How I Stopped Taking on Low-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs – Once and for All – and You Can Too

I receive questions from freelance writers all the time about how to earn more. Many, especially in the SEO writing sector, continue to slave away at low-paying gigs, while others routinely charge – and get – livable rates (eg, $35, $50, $75 or more for an SEO article).

FYI, it doesn’t matter which niche you specialize in as a freelance writer, the following advice will give you some insight into why and how to avoid low-paying writing gigs. Before we get into the meat of the post though, let me explain why I wanted to address this today.

Why I Raised My Writing Firm’s Writing Rates

Recently, I raised rates at my SEO writing company. Almost immediately after doing so, we landed a new client – the first one of the year – who didn’t even blink at the rate ($85 per SEO article).

I felt this was some kind of sign that I was doing the right thing for my business (not that I had any doubt about it).

The reason I raised our rates is because I hadn’t done so for a while (over a year) and the New Year is a good time to do so. Why? As I explained in the post, What Payment Methods to Expect//Accept from Clients & How/When to Raise Rates without Losing Clients:

Clients are primed for rate increases around this time, so it may go over easier and make it seem more like an across-the-board company policy [which is what my rate increase was] than an increase on them . . .

So that’s the first reason I wanted to share this info with you.

Many people start freelance businesses this time of year. It’s the whole, “I hate my job; I need to do something different this year” mentality. My thinking is, if you start off setting your rates to earn a decent living as a freelance writer, then you won’t struggle so much with the “How much should I charge” question, which dogs a lot of newbies to freelancing.

This is the second reason I wanted to talk about this today.

Now that you have some background, let me address how I stopped taking on low-paying freelance writing jobs – once and for all – and how you can as well.

My Journey to Landing High-Paying Freelance Writing Gigs

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and/or have downloaded and read my story in the free eboAdvice on How to Stop Taking on Low-Paying Freelance Writing Jobsok, Living the Freelance Life!, you know that I believe in setting your freelance writing rates according to what you personally need to make a living.

The reason I believe in this so much is because when I lost my last job in corporate America in 2007, I was desperate NOT to have to go to work for anyone else – ever again!

Landing High-Paying Freelance Writing Gigs: My First Lesson (Piece of Advice)

While some lamented that $25 article writing gigs was “too low” (what I charged when I first started as an SEO content provider), I was taking them on as fast as I could get them because they allowed me to earn enough to pay my bills.

And get them I did!

I got so busy within the first couple of months that I outsourced writing jobs to other freelancers to help me out.

Lesson as it relates to taking on “low-paying” freelance writing jobs: Do what you have to do for YOU. Discard what everyone else is saying as far as freelance rates are concerned. I know that if I hadn’t adopted this attitude, I would not be where I am today.


Because I not only got a lot of work and gained some loyal clients — at a time when I desperately needed them mind you – I learned a ton about SEO writing (which was a new niche for me back in 2007/early 2008).

I was able to parlay this experience and knowledge into a whole new company (NewMediaWords.biz).

Landing High-Paying Freelance Writing Gigs: Lesson #2

After I got busy and started outsourcing work to other freelance writers, I took a hard look at the numbers to determine how much I was actually earning off of each piece of content. I had an idea, but I needed concrete specifics that I could plug into my income projection chart.

As an aside, I had a business mentor who drilled this into me years ago. He’d say, “Get intimate with your numbers; they’ll never lead you wrong.” And FYI, he meant ALL the numbers of your business, eg, marketing conversion rates, freelancer/employee pay rates, personal/business tax rates, etc. So that’s what I did.

Once I did this, I knew I had to raise my rates. I went from charging $25 per article to $35/$45 (depending on the type of content). When I outsourced, I’d pay freelancers anywhere from $15-$30 per article, which allowed me enough of a profit margin to operate my business and pay myself a decent salary.

Lesson as it relates to taking on “low-paying” freelance writing jobs: Once you know EXACTLY what your numbers are, you can make decisions pretty easily; you cease to struggle with the “How much should I charge” question.

