I should clarify something. In previous blog posts, I’ve said that I started freelancing full-time last year, but it’s more accurate to say that I went back to freelancing. I’ve been a professional copywriter/editor since I was 21, and have been sending out my work since I was 16. So I have experience seeking work, markets, and clients.
Like any freelancer, I’ve faced a dilemma over the years: what do I charge for my services?
I currently price a project by the amount of work involved (including research), and my time.
Time is a freelance writer’s most precious resource. Talent, creativity, and skills aren’t worth much if you spend your time working for wages that cannot support you (and/or your family).
Okay, so what happens if business is slow? There are two schools of thought:
1. Take any job
2. Don’t take job below your usual rate, because you end up losing money by spending time on low paying gigs.
I’ve done both. My first paying job as a writer/editor was as a news editor for the Collage, the newspaper of The Claremont Colleges. The job paid a lump sum at the end of the semester, and it was far from princely. But it was good writing, editing, and managing experience, so it ended up being worth it.
Fast forward several years. I took freelance work that was much less than my hourly rate. I ended up working more than 60 hours that week. You can argue that it was worth it, but the stress and knowledge of the lower pay rate made it a fairly miserable week.
“Okay Mahesh,” you might say, “that’s all well and good, but the recovery is still sluggish and I need to keep my kids clothed and fed.”
I totally understand. If you lock in a sure gig and it’s less than market rate, but you have a bill coming due … by all mean’s, take the job. Who am I to say different?
But if you’ve hit a dry spell and your bank account can weather it, you may be better off marketing your skills to clients who need you.
And, let’s be honest, writers don’t charge doctorly or even lawyerly rates. I have a good idea what my peers charge. We’re all affordable.
So holding out for fair pay means running the risk of walking a tight-rope, but think about the potential rewards: clients who are willing to pay you what you are worth and appreciate your time.
Do you take any gig at any price? Or do you hunker down and market to clients who will meet your rate?