I’m Sorry You Can’t Afford Me

How are we going to fix this problem? I wish I knew.


I had been freelancing for six months before I started raising my hourly and world count rates. The first time a potential client admitted they couldn’t work with me because my rates were too high, I felt disappointed. Not because I took it personally, but because I still think people don’t understand that hiring the best writers is going to cost more money. Or they do … and they just don’t know how to handle this dilemma. It’s fine; neither do I.

Only several times have I lowered my rate for a prospective client. Sometimes you just know there’s already a decent client-writer relationship and both sides are going to benefit immensely from working together. But most of the time, that isn’t the case. You choose less capable writers because they are cheaper – meaning they are less experienced or they for whatever reason just don’t charge more for their services. You often sacrifice quality because you don’t have another choice. And that makes me feel awful for you.

I would love to be able to help you. I would love to be able to use my skills and experience to help you get your message out there in the simplest, clearest way possible. But that takes time. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on my education the past six years. I’ve spent countless hours writing for free, for “exposure,” for not much benefit to my name thus far. I cannot afford to write for you if you cannot afford to pay me a higher rate. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but it does. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that it’s getting harder and harder to make money online (depending on the niche). I’m sorry more experienced writers can’t give you what you need for less money. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m working with seven clients right now, over 40 hours per week, just to make the equivalent of a yearly full-time salaried employee doing what I do but for only one company. I’m not exaggerating. After almost a year of doing this, I’m going to have to raise my rates again. I don’t want to. But like you – you, who is just trying to do something meaningful for the world – I don’t have a choice. This is what I was afraid writing professionally would turn into; business is business, and money somehow always gets in the way of us doing what we’ve dreamed of doing for years.

I never walked into this profession thinking I would be able to make a ton of money doing it. Of course not. I don’t expect to ever be able to afford things people with “normal” jobs might have if I continue down this road. It’s not about that. It’s about the value of my experience. I’m no longer in a place where I can sign a contract that will benefit me more in experience than it will financially. I love to write, and I would love to be able to write for everyone who asked with good intentions. It’s just not possible. Not anymore.

It’s unfortunate that writers are so undervalued. Communication is so, so important in so many different industries. SOMEONE has to write all the copy for emails, web pages, etc. It’s unfair to ask people for more money so we can do these things, when we know it’s not easy to make money doing it. So really, we can’t win. I love my clients and I will continue assisting them as long as it is feasible to do so. Being a freelancer in particular – working independently in most cases – is especially a tough road. There is some kind of balance between working to earn a living and not letting anyone undervalue you. If I ever find the trick to that balancing act, I’ll let my readers know.

I’m sorry you can’t afford me. I wish I could change the way things are so you could have an even better chance at succeeding in your business. All I can do right now is continue writing, until I’m “experienced” enough to qualify to work for larger organizations that can fit me financially into their budget. If I didn’t [technically] have a master’s degree in communication, if I didn’t have going on five years of professional writing experience, if I hadn’t worked as hard as I have to advance my career, then yes, I could write for less. But this is where I stand. No hard feelings. This is, for now, the way things must stay.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.