For example, I could have kept my freelance writing rates at $25 per article and paid freelancers $5-$10 per article. But, I knew that the quality would be hit-and-miss, which meant I’d have to spend more time on the content. This would have cut into my profit margin – which means it wouldn’t have been worth my while.

By knowing my numbers, I knew I had NO CHOICE but to raise rates. Hence, it wasn’t a difficult decision.

Now, did I lose some clients? Yes, I did. I had to ramp up my marketing efforts to land more – but I DID land them. And, they were better paying.

A side benefit was, as like tends to hangs with like, these better-paying clients tended to refer other well-paying clients. It’s like you graduate from one tier and once you have, it’s just as easy to stay there as when you were hanging out on a lower (paying) level.

Getting High-Paying Freelance Writing Gigs: Conclusion

Obviously, I could go on and on about this topic. But I’ll stop here. I just wanted you to know that being a freelance writer does not mean working for slave wages.

I also wanted to share with you some insight into how I graduated from low-paying writing gigs (eg, charging $25 per article, which to me was just fine), to higher-paying ones (again, my SEO writing company currently charges $85 per SEO article).

If you factor these two lessons into what to charge as a freelance writer, it should make it much easier to arrive at a figure that works for you – and your business.

Share Your Freelance Writing Rate(s) Story

Are you stuck in low-paying gigs? Why do you think that is? Or, have you managed to escape low-paying writing jobs for higher-paying ones? Please share in the comments section below how you did it.

New Ebook on How to STOP Taking on Low-Paying Writing Gigs

FYI, I’m working on an ebook about how to once and for all stop taking on low-paying freelance writing jobs as I have a lot more info to share about this topic. It’ll be ready at the end of April 2013 (June 2013).

One of my goals this year is to complete 12 ebooks. I’m working on one now that will be ready at the end of this month. Its working title is The Freelance Writer’s SEO Letter of Agreement (Update: Finished in February 2013). It addresses everything that should be covered in your contract with SEO writing clients – this helps you get paid in a timely manner, among other benefits.

Stay tuned!
P.S.: Wondering what to charge for blogging jobs, SEO writing jobs, social media posting jobs, etc.?

Now you don’t have to!


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    1. @Kinya:

      One more thing . . . I do sometimes advise freelancers who take my freelance writing courses on what to charge.

      But, I make it clear that it’s just my opinion. I always stress that they should do what works for them.

      Now, I am logging off. The wine I’ve been sipping is starting to kick in and I can’t be responsible for what I post when it fully does. 🙂

    2. @Kinya:

      And that’s the main point — ie, don’t stay stuck there.

      It’s been my experience that many freelancers feel the need to work on some things (eg, confidence, writing samples, etc.) before they feel comfortable charging what more experienced freelancers charge. But in the meantime, bills still need to be paid.

      It doesn’t mean you have to take the low-paying route. I mean, if you feel comfortable charging $50 per article right out of the box, I say go for it! But don’t look down on others who take a more circuitous route to the higher-paying gigs. That’s the rub for me — I absolutely hate it when some freelancers act like this. I mean, if a certain rate doesn’t work for you, who are you to tell me what to charge?

      I’ve been stubborn and kind of a “do as I please person” my whole life. Sometimes it works against me, but in my business life, more often than not, it’s been a real asset as a character trait. This freelance writing rate thing is just one example of that.

      Glad the post resonated with you.

      I’m logging off.

      Night, night. 🙂

    3. I love that you say “Do what’s right for you.” Many of the top earning freelance writer mentors will tell people “You’re charging too low,” or “Don’t accept anything less than x amount per gig because that’s what I did.” And that’s the thing. What they did doesn’t work for everyone. Find out what works for you and do it. Imho, it’s OK to take low paying gigs if that’s what puts food in your mouth and pays your bills. But don’t stay there.

    4. @Nicole:

      Thanks for your kind words. And Happy New Year to you too!

    5. @Paul:

      You’re too funny. Glad to remind you to “make more money!” 🙂

    6. Thank you Yuwanda for another great post. I’d been so busy, I’d forgotten about the annual price increase. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

    7. Nicole Breit says:

      Love your post, Yuwanda. Helpful information, as always!
      Happy New Year 🙂