“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
– Thomas Sowell
Weekend warriors are killing writing. There’s a slew of forums and message boards where guys sit around and circle jerk about how they are on the way to “location independence” by making $300 a month off freelance article writing. They brag about doing work for thirty cents an hour, or some other silly nonsense. While there’s nothing wrong with making money as a part time hobby, I do have a problem with people who show up on sites like oDesk and drive the expectations through the floor. While I already make perfectly good money as a freelance writer, I try and take on a few new clients every week.
Recently I’ve started to notice a surge in companies who are looking for people to write for infinitesimal amounts. Although this is normal with stuff like content writing, it’s starting to appear in more lucrative fields as well. I like writing eBooks, and I’ve started to notice that many of the jobs are paying a penny a word. It’s the same rate that pulp writers used to get back in the 1940’s. And that was the hack writer rate, guys like Lovecraft and Gibson made far more.
Rather than complaining, I’ve decided to make a brief guide to earning more than what most people will settle for.
How to avoid being lumped in with weekend warriors
- Don’t settle.
Earlier today I was hired to proofread a 5,000 word article. The client then revealed that they wanted everything done in 24 hours. We had initially agreed on 48. I told them that I’d have the article to them in 12 hours, they just had to pay double.
Once I got the article, I found out that my client had outsourced it to some barely literate third world writer. I would basically have to rewrite the entire thing. While this normally wouldn’t be a problem, the article in question required a lot of research. It related to a medical product and relied on actual facts and statistics. This simple project was going to take several hours. I messaged my client and had them increase my payment again.
While it might sound like I was a greedy jerk, the project ended up taking all day. Had I meekly submitted and been content with getting a client, I would have lost money. By standing my ground I was able to earn what I normally make in a day, and deliver a quality product.
- Have some forethought.
People mistake online hustling with sorcery. Forums are filled with men who gleefully boost about making ten bucks an hour by writing penny a word articles. They proclaim that they are actually saving money, because their job doesn’t require them to drive to an office or wear a suit. While working for yourself does have benefits, there are also some drawbacks. You have to have your own insurance, no one pays you when you’re sick, and you have to dig up clients on your own. Ten dollars an hour becomes nothing once you factor in personal expenses. Electricity, taxes, insurance, getting sick, and a slew of other factors can place your earnings at less than minimum wage.
I like to use magazine writers as a metric for pricing my services. Even small publications with limited circulation pay more than a penny a word. They’d have no content otherwise. A company selling a twenty dollar eBook to a massive audience can spare more than a penny per word. At ten cents a word for a 10,000 word book they’d have to sell fifty copies before recuperating their losses. That’s not terribly hard to do.
If you want to freelance, don’t expect that doing menial and worthless jobs is going to actually do much for you. I spent an entire month writing garbage content for a couple bucks a day. And I’d still be doing it if I hadn’t quit. People undervalue writing. They don’t do it out of greed, they do it because no one ever presents them with an actual bid. If you’re willing to stand up for yourself and have quality material, don’t be afraid to ask for more. There’s absolutely no reason that you should be thankful to make someone else rich without taking any of the credit or money.