By Dan Stelter
So let me start out this story to make it clear the point is not to brag. Instead, I’m sharing it because I know what it’s like to work for ridiculously low article rates and wondering how in the heck to get out of it!
It’s not a pleasant place to be – the constant complaining, haggling, and the low self-esteem that comes from paying yourself less than you feel you deserve.
Let this story inspire you do take a risk to get to a better place in your freelance writing career.
How I Got Into the $15 Stuff
Ironically, no it wasn’t with a content mill. I never worked with one of those, although it was a consideration at one point.
I was contacting SEO companies for work, and basically didn’t know what I was doing at the time. A guy offered me $15 per article off my “high” $25 rate, and I took it, thinking that was the market rate, and that if I accommodated him, he would do so for me in return.
My experience with this type of client was the same as that of others who have worked with this type of client:
- Lots of complaining/need for rewrites
- No accommodation in any respect – everything had to be the client’s way
- A situation that never improved and took a high mental toll on me, although it took a while to figure that out
Market Research Eventually Taught me a Couple Big Lessons…
SEO companies/internet marketing agencies, or whatever you want to call them, are focused on one thing: price. A rare few understand how much work it takes to create quality copy, but they’re one in a million.
$50 for a 500-word blog article is excruciatingly high for that market. I knew my writing was worth more than that, and it was driving me nuts to stay where I was, so instinctively I kept looking around for better-paying markets and options.
Also, I learned never to deal with hagglers for any reason, ever. Never give price breaks because once hagglers see they can get something, they want more. Also, it may mean they simply do not have the money available for quality copywriting.
I tricked myself into being “accommodating,” but accommodating on price is never, ever something you want to do. Many companies are very happy to pay your prices just as they stand if you’re willing to look harder and market more.
Ironically, a Couple SEOs Were Willing to Go Higher
I’m still working on breaking into blog/website copywriting for bigger businesses and more traditional ad agencies.
But at this point, I decided this was enough and was willing to try some new approaches out.
One good, regular client approached me asking for a new type of article – a 1000-word authority article for readers and Google to consume. At first, I figured $250 for something like this sounded good.
But then I got to thinking:
- This client understands the value of quality copy
- These articles will help his clients make many more dollars in sales
- If they pay me just once for many sales down the line, that’s a good deal for them
So I figured, “What the heck?” and told the client $450.
He didn’t blink an eye at the price and passed it right on to the customer.
I wrote 3 articles on foundation repair, and they were the most enjoyable articles I’ve ever written, even though the topic wasn’t something I’d jump to write on in the first place!
But it wasn’t the money that made it fun – it was the freedom to research, think through, proof, and learn more about a new topic and present it in an interesting way that made the project fun. The money was nice too, though.
That was a refreshing mental break from the pound-your-fingers-hard-and-fast stuff I was doing before!
That $15-per-article client came back about this time, and I told him I now charged $100 for the same work. He hit the roof!
But you know what? The stress, frustration, and anger saved by not working with this client more than made up for any amount he could have paid. I’m not sure I’d have worked for $450 per article for this client either!
And it felt great to draw a boundary and tell this person “no.”
Also, around this time, another client asked if I would do some writing for her clients because she liked me the best of all her copywriting vendors. I had told her before that web pages were $30 each.
I told her now that I would love to do this for her, but that the new charge was $100 per page to account for research, talking with the client, proofing, and strategizing the copy.
She said she “totally understood,” and had no qualms with the new pricing.
As an aside, I probably should have charged more, but it was a huge step up from where before.
In both cases, just like that, I skyrocketed my writing rates.
This story in a nutshell describes my first two years as a freelance SEO copywriter, and here’s what I learned:
- Charge what equates to $50-$60 per hour (if you have no experience writing at all) to start and $100 per hour once you have some experience and don’t feel bad about it.
- Some will complain about your pricing. Don’t give them any breaks. It only gets worse from there.
- Don’t waste your time educating clients. It’s not worth your effort, and they won’t buy in anyway.
- Focus on discussing the value you bring to the table. Forget about price. The right clients will happily pay for your services.
- Rates are all about what you feel comfortable charging, as long as you’re within reason. Set your rates and stick to them.
- Negotiating price increases like this is hard and rare – try to set your prices to what feels high instead of justifying higher rates.
- Take risks and tell the next new client your prices are 10-20% higher. I had some scenarios like this not work out, but a couple did and the feeling was great.
- Remember your work sells for the client over and over again. They only pay once – high prices are rarely actually “high.”
- Many clients have much more money available to pay for your services than they say and are really just looking to save on price. State your prices as is, and if the initial discussion doesn’t work out, let it go.
Hope this helps you as you take the next steps in your freelance writing career!
Dan Stelter is a freelance copywriter in Chicago and currently maintains the Smarter Copywriting and SEO Blog. If you need clear, compelling website copy and SEO recommendations for internet marketing success, learn more about his services at http://www.freelancewriterinchicago.com