How to Get the Writing Pay You Deserve

Your writing is worth something to the people you write for. Take that as read. Yet a lot of writers don’t get the pay they deserve for the value they bring. I’m not just talking about new writers, but about experienced writers too. And I’m including myself – I could have earned a lot more in my writing career if I’d raised my rates earlier to reflect the value I offer to clients.

medium 8228640 How to Get the Writing Pay You Deserve

How to Talk Yourself out of Money

I’m not casting blame here. Lots of new writers have a conversation in their heads that goes from “Will anyone actually pay me for writing?” to “Holy crap, someone has put money on the table; I’d better take it!” Usually, they don’t bother at first to examine whether the lump sum they are getting is adequate recompense for their time and effort or their experience. That means many writers spend far too long working for far too little. They just don’t get the writing pay they deserve.

A Mantra for Better Pay

client budget 300x257 How to Get the Writing Pay You DeserveDon’t get me wrong. There is definitely a trade-off, especially when you are brand spanking new to the writing biz and have nothing to show to prove your worth. Or, as happened to me, not so new but without any clips due to a career break. But owning your value as a writer is a mind game – and it’s one you have to keep playing throughout your writing career. Here’s the mantra to live by: never believe that you are only worth what some people are prepared to pay you.

The Value of Experience

The way to make this come to life and start to own your worth is to change the way you think about what you do. Yes, you may be a service provider, but you are also an expert writer – that’s why your clients hire you. And the right pay for your writing services should not be for the hour you spend on the final draft, but for all the experience you bring to creating the right content to help your clients meet their aims.

I’ve said before that you don’t pay your doctor for the five minutes you spend in the consulting room. You pay for the ten years s/he spent learning the profession to provide you with the right diagnosis and treatment. It’s the same with you. All the experience you have in your niche or field of expertise doesn’t come cheap – or at least it shouldn’t.

What’s Your Value?

Once you start thinking differently, you can begin to break down the value of your services for clients. Off the top of my head, I’ve got seven areas which help me offer a better service to my clients.writing pay excellence 300x257 How to Get the Writing Pay You Deserve

  1. I’m good at figuring out what clients want even when they can’t fully articulate it. (See Why My Clients Think I’m Psychic).
  2. I’ve been writing for a long time.
  3. I can handle various iterations of English (US, UK, Canadian and Australian) (See How to Write with a British Accent)
  4. I can even work with and improve copy translated from French or Spanish thanks to past fluency in those languages.
  5. My writing experience includes time as a reporter, sub-editor, editor, proofreader, blogger and teacher, enabling me to handle everything from news stories to conversational style pieces to academic papers.
  6. I don’t miss deadlines.
  7. I’m a polymath who loves learning and researching and knows about a lot of stuff.

I bet you could come up with a similar list for yourself.

It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on some of those items, but they have value as part of the overall package. And it’s my belief that clients hire me – and you – as much for the intangibles as for the result, because those intangibles are what make you great – and what help to determine your value.

Trading Up

Once you think differently about what you do and can articulate your value, the next step is to trade up, so you gradually move from settling for what you can get to being in the driving seat. For me, this meant quoting the rate I wanted to new clients and renegotiating with old ones. Eventually a few clients with fixed budgets stopped working with me, but we parted company amicably.

Showcasing Your Value

It’s also important to have a narrative that shows that value. For example, with my blogging clients I talk about my skills in idea generating, writing and research, my ability to work with WordPress and find images for posts, and my social networks with whom I’m prepared to share selectively. Add to that a couple examples of my most shared and commented posts and it makes a difference.

The Importance of Marketing

writer value 300x257 How to Get the Writing Pay You DeserveThere’s one more thing you can do, too – market like a fiend, whether you have plenty of work or none at all. Because I’ll tell you – it eventually pays off. One single article that attracts comments and shares can bring in plenty of new work – that’s been my experience. Writing for one client led to a gig with another – and that gig has brought new clients my way because my work is out there and being seen. So promoting yourself also highlights your value to potential clients.

Working Out What to Charge

What should you charge? That will be different for everyone and will change over time. A couple of years ago I wrote Advice on Charging for Writing Blog Posts, which is a good place to start. But think about these questions:

  • How much do you want or need to make an hour?
  • How many hours will it take you to do a particular job?
  • How much extra time do you spend on unanticipated wrinkles?
  • What’s the going rate in the market?
  • What’s the value of your existing experience and knowledge?

The answers to all of these will help you work out what to charge.

Last Words

Finally, remember what I said earlier. Asking for – and getting – what you deserve is all in the mind. You have to know without a shadow of a doubt that you bring value and you have to be prepared to walk away from those who don’t recognize it. Are you ready for that?

