the content mills that certainly will charge low (typically, a cent per word). As a result, the independent freelancers are ignored and somehow feel that their strictness in maintaining a certain industry rate (anywhere from seven to 15 cents a word) will leave them in an ongoing struggle. This isn’t an absolute case, but it is common.

    In the end, I am not saying independent freelancers shouldn’t stick t their guns. They need to survive (Hey, we all have to make a living). I am only sharing certain realities that occur, and we need to be aware of them, otherwise the freelancers lose out. Weigh the pros and cons and be careful.

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