Thursday, February 08, 2007

Are You a High Stakes or Low Balling Freelance Writer?

I'll bet that if I took a microphone, went out in public and asked 50 people if they would write me a 600-word essay for $5 or $10, most would say no.

My point? Many want to enter the world of freelance writing, but quickly get discouraged when they see just how low-paying it can be.

I read a lot about freelance writing because I write a blog about the business of freelancing, and so have to keep my fingers on the pulse of the market. The debate around rate, specifically, what's too low and what's acceptable, is an ongoing one. I even wrote an article on it entitled, Should Freelance Writers Have a Minimum Wage?

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As I continue to read articles on both sides of the equation, I started to think about what the argument is really about. AND, I missed the boat. I don't necessarily think it's about a rate, as much as it's about lifestyle. What do I mean?

The "High Stakes" Freelance Writer

Breaking down the "argument" about rates, I went to the bottom of the issue - making enough to sustain whatever your goal is. For some, those goals are making a full-time living from home.

So, for this "high stakes" freelance writer, receiving $5 or $10 for a 600 word article would be a waste of time. After all, she has a mortgage to pay, car insurance, healthcare, etc. She needs to make more than that.

For this person, her goal may be $50,000/year. Broken down by week, that's $1,000* [$200/day]. So, she needs to make $22.22 hour to make her goal. If it took her 45 minutes to an hour to complete this article, then she starts out over $12/hour in the hole.

So, when this type of person sees an ad offering $10 for 600 words, she's insulted and angry. Why? Because it is not aligned with her goal - to pay all of her bills from her freelance career.

*The above calculations were based on working 50 weeks out of the year and 9 hours a day.

Now, contrast this with her counterpart.

The Low-Balling Freelance Writer

This freelancer sees the same ad -- $10 for 600 words - and is excited. After reading 50, 60 or 70 ads of $1-$2 for 300-400 word SEO articles, this really stands out. Hey, she thinks, "I can do that."

Even if I only did two or three per day and it took me an hour to do each one, that's $100-$150/week, more than enough to cover my monthly car payment and have something left over to go out to eat with my girlfriends. "I'm applying!"

So, why is she excited? She only needs a part-time income and wants to find something from home. She's very satisfied in her full-time job and has no plans to leave. This type of gig only costs her time. She doesn't have to commute to a part-time gig. This saves on gas, food and perhaps the upkeep of a uniform.

She can come straight home, log on, put in her 2-3 hours a night and be done with it.

What's wrong with either scenario? Does the low-balling freelance writer undercut the high-stakes freelance writer? Should the high-stakes writer be angry at the low-baller? Should the low-baller not be excited about her low-paying assignment?

The wonderful thing about living in the good ole US of A is capitalism - for better or worse.

So, although I personally think that there should be some type of minimum wage for freelance writers, I'm pleased to live in a country that lets the masses decide for themselves what they want. And, I think the majority have spoken on this issue - as the number of ads seeking 500 words for $2 illustrates.

Your thoughts?
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Star said...

Tried to post and it made me go to the "new" thing and erased my comment. Why do these places try to "help" us so much they are sending us to the asylum? Check out for another discussion of whether respected writing sites should list $9 an hr jobs. My kid makes that much at the cleaner's, handing out people's clothes. There is another letter on that site from someone who was told by an editor that mags could get work cheap these days. THIS is why full-time freelancers in this age of Craigs are upset.

Laura said...

I think you're right on target with this post. These are the two types of writers out there.