1. In general we value things by researching average pay ranges in the market for our skill set. You can’t compete on price if you live in the developed world. You need to play to the quality you bring. Part of that quality reflects in what you charge, both as a perception of quality based on the price and a premium for the actual quality.

    • That’s a really solid point, FullTimeFinance. I truly believe there’s something to the saying, “You get what you pay for.” I can bargain hunt my way through parts of life, but there are certain things that seem “too cheap” if that makes sense.

  2. GIRL, PREACH. I do freelance writing on UpWork and can’t believe the amount of short-changing that goes on, especially for very niche/technical industries. They want to pay $5 for a 1,000 word article. Bahahaha.


    My price per 500-word article is typically around $20. I spend a lot of time doing research, like you, so I don’t write crap. The good thing about freelancing platforms like UpWork is that you tend to get the higher quality clients (and reasonable pay) after earning a few good reviews. It gets easier to weed people out once you’re more established.

    • That’s really helpful to hear you’ve had positive experiences with them. I suppose I might be singing a different tune when it’s easier to work from home than it is to tutor at the library. And I’m also really glad to hear that you’ve found a price that you’re comfortable with that seems fair to you!

    • Yup. I knew the pay wouldn’t be great because it’s a family business that is quite small. I wrote the first piece in an hour. So that–plus research–made a decent hourly rate. Depending on how things shake out, I might push for more if I can prove my usefulness!

  3. PENNY!!!! You are NOT the same woman you were months ago when you were struggling with whether to keep tutoring a kid with a sh*t for a father! Brava!

    Many people in the personal finance community are selling themselves short. I’ve seen several posts about it with regard to sponsored posts and minimum rates. I don’t think I’d be comparing my rates to the going (cheap) rates from people that can easily be hired on these sites. I’d set myself apart based on my worth. Cinching one job will make it all worth it and totally raise the level of your pay from therein out.

    In my past job I personally hired a lot of contractors to perform computer services –grad students easily charged $50/hour and professionals started at $100/hour. Once a person performed work that was deemed valuable, he’d raise his rates after a year or so and we didn’t think twice about paying them.

    • Thanks, Mrs. G! You made my day, maybe even my blogging career. I still can’t believe the abuse I put up with for $40 an hour. While I may not monetize my blog, it’s definitely made me richer!

      That’s a really helpful insight about pay and value. I’ve only raised my rates tutoring once on a client. It was really hard for me to muster up the courage to do, but I had been with the family for three years and was starting to tutor a family friend. They didn’t even blink!

  4. I did a professional trade with a freelance copy editor. Her work was freaking AMAZING. I was just blown away. When I asked what her going rate is…my jaw dropped. I was like, “There is no way in hell, I would tell anyone you worked for that!” Double it and your still the most affordable option out there. Geesh.

    I think it’s hard to deem our own value. But an easy formula for freelancers is the industry rate if you worked for a company x 2.5. So if you had a full time writing job with benefits that paid $20 an hour, you should earn $50 an hour as a freelancer.

    • I love that formula, Ms. Montana! It is hard to put a price on ourselves, isn’t it? I’m lucky because for a long time, the local library kept a “going rates” list of tutors. So it was really easy to position myself competitively based on comparable experience, grade level, subject area, etc.

    • Bonnie

      Ms. Montana–I do freelance copy-editing and proofreading; if you don’t mind, I’d love to know what your friend charged. I might need to increase my rates!

  5. If I were really desperate, I’d work for any amount. If not, I’d not take anything lower than the hourly rate I get at my job. That’s one reason why I decided to start my blog two months ago. I wanted to invest my time in building a business for myself since I believe it will pay off in the future. Even if it doesn’t, I know I have invested in something I like and want to grow. 🙂

    • Yes. I should have said that in my post. We are not at that level (though I might artificially manufacture the mindset at times) where either of us has to work for anything in any situation. And we are incredibly fortunate.

      And kudos to you for starting a blog for that! I don’t know that I’ll ever really monetize this blog (and not necessarily for lack of trying), but I do think that the act of blogging has made me much wiser and richer.

  6. Sigh….I do this. Up until he made me furious I’d been writing for a guy paying me $3 for 300 words. It was money and it’s what I had. I know that time would be better spent pitching people who value me more, but that self doubt about my abilities creeps in.

