Setting a rate as a freelance writer is something that can cause many to have some heart palpitations and dalliances with imposter syndrome. Questions that can plague one’s mind:
Am I really worth this much? Will anyone really pay me this rate?
Writing, and the arts in general, has been consistently undervalued because it looks rather easy to do. And it’s a frustrating mentality to battle. It’s seemingly easy to just throw up a website or to create a blog post or to design a logo.
If you’re in the creative arts, you know that this is not the case. You’ve put in hours of time, effort, and education into your work. Spaces like content mills tend to propagate the undervaluing of quality writing.
What writers get paid and when sometimes can be a bit nebulous, which is why there’s a website called Who Pays Writers, which freelancers can contribute to, detailing the per word rate and how quickly writers get paid. For copywriting and content writing, AWAI’s pricing guide is a great place to start.
When it comes to how much writers are paid, there’s been some recent buzz on Twitter about this quote from a Cosmopolitan profile on writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who has a debut novel coming out soon:
“When I started doing the ‘I don’t get out of bed for less than $4 a word’ thing, people started paying me $4 a word.”
The reaction has been split. People have been applauding Akner for asking what she’s worth, while others have been galled by that rate period. I personally feel a bit indifferent. And I’ll get to more on that later.
Getting a $1 a word seems to be the holy grail for freelancers with bylines, or even content marketing writers. I’ve gotten somewhat close to that for ghostwriting when I had my dream assignment last summer from a mental health advocacy group.
But Akner’s profiles seem to be worth that rate:
Now her profiles move the culture. She has been accused of being the reason Bradley Cooper didn’t get an Oscar nod. Her surreal profile of the unrepentant figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie played her in I, Tonya) may or may not have contributed to Harding getting fired by her publicist a day after it published, when Harding proposed to fine any future journalists who ask about her past. (Cosmopolitan)
So it’s arguable that Akner is worth $4 a word.
Yet worth is never a universally applied idea. It’s usually self-determined. But how it’s actualized is the rub. It depends on whether you’re successful at convincing others of your worth.
Akner is very lucky and fortunate to be able to say no to anything below that rate. She’s a unicorn of a writer, too.
Yet one thing I haven’t seen people talk about enough is how many writers who are successful have partners or family members financially supporting them while they hone their crafts. It’s so much easier to focus on writing when you’re not worried about which bills to pay when.
So if you’re on your own, you may have to make decisions that are more about your business needs than about the honor of your craft. And that’s OK, because all work has some honor and dignity.
Yet even in less choosy situations, we all have our own lines which we won’t cross.
Like for me this morning: I just turned down an assignment with possible future work that essentially was ten cents a word. For me, having been trained at a master’s level with writing along
On this writing platform where I was found, my price states how many words I’d write a blog post for. The potential client essentially asked me to add 300 more words for the same price. I initially told them I’m probably not going to fit within your budget, but I asked them to tell me more about their company and what they were looking for. They did, but they didn’t back down from their price.
I was incredulous because it was one of the oddest negotiations I’ve ever been in. It made no sense for me to be paid the same amount of money for more work. So I politely declined the offer, and they responded with best wishes. My time is better spent connecting with better suited clients who believe in my worth.
So what’s the real story here? The takeaway message I got from these ongoing conversations about writers and rates is that yes, we should all be asking for more. But also, we should also know what our personal range is. And that can be tricky to determine.
Am I particularly galled at Akner’s rate? Well, I can tell you what I don’t feel.
I don’t feel like this is a crabs in a barrel situation. There are people who want me to write for them and want to pay me the rates I publish and then some. There is more than enough for all writers to be paid living wages. We just have to find a way to market ourselves to find those people. And that takes some time, effort, skill, and networking.
I don’t necessarily feel newly inspired, mainly because I don’t do much byline writing. Sometimes it can be daunting when you know you have the education, the expertise, the skillset, the right temperament…and you’re still wondering where your dream clients are as others are successfully booked up. You need others to support you emotionally to keep going, even if you have to become your own cheerleader.
I don’t feel intimidated because I know my range and my realm. I actually love profiling people — it’s my favorite thing to do. But Akner is in a different sphere than I am.
I guess I’m mainly curious about how people have reacted. Some people were mad at Akner, and some people were mad at the people who were mad at Akner.
It can be really rough for freelance writers, so it can be easy to project that frustration onto someone like Akner. I’ve known my lion’s share of struggle. But I’ve also known amazing clients who were a dream to partner with. So I know it’s possible to live the dream — my dream. It’s not $4 a word, but who’s to say that can’t happen for me eventually? Not me.
If you’re looking for someone to help you with your blogs, web copy, or other written content, let’s chat today about how I can help you.
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