Why You Shouldn’t Start Out with Low Prices

we can do itWhen working with writers in the past, many of them (myself included) made the mistake of charging very little when first starting out.  In my own case, I looked at the market and started writing on Fiverr for $5 per 1000 word article.  After a few weeks of that, I realized it was a big mistake and moved my price to $5 per 500 word article.  Of course, with Fiverr taking their $1 cut of each sale, I was still only making $4 per article.  I foolishly believed that I was building up my reputation and getting the experience I needed before I could raise my prices.

After a few months, I started using ‘gig extras’ on Fiverr to charge more, and made additional gigs where I was charging $5 for 250 or 100 words.  That was a little better, but I wasn’t getting many orders on those gigs (people don’t come to Fiverr for high-quality content, remember!).  For about the first year of freelance writing, I made the mistake of trying to start with low prices, and work my way up.  This is a terrible idea, and while it might seem to make sense at first, it actually doesn’t work at all, and I’ll tell you why.  The following are some of the reasons why I (and many others) think this is a good idea, followed by an explanation of why it is a mistake.

I’m Building a Reputation as a Writer

There are two main points I’d like to make about this.  First, while building a reputation can be very valuable, you’re not building the type of reputation you want.  You are building a reputation as a cheap writer.  If a client who is looking for a high-quality writer sees you’re writing for $.01 per word, they will assume you aren’t that great.  Even if you have many positive reviews on a site like Fiverr, they will look at this as positive reviews from low quality sources.  Your positive reputation on sites like Fiverr, and many content mills, isn’t worth anything outside of those sites.

Secondly, the Internet is a HUGE place.  Your reputation isn’t going to help you much most of the time.  Even if you’ve built a strong reputation in one area, it won’t transfer well to other niches.  In most cases, your reputation as a writer isn’t nearly as valuable as most people believe.

I’m Building a Client List and will raise My Prices Later

Clients who are looking to pay $5 or $10 per article will never pay you $25+.  That is simply out of their reach.  They are using the articles you are writing for general content, or worse, article directory marketing, which won’t earn them too much money.  If they aren’t making money off of your articles, they can’t pay you a lot to write them.  When you approach a client asking them to double (or more) your pay rate, you’ll lose the client (and the reputation you’ve built with them).

I Need the Cash now – I’ll find Higher Paying Clients Later

This is a huge one, and I completely understand it.  The temptation to turn out a dozen easy articles per day at $10 each is strong.  The main problem is, however, that you’ll never have enough time to market yourself to the higher paying markets.  The people who are looking for cheap writers will keep you extremely busy, and you’ll find yourself stuck writing for less than you’re worth until you force yourself out of it.

I’m not good enough for $25-50 per Article

Confidence is another thing many writers are lacking.  Many writers look at the fact that writing an article isn’t too difficult for them, and assume that means it is not very valuable.  The fact is, however, that writing high-quality content is an important skill which most people in the world don’t have.  Look at your writing skills honestly, and if you are in the top 10% of people you know, you can easily make $25-$50 (or much more) per article.

In addition, look at me!  As you can see by reading through my site, I’m not the best writer in the world.  I’m not bad, I’m better than most.  When I’m writing for clients, I take a little extra time to read through for grammar, spelling and formatting problems, but no, I’m not perfect!  Despite this, I can still make $25+ per article without a problem.  *(Honesty disclaimer here.  I still have some clients I write for at $12.50 per article, but they are so easy to work with I can’t justify dropping them.  I can hammer out 4-5 articles per hour for them, so it is still well worth my time)*   I haven’t accepted new clients at that rate in quite some time.

I Don’t Have any other Skills

Many people believe that since they don’t know a lot about Internet Marketing or other ways to make money online, they have to write for others in order to make some cash.  I love freelance writing, and it is a great way to get up-front money fast.  If you’re a good writer though, you should be building up other income streams as well!  Remember, if someone is paying you $25 per article, they are going to be making A LOT more from that article!  Taking some time to learn how to create websites, engage in article marketing and other things is essential for any writer.

I have quite a few posts up on this site that can help you get started, and an excellent guide which will walk you through setting up a niche authority site so you can have secondary incomes other than freelance writing!  Check out my extremely detailed guide on creating authority niche sites HERE if you are interested.

There are Other Writers Offering Content for Less than $.01 per Word

There are two groups of people who write for $.01 per word or less.  Those who can’t write well (especially those who have English as a second, or third language), and those who haven’t realized that they are good writers.  The first group doesn’t need to raise their prices.  They are offering a lower quality product, and therefore a lower price is justified.  For good writers, however, it is important to learn that you’re not competing for the same jobs as those low quality writers!  I wrote a post all about it HERE, if you are interested in learning more about competing with cheap writers.


I’m sure there are many other reasons people have for writing at low rates. Please let me know why you accept work at $.02 per word (or less), or why you did in the past.  We can all help each other drive our prices up even more!

