"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Survival or Selling Out? Does working cheaply devalue you as a writer?

"I'm taking what they givin' cause I'm working for a livin'."
--Huey Lewis

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
This line from a literary classic, in my opinion, aptly describes today's writing environment.

On one hand, the Internet, Blogging, social media, and historic milestones, has allowed writers of all genres and levels abundant opportunities for pay and exposure. But, conversely, a struggling economy, where clients are perhaps assigning fewer projects, or paying less, has many writers in a pickle of sorts.

For some, this may translate to taking Blogging gigs that pay 10 bucks, or signing on with a less than "desirable" client, or Ghost Writing for bargain-basement rates.

Is it wrong? Or is it smart?

The issue arose for me, when I was doing my typical Blog hopping, and happened upon a post by a prominent author who was on a crusade. She pledged to not take on projects for $15.00 or less, because, in her opinion, it only "begets more low paying work."

And, from her perspective, it devalues the writing profession as a whole.

My position? It all depends on the scope of the project, the time investment, the cause, and one's financial status.

Not to mention, during tough times, some money is better than none. Sometimes.

What's your position? Do you have guidelines that govern how little you'll work for?

Image Stock Photo


  1. Hi, Jennifer:

    From where I'm sitting, as a newbie writer, I'd take these projects on in a heartbeat. However, if I were a seasoned writer, I would *not* jump at these sorts of projects unless I was (1) in dire financial straits, or (2) seeking to break into a new market where I had no contacts and no experience.

    So, bottom line, I think it can be smart to take work that helps you in the long run, either because the work bulks up your resume in areas where it needs bulking, or because you'll make a valuable contact. Professionals work for free or reduced rates in other lines of work for the sake of making a contact, for good publicity, etc. Why not writers? My two cents.

    Interesting topic. Hot button.

    Be well!

  2. This is a good topic. My position is like yours. There are variables that affect my decisions on what to charge and who to work for.

    I used to write for one site that paid $15 per article. I did it to gain a little experience and make a bunch of cash quickly for a special gift for someone. It taught me how to write faster and target SEO terms. I worked with several different editors in the process; some were good, others not so much. I am grateful for the experience, but I do not desire to write for them again.

  3. Janette,

    Great feedback. Lawyers do pro bono work, photographers sometimes give reduced rates for package deals, etc.

    I say it depends on a few variables. Thanks for your input today.

  4. Karen,

    ...Been there, done that. ;-)

    I think it depends too on the publisher/client's ability to pay, as well. Is it a start-up? A small Ezine? A Blogging gig? Does the project require research? SEO writing?

    These are factors to be considered in the overall equation.

  5. Jennifer, I mostly say no to the low pay gigs, except, of course, when I don't. Sometimes I need the cash, and sometimes I like the cause. I have learned, however, to always ask for more... recently I was offered $30 a post... I asked for $75 and got it leaving me to wonder how much money I left on that table.

  6. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 31, 2011 at 11:32 AM


    Good advice and good strategy. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

  7. Hello Jennifer,

    Thanks for asking, because I have been thinking about this also. I do think that the focus needs to be on creating some sort of value and not on making money.

    On my - Writing Lifestyle - Blog (on the Short Stories In Developement Page) you can find an interesting Interview with Bestseller Writer Ray Bradbury telling about how he first wrote - Short Stories - with no pay
    or hardly any pay. Also about how those
    Short Stories created his 'Market Reach' and how eventually people became willing to actually pay for his Short Stories.

    A possibly even more Stunning Example might be Pupet Player Jeff Dunham while when they first tried to take his Funny Appearances on YouTube away from the Internet, to be able to Sell it on DVD, because his Funny Appearances where downloaded so massively
    (I do believe even arround - 115 million - views or something like that!) His Market Reach became so Huge and World Wide, that he didn't need to worry about people downloading a few 'Scoops', because now as a World Wide Player people all knew about Jeff and would be Happy to buy his DVD's, because now the whole world new about it, and wanted to buy them.

    In a somewhat similar way, on my blog I just aim to frequently freely give something of value and constantly add a little more value (things that I think can really be of practical value for writers, like links to handy websites, info about how you can get Inspiration for doing 'Public Speaking' to promote your writing etc. etc. ) and when I compare my blog to a few months ago the amount of unique visitors grew pretty big with about +400% !

  8. HP van Duuren,

    Thanks for such a detailed, in-depth response here. I appreciate the feedback.

    Congrats on the growth of your visitors.

  9. My opinion is that I shouldn't allow myself to starve halfway to six feet under just because most clients ask for a lower rate. I go for something comfortable, but modest enough to get a client quickly, when I have no other outlets to write for.

    After I've found the "cheaper" client, I search for clients that are more serious and pay a bigger tab. Most people don't do this, and feel comfortable earning less, indeed devaluing the writing profession as a whole. It once was a profession of prestige, and the situation I'm forced into is a result of nothing other than a bunch of people offering themselves cheaper.

  10. Miguel, welcome!

    You provide a very interesting perspective here; thanks for sharing it.

    Don't be a stranger. :-)