An Easy Way for Freelance Writers to Earn More
Carol Tice | 12 Comments

Earn More from Freelance WritingIt occurred to me recently that there is one easy step freelance writers can take to earn more. I’ve used it a lot in the past year. It’s one I think many writers overlook, so thought I’d mention it today.

Ready? Here it is:

Ask for more money.

That’s right — even in this terrible economy, even though there seem to be a million other writers growing on trees…you can still ask clients for more money. Often, you’ll get it.

I got approached to write for a major business site not long ago by a content house that was providing the site with articles. I was quoted $250 an article. “Really?” I said. “I’m surprised at that rate, considering where these articles would be going. I do similar articles for clients of similar stature for $300 and up. I think $300 is pretty much the bottom rate I’d consider for this type of work.”

And presto: I got $300 an article.

Another 20-blog package I wrote started with a $200 apiece opening bid. When I said, “Gee, but it’s rush work…” they quickly raised the rate to $300 a post.

You can ask longstanding clients for a raise, too. I was writing for $85 an hour for a major private company, and at year-end I asked for $95 an hour, saying I felt I’d gained a lot of expertise in their business that made me more valuable. They grumbled slightly…and then gave it to me. That one probably translated into $8,000 or so of extra income over the next two years, for no additional work.

In talking with my mentees, I’ve found it’s common for writers to simply leap at the first rate offered for a job, and then feel locked into that rate forever. Know that an assignment offer may be intended as the opening of a negotiation, not a take-it-or-leave-it situation. New writers often get so excited when they get a work offer, they don’t think about whether the pay being offered is adequate for the assignment or calculate how many hours it will really take.

Before you leap, ask yourself whether you could make a case for a better pay rate. Does it require specialized expertise? A drop-everything rush not every writer might take on at this late date? Is it for a publication or Web site with a reputation for quality they need to burnish? If you can think of a reason why more pay is warranted, you’re crazy not to at least mention it to the prospect.

What’s that you say? You’re shy? Intimidated? Practice asking for more money in front of a mirror, or with a friend. Join Toastmasters. Whatever it takes to increase your confidence to where you could ask for more money.

There’s a basic rule in writing as in much of life — them that asks, gets. Asking for more money also has other benefits besides potentially getting you a raise.

1) You come off as more professional. Professionals negotiate, as opposed to just jumping at the first thing they’re offered. They’re not that desperate.

2) You feel empowered. You won’t do the assignment while always wondering if you could have gotten more for the work.

3) The worst they can do is say “no.” I can’t think of a gig I lost by asking for more money. Sometimes I’ve heard, “Sorry, that’s the limit on our budget,” and then had to decide whether I wanted to accept their opening price. But if you’re polite, calm and professional about it (never angry, snarky or rude), you usually have nothing to lose by raising the issue.

4) You hone your negotiating skills. Your negotiating ability is key to helping you move up the earning ladder. So consider each offer a chance to practice negotiating.

Have you asked for more money and gotten it on a writing assignment recently? Leave a comment and tell us how you did it.

Photo via Flickr user borman818

12 comments on “An Easy Way for Freelance Writers to Earn More

  1. Sarah Nagel on

    Great advice! It’s easy to forget that most editors deal with a ton of freelancers. They are used to negotiating rates. As long as you are professional and friendly, they won’t hold it against you. In fact, they may be happy to give you a raise (if their budget allows for it). But they usually can’t offer it to you out of the blue. You have to be the one to ask for it.

  2. Ashley Festa on

    Great points in this article. Believe it or not, I actually did lose a job by asking for more money. Apparently my reasons not only weren't good enough to warrant the request, but also were offensive enough as to warrant rescinding the offer! However, in the long run, I realized that's probably not the kind of company I'd like to work for anyway.

    • Carol Tice on

      Well, certainly, as you can see from the examples above — you can only ask for a little more money usually. If someone offers me $20 an article and I counter with $300, that's not going to work. I had one company where I quoted them $100 a blog and they said yes…but then they started backpedaling about how their Indian guy was really so much cheaper…couldn't I go lower?

