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.
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
Don’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.
- 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).
- I’ve been writing for a long time.
- I can handle various iterations of English (US, UK, Canadian and Australian) (See How to Write with a British Accent)
- I can even work with and improve copy translated from French or Spanish thanks to past fluency in those languages.
- 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.
- I don’t miss deadlines.
- 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.
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
There’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.
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.