The Great Pay Disparity

moneyI’ve been a freelance writer for eight years now, since leaving my corporate content job in 2007. In that time, I’ve found that the only consistent part of content writing is its inconsistency — especially in regard to pay.

Starting out, anxious to build a portfolio and gain some credibility, I was content to get paid peanuts. I’ll admit that I wrote plenty of articles for $10 or even $5 apiece. But as my experience and client list grew, I nudged up my fees accordingly. Even so, I’ve always been fascinated by the huge disparity in what various clients are willing to pay — and it’s not always what you’d expect. A small business may offer a competitive rate for some blog posts, and the next day a larger company will share their considerably smaller budget for web content — leaving me scratching my head.

With the hugely subjective nature of placing a value on content, how can a freelance writer sniff out the higher-paying clients and eventually leave those $5 articles behind? Here are a few tips.

  • Vet the prospects. There ARE quality clients out there with healthy budgets. Sure, they’re harder to find, but it’s worth the digging. Bypass the too-good-t0-be-true Craigslist offers; these usually don’t pan out. Take the time to thoroughly research companies, make a list of the good, solid ones, and tailor your marketing efforts to them.
  • Say bye-bye to job boards. Like most freelance copywriters, I used them early on, but they’re not an avenue for sustaining a steady (or growing) income. Most of those boards are frequented by low-paying clients who want to audition a bunch of new writers for pennies on the word.
  • Network. Ideally, in person. A single face-to-face meeting can get you further down the path to prosperity than dozens of anonymous Internet exchanges.
  • Publish quality content. Whether it’s your own freelance writing blog (like this one), or a reputable website or magazine, putting great content out there is the quickest way to build credibility and establish the trust of high-paying clients.
  • Base rates on value. Instead of limiting yourself by pricing your services hourly, consider how much revenue your web copy, article, or eBook will generate for the client – and then charge accordingly.

I could go on and on — but these are just a few of the ways that content writers can start weaning themselves off of penny-pinching clients and attract the ones who place a higher value on skilled writing professionals.



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