Why Are Writers So Expensive?

We’re not asking for money because we’re greedy!

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It doesn’t matter which job board or database you’re on. You will almost always come across a job posting asking a freelance writer to construct a blog post — for the ever-competitive price of $10.

(For those less familiar with the U.S. economy, that is now less than minimum wage in some places.)

This happens on much larger scales, too. Projects that could take up to 10 hours to complete should cost a client thousands of dollars — but they very rarely pay out that much. Willingly, that is.

I’m still not sure whether people think they can get away with this, if they legitimately don’t know any better, or a terrifying mixture of the two extremes.

But either way, writers don’t deserve to be treated like their work isn’t important (which is, quite honestly, how it feels when we see what most freelancing jobs pay). Majority of the time, it’s the words on that web page that make you AdSense bucks, and you know it.

Freelance writing isn’t always like this — but beginners often have a really hard time finding clients who will pay them a reasonable rate relative to their skills and experience.

I have only worked as a staff writer for one company thus far, but in my experience, well put-together organizations, with a steady structure and workflow, are much more understanding — and (hopefully) pay their writers what they’re worth.

Not all writers are lucky enough to — or even want to — work in this setting. Which is why so many aspiring writers at least start out freelancing (as I did), and struggle for months, sometimes even years, to build up monthly incomes that meet their needs (as I also have).

Let’s start there — needs. Because we do have them, you know. We don’t just sit in our bedrooms and write 24/7. Sometimes, we have other jobs. We have friends and families and all the responsibilities that come with those luxuries. Yes, we like to write, but we also like to eat, and have electricity, and let’s be honest, Netflix is a really nice way to wind down for a lot of us. Writing is stressful.

What’s that? Stressful? Yep. Writing requires brain power, first of all — after even half a day of writing, we have to take breaks, because we’re tired and hungry and sometimes a little cranky.

But then there are all the other stressors that come with the job — making sure we’re on the same page as you (or clients/employers), quickly correcting things when there are miscommunications, tweaking our work when asked, keeping track of deadlines (there’s usually some color-coding involved) — and that’s just internally.

Because we also have to promote our work — because as much as we might hate bragging, a Tweet can reach a lot of readers if we’re lucky. And EVERYONE is doing it. So we have to sacrifice some of our creative energy to maintain our online presence, because that’s just part of the writing life.

Now back to you. You might think to yourself, “How long does it really take to write 1,000 words? An hour? Isn’t $25.00 a reasonable asking price?”

Nononononononononononono.

Writing 1,000 words actually doesn’t just mean writing 1,000 words. If we were just writing 1,000 words straightaway, it wouldn’t take long at all.

But.

There’s a lot more to taking something from a headline to a 1,000-word article or blog post. There’s research involved. We don’t know everything off the tops of our heads. We also need to make sure it meets all your guidelines (if you provide any — please do that) and polish multiple drafts before something is ready for your eyes.

And not just anyone can do all this. A lot of education and skills go into professional writing.

It takes many years of practice to be able to write good content quickly. Which is quite honestly what most clients expect these days.

At the same time, that’s still draining — so if you expect projects to get done quickly, and you want them done well, understand that writing doesn’t get “easier” the more a writer writes. We just get better at it. It’s still challenging. When we submit that work to you, we’re exhausted. We need naps.

We want to do quality work for you. We want you to be successful. We want to contribute, and we want to do so enthusiastically.

But it’s going to cost you. If you can’t afford a good writer, don’t expect to produce good content. We’re not being snobs. We’re just trying to make a living, same as you. Though you may never see it, a lot of work goes into what we do. Compensation isn’t a luxury. Treat us nice, and we’ll be happy to provide the words you need to Make Success Happen for you.

Thank you to all of you out there who pay your writers well. You’re setting a good example for the rest of the industry to follow. You get us. We are grateful for you.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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