Think Twice - Don't Write for Next to Nothing

18 replies
Lately, I've been considering (again) jumping back into freelance writing.

Imagine my surprise tonight when, completely out of the blue, I was invited to bid on an article project.

Of course, I get spam messages all the time with titles like "Google is hiring..." and so on, with which I'm sure most of you are familiar. However, this one looked legit. Even checked the headers to make sure before logging in to the site.

The message had come through a site I registered on late last year in order to participate in a contest. I did not win, and never returned to the site.

Since I have been considering getting back into this line of work, I thought I'd check it out.

The project poster is looking for large quantities of articles. Sounds good!

He will have ongoing work for writers that meet his standards. Sounds good!

Pays weekly. Works for me.

Turn-around in under four days. I can work with that.

Articles must be error-free and use proper grammar. No problem.

Articles must be original. No problem!

May need "many" rewrites. Might want some clarification there.

Will pay an extra 5% for articles delivered within 24 hours. Cool!

Wants solid content and no fluff. Not a problem.

Wants content that provides value to the reader. Not a problem.

Payment? 500 words: $3.50. 1000 words: $6.50. Are you out of your freakin' mind?

So, that 5% bonus is like 32 and a half cents. Wow!

I suppose you could try to make it up in volume, but you would have to churn out three 500-word articles an hour just to get minimum wage. And, to do all that he asks, some amount of research is going to be necessary, unless you only cover topics on which you are already knowledgeable.

I know times are tough, but, unless you're able to churn out an article in 10 minutes (and not have it rejected or require many rewrites), you're probably better off flipping burgers at a fast food joint.

If you can pump out quality content like that, you're probably better off starting your own blog and generating income through AdSense and/or affiliate links. The money may not be as fast, but you own your content and it can continue to work for you. You could try your hand at article marketing--one affiliate sale per article may pay you more than this deal. If you can write 3,000 words an hour, you could create a special report or eBook in short order. Sell that direct, or sell MRR/RR to it. Or offer it as PLR. Sell 20 500-word articles in a pack for ten bucks to 20 people, and you've made $200, which is $130 more than you'd make selling them for $3.50 each.

Even if you're desperate for money, you don't have to resort to desperate thinking. At the very least, "shop" around for other opportunities and don't jump at the first offer that comes your way. Realize that your own work has value and stay away from those that don't recognize that value.

And, if circumstances force you into taking someone up on such an offer, think of it as only a temporary thing and don't allow yourself to think you or your work are worth less than the price of a Happy Meal.
  • Profile picture of the author Martin Luxton

    You don't know the worst bit.

    Some of these people reject your work and refuse to pay, saying it's substandard or some other excuse. Then they use it anyway.

    For the same reason, be careful not to submit too many sample articles.

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  • Profile picture of the author ArticlePrince
    Great post, I'm learning this lesson the hard way :-) Working on a solution though
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  • Profile picture of the author YourProfessional
    I agree, so often writing skills are being short-changed on the internet. I've often bid for a project and say, "Quality is more expensive."

    However, I have to note, there are A LOT of very desperate article writers that are fantastic at writing that accept these jobs regardless. I know, I used to be one of them.
    Honest, No-BS Reviews Of WSOs...
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  • I concur, Dan.

    Here's the funny thing: The Internet itself can be extinct without content. Further, content is, according to most of my warrior friends here, the worst aspect of running a business on the Internet because great content is not easy to generate.

    It is true that writing skills are short-changed on the Internet, but there are places where it is certainly respected. Warrior forum, for instance, is full of people who understand and appreciate the value of good content and they pay top dollar for those who deliver.

    Dan, you hit the home run when you finally said "Shop for opportunities". That's it. Desperation comes from the stand-point of lacking something; power, glory and success comes from abundance.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bev Clement

    This is one of the problems facing many writers, they think you have to write for these rates because nobody will pay more.

    One skill writers need to develop is how to market themselves. If they can't sell themselves they will be forced to write for lower paydays.

    I know many writers have asked me how do I find clients who are not in the IM niche, who are prepared to pay more money? The answer is simple, I built a website to sell from and people find me through the search engines etc.

    If people don't have a web presence and can't market themselves then nobody will find them.

    There is a shortage of writers and lots of work available, but you have to be seen and able to market yourself.

    I know lots of people who have lowish rates (which is fine if that's their business model) and they wonder how they can earn more. The simple answer is you increase your prices, but you have to be aware the standard required for paying higher rates is different as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author ArticlePrince
    Just keep in mind any writers that are reading this that it isn't like giving yourself a raise in the traditional sense. If you were charging $1 per article (which some do...I don't know how) and you start charging $5 per article, you may lose many of your current clients. Keep in mind that different people can afford different levels of quality.

