On the phone I listen to a plaintive plea from a good friend, ‘How much will I charge?’ and understand exactly how my caller is feeling. Sally has someone interested in her writing skills and has come to the dilemma all writers-for-hire must face at some time in their careers – what to charge.
Does Sally, knowing that her potential client is likely to be shopping around, try to get a feel for the going rate and pitch somewhere in that vicinity? Or does she aim a tad under, or over or … bloody hell, what does she do?
I recently conducted a fishing expedition. I’d heard on a number of occasions that overseas writers who advertise their wares online were charging some extremely low rates. How low is low, I wanted to know? And what services were they offering? Well the exercise proved to be extremely educational and radically adjusted my perception of the value of our written words.
I joined a couple of organisations and, whilst waiting for a flood of offers, had a long look around. I’m allowed to. I’m a member, and passed lots of tests, you know. Oh, just a small point, as advised by the organisations, I did advertise my hourly rate as well below what I would expect in Australia. And it was disturbing that even this was considerably higher than most other members were asking.
The idea is to bid for jobs, so I started looking at the sort of work I would be into, and then examining the profiles of the bidders AND their rates. This was my first surprise. Many of my fellow writers were well qualified, or so it seemed, and many had been employed plenty of times before. It was quite a revelation to see that these ‘old timers’ had been working for as little as USD$2 per hour. And a few newbies had actually scored some work at as little as USD$1.25 per hour. So what were they doing for that?
The big market is blog content. A typical advertiser wants ‘accurately written and grammatically perfect articles of 400-700 words on a range of subjects’. Not only does the advertiser remind each applicant that the posts will be checked for original work, but the range of subjects include: health (as in medical), alternative health treatments and remedies, real estate, finance, and investment. One advertiser required 200 horoscopes a day and was prepared not only to pay the princely sum of USD$2.75 for the lot, but was happy that someone with ‘only an interest in astrology’ would be suitable for the job. I’ll never check my stars again.
To put things in perspective, in some countries USD$2.00 could possibly buy the entire food needs for a family of six for one day. That’s one hell of an incentive for racking out a few tasty horoscopes. In Australia we wouldn’t dream of getting out of bed for that amount, yet enough bucks to swan around the local supermarket and do the day’s groceries? Mmm, now there’s a thought. Maybe I should get out of bed then.
The bottom line for writers who really value their efforts may not be what the market expects to pay. Would you ever have valuable writing done by someone who only wants two bucks an hour no matter how good they may appear to be? Conversely $1,000 per hour may seem a bit steep, but some people are happy to pay that for what they want.
Writers must sit down and work out what they expect to be paid for their work. What they are happy to receive. In other words, what they feel their writing is worth, and what they feel their time is worth.
So Sally, if you don’t get paid what you’re worth, my suggestion is, don’t do it.