    • Oh, Emmy! It is *so* easy for me to sit here and say, “You deserve better.” But as Mrs. G pointed out in an earlier comment, I was completely that same girl. I put up with so much abuse from a family that I tutored for. Last minute cancellations, forgotten checks, condescending and inappropriate emails all hours of the night. All because I thought something is better than nothing.

      I hope you find the courage and the clients to get paid more fairly. You’re so kick ass. <3

  7. Steve K

    I’m working (more as a hobby) writing football articles for a website that pays $5.00 per written piece… articles are expected to be about 750-1000 words and usually require quite a bit of research. Some days (weeks) it doesn’t feel worth it and i could be using that time on something more productive but I try to rationalize that with telling myself it’s a hobby I’m getting paid for. It can be tough to stay motivated sometimes, that’s for sure.

    • I suppose it’s better than a hobby (like this blog) that doesn’t pay anything. Do you feel like the website is set up where you can advance after a while?

  8. Great message to young entrepreneurs. Having lots of work isn’t necessarily a good thing. Quality over quantity.

    I remember reading a book about consulting that suggested consultants should be cutting 10% of their clients each year to make room for new ones. This doesn’t mean just cutting them off but it means raising your prices each year so that some of your bottom customers move on and make way for new ones. Without making room at the bottom it becomes harder and harder to get new/better business at the top.

    • Thanks, Piggy! And I understand that when you’re just starting out, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re worth. But even running on guesses and hunches, I think most people can see $5 an hour isn’t it.

  9. Yusss I love this! I think we have all fallen into this trap at one time or another. I have been doing work on the side for the last couple years, but only just picked up a freelance content writing gig for a marketing company earlier this year.

    WIthout giving me any kind of range or budget, they asked for my rate. I was super hesitant but largely because of blogs like yours and posts like these, I psyched myself up before throwing out a number of 15 cents per word. I thought that was pretty bold for not having done any freelance writing before, and they did negotiate down, but I was so proud of myself for asking!

  10. Marie

    Penny, just curious because I’m interested in this kind of work, did you begin freelancing after establishing your blog, or was this something you’ve always done? I’m always wondering how people find initial opportunities for freelance writing.

    • The blog definitely came first! It led directly to one gig, but the others have either fallen into my lap through blogger buddy networking or family. I wish I could write an e-book with the secret recipe, but I’m not sure there is one. I think the biggest thing is to let people know in real life and/or on social media that you’re willing to write! Good luck, Marie!

  11. Right now I tend to only write briefs or articles for a min of $500 (not counting what I do for my day job which is included with my salary, I guess). I have in the past written posts for about $100, but I don’t anymore.

    I don’t seek out writing opportunities–people come to me.

  12. Good on you for setting your standards. I think it’s important to find decent paying clients and leave the lower paying clients for people in more affordable countries where the low rates afford a decent lifestyle. I definitely wouldn’t take such low paying clients on board, it’s not worth the time and stress!

    • Thanks, Izy. That’s a perspective I hadn’t considered. I guess cost of living does factor into what you’re willing to work for!

  13. I recently thought about getting into the freelance game (writing/ social/ design/ web dev), but when I saw the low going rates on Upwork I lost motivation! I’m so glad you agree with charging what you’re worth. I’m sure it comes down partly to circumstances but also partly to confidence level. If you think you’re a good writer and are worth more than you’re being paid- you probably are!

  14. Wow! I can’t even believe… that people work for so little!!!! Good for you for not! I think a lot of it comes down to believing in your own self worth and not operating on a fear basis (oh my gosh! What if I don’t make enough money this month?). I think if you continue to properly valuate yourself in the market, you’ll find better-quality clients who are ultimately less trouble to work for. And you’ll be able to work less, which, for a creative pursuit like writing, is important. We don’t tend to give ourselves enough downtime to think, process, and let our minds wander.

    • I agree, Laurie. The times that I’ve most contemplated these job boards are usually right after I crunch the numbers about my maternity leave. Prior to that, it was always after some big, unforeseen expense. I know we can float through all of these situations, but I completely understand that moment of panic.

    • That’s fantastic that you were able to build up a portfolio so quickly! I really fear for the people who feel like they’re supposed to be on Fiverr for $5 a gig forever. Oof.

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