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Here’s the Definitive Word on What Writing Clients Usually Want

Carol Tice

Confused - ethnic - businessman - scratches - head

I dunno…this writing gig seems fishy to me…

Have you been wondering what standard practices are in the freelance writing world?

I mean…there should be a rule book somewhere you could consult, to know if you’re getting a good deal from a client. Right?

If you’re wondering what is acceptable practice in freelance writing, you are definitely in good company! I get a steady stream of questions about what norms are for a variety of freelance writing assignments.

Questions like:

“This prospective client just asked me to write three articles by 9 pm tomorrow night, and I haven’t even seen his contract yet. Is that normal?”

“My client keeps sending back my articles for rewrites…on round three now. Is this OK?”

“I get $25 for 500-word articles, and now they want me to write 900-word ones for the same price. What’s your opinion of that?”

“My client wants me to not just write their blog posts, but find photos (or maybe take them?), schedule posts, and post them in WordPress. Do clients usually make you do all that?”

Here’s what you really want to know

If you find yourself asking “Is this what writing clients usually require?” you should stop.


What’s really happening here?

You’re asking the wrong question.

There’s a reason you want to compare your gig with some standard.

It’s because you’ve got an oogy feeling in the pit of your stomach.

It’s a gut instinct you’re having – and it’s telling you you’re being exploited.

That’s a good instinct. Stick with it, and you will avoid a lot of crappy gigs.

The truth about what writing clients want

If you’re looking for the yardstick by which to compare your deal terms and deadlines and editor attitudes to get a reality check, here’s the thing:

Every writing gig is unique.

Every client wants a different thing.

And every writer is in a different place in their career, and has different goals.

Some clients are dysfunctional messes who want to IM you 24/7. Others are a joy.

Some pay low, some high.

I’ve tried suggesting that blog posts should pay at least $50, only to hear from writers who’ve told me, “I’m writing for $5. $20 would be a gold mine.”

I’ve left gigs that I thought were too lowball, or the editor was too much of a pain in the butt…and referred them to other writers who were thrilled to have them.

So stop trying to find the secret, Universal Code of Good Freelancing Rules. It doesn’t exist.

One writer’s scam is another’s opportunity. Like the writer who recently commented here on the blog that she was happy to make $200 a month on Examiner, for writing 60 articles. She said she has other income streams and does her Examiner sites mostly for fun.

Like I said…it’s all about where you’re at, and your goals as a freelancer.

Now that we’ve looked at the “is this usual?” question more closely, let’s reframe the question.

The real question to ask yourself is: Does this gig feel fair to me?

Not saying you shouldn’t run the scenario by your writers’ network…you should.

But the bottom line is, only one opinion really matters: yours.

If you think you’re getting a raw deal, ask for a raise. Or quit the gig.

Create your own standards

As you progress in freelance writing, you’ll find yourself creating your own rules. And they’ll evolve as you go.

For instance:

“No more clients that pay less than $200 $300 $500 an article.”

“No more blog clients who want two posts a day.”

“I’m not doing any more overnight rush work for peanuts!”

“No more doing tryout free samples — I have a portfolio now.”

These are the rules that matter: the boundaries you decide to draw with clients. The moment when you decide what you’re worth, and that you demand to be treated fairly.

Just keep raising that bar, and you’ll find yourself moving up to a higher-earning place as a freelance writer.

What are your rules of freelance writing? Leave a comment and let’s compare standards.