Freelance Writers: 4 Reasons I’m Glad I Embraced Cheap Writing Gigs Early in My Career

Any time you talk about becoming a freelance writer or freelance writing in general, if you want to start an “argument,” bring rate into the conversation. It gets heart rates up like no other aspect of this career. And boy, it can get ugly!

I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993. I’ve worked for content mills and Fortune 500 companies – and every kind of customer in between. While high-paying freelance writing gigs are always the goal, there was a time in my career when I embraced low-paying gigs. Before I tell you why though, let’s define “low-paying.”

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What Is a Low-Paying Freelance Writing Job?

This is so varied that it’s not even funny. While some wouldn’t even dream of writing 500 words for $25, others will take this type of gig all day long.

There are rate guidelines set by noted industry organizations like Writer’s Market and the Editorial Freelancers Association, but the majority of writing gigs posted on popular freelance marketplaces like Upwork don’t begin to approach these rates.

So for our purposes here, let’s just agree that a low-paying gig is one where you can’t earn $15 per hour, the proposed federal minimum wage. As a freelancer, of course, you need to earn approximately double that to “really” earn $15/hour to offset expenses like Social Security and Medicare taxes.

However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s just stick with $15/hour as a baseline minimum, ok? And you can’t earn that taking on, for example, $5 for 500-word article writing gigs.

FYI, according to GlassDoor.com, the national average salary for a SEO Content Writer (in 2017) is $48,302 in the United States. Click To Tweet

Why I Love “Cheap” Freelance Writing Gigs

Even though I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993, in 2007, I discovered SEO writing. This form of online writing generates a lot of work, but a lot of it was low-paying, especially back then.4 Reasons I Love Cheap Writing Gigs

Because many website owners discovered that you could use keyword-stuffed, search engine-optimized content to get a site to rank high pretty quickly though, the demand for this type of writing was red hot.

It still is to this day, but Google tweaks its algorithm frequently and the SEO tricks used then don’t work nowadays. But, I digress.

In 2007 after I lost my job and dove back into freelance writing, I kept running into ads for “SEO article writers”, “SEO content providers” and “freelance SEO writers,” I finally figured out what it was and how to write this type of content. Then, I started applying and landing gigs.

Although a lot of them were what many consider low-paying, I embraced them. Following are four reasons why.

1. Easier to Get

Higher-paying clients tend to be harder to land than lower-paying clients. That’s just a simple fact.

You can do your marketing and wait for a 50 cents or $1/word gigs — and those are out there — or you can do the same amount of marketing and land a few clients who are willing to pay less.

There are many $25 to $50 per 500 or 750-word SEO article writing gigs. And it’s because the need for search engine-optimized content is greater than ever.

When I first started SEO writing, I’d lost a full-time job, but I still had the same expenses every month, eg, mortgage, car payment, student loans, etc.; hence, I needed money – and fast!

I charged $25 for 500 words and got so busy within the first few months that I had to hire help. Those low-paying gigs paid the bills. Now I’m not saying it was easy. The days were long and hectic, but the work was relatively easy and straightforward.

It relieved the stress of worrying about paying my bills, and that you can’t put a price on.

Thanks to the growth in content marketing, SEO writing is a red-hot profession with no slow-down in sight. Click To Tweet

2. Got Over the “I Don’t Know How to Write SEO Content” Fears

Another reason I embraced cheap SEO writing gigs is that since it was a new medium for me, it got me over my “not being good enough / I don’t know what the heck I’m doing yet” fears. As I’d never written SEO content before, I quite frankly wouldn’t have felt comfortable applying for a $300, 500-word blog post writing gig.

But for a lower rate, my thinking was, “How hard can it be if they’re only willing to pay $25?

The ironic thing I’ve discovered now that my rates are much higher is that if you take pride in your work and are a good writer, there’s no difference between writing a $300, 500-word blog post and a $25, 500-word post, as this freelancer discovered when he started getting $100 for blog posts (as opposed to $25 or $35).

3. Experience

If you spend a month writing five, seven or 10 articles per day, trust me, you gain experience! This is exactly what I did in the early days of my SEO writing career.

It was truly trial by fire and it gave me the confidence to raise my rates relatively quickly – confidence it would have taken me much longer to gain had I not landed so many cheap writing gigs so quickly.