      No. And that was the end. But like you say, I'd figured out I didn't want to work with this startup, since they didn't understand the value I offered.

      But in general, can't stress enough the importance of TONE in approaching asking for more money. Has to be done in a very tactful, approachable, professional way, not like "I'm insulted by your offer!' That will definitely lead to the relationship's end…

  3. Brian V. Hunt on

    Oddly enough, the first time that I asked for what I thought was fair and got turned down, I found it empowering. Rather than feeling rejected, I knew that the client was lookin' fer the cheap and didn't understand the value of what I was offering to bring to their web site.

    He also was not interested in listening to persuasive arguments about copy that converts traffic to leads and sales. So I had to let it go, with the understanding that it had nothing to do with me or my skills and talents, and I could just move on to the next job.

    I know this is terribly hard to do when starting out, especially if you need the revenue badly. It's something that every freelancer must confront at some time — hopefully sooner rather than later — because it directly impacts your own sense of what you're worth.

  4. Lee Lefton on

    Carol – great post!

    Brian – Regarding our own sense of what we're worth, I couldn't have said it better. Things have been pretty slow this year and I was offered some overflow work by a writer friend. These were 1000-word blogs for $25. I blanched, then politely declined. My friend then asked, "Don't you think some work is better than none?" My answer was no and that my time was better spent looking for better paying clients.

    It really does come down to how we value ourselves. My skills and experience are worth a heck of a lot more than $25, and I'd venture to say most of the people who subscribe to this blog are in the same position. Even the beginners.

    If enough of us stand up for ourselves, in a professional way, of course, more and more clients will get the message that there's considerable value in what we offer. And that comes with a price.

  5. Carol Tice on

    Hi Lee —

    Well, this post isn't even about that — the crazy $25 offers. To me there's no point in trying to negotiate on situations like that — these are just people who don't get it, and we move on.

    When we have a REAL client we're talking with, and they offer a rate that's a little low, we can make the case for more. And should!

  6. Star on

    I pitched two stories to Coaching Commons–they have you suggest a price. I did. When I got the money for the first one in PayPal (never used to for pay before), they had deducted the fee of $7.50 or so. So on the second one, I said could I have $10 more and they refused…and said in so many words, take it or leave it. And also swiped at me again, saying, “Most professionals know how to expense fees.” or something like that. Well, sit on a tack!

  7. Carol Tice on

    Hi Star!

    Yeah…and most real professionals know that those little PayPal fees could add up to several thousand dollars lost in the course of a year, which I always think of as a nice vacation with the family I now can’t afford.

  8. Franklin on

    This was fun to read as it reminded me of my early days. I was a freelance photographer in Los Angeles and as I shot for magazines I included captions to the photos. When I began to write the captions longer, the magazines began to ask me to write the article. Which is how I got into writing in the first place.

    Some people at their companies would ask how much I would charge for a commercial shoot and my answer was always the same, "You can't afford me!" This was my way of drawing a line in the sand. Those who wanted a cheap job went elsewhere and those that were serious about the job would want to talk more about it until we arrived at a workable price.

    When other writers, and photographers, came to me for advice on the business side I always told them, "You'll never know what you're really worth until you learn to say NO!

    Franklin Reid

  9. Fran Civile on

    A long time ago, after working a couple of years on my first office job in Brussels, Belgium I had a chance to apply for a job at an American Company where using my knowledge of
    english would be an asset – they offered me two and half times the salary I was then making because that was the pay rate for the job … so I was elated!

    After six months of doing a good job I decided to ask for a raise and screwed up my courage for an interview with the director who readily agreed that I deserved one – a whopping 20%! As I reached the door after thanking him, he called out ‘Frances, you should have asked earlier.’

    So that little story confirms that ‘them that don’t ask, don’t get’

    Fran

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