Competing With Cheap Writers

cheap writersFor high-quality content creators it can be discouraging to log on to a freelance site like eLance or oDesk and see people bidding $.01 per word, or even less.  How could we possibly make a living at that rate, and why would we want to.  How can we compete with such low prices?  The simple answer is, we can’t.  Fortunately, we don’t have to, and this post will explain why.

The makers of high-end automobiles like Mercedes, Bentley and Rolls-Royce don’t walk through a Kia dealership and wonder how they could possibly compete.  They recognize that even through a $500,000 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster and a $20,000 Kia are both cars, they aren’t even close to the same product.  There is certainly a market for the Kia, even a large market.  There is also, however, a market for the Mercedes.  Of course, there is also a market for cars at nearly every price point in between.

Similarly, there is a market for content at nearly every price point.  Customers will expect much more if they are paying $.25 per word than they would $.005, and they have a right to.  For those of us in the middle to high-end writing market, we need to learn how to market ourselves properly and also how to deliver the content our customers need.

What Makes High-Quality Content worth the Price

Here is an example of the type of writing I’ve seen from the lowest end of the writing market. “When looking with high needs for great article building, you can look no further than me.  I will always do the needful to make sure you appreciate the best results, and on time.”   Yikes.  Now, if you take your time, you can understand what they are trying to say.  They have gotten their point across, barely.  Of course, even the novice writer from an English speaking country would never write like this.

It’s not that the low-priced content creators are lazy or stupid, they just don’t speak our language.  Literally.  I have nothing but respect for these individuals.  They are trying to improve their lot in life, and if this is how they can do it, that’s great!  Honestly, their (really poor) English is far better than my non-existent second language.

So, to get to the point, there are several things that set high-quality content apart from the rest, and these are the things that make it worth far more:

  • Readability – There are few things more frustrating than visiting a website and having to struggle to read every page because the content is written so poorly.  You can bet that I’ll be bouncing right off the site and finding a site owned by someone who takes pride in the quality of the content.
  • Persuasiveness – If you’re looking to get someone to make a purchase, click a link or take any other action, having persuasive content is essential.  If I can get someone to buy your product after reading my content, you’ll have to pay me for it!
  • Flow – High-quality content will flow much better, and won’t seem so choppy.  From beginning to end, the content should have a coherent feel to it, which readers love.
  • Search Engines – Google and the other search engines are getting better and better at judging the quality of content.  Using factors like bounce rate combined with advanced algorithms, Google will rank sites with high-quality content better than those without it.

So, the bottom line is, as a high-quality writer you should NEVER compete with a cheap writer.  If you’re bidding on the same job, don’t give their $20 bid a second thought as you type in a $200 bid.  If the customer is looking for high-quality content, they will know to pass right over the ultra-low bids and choose someone who can give them the content they need.  If a potential client tries to convince you to write for less than you’re worth, don’t listen to them (that’s not to say you can’t negotiate, but never write for less than you’re worth!).

Remember, you’re selling a Mercedes here (or at least a nice Mustang), not a Kia.  Writing for pennies just to get the job is never a good idea.  I certainly have more to say on this topic, and I’ll circle back to it in the future, but for now, hopefully this has given some comfort to those of you worried about bidding against the low-ball writers.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.  Or, as always, you can contact me directly at

Thank you


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  1. says

    All I can say is, “very well said”! I worked for pennies for so long I thought it was the only way. It’s taken a couple of years to establish myself (and call myself) a freelance writer, but I’ve learned my way around pretty good and appreciate what you have to say. Thanks so much for sharing!


    • says

      Thanks for stopping by! When I first started out I was working for $.01 per word (or less!) for a little while. I’ve learned that this isn’t sustainable though and have now discovered that it is much better to take the time to find the real clients. The funny thing is I have far less drama from the clients who pay me $.05+ per word than I did from those who paid me $.01.

      I think this is because the higher-paying clients actually know how to properly use the content, and how to provide clear instructions for what they are asking for.


  2. Rob says

    This is extremely useful … and may I shamelessly crib some of your points in my own responses to requests for proposal? A job layoff almost 4 years ago forced me to do something I had only done in a halfhearted way up to that point: become a freelance writer. (It’s actually scary to think it’s been almost four years. My 11 year old son can hardly remember me having a normal Monday-to-Friday corporate job, and the harder part is the loss of livelihood: Despite a 1.75 hour commute each way, the job paid $75K a year.)

    I have discovered that compensation is all over the map. I’ve discovered that the more traditional venues (ie., print publications) tend to pay better and are not quite as difficult as online content. I recently started doing some work for an insurance site that pays 6 cents/word, which I thought was really chintzy. My key measurement is to gauge how much time I’ve spent on an assignment: If it’s a 700 word article and it took me two hours to write, that works out to about $22/hour… which is halfway decent.

    It helps to have a bunch of supplemental part-time jobs as well, which are easier to find than full-time employment and tend to pay better than an hourly post at a department store or supermarket. One tip: try looking for supermarket demo gigs on Craigslist, particularly if there is a Whole Foods Market nearby. Makers of high-priced foods tend to pay well to have an articulate person give out healthy samples, and talk up their nutritional benefits.

    • says

      That is great that you’ve been a full time freelancer for 4+ years! I’d like to be able to do it some day, but part time is enough for me at this point. I like my regular job, it pays pretty well and has good insurance and other benefits. I’m in a pretty good position overall, but once the kids are grown up it would be fun to be able to write full time!

      I agree that there are a lot of different types of writing jobs, and the compensation can vary greatly! Finding the right ones for you can be difficult, but hopefully this site will help people with that!


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