4. Quick Money

Many clients who find a good writer at subpar rates will load that writer up with work. In my opinion, it’s because they know they’re getting a good deal. This means you can earn a decent amount of money fast.

In my first week of writing SEO content, I landed 14 gigs (at $25/article) – from one client. Then I systemized my marketing, putting together a form email that I sent out to hundreds of companies. I landed even more gigs – which meant I had to hire help because I got so busy so quick.

Weekly, I was sending out invoices for $300, $800 and $500 to four, five and six clients. I was landing so much work that I eventually stopped marketing altogether, and raised my rates.

SEO Writing Rates Today

The rates that freelancers can charge – right out of the box today – are double what I charged back then.  When I first started, it wasn’t uncommon to see $3, and $5 per 500 words. Nowadays, although these types of gigs still exist, it’s not uncommon to see $35; $40; and $50 for 500-word gigs advertised.

So rates have increased, thanks in large part to content marketing.

Write for Us — Submit a Guest Post.

When I look back today, I can honestly say that my success as a freelance writer is due to the fact that I was willing to take on those cheap writing gigs that many may have turned their noses up at.

I gained experience and was able to earn enough to pay my bills without having to go back to a 9-to-5 job. Eventually, I used my knowledge of SEO to make money writing for myself, eg, self-publishing ebooks and marketing them online; developing and teaching online writing ecourses, and doing affiliate marketing.

Knowing how to market on the web – which is what search engine optimization is all about – opened doors that I didn’t even know existed when I first started writing SEO content. And if the cheap writing gigs hadn’t been there, those are doors I quite possibly never would have walked through.

You Don’t Have to Take on Cheap Freelance / SEO Writing Gigs

The one thing I want to make clear is that I’m definitely not saying that you have to take on low-paying writing gigs when you just start out. You don’t. If you feel comfortable charging more – please do! And tell others how you did it so they can do it too.

Why Freelance Writing Rates are Personal

I’m just recounting my route and my experience here because I don’t want aspiring freelancers to be bullied into NOT starting this fabulous career because they don’t feel good enough; or, mistakenly believe that you have to charge a certain rate to be considered a “real writer.” You don’t.

Your rates are personal, just as personal as your reason(s) for wanting to freelance. I wanted to freelance because I kept getting fired or let go from jobs, and I wanted more control over my career and my finances. It was vital to my overall happiness. Don’t let anyone take your “happy” (whatever it is) away from you by berating you for your rates.

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One final thing … tune out the naysayers when it comes to setting your freelance / SEO writing rates. Many will slam you if you’re not charging what they think is a high-enough rate. As I’ve said before, none of them are going to show up on your doorstep or mail you a check when your mortgage, car payment, student loan or insurance bill is due.

So if writing for the equivalent of $15/hour works for you, then do it. As you gain more experience and get more comfortable, you’ll raise your rates (if you want).

The bottom line is, no one has to shoulder your financial burden(s) but you. Hence, no one should be in charge of telling you what to charge as a freelance writer … but you.

P.S.: How Does Earning $120,000 (NOT a Typo) in 6 Months Sound?

One freelance, online writer earned $20,000 — in one month. And, I happen to know she’s done it for the last six consecutive months, with no slow-down in sight. She’ll be writing a post about it soon, which I’ll reblog here of course. This can be you in the coming year — if you get trained … and get started.

P.P.S.: Start Your 6-Figure Freelance Writing Business Today!

Learn SEO, then start landing high-paying writing gigs quickly. This bundled course shows you how. It’s taught by experts in their respective niches (Yuwanda, SEO; Laura, Upwork). It truly is the fastest, easiest way to start a high-earning freelance writing career from scratch. BTW, learn how to get started now and pay later.

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    1. I love everything about this post! This strategy also works really well on Upwork, because in addition to the experience, you’re earning client feedback, which only helps you raise your rates and land future clients… a win-win if you ask me!

      • Thanks Laura. I wrote it cuz it just pisses me off when I hear (usually more experienced) writers going, “Don’t write for that. It brings the rate down for all of us.” Well, “when all of us” show up on my doorstep to pay my mortgage at the beginning of every month, then I’ll consider charging what you want me to charge. Until then, beat it buster! I have 6 articles sitting in my hopper that need to be written that’s a guaranteed $150. LOL! 🙂

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