Freelance Does Not Mean Free

This may turn into a rant. Yesterday, I submitted a bid for some work. I took my time over it, addressing all the points in the client’s project outline. The client wanted a blogger to produce posts of a certain length, and I quoted him my normal rate for that.

The next communication I received said that my price was too high. Reading between the lines, the fact that he got in touch meant that he liked the rest of my bid, otherwise he would have ignored it. So my question is: if the client can see that I have the experience and the examples to back up my bid, why not pay me what I am worth? Or at least what I asked for?

I don’t try to gouge clients. I give them a price I can live with that they can live with too. I try to fit in with their budget where I can. (As an example, about a month ago I had a repeat client ask me to do 100 articles for a certain price. I told him my usual rates, we negotiated and compromised on 74 articles for his budget. Both of us felt we had achieved a workable solution. ) So when I set a price I take into account a balance of my experience, the norms in the industry and the client’s budget. In this particular case, my price was right in the middle of the range for this type of job.

That’s why it ticks me off when people try to buy quality writing at a cut rate price. I always do my best to meet my clients’ expectations with any freelance writing job I do. I research, double check, triple check, proofread and deliver a well researched, error-free product that meets the brief. That’s why I am worth what I charge. (Actually, I’m worth more, but that’s another story.)

There was a time when I would have taken the job anyway, just because I like to have work in hand. But I’m not doing that any more. When I do that, clients get more than they pay for and I am the one that loses out. My time is valuable. Instead of writing for peanuts, I can spend that time on developing my own products. Freelance does not mean free!

(Thanks to Kerrie for the inspiration).

About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been mentoring writers here at Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Check me out on Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.


  1. You are 100% right, look a lawyer is not gonna drop his $200 an hour fee just because he likes you. Time is money and if it’s a business then my time really is money, now just pay me what I’m worth no more no less.

  2. That’s right, JayMoney. If you asked a plumber to fix your sink for less than the going rate, that plumber would go elsewhere.

  3. This is a good post. I used to second guess my rates whenever I didn’t hear back from a potential client – but not anymore. Now, I quote an appropriate rate, and if I don’t hear back…oh well. Some assignments require a lot of research and time, and they aren’t worth the pocket change.

  4. gracepub says:

    You are soooo right. I put a bid on writing a book. My personal experience over the last 10 years meant that I was the only writer who could write the exact book they wanted. But, they wanted me to write, layout, edit for .50 a page.

    I am sorry, but I also sell books and these people would have made their money back within 60 days.

    I agree with the plumber story. I am not sure what is different in today’s writing world. Ten years ago it wasn’t like this. Writers were respected and well paid.

  5. Yes, I guess that’s part of evolving as a freelance writer, Valencia.

    Gracepub, the good old days sound very good indeeed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Aw… that’s frustrating, isn’t it? But these are the clients that you didn’t want. They’re the ones that don’t treat you as an equal.

    You need to feel like you’re working WITH someone, not for them.

    Chin up, girl.

  7. Great post and one I needed to read today!

  8. Thanks for the encouragement, James. You’re right; it’s so much better when there’s a sense of shared enterprise.

  9. Oh, this is so true, Sharon. I had one dude write back and say, “Your bid was double everyone else’s. Why?” I responded, “Because this is my business and that’s what I charge.” Jerk!

  10. Sometimes it’s really hard to hold on to my professional demeanour in the face of such parsimony, Lori. ๐Ÿ™‚ In this particular case, I ranted to myself before composing a professional response.

  11. Good for you. I see it as refreshing to know that you can pick your clients, rather than having to chase after them!

  12. I both agree and disagree with you at the same time.
    I agree that you have the right to set the price for your work and insist that this price is reasonable. You also have the right to think that the price looks reasonable to your potential customer.
    However, as your potential employer (let me play devil’s advocate here for a second) I am sure you are asking for a price that’s a little higher then your actual rate. That’s why there are bids and market, not a store with a hard set price on each item. For all I know – you just can’t set a hard price on articles, but I could be mistaken.
    So from my point of view what happened was that client was going to bargain with you on a price, which I believe is perfectly reasonable in the market environment.

  13. Thanks for chipping in, Vlad. I have no problem with bargaining. Trying to get a slightly better price is normal; however, trying to get me to do the work at a bottom-of-the-barrel rate is not. I usually have in mind a price below which it’s uneconomical for me to do a job; within that there’s some flexibility, especially for repeat clients or those offering bulk jobs.

  14. I am glad you wrote this. I have recently had two clients bump me on my quoted rate to a higher fee when they got my sample which felt wonderful. I’m usually dealing with customers who think it’s fair to pay the same price they’ve paid all along even though I’m evolving and becoming more experienced and hagglers so it felt really good and showed me it’s worth aiming for fair prices.

  15. It definitely is, Dana. When I show clients samples, they can see that they will get quality work. I don’t think we do ourselves any favours by cutting our rates.

  16. Oh Sharon, I so feel you. I think these types of clients are “slowly” falling by the wayside. As an example on a small scale, there was a $25 writing assignment on AssociatedContent a couple of months back that the editors asked me if I would take on.

    I read the guidelines and told them that if they cut the word count by 250 words and gave me an extra two days, I would do it (it was something I could have banged out in a half hour or less). They said that the client set the guidelines and they didn’t have the authority to change them.

    I noticed that no one else claimed it and they said it was going to be sent back to the client.

    I thought, “Hot damn!” the freelance writers are starting to realize their worth.

    This was a small victory, but one that is moving us as an industry in the right direction.

    Good for you for taking a stand. The noise you hear is for the legion of freelance writers who stand with you.


  17. Sometimes you have to know when to draw the line, Yuwanda. It’s much easier when you are comfortable with freelancing to avoid panicking and say no occasionally.

