How a Freelance Writer Made Thousands in Extra Cash With Zero Additional Effort

Carol Tice

How a Freelance Writer Made Thousands in Extra Cash With Zero Additional Effort. Makealivingwriting.comDid you ever feel like you underbid a freelance writing job, and left money on the table?

It’s a common problem. Now that I’m listening to a lot of new writers in the Freelance Writers Den forums, I’m discovering that writers at all levels of experience have a strong tendency to bid too low.

They feel insecure about their skills, or just don’t have an idea of what would be a fair rate.

This isn’t good.

When you underbid, you rip yourself off.

What you don’t ask for as a freelancer, you don’t get. And then you have no one to blame but yourself that your earnings are lower than you’d like.

When you bid higher and get a gig, you have a chance to earn more while doing the exact same amount of work. Desirable, yes?

But bidding is tricky. There’s no one answer to what to charge — every project is different.

I recently did two project bids where I ended up earning thousands of dollars beyond what I originally thought I might make. I used two different strategies anybody can use to earn more.

Here they are:

1. Negotiate

I was recently offered a chance to write six chapters of a business book. Sounds exciting, yes?

But the rate the prospect initially came to me wasn’t: Only $700 per 3,000-word chapter.

So I politely inquired if they might be willing to pay more.

“$700 for 3,000 words sound low to me,” I wrote. “The figure I had in my head was about double that, but maybe we can find some middle ground?”

They came back with an offer of $900, and said they were willing to commission eight chapters at that rate immediately. So that was $1,800 more for getting two additional chapters, plus $1,600 more for asking for a higher rate, for a total of $3,400 more. Simply for pulling the Oliver Twist thing and asking for more.

Since this client may have more work in future, the add-on earnings could continue to roll in if I get additional projects — one key reason locking in a high rate early is important. You want to establish as high a baseline as you can, in case more work is coming. So much easier than asking for a raise later on.

2. Ask another writer

I was getting ready to bid on a large government contract that needed to be done on a rush basis. I had done my calculations on how long the work might take, and thought I might ask for $10,000.

Then I ran that idea by one of my best writer friends. I described the project and told her my bid.

“I think that’s way too low!” she said. “Personally, I might bid double that.”

Wow! What a reality check. I was too chicken to come up that much…I honestly didn’t think this public agency would go for it.

But I did raise my bid by about 30 percent. It was accepted without any objection — the client basically didn’t even blink.

So there’s another few thou, just for getting a quick reality check from a friend.

Now that I’ve done the work, I’m grateful I took the time to adjust my quote, as dealing with government bureaucracy is something less than a picnic. Always eats up more time than you can imagine up front…so glad I put in a bit more wiggle room to support earning a good hourly rate despite the red-tape time.

It doesn’t take long to ask a client if there’s any wiggle room in their pricing, ask a writer-friend’s opinion of your price, ask for feedback on your price on a writer chat forum — or to grab a copy of The Writer’s Market and look at their survey data on typical rates.

But the payoff could be big.

How do you determine your price for freelance writing? Leave a comment and let us know.


  1. Danielle McGaw

    It is amazing how when we believe that we are worth more, other people believe it, too. I recently had to raise my rates simply because I didn’t have time to do all the requests for writing that I was getting. It amazed me that hardly anyone blinked an eye. Have confidence in yourself and other people will have confidence in you, too.

    • Carol Tice

      Amazing, isn’t it?

      We have an idea in our heads that clients would flip if they had to pay us a little more, but often they’d be happy to do so, because we’ve been at a rate that’s really too low. And if clients don’t want to come up, once you’ve found a few clients at a higher rate, it’s time to let lower payers go. I’ve always found that as soon as I do, another higher-rate client seems to appear. Like you have to make space in your life for the better pay to come in, and then it does.

  2. Susan Payton

    I would love to read a post about government contracts. It’s something I’d considered, but couldn’t find info about them hiring writers!


    • Carol Tice

      It’s on the schedule for next week!

  3. NextGen Writer

    Awesome post carol, it got me so charged up that I canโ€™t wait to increase my rate (lol)… maybe you should write a post on how to place an irrefutable bid.


  4. Barbara

    Absolutely Carol! Great tips. I set my initial rates based (in part) on how much my babysitter earned — I had to earn at least 3 times more an hour to take the gig. Once I realized that it didn’t make financial sense to accept assignments for less, it was easy to stop being tempted to low-ball myself.

  5. Linda Bryant

    It IS hard to break through this mindset. It’s one thing to know it intellectually, but quite another to really believe and act on it. I’ve got one foot in the insecurity river and one foot in the “I’m worth it” ocean. I am slowly breaking the habit though. It takes time! I surprised myself this morning when I realized how close I am to letting go of a client I once felt completely dependent on. The pay is just way too low and there’s more promising work lurking, moving close. It’s interesting how at one point higher paying gigs felt like an idea to me, but not something I felt on a gut or body level. Now I feel it almost physically. I take that to mean action is at hand!

  6. Debra Stang

    I’m still struggling with this issue, Carol. I get a lot of my work on Elance these days, and when I bid what I think is a fair price (or less), I usually get a rejection notice immediately telling me that my bid is too high.

    I also work with a lot of beginning fiction writers who can’t afford to pay market value for editing. I’ve gotten better about turning some of the new clients down, but I’m not sure how to discuss a rate raise with my old ones. Any ideas would be much appreciated!

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like Elance and new fiction writers aren’t good clients (or places to find them). Time to target clients with bigger budgets…and then you can drop the fiction authors. Solopreneurs are generally not great paying for contractors vs medium to large size businesses.

  7. Patricia

    Loved this post Carol. It is a study in how to provide value to your readers.

  8. Carol J. Alexander

    I know what I want to make per hour, estimate how long the job will take, and figure from there. I do have one client I’ve been writing for for years, though, and have never asked for more. I know I should, but have been backward about it. If I get up the courage, I’ll let you know.

  9. Edna

    I recently took a deep breath and increased my copywriting rates for a company that does websites. He does the marketing for me and I come in to help with content and editing and interviews. Same reaction as other people mentioned….didn’t blink at all. And turns out the customer will be doing the editing once we (I) get the rough copy written.

    It’s taken me quite a while though to take the risk and increase my rates. I worked for one client for over a year, at a fairly low rate for alot of hours. I gave him one rate for everything I did until he asked me to break out my rates. Luckily I was getting great results from what I was doing for him.

  10. Luana Spinetti

    That’s incredible. I was certain prospects would look down on writers ‘pushing’ to get a higher pay. I thought being humble was the key to success. I was so wrong. ;P

    Time to stop feeling unworthy, I guess.

    ~ Luana S.

    P.S. I found out today that pays $1,000 per short story. I thought I was dreaming… ^^

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve rarely heard of a writer losing a gig for politely asking if there is more pay available, especially if you make the case for why it would be appropriate. The worst that can happen is they say no, this is all we’ll pay. And then you have to decide if you will agree or not.

      Plenty of major magazines pay $1,000 or more for personal essays, too. Good pay is out there.

  11. Jane

    Asking other writers certainly helps a lot, coz sometimes (well, a lot of times) we won’t know the amount of time and effort involved in the product. Someone who is already working on a similar project could help a lot in this direction.

  12. M. Sharon Baker

    Happy to help Carol. You’ve been a great sounding board for me too.

    It does help to have similar caliber writer to bounce things off of and discuss a project’s requirements. I recommend that everyone finding a writing buddy.

    Thanks for the plug. ๐Ÿ™‚

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