Pricing is one of the most difficult models to get right in business. Charging the correct prices for the correct value and ensuring sustainable profit is easier said than done.
Big businesses use complex formulas and spend massive budgets figuring out ways to squeeze the most profit from their products and services while still remaining competitive pricewise. Small businesses often charge based on their competitors and their own cost of business.
For freelancers, it’s a little different, especially when it comes to freelance writing. Prices vary based on skill, scope, experience, knowledge, speed, and, of course, a certain threshold of income needed to sustain their lifestyle or achieve their goals.
Specifically, in the field of content writing, the value freelancers deliver can be through the roof. After all, one article has the potential to generate millions of dollars for a business. While not common, it’s possible (you can learn how to write ultimate pieces of content here).
In that case, freelance content writers should be able to charge a lot for their words, right? Usually, income-generating products (such as content) come with a premium on the price tag.
Yet, writers constantly find themselves getting lowballed and spread thin whenever asked to write.
Unfortunately, many fall victim and lower their prices in the name of getting a gig. Some freelancers even approach firms with the “lowest cost” strategy from the start, making it harder for professionals who deliver incredible value to get paid what they deserve.
So, if you’ve been asking yourself, “Should I lower my freelance writing prices?”
The answer is no. Continue reading if you want to know why.
Quick Note: This article isn’t geared towards those who are just getting started with freelancing. There are plenty of hurdles to jump through just to get your name out there. Writing for free, building your own blog, or using the cheap job board sites might be your best paths into the industry. Feel free to ask me for pointers.
The article was written for established or rising writers that have the ability to charge higher prices but sell themselves short just to win more gigs.
General Principles of Pricing
Cutting prices is a legitimate way to increase sales. Everyone loves a good “buy one, get one free” offer or a “50% off the whole store” deal.
In reality, there’s nothing wrong with offering discounts or special sales. It’s common, it’s helpful for the consumer, and it’s expected.
But there’s a fine line between Walmart sales and freelance writing rates.
On one hand, you have a multibillion-dollar company with millions of dollars to spend in marketing, accounting, and inventory to ensure that discounts and offers either make a profit through volume or bring enough benefits to the company that a loss-leading product in one place will enable profitable markups elsewhere or increased market share.
Then, on the other hand, you have a single writer that is just trying to earn a sustainable living.
If you’re the latter, then you don’t have the time, resources, or need to create discounts, special offers, etc.
You need one thing. To get paid for what you write, fairly.
The Principle of Perceived Value
Perceived value is the backbone of business. Consumers will not buy something if they don’t believe it will bring them value.
In essence, your pricing must match the customer’s perceived value in order to generate a transaction.
If a consumer doesn’t believe that your pricing is correct, then their perceived value of the product or service is lower.
If that’s the case, it doesn’t mean your pricing is wrong (although it could), it just means they’re not the right customer for you.
It’s a lot easier to understand and conceptualize the perceived value of a tangible product, meaning, something that can be seen, touched, felt, etc.
Gamers will be happy to buy a PlayStation 5 because they know it will bring them countless hours of entertainment.
For services though, many of which are not tangible, portraying a higher perceived value is significantly more difficult.
Why? It could be a lot of things. Writing is both tangible and nontangible. An article is tangible because it can be seen, read, printed, passed around, etc. The results of an article aren’t as tangible.
SEO campaigns are hard to sell for the price they deserve (usually multiple thousands of dollars) because results are often said to take 6+ months to materialize. Paying a marketing firm $25,000 for six months of work without knowing if anything will happen is a really tough pill to swallow.
It’s not a tangible product, at least from the start. Therefore, it’s harder to buy. Writers suffer from this.
A single writer (you) pushing out articles for a company doesn’t guarantee them success if their content strategy is flawed from day one. I’ve spoken with plenty of “editors” who aren’t actually editors by skill, but instead the ones who were put in charge of “content marketing”.
They usually know nothing about SEO, or very little. They lack the experience, skills, and knowledge to know what sort of content converts, which builds authority, the required volume, the input, the diversity of skills needed, and everything else that must fall in line for content strategies to work.
These are the types of firms that have asked me to write for them at $50/article. They don’t understand the value of writing, therefore, their perceived value is significantly lower.
However, editors and firms with higher perceived values of writing, mostly because they understand the craft, have paid me well and consistently.
The good news? There’s plenty of these types of editors and firms. You just have to find them or wait for them to find you.
Trust me, they will find you if you’ve put in enough effort.
Why Lowering Your Freelance Writing Prices Hurts the Industry?
Your Price Can Become Everyone’s Price
Beyond not getting paid fairly, if you’ve lowered your prices for the sake of getting a gig, then that will lower the perceived value of writing as a whole throughout the industry.
Now, of course, one project will not change the entire content writing industry overnight, if at all. But the effects could potentially compound and force writers of the most esteemed skill to lower their prices out of the pure necessity to compete.
It becomes a race to the bottom, which has happened in plenty of industries (web design comes to mind). If it ever came down to that, I would promptly quit being a writer, at least as a freelancer.
This is why as content writers—we should ask for pay that fairly represents the value we deliver to firms across the world. Notice that I’m not saying to charge as much as possible, but to charge fairly.
Fair pricing is good pay. Once again, one article could generate millions of dollars alone.
Could you imagine writing a million-dollar article for $100?
I’m sure some of you have and wouldn’t even know it. So really, stop selling yourselves short.
Better Pay = Better Articles
If you know your topic, understand the ins and outs of SEO (a requirement for increasing your perceived value), and able to keep a good rapport with editors and clients, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be charging higher rates.
For instance, I’ve charged as much as $0.50 per word. That means for a 1,000-word article, I’ve been paid $500.
That’s good money. Rest assured, though, that the article was a home run.
Getting paid more money will entice you to spend as much time and effort as needed to ensure that whatever you’re writing is worth an A+. Not only are you going to be appreciative of the pay, but you’ll want more gigs just like it.
This benefits the people paying you too since they’ll be getting top-level quality.
So, What If You Lose a Bid?
Then you lost a bid.
I’ve lost plenty of bids. In fact, I’ve lost more than I’ve won. I’m not sad or upset about it either. Heck, I’ve declined plenty of offers.
I have clients that pay me fairly. They’re great, fun to work with, helpful, and appreciative of my writing.
I would rather that than accept jobs from clients who don’t want to pay me fairly because they lack the perceived value of the craft. By the way, these are the types of clients who are more likely to suddenly cut you from their ranks, critique you in poor fashion, not apply the content you’ve written correctly—resulting in failure, and give you a hard time about being paid.
Sometimes, they won’t even pay you! This has happened to me twice!
I’ve learned my lessons. I only work with clients that pay me fairly and are great to work with. Negotiation is fine, I’m willing to come to a consensus, but I also have a minimum threshold, otherwise, the time and effort is no longer worth it.
But it works for me because I understand the value that I bring. My experiences, process, knowledge, skillset, and tact allow me to charge fairly.
It can work for you, too. Just believe in your services and your skills.