    I'm not saying don't raise your prices, because you should, just be prepared to do more marketing, and at certain points to almost start over. Keep investing in yourself, learning more and getting better, and as long as you market yourself somehow you'll get the work. Just be confident :-) (I'm learning this myself, I was working wayyyy too much each day). Hope that helps!
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  • Profile picture of the author theunknownthem
    What is your suggestion for people that haven't been article writing and don't have a reputation or "portfolio" of writing examples? I've seen it suggested in this forum to write some free articles, and the charge a low amount to get work until you build up a good reputation and then start charging a little more.

    My current situation isn't looking so good and I was considering trying article writing to pay off my bills this month while trying to get IM going.

    Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks
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    • Profile picture of the author Bev Clement
      Personally, I wouldn't suggest writing free articles when you are starting out. The reason is simple. Many people do this, and if you check the threads you will see the same people asking for the free articles. Yet the majority of them never give any sort of feedback.

      It leaves the writer not knowing if they can write, or if the work was so bad the person didn't want to comment. The reality is the person is a freebie seeker who never intended to leave feedback.

      If you want to write free articles in exchange for feedback, then contact writers directly and ask them if you can write for them. They may not give you a testimonial, but they will be able to give you practical feedback to help improve.

      If you want to start with a cheap rate, then selling via a WSO would be a good idea. However, don't take on too much work because you will need to complete it. I have seen people offering articles at say $2 and they need to earn $500 and then find they don't have enough time to research and write the articles.

      Be aware if you do put your prices up and your only salesplace is here, then you will always be competing with new writers who are doing the same thing, pricing low to get business.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
      If you're in a tight spot, you have to do what you have to do. Once you're out of your jam, you can approach things differently, though it would be good to plan ahead where possible.

      Over the long term, you have to think long term.

      If you write for people that pay $5/article, they probably aren't going to become $25/article payers. You would have to switch your client base.

      It's like opening a fast food joint and trying to change it into a fine dining restaurant after you've built a customer base.

      You basically have to start over because the two are completely different customer bases.

      That's why, instead of taking a bottom up approach, it may be better to take a top down approach.

      With a website, you can put up samples of your work. In the vast majority of cases, there should be no reason to write a "free sample" for anyone to demonstrate the quality of your work. That's what your portfolio is for, and that should be more than sufficient for most legitimate article buyers to determine whether or not your work is a fit for their content needs.

      Dan's content is irregularly read by handfuls of people. Join the elite few by reading his blog:, following him on Twitter: or reading his fiction: but NOT by Clicking Here!

      Dan also writes content for hire, but you can't afford him anyway.
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  • Profile picture of the author nick1123
    There are still writers out there who command reasonable prices but they have a long history and strong reputation to back them up. Without mentioning any names there are several people here on the warrior forum who I would happily pay $20 for an article to be written if I needed it.

    If you were unknown in the writing world, or at the very least unknown to your client, you probably will have to start with the low price. But if your writing is stellar then over time you can increase your price as you build a relationship of trust with your clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bev Clement
    Nick, that might be true on the WF but many of my new clients don't know me from Adam, they are not on the WF and have no idea apart from my website about me.

    I am talking to a brand new client who doesn't know me, and we haven't had to reduce our prices, because he knows what he needs and wants us to write it for him. This is a mid 5 figure contract over 6 months, so we are not talking a low figure.

    The WF is a great place to start, but there are people outside who are also looking for writers who don't mind paying higher prices. I'm not saying you can start with $40 an article, but it is an area where a lot of writers forget it exists.

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  • Profile picture of the author futurestrategy
    True Dan. A well researched content, specially from a diff niche, takes its time. I feel for a 1000 word article, it is work to spend around 3-4 genuine hours.

    I know guys who use libraries to do their researches. So dedicated to make it with real content than fluff.
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hancox
    Excellent points, Dan... and as Bev said, the problem is often that many article writers don't know how to market themselves.

    In fact, I'd go beyond that and say they don't know how to SELL.

    I still see many writers have what amounts to a resume as their sales pitch.

    If you want to charge more... which a good writer can do... you need to make the client fully aware of why your writing is of higher value to them than cheap writers.

    It's not about whinging about the fact that your gas bill is higher than the writer from India, for example

    It's about showing them what's in it for them... why it's important to hire someone with good writing skills, etc.

    If I could only give ONE tip to writers, it would be this:

    Don't SAY "high quality writing". Everybody says that.

    First, ask yourself... what do I mean by high quality writing?

    How does a person tell the difference between poor quality, average quality, and high quality?

    What makes my writing stand out from the average writer? What extra "spice" do I add to my writing that makes it "high quality"?

    Then... tell the client.

    That's what should be in your sales letter.

    People will only value your time when you show them why your skills are valuable to them.