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  1. says

    Hi Michael

    Excellent post, and all your points are spot on. I got caught (VERY briefly) by the confidence issue, but I managed to move past it very quickly. I’m moving into better markets, have a great flow of work, and love what I am doing.

    My initial lack of confidence does show in some of my work (particularly my website, which I am busy correcting now), but at the same time I now know I am improving with each piece I write.

    Chris Meier recently posted…Common Social Media Mistakes Brands are still MakingMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks for the kind words! I agree that confidence is one of the most important things for a freelance writer. You need to be able to stand firm on your prices, and be willing to go for the higher paying jobs!


  2. Gary Cunnane says

    Excellent advice. Unlike most I was able to start out at 22.00 for a 600 word article. I did for a short while ( one day) try writing for a semi mill for 10.00, on a topic I was very comfortable with. It was 500 words requiring no research. One picky egotistical editor made that venture short lived sending back every single page for one reason or another. That can diminish self esteem very quickly. Instead of letting it bother me, I told him to relocate to where it is much warmer.
    I find that there are plenty of good writers out there willing to work for 10-15.00 for 500 word posts which seems to keep the market low. I discovered that concentrating on niches is key. If I write write on a particular topic, and have the portfolio to prove it, I can get a better price.

  3. JD says

    Like you mention in your article, I was once in the group of those who seriously lacked confidence in their work. Even though friends and family said I was a better writer than I gave myself credit for, I just thought they were being nice because they were biased. On top of that, getting paid $0.03 per word doesn’t give you much of a boost in that area either. After reading a few articles from more seasoned freelance writers, about building confidence and ditching the content mills, I decided to ‘fake till I made it’ so-to-speak. I tried my best to represent myself as a writer who was confident in their abilities when writing pitches. I even used some of my very best pieces that I had spent hours researching and working on for a content mill as work samples to further my point in the pitch. Guess what happened, I landed an ongoing contract with a magazine for way more than $0.03 per word. Go figure. I would like to admit that this didn’t happen on the first pitch.

  4. says

    $25 per article is still ridiculously cheap. I’d hate to have to write at that speed (5 x 500 word articles per day) , with that level of detachment and indifference about the quality/content of my work – in order to make $100 per day.

    In my opinion it takes just as much time to manage a relationship with a $25 per article client as a $125 per article client – probably less. I only work with the later, and while harder to find in the first instance, the ongoing work and referrals that come from this calibre of client make the extra effort very much worth it.

    $25 articles should be a desperate ( shit , I need to keep the lights on, job), not your usual rate clientele or price point.

    From my experience, content mill clips make you look cheap and inexperienced to high-end publishers or financially healthy business owners. A better work around to the ” I don’t have any clips, quandary”, is to write an article on a topic they ( your prospect) can relate to, at a standard you know they would want. Use that as your clip. Work for free even (for a limited period of time), just get your foot through the door while establishing your table image and commercial value early on.

    • says

      I agree with much of what you’ve said. I don’t have a problem with $25 per article writing (sometimes) or even less. I look at how much I make per hour in order to determine whether or not it is worth it to me. For example, I’ve got a few clients that I write for at $12.50 per article. This is REALLY low, but their articles don’t take much/any research, and when I sit down to write them I can usually get 4-5 done per hour. That means I can make $50-60 per hour, and I don’t have any ‘non-billable hours’ since these clients just shoot me over what they need, and I invoice them and write it. Granted, it is not the most rewarding work or anything, but it keeps my PayPal account funded, lol. When I’m writing for clients that require me to do research, and do a more detailed proof-reading, I’ll charge more. Often MUCH more.

      I do love my clients that pay me $75-150 per article too. The work is more challenging, but more rewarding. I will take an hour or two working on one article, but the pay is obviously much higher. For me, it is all about the dollars per hour (including non-billable hours). I completely understand why someone wouldn’t want to work for lower rates though.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!


    • Jaleesa says

      Content mill clips only make you look “cheap & inexperienced” if your market them as such. The fact that you met the client from which SOME of your clips came, through a content mill is need-to-know type information. If your potential client doesn’t ask how you came in contact with the previous client, which most likely they won’t, then why would you even bring that up? You did the work, you logged the man hours, so as long as you’re not infringing on the terms & condition of the content mill through which you only met that previous client, then why even put that tidbit, about meeting them through a content mill, into the mix? Give the potential client the direct link to the live piece along with OTHER links to a few more live work samples you have and call it a day.

      Aside from that, unless the content you produce for content mill clients is your run of the mill type barely sub-par crap content you usually see from mass production, then what difference does it make how you came in contact with that client. If the content you put out on a content mill would be seen as garbage anywhere else, then by all means do yourself a favor & keep that to yourself. But if you decide to not fall into that lackadaisical trap of letting the quality of your work slip that far simply because you’re getting paid less, then you have very little if anything to fear in terms of how you will be viewed by potential clients for using that piece as a work sample.

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