  18. Man, pricing is the toughest thing in the freelance writing gig. I think the biggest problem is that most people have never used a professional freelance writer before. Maybe they paid someone’s brother-in-law to do something, but never a real pro. This leads to sticker shock a lot because people have no idea what to expect and then they see those jokers on elance or whatever offering to write 100 SEO articles of 500 words each for $10 and they think we give away our talent. Like they say, you get what you pay for.

  19. Exactly, Brian, and sometimes you have to stand up for yourself so you earn what you’re worth.

  20. Another part of this has to do with human nature, and I mean our own as well as others…

    We teach others how to treat us. If we want to be treated as a professional then we need to act like a professional. Likewise our work will be treated with the respect that we show that we have for that work ourselves.

    This is a less on that is hard to learn for many, but is an almost immutable law…

  21. 1) I came to thank you for posting your comment on my Problogger post. *grin* boo! (I follow my own advice so I came to visit!)

    2) I’m interested in freelancing and have been researching it. I am thrilled to have found (and shall subscribe) to your blog because I feel this is the most informative insider look I’ve found yet- and I’ve been looking for that

    3) I love that you respect the value of your work and yourself. The fact that you aren’t being a pushover but rather working with people because you KNOW you write well.. it’s inspiring and its duly noted. Bravo ๐Ÿ™‚

    JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You.’s last blog post..7 Guaranteed Ways to Drastically Improve Your Life

  22. Design says:

    I think the guy that told your rates were too high just wanted to see if he could get the job done for less money.

  23. I was happy to discover your blog, JEMi, and I plan to have a good browse soon. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. I just tell it as I see it and it’s all true.

    @Design: I think it was a negotiating tactic, but he was trying too squeeze too hard. As I was asking a fair price, I felt strongly that I should not do the job for less.

  24. What a great post, Sharon! I’ve followed the comment thread and you should be feeling better by now. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Lots of encouragement for you here! I admire you for standing your ground. That potential client really lost out when he lost you! ๐Ÿ™‚


    Michele’s last blog post..Fortune Cookies and Patience?

  25. I run an embroidery company and get that all the time. People are just wanting a better deal and with this economy everyone seems to be suffering.

  26. I am feeling better, Michele, especially after all the encouragement. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. I suppose there is an economic squeeze on, but there are some things that you can’t improve by cheaping out – and writing’s one of them.

  28. Good going!

    First for you having better things to do with your time then work for cheapos.

    And second, for reaffirming that writers are worth the rates we quote.

    Loraleigh Vance’s last blog post..How to Get the Alcoholic Advantage: Part 2

  29. It seems that a lot of other writers feel this way too, Loraleigh.

  30. SmartAsaWhip says:

    The problem is the web has commodified the art of writing. You can’t really commodify something like this because it’s an art. But because there are sites like Elance and anyone in the world can call themselves a writer and make silly bids like $25 to read a book and do a review!! Yes, I’ve seen that! How much time does it take to read a book and then, write a professional review? Geez, no wonder writers with degrees are in trouble.

  31. I just want to uphold one point:

    What makes you feel that your self-valuation will be acceptable to everyone, especially in the business arena?

    It is an open field. Somebody may find you worth paying that you demand, Others may not.

    Do not be dejected. Carry on. The same experience will not recur every time.

  32. True. It’s up to us to decide what our time is worth.

  33. Wow, you’re preaching to the choir here, Sharon.

    Even when I know the person, they can find excuses not to pay me. A friend of mine, though, who happens to be a client, suggested an installment plan. She needs a deadline to write, so I give her the deadline and she pays me as we go.

    But I know what you mean. Pay me in clips? Please. I can’t live on paper…

    Lisa T.’s last blog post..Where’s the humor?

  34. Check this out. I found it on one of those freelance writing jobs sites:

    To determine a fair price to pay freelance writers, I posted a job announcement on several job sites read by thousands of freelancers. In reviewing dozens of proposals from experienced writers, I’ve consistently found the average bid to be $300.00 for 20 articles of at least 500 words each ($15 per article). That’s how I’ve determined the price I’m willing to pay here. In addition to the payment, your work would be featured on my website(s) indefinitely and you would naturally be free to show future employers your work by referring them to the relevant pages on my website. I would also be open to writing you a very nice letter of recommendation.

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Just $15 per article is “average”? I’m not sure what “experienced writers,” she dealt with, but they are way underpriced. I’ve got to blog about this one.

  35. Just going to read your post now, Lisa.

  36. Sharon, I enjoyed your post and the comments as well. As you can see, there are a number of us out there who agree with you whole-heartily, and support your stand. Seriously, there are far too many so-called potential clients out there who are under the impression that Writers will accept any rate thrown at them – this unnatural and delusional way of thinking I believe is in part due to the low-balling rates they are use to from India and other countries who will pound out incoherent words for mere pennies; and this madness must come to an end.

    For the most part, Writers are not over-charging for their work, but they are accepting much less in order to keep work flowing – too many clients are taking advantage of the situation.

    Once you know your worth, you must agree to allow others to accept your worth and by no means compromise yourself for their sake.

    Disclaimer: I in no way have anything against India or any other country (outside the U.S.) what is annoying, is the assembly-line auto-spinner dribble that actual Writers have to compete with when it comes to the rates, not the talent.

    Ooops! This is much too long for a comment – this may be considered a rant. Pardon me.

    • Thanks, Chrystal; knowing your worth and demanding it is the best antidote to this situation. (And you’re right, this post is old, but freelancers still face this issue every day).

  37. Wow! I didn’t realize how old this post was. It was just posted on Twitter today 27 November 2010