This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival series of posts. This month, our carnies take on the challenge of knowing your value and conveying it to clients so that you can charge what you’re worth – and get it! Read the rest of the Word Carnival posts here for more great advice from some of the smartest business owners and entrepreneurs you’ll meet.

photo credit: Jeff Belmonte via photopin cc

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 sharonhh.com. Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.

Comments

  1. Hi Sharon,

    This is one of the best articles I have read covering a critical topic. Well done!

    I remember a lady telling me a few months back that my work was not great. She would rather go to Fiverr. Since I believe differently I wished here the best and held firm with my rates. She also talked to me about being burned many times before; her problem, not mine. So I released her happily ;)

    The old me might have dropped my rates based on her opinion, or re-thought my value. Then I realized I set my worth. I have written for 4 years. I have been published on sites like problogger.net (3 times) and have attracted numerous clients through my paid guest posting and ghostwriting services.

    Never, ever, ever let a cheap or scared or flat out broke client lower your rates. NEVER. I too love the doctor analogy. Would somebody walk into a doctor’s offices or law firm and demand to pay for 10 minutes….”just to try them out”….lol….nope….we have spent years learning our craft, in some cases, more than a doctor, so although we charge fair market rates, it better be high or else people will take advantage of your lack of confidence.

    Great share Sharon!

    Ryan
    Ryan Biddulph wants you to read Why Is Getting Up Early Critical to Your Success?My Profile

    • Ryan, if someone wants to go to Fiverr for writing services, then they’re obviously not in the same market as you. Good job for sticking to your guns. As I said, it’s a constant process of keeping that value in mind but it gets easier over time. Thanks for the comment and for the share.

  2. Sharon, what you have highlighted so well here is the principle that your service is not the sum of the hours spent on it, but the sum total of the life time of experience and expertise that lead to its fulfillment. That is a mantra we should run through our heads several times a day as it would affirm your last point; that you have to believe you are worth what you charge.
    SandyMc wants you to read The coach and the consultantMy Profile

  3. I struggle with this. I always feel that I need to start off and most of the time I have gone onto sites that need you to create a profile and get feedback before you get booked on anymore jobs. Which is normally the low paid jobs first to get started.
    There just is so much competition that I feel the way to stand out is to sell yourself cheaper. Great article it has helped me have a bit more confidence. I guess it is just starting out that is always the hard part

    • Selling yourself short only brings the whole market down, Ryan. Of course, there’s a balance you have to strike that allows you to eat, too, but in the long run owning your value is the better approach. Hope it works out for you.

  4. Standing ovation here, Sharon. You are so right that it’s not just the newbies infected with this disease.

    I consistently find myself accepting less than I should. Although I have significantly improved on that over the last couple of years, there is still room for improvement. Ed Gandia just came out with his Pricing Guide for B2B and Commercial Writing Projects (my market). He’s inspired me to increase my rates for 2014

    We have to get over the need to apologize for our greatest asset – our experience. Thanks, Sharon, for a well-timed kick in the rear. ;-)
    Cathy Miller wants you to read 11 Fall-Inspired Business Communication IdeasMy Profile

    • Hey, we’ve all been there, Cathy – and there’s the Pollyanna factor, too – wanting to make things nice for everyone. However, I’ve learned – and am still learning – that bending over backwards to give people want they want doesn’t make me feel better if they end up taking advantage of me.

  5. Very meaty post, Sharon — packed with wonderful insights and tips!

    Love what Sandy said: “You have to BELIEVE you are worth what you charge.” Too true!

    My daughter, Morgan, recently took her oath as a physician so your analogy resonates with me …
    ” … you don’t pay your doctor for the five minutes you spend in the consulting room. You pay for the ten years s/he spent learning the profession to provide you with the right diagnosis and treatment.” Way to paint a bold picture with a lasting memory!!

    Thanks for a wonderful read. :)

  6. LOVE. But then again, I love everything you write, Sharon.

    Well said. The list is terrific, too. If we actually sat down long enough to think about what we bring to the clients, we might be better equipped to recognize our value and charge accordingly.

    I love the trading-up idea, too. Why do we let others dictate our rates? My kitchen designer came in with a sheet that listed her rates and her payment expectations. That’s how any professional should do it. Are we professionals or not, I ask?
    Lori wants you to read Good Service and Writing MistakesMy Profile

    • We are, we are, but we don’t always believe it, Lori. And every time we have to make another step up, the self-doubt can creep in. I took the first step by listing some typical rates on my website. Then I knew that anyone who emailed via the contact form had seen them. Even if they then asked questions about rates, I could refer then to the page as a basis for discussion. The result is better rates from most clients.