    That's when they be will be more likely to pay you what you think you're worth - when you SHOW them what you're worth to them.
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    • Profile picture of the author grayambition
      I think part of the mindset that causes writers to underprice themselves comes from marketing to other IMers. That's not to say there aren't IMers who appreciate the value of writing (some of them have responded here), but we in IM are used to seeing article writing promoted for around $1 for 100 words (or less). And I think we often don't differentiate enough between PLR and unique original content. PLR can sell for $1 an article because that same article can be sold several hundred times. I know that's an obvious point, but the way I see some writing priced makes me think that both writers and end-users don't quite get it.

      "Normal" folks with non-IM offline businesses don't have the same jaded view of writers, for the most part. Think of all those people out there paying big bucks for often less-than-effective seo or marketing campaigns. To them, this is all woo-woo stuff about which they have no clue. So all you have to do is find a market that can afford you and show them why they need you, and you should be able to name your own price.

      A couple of examples. My most recent "real" job was managing a massage clinic. The owner spent over $10,000 (that she couldn't afford) having someone design a custom website. Actually, she went through 3 designers - the first 2 flaked out.

      But on to writing. The owner hired me to write a weekly blog post on a site that connects massage employers with massage therapists. Well, she didn't actually realize the importance of updating the blog regularly until I convinced her (weekly was the best I could get her to do). I asked for $50 per post and settled for $25. I knew she couldn't pay $50, but wanted to establish the true value of the work. She was more than happy to pay.

      I see people in the IM arena saying they'll do blog posts for $3 to $5 all the time, and I've had the same experience as the OP re checking out job posts on rentacoder, odesk, etc. Every once in a while I think, what the heck, maybe I'll do a little writing on the side, but as soon as I look at a couple of posts with ridiculous requirements (well, they wouldn't be so ridiculous if they were willing to pay anywhere near what the project is worth), I quickly come to my senses.

      If I wanted to make money writing, I'd probably start by working with local businesses. Sure, you can market online, but most of the people who are actually in a position to pay what you're worth aren't looking for writers online (imo). Do some local networking. Go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, join LeTip, BNI or Biznik, basically just get out there and schmooze and build connections. Yes of course you should have a website with samples, but at least until you've established a solid rep, you'll probably get most of your work by pounding some local pavement.

      I'd shoot for some medium-sized businesses, not sooooo small that they're not even thinking about this kind of stuff (even though they should), not so big that they probably have their own in-house writers. There are publications like the Puget Sound Business Journal that have lists of local companies, including the number of employees and annual gross.

      Yeah, I think it can suck that writers aren't treated better. When I was a tech writer at an internet start-up, we writers were definitely at the bottom of the food chain. But there's work out there if you seek it out and create it.

      Jan Weingarten
      Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

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  • Profile picture of the author Mili_D
    Ok so you have herded the good sides of things and bad sides of things but I just feel to say anything is possible for you, if you create what you want. Yes people may not want to pay up but are you going to be put off just by other people experience? If you truly feel to be a freelance then go for it and don't look back. If you're truly happy in doing this, naturally thing will fall in to place.
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  • Profile picture of the author THK
    It seems like the job poster wants the whole world for next to nothing. Then again, he has the right to ask for anything he wants, so he did. I am no one to judge.

    I can see only a few things can happen here. The poster will compromise with his TOS and make it more flexible, raise the offer or face a big turnover rate. Some new inexperienced writers might take these offers to get their feet wet, but they are more likely to move on rather quickly.

    I think people who post these jobs also know that they are being unreasonable with their demands but knowing that money is tight for many people, they hope somebody might give in.


    This is my signature!

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  • Profile picture of the author Emily Meeks
    1000 words for $6.50? That is ridiculous.

    I got some steady work for awhile at $10/500-words, but I'm not really advertising my writing service anymore because at the end of the day, I'm here to build my own business and my own dreams, but all the work made me feel like a $10/hr employee, AGAIN... One client gave me the idea of rewriting PLR - let's face it, many people download PLR but never do anything with it, or even know how to alter it enough to make it good - so even though there's work involved, I don't feel like I'm worked to death for pennies.

    In all that you do, know your True INTENT...

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  • Profile picture of the author theunknownthem
    Unfortunately my town's population was 5,500 people. That was before the main employer and only industry in town shut down. We have a walmart, a grocery store, and 7 bars, 2 car dealerships, and a couple of mechanics and restaurants. There isn't a whole lot of market around here, nearest decent sized town is Austin or College Station, both being a little over an hour away. It could be worth working on if I could manage to make the drive as needed, but with my medical I can't. So I'm limited to what I can get online.

    As I'm new to all of this I was hoping to be able to write some to make in money to put into IM since right now about everything has to be bum tactics.
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