Are You Really better off Charging More per Word?

write for money onlineFor those of you who know me, this headline might come at something of a surprise.  I’ve been a strong advocate of writers (good writers anyway) getting paid what they are worth.  What that means in exact dollars and cents can vary from person to person, but for most ‘Native English’ speakers who are writing general purpose content for websites and things like that, I typically think anywhere from $.025 to $.12 per word is a good range.

Yes, it is a big range, and for the most part I think most people should fall somewhere in the middle.  Of course, for specialized writing, you can (and should) demand more.  So, why the headline then?  Well, let me get to that.

A Recent Gig

I’ve just landed a recent gig where I’m writing for less than a penny per word.  I know, I can’t believe it either!  What a dramatic step down from my normal price, right?  (Indeed, it is…I normally make 7-8 times what I’m making per word on this job).  When I saw the job posting, I almost didn’t even apply for it because of the price, but I figured I’d shoot the client an email and see what came of it.  After all, nothing bad ever came from applying for a job.

After discussing the work with the client, I still wasn’t sure.  Basically, what I’m doing is writing product descriptions that are between 90 and 110 words each.  Due to confidentiality I can’t say exactly what the products are, but suffice it to say they are all items you see and use on a very regular basis.  The client said she would provide a link to a product, and I’d have to write the description based on the information that was already there.

Seemed easy enough, so I told her I’d do 10 of them to see how long it would take me.  Even with these first 10 I could get them done in about a half hour, so that means 20 per hour (on average), which translates to somewhere around $15 per hour.  Granted, this isn’t a great price, but I knew I would be able to speed up the process.  The other benefit that attracted me was that there were tens of thousands of these descriptions.  BULK order means LOTS of regular work for the next 6+ months.

So, I worked out the remaining details and started on the job.  I’ve done about 400-500 of them so far, and I was able to get the speed at which I can complete them up quite a bit, and I’m now making about $25 per hour while writing them.  This, combined with my other writing gigs, is keeping me VERY busy and it will make me a lot of money!

Moral of this Story – So, even though this is a REDICULOUSLY low price per word, it ends up being a good amount per hour with no extra effort (research, negotiating, ect).  I am sure I’ll hear people say that this can cause you to burn out, and it isn’t fulfilling work and all that.  These are all real concerns.  The fact is, however, that I am in this primarily for the money and this will make me quite a bit.  I look at my writing as a 2nd job.  There are many things I do at my ‘day job’ that I don’t like, but that’s just part of making a living, so I do it.

From this gig (assuming everything goes according to plan) I will, over the next 6-8 months, make enough money to buy a new furnace (mine is 15+ years old), put a new roof on my house, redo/fix up my deck, possibly put new siding on the house, and pay a lot of normal bills.  So yes, I will be bored out of my mind writing some of these descriptions, but I will happily put up with that.  If you ever have a writing opportunity that doesn’t sound good based on the price per word (or anything else) but it ends up being a good opportunity, don’t listen to those of us (myself included) who often discourage low price per word writing.  Do what is best for you.

Just to wrap this part up, let me say that writing 1 500 word article at $.10 per word ($50) which takes you an hour is not necessarily superior to writing 50 product descriptions that pay $.10 each in an hour.  The money is the same, and based on your own situation and other factors, you need to pick which one (or both!) is right for you.

Getting Started

Another reason why sometimes you’re best bet is to start with a low price per word is when you’re just starting out, and learning the ropes.  Now, I have written myself (on this site) that even newbies to writing shouldn’t charge less than they are worth.  So, which is it?  Well…Both!  You shouldn’t charge your clients less JUST because you’re new.  However, for many brand new writers, it is well worth it to charge less just to build up your own experience.

Note, I DO NOT mean your reputation!  Writing for cheap won’t build you the reputation you want, so if that is your goal, you’re making a mistake.  What writing for cheap can do, however, is get you a lot of work.  With this, you can learn how to type faster, how to do research quickly and effectively, where to look for clients, and much more. Another great thing about getting a lot of writing orders is that you’ll really learn the ‘lingo’ of the ‘write for money online’ industry.

In addition, you’ll quickly learn whether or not this type of writing is something you want to really do for a long time or not.  If you find you don’t mind writing for money at this rate, then you’ll absolutely love it when you start charging real rates for your clients!

Don’t Get Stuck

The one thing I will say, however, is that while I think there is a time and a place for cheap writing, it is easy to get stuck in that mentality.  If you aren’t making enough to make it worth your time, you should be thinking about and taking action on how to improve it.  For me, that typically means raising my price per word, but as my most recent gig has taught me, that is not always the case.  Sometimes, eliminating the research and other hassles associated with writing can translate into making just as much per hour.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.  I know this is a fairly controversial topic for writers, so please try to stay polite, but I am interested in hearing what you have to say!

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  1. says

    I wouldn’t do it, but that’s just me. Knowing full well that I could make $60 an hour doing regular work, working at my own pace, I wouldn’t take a lower paying job just because I can spit them out faster.

    I’m doing myself a total injustice (and to the client as well) when I speed up the pace just to make the same amount of money because unnecessary speed makes room for mistakes. I may get the work done, but it wouldn’t be my BEST work and that is troublesome, indeed.

    • says

      Yeah, I totally understand that too. I am normally a BIG proponent of charging ‘what you’re worth’ but this order came around and (for me) it was more than worth it. I’m delivering this work to the client at a much higher quality than she was expecting (she has said so several times). Even though I can’t go through and proof read it before sending, she is still thrilled with the results.

      The pay per hour isn’t the most I make for writing, but since I don’t have to do any of the ‘extras’ like research, applying for more jobs (though I’m still doing this to get other clients), revisions, proofing, ect it ends up being more than enough to make it worth my time.

      That being said…I don’t think it is always a good idea, and definitely not a good idea for everyone. This gig just gave me a different perspective on how *sometimes* writing for less per word isn’t a bad thing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. says

    I agree with you – you can’t write off an opportunity without weighing up the cost vs benefit. I do plenty of things that I don’t enjoy at work, but needs to be done …….. and given what you’ll get out of the job, and the clients happy, it sounds like a win win situation to me!
    Tamsin recently posted…Mission HappinessMy Profile

  3. says

    I agree, if the topic is easy to write about then why not do it? I often charge less for articles that are about topics that I am familiar with because I can write them a lot faster. If you don’t have anything else to work on, bulk work is always great.

    It’s not that easy to find clients who can provide you with bulk work but they are around. In fact, most clients will be return clients if you focus on writing the best content possible.

    Anyways, thanks for the information!
    TimothyTorrents recently posted…Make Quick Money Online #1: Re-Sell Services for a ProfitMy Profile

  4. says

    Great way to handle a controversial subject! I’ve read a great deal of criticism about accepting low-paying jobs, but as your experience proves, you never know when something that appears lower in pay could be a great project. I recently took on a similar job that pays less than I usually charge, but there was no research involved because it was a topic I’m extremely familiar with. I ended up making more per hour than on other “higher-paying” work.
    Plus, as a single mother and full-time writer, I have to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head so it makes me more flexible about the jobs I accept. I don’t have the luxury of saying I won’t write for less than $$ amount since this is my sole income. With that being said, I do have my bottom line that I won’t go below.
    By the way, I’m a big fan of this site and I’ve learned a lot since I started following it.

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