Alright, so I haven’t actually been a freelancer all that long, but because I freelance for a living, I established early on what my rate would start at. Since then it’s risen substantially, of course, but getting through the struggle of not knowing what to charge was key to my eventual success.
Over the last year I think I’ve been pretty lucky with finding clients. One of the first people I worked with paid me more than half of the amount I used to purchase my new computer (the money didn’t actually go toward the computer, but that’s to give you an idea of what I was working with), and though sometimes I’ve had trouble finding people willing to pay me an amount I could live off of, overall, I haven’t had that many bad experiences… but boy, one or two of them is more than enough for me to say okay, I’ve had enough.
There are a lot of people who undervalue writing. Lots of people think that because pretty much everyone can write, they can get away with paying next to nothing to have their stories written, as well as treating you like shit because they’re giving you the “privilege of their business”. Seriously? I’ve had people contact me about doing work at my normal rate (This was a long time ago, so it’s a lot lower than I charge now– and it was next to nothing). Sure, not a problem. Except, it’s in a genre that I don’t usually write in. And they want the writing to be good enough that they can get the attention of a traditional publishing house. And they want me to give them all of my time– literally. If I’m not writing their stuff, they want to be on the phone talking about it or something ridiculous (I don’t handle phone calls all that well). I can understand the desire to get to know the person that you’ve hired to write for you, but it’s a little out of line to pay someone next to nothing and demand that they write you the next Twilight (gross) and give you all your time. You really can’t be so conceited as to expect someone to write you a novel for a couple hundred bucks at the most, when you want it to make you millions, can you? Nope. It happens all the time.
I don’t think I could tell you about how many job postings I’ve seen of people looking for writers to write long, elaborate stories at a rate of a fraction of a penny per word. Early on in my freelancing career I established what my rate would be, and I can tell you now that I haven’t ever been afraid to tell someone that there’s no way I’ll write them a novel at $0.002 per word. Of course, early on I made a couple exceptions out of desperation– and I’m still paying for it now.
There’s a project I took on in late November of 2014 that comes out to be paying about $0.006 per word. Pretty awful, I do say, but it’s not as bad as the example above (and that wasn’t even an exaggeration– I have seen jobs paying that low). The only reason I ended up taking it was because I was in need of rent money for December and the guy was willing to pay about half of the total projected cost up front. It really helped me at the time (and for that I’m extremely grateful), but for now I’m kind of stuck finishing it because I’m not the kind of person to dip out, especially after someone’s helped me like that.
Things have improved a lot over the last few months, though. I don’t see myself ever needing to take a job below $0.05 per word because I’ve got lucky with a steady flow of level-headed people who understand the value of writing.
It’s unfortunate, but the only real advice I can give to people in a position like this is to value yourself, your time, and your work. I can totally understand those of you just trying to make ends meet (as I’ve been there), but there are too many people who undermine their own abilities and give people the impression that they can buy excellent works of fiction for less than the cost of a new computer. (Seriously, do you people know what some publishers pay their authors as advances alone? Some people need to do some research.)
Sorry, this turned out to be a bit of a rant. Love you guys. ❤ If you have any questions regarding getting clients/ managing your rate, I’d love to chat. I’m not really a professional, but I think I’ve managed to find my own way around the freelancing world and can still offer some pointers.