Why Freelance Writers Should Stop Bitching About Crappy Pay

Carol Tice

Complaining freelance writerBy Linda Formichelli

I keep reading posts in writing forums where someone will say, “X company wants to pay $15 for a 750-word blog post. Why do they think that’s a good price?”

Or “This content mill thinks it can get away with paying $10 per article…why, why, why?”

Cue outraged comments from dozens of writers who spend their time contemplating and bemoaning the state of the writing industry.

It Doesn’t Matter

The thing  to remember is, these conversations get you nowhere as a writer. Frankly, it doesn’t MATTER why the low-ballers think they can get away with it.

Maybe they’re knowingly taking advantage of writers. Maybe they don’t know how to run a business. Maybe they think it’s fine because, hey, they’re getting lots of applications from writing hopefuls, right?

Who cares?

All that should matter to you is that you spend all of your precious time engaged in activities that will bring in well-paying work.

And if you’re spending your time complaining and ruminating to your friends and on writing forums, that means you’re not going after top-paying gigs.

It’s Pointless

Some writers craft angry responses to businesses seeking out writers on Craigslist or oDesk, proudly claiming they would never take on work with such crappy pay, and here’s why.

We call that “tilting at windmills.” You may momentarily piss off one of the low-pay culprits, but it’s not like they’re going to say, “Oh thank you, writer, I now see the error of my ways. From now on, instead of paying $15 for a 1,000-word article, I’ll pay the much more acceptable rate of $300.”

These crappy clients are not going to change their rates, especially when hordes of writers are banging down their doors to accept them. So you may as well focus your efforts on finding well-paying work.

It’s Better for YOU

And consider this: The more writers who go after the lowball jobs, the more high-paying work is left for you.

The Craigslist ads, bidding sites, and content mills are not meant for writers of your caliber. So let the dabblers fight over the scraps while you go after the filet mignon of assignments.

I don’t ever like to see writers falling into the low-pay trap, but they’re doing it in droves — so you may as well see the positive in the situation.

Pros Don’t Bother

To an established pro who’s used to making big bucks from her writing, these content mills, bidding sites, and bottom-feeder clients are not even on the radar. They don’t matter. They may as well not exist.

Pro writers complaining about low-pay gigs is like top-rated chefs complaining about the crappy pay at McDonald’s. You can bet your burger the top chef at a four-star restaurant doesn’t know or care about how much the fry cook jobs in the local papers are paying. Because he’s not looking there.

Those low-paying gigs aren’t going away any time soon. Take the time you would have spent kvetching about them, and use it to bring in gigs from top clients.

Have you moved beyond venting to action? Leave a comment and share how you’re moving forward.

Linda Formichelli Linda Formichelli has written for close to 150 magazines since 1997, including Redbook, USA Weekend, Writer’s Digest, Inc., and Fitness. She also runs the Renegade Writer Blog. Check out her e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love.


  1. Victoria Cayce

    First, I just want to say thank you. The reason being is that three years ago, after walking out of an abusive relationship that spanned two decades, your blog gave me hope.

    What’s more, you gave me practical advice that I used to create my own freelance lifestyle. After building my own client list, I have started a 501-3 aimed at helping other women coming from abusive situations and disabled vets. ( Both of which often face barriers to work.)

    Now I am teaching others to write for a living. Granted, many cannot or will not be up to the challenges, but for those who are, the sky is the limit.

    in fact, I pulled up your article today to share it with a group I am teaching. (Our first class!!) As for the article, you are spot on! We do not have to waste time with people that do not know our worth.

    There is plenty of work out there, no matter your skill level. You have to be willing to improve, keep looking and keep learning. Besides, endlessly complaining takes away our power.

    So again, thank you, thank you, thank you. It has been a struggle, but I am so glad I took this journey. Now it is time to give back.

    Victoria Cayce- Proud Freelance Writer

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, that’s awesome Victoria! Thanks for letting me know how my blog has helped you.

  2. Briana

    I once ATTEMPTED to write an article for only one or two dollars on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. They rejected my work. I researched, gave references, and proofread. I was thinking, “REALLY?! You want better quality than I am giving you and you only want to pay a mere pittance?” It’s not happening.

  3. Sophia

    I am so glad I found your website!

    I just lost my job and decided to try some freelancing with the hopes of becoming more independent.

    Unfortunately, my inexperience made me fall for a trap, and I accepted a job that offered the most ridiculous pay ever. At first I was very confused, and I thought it was a way of “paying my dues” to get a great first review and start getting better assignments. However, as I was completing the first part of the job I thought this really wasn’t right, and I began researching more about freelance writers. I finally found you and after reading your advice and the advice of other writers I decided to just finish up the first half of the project (5 articles) and decline to continue with the rest (another 5 articles).

    This was an eye opening experience, and I’m glad it took me less than a day to learn from it. On a positive note, I plan to use those articles as part of my portfolio.

    • Carol Tice

      Glad you found me, Sophie!

  4. Carime Lane

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for referring me to this article. Before I started out, I was unaware of the many publications that do not pay (or pay well) for writing. But after this and other articles from The Renegade Writer, I have found some references (funds for writers and another similar one for Canadians) listing so many places that pay. Can’t wait to receive my first paycheque from writing! 🙂

  5. Natanael

    Where would you guys recommend a fiction/short stories writer to look for job? Most publishers dont pay well and are overcrowded with submissions which allows them to pay less because there a lot out there who would be happy to accept the pay, supply and demand. So, what alternatives would you guys, the top chefs, recommend, what do you guys do?

    • Carol Tice

      Write nonfiction, Natanael – it’s where most of the paying work is.

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