Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The colour of money

There are numerous discussions flying around the Web at any time about how much a freelance writer should a) expect to earn b) actually earn and c) need to earn.

Deb Ng over at fwj recently posted on empowering those new to the business to realise their worth and don't accept rates that, frankly, take the mickey. This, I think, is a good thing, but will not solve the issues entirely, although every little helps!

For instance, I started my attempt to be a freelance writer, sorry a professional freelance writer (I am a writer, I just don’t earn enough to keep myself in bunny slippers) by signing up to elance. Which is great in theory, except $1 is nothing to me, but a great deal to someone in India, meaning I would always be undercut on price.

What we need is for those seeking writing services to realise that you get what you pay for, much like, I don’t know, a shirt. If you want a shirt to wear once or twice, that no-one is going to look at too closely, you might buy one from WalMart or another supermarket for £5. If you want a serviceable professional shirt, you may try Marks and Spencer or a department store and spend £25-£50. If you want the best, you will go to Savile Row or Jermyn Street and pay £hundreds, because you know that shirt will last you as long as required, will look and feel great, and will fit you perfectly, having been crafted just for you by a skilled professional.
The problem with selling writing services is that a) everyone thinks they can do it and b) you can't try before you buy. I know you can provide samples, and testimonials and buyers can get a feel for your writing style, but if you are trying to differentiate on quality and personal service, no-one knows how good a job you will do for them until you do it.

So we're back to that age-old adage, it's not what you know, it's who you know. If you can garner yourself a reputation for providing quality, tailored writing, you will get more, but the only way to get such a reputation is to do some work for people. And until you get that reputation, it is harder to command the highest rates, no matter how good. Which leaves us in a kind of vicious circle…

1 comment:

T. W. Anderson said...

It's a good concept. Having moved to eastern Europe last year, I find myself having to pass on about 50% of the gigs I come across because the clients want you to be PHYSICALLY living in the U.S. Even though I am a U.S. citizen and lived there for the first 28 years of my life, I don't qualify for many of the U.S. writing jobs because they won't bother replying to someone who lives abroad.

Ironically, I am currently signed up with 2 UK content generation sites who have been keeping me in steady part-time work since December. They pay in USD, but it's been pretty good stuff so far. I'm actually making enough money that my wife is considering dropping her part-time job to do what I've been doing.