Call me a snob. Call me out of touch. Call me whatever you want, but I’m not chasing after that insultingly low-paying writing job. And you shouldn’t either.
When I was approached last month to produce a sample to see if I would be a good fit to ghostwrite for a small local company, the first thing I did was inquire about payment. Was it an aggressive move? Maybe. Especially considering I didn’t disclose this blog to the company, and I don’t have any official portfolio to speak of.
While I awaited a reply, I told Mr. P the least I would accept was $50. His jaw dropped. But between taxes and having to do a fairly significant amount of research to understand this company’s niche, I maintained it was a fair price. Plus, I know how much I make tutoring.
It turns out, I was right on the money. The owner was willing to pay $50-$100 per post depending on length. Or at least that is what he had paid his last writer. After an emailed handshake of sorts, I got to drafting.
But if I’m so gung ho to try to make money online writing, why not cut my chops at a lower price point? The short answer: Low-paying writing gigs benefit just about everyone besides the writer.
If It Glitters, Is It Gold or Clickbait?
We’ve all see the posts online. In addition to making 37 cents an hour doing surveys or clicking a link to start your own blog, you, too, can earn money online as a writer. Especially if you’re willing to start at a $5, $10, or $15 price point. While it’s true that I’ve written my fair share of posts about earning money online using Poshmark, I’m not telling anyone to sell their soul for $5 an hour.
What’s the difference? Poshmark requires about five minutes of my time to set up a listing and then I wait. Lately, I forget that I even have active listings until I get the email notification that something has sold. These writing gigs, on the other hand, generally require you to actively seek out work, pay all sorts of fees on top of taxes, and put in a considerable amount of your time for very little reward.
I understand the desperation. I understand the frustration. I even understand the boredom. Every once in awhile when I can’t sleep, I’ll think to myself, Making $10 right now would be better than scrolling through Twitter for the 87th time. Which is a terrible, terrible lie. This is the golden age of Twitter, friends. It’s true that our budget is so refined that an extra $100 a month would go a long way. But it’s also true that there are plenty of other ways that I could make that $100 for a lot less aggravation.
The Real Winners
But what about someone who really wants to get started as a writer? Most people who are less impulsive than I am would attempt to cobble together a portfolio. But are you really building a portfolio by seeking out these jobs? Possibly. But you’re also building an empire for companies like Fiverr and Upwork.
Upwork takes anywhere between 5-20% based on lifetime earnings per client relationship on their new sliding service fee scale. Let that per client relationship part sink in for a moment. One client has to connect with you for $10,000 plus for their fees to dip into 5% territory.
Fiverr is much the same in that you net about 80% of what your gig sells for, and then there’s another small fee tacked onto your earnings when you cash out via PayPal. So if you work the math, that $5 gig actually yields less than $4. But Penny, what if I can work really fast? Excellent. Let’s say it only takes you 20 minutes or better yet 15. Congratulations, you’ve made $16 an hour before taxes. Any way you slice it, the biggest winner here is the platform that hosts these transactions.
Know Your Worth
If you don’t know what your writing or your time is worth, don’t let someone else set the value for you. Because they’ll never set it in your favor. It’s like every grandma’s favorite saying with a slightly different twist. You give the milk away and no one is going to bother buying Bessie.
Sure, the starving artist archetype exists. But it’s nothing worth emulating. In fact, if you really love to write that much, you should seek out the highest value you can get. For yourself and for everyone else who has ever plucked at a keyboard or put pen to paper. If you maintain that everyone has to start somewhere and this is really where you want to start, go for it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So Tell Me…How do you set prices for your work? Are you ever tempted to undervalue your talents?