  7. “Never believe that you are only worth what some people are prepared to pay you.” <– THAT

    I can no longer count how many times people have wanted to set their own price. I'm not talking budget – I mean "here's what I want and here's what I'll pay." And these days I sort of laugh and say… that's nice.

    I want a BMW for ten bucks! Can I??

    Sharon, I love your post because it's full of the gut-wrenching and practical stuff we all need to contend with. I especially love the idea of making a list of our own valuable assets. It's the same idea as writing down a persona for your ideal client. Once on paper, it takes on a life of its own and becomes "real" in a way that doesn't always happen when it's floating around in your head. Plus you can add to it and take it out at those moments when someone is pulling the price-cutting routine on you. You're never really done dealing with this type of thing, so these are great ideas to remind ourselves of often!
    Carol Lynn wants you to read How To Convince Cheap, Broke, Price-Shopping Customers To Pay What You’re WorthMy Profile

    • My response to that, Carol Lynn, is “here’s what you can get for your budget”. It usually changes the flow of the conversation.

      This is all stuff I’ve learned the hard way, but now that I’m living the advice I’m giving, I’m a lot happier. I’ll probably need to re-read it every six months to remind myself to keep owning my worth. :)

  8. Sharon as someone who teaches this all the time I found invaluable nuggets based on real experience. My favorite is the quote, “What clients want to pay reflects their budget not your value.” I’d like that in a huge neon sign to hang on my website please.
    Nicole Fende wants you to read What will You Learn in the Cave on Dagobah?My Profile

  9. Brett Slansky says:

    It is so true… for years I have been asking for money that other people were paying on an average. But then I met a long lost friend of mine who charged people 4 times the amount and he got really successful.

    After about 4 hours talking with him over cup of coffee, I realized that it really all depends on your value, marketing and posture.

    Thanks for sharing this…

    Brett

  10. Fantastic article, and I appreciate it.
    As a new freelancer, but not a new blogger, I’ve been told for years I could write well. Now, I balance what I want to earn per article with the pay desires of the clients I can contact. As I build a list of clients, I can ask more (and do), but still have to take some below my market rate because, well, I need an income!
    But I leave the fiverr and content mills to others. $5 articles just devalue us all.
    Jon Patrick wants you to read Time Tracking for Freelance WritersMy Profile

  11. I went to my small-beat newspaper as a student looking for some practical experience to put on my resume for the harsh post-grad job market. They liked that I was local, and because they were small, I got to write 90% of the articles for their special publications that year and had my name on about four feature articles, all before I finished college. It’s a real shame that I didn’t have the confidence to leverage that experience more when it came time to look for a full-time job. Instead I had a confidence crisis right at graduation and left writing altogether, and it’s taken me years to work my way back to it, moving from admin to PR to editing. I don’t even think I know where those old print clips are any more. It’s really quite sad, looking back.

  12. Totally agree, market yourself like a product. The more you can get your name out there, the better the chances of new people finding you and connecting. Make sure to have a follow up strategy when someone reaches out and asks questions or wants to work with you. I like your list of values, I think that would be a great thing to include in your communications. Great recommendations, thanks!

  13. Two thumbs up Sharon. I have a couple of friends who are freelance writers and they complain that what they’re getting is less than what they should get, and I can’t find the right words to say to them. Saw some nuggets of wisdom here in your article and I can’t wait to quote it out to them. Thanks a lot!

    Cheers,
    Mike

  14. Hey Sharon – as someone who hires writers from time to time (I run a design firm), I definitely agree with your post. Another thing I’d add: a lot of value writers can bring to the table is in knowing WHAT to write, not just knowing how to write it. Pitch people on the strategy of the content, not just the nuts & bolts of writing it.

    Also, for those trying to make a go of freelance writing: approach firms & agencies as opposed to small businesses. Firms & agencies know the value of content and have an ongoing need for it – many small businesses don’t.

    Thanks for the post!
    Jeff Archibald wants you to read eReader Typography: Why it’s Broken & How to Fix ItMy Profile

  15. Hey Sharon,

    Great write indeed! For me, mind set and profile is important. Firstly, focus on what you want to achieve and how you want to get it done. For example, just don’t say you want to make money by writing. Instead, be more specific like make money by writing romantic series etc!

    Profile is crazily important. Take 3 sentences and build a killer profile. Tell peeps why they should get you and you will probably land more opportunities than you can ever imagine.

    Thanks for sharing!