For 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.
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!