7 Reasons Why I Won’t Write a $15 Blog Post

Carol Tice

Freelance writers need higher pay for blog posts. Makealivingwriting.comI’m on vacation this week. I wrote this back in 2009, when I was answering a lot of online job ads and struggling to keep my income up as the economy tanked.

It created controversy in some quarters, and became a rallying cry for others. I’m sad to see how relevant this topic remains…think it’s time for an encore.

A while back, I had a disturbing phone call with a prospective writing client.

I had responded to several online ads for writing gigs in the legal field, as I am a former legal secretary. Two of them got back to me.

One paid $20-$40 per 400-600-word article. The other, an agency which claims it has more than 200 law-firm clients, paid $15-$30 a blog. This second guy had called on the phone and was clearly serious about hiring, unlike the many flaky email nibbles I get off resumes I send.

After I informed him that I did not work for remotely those rates and hung up…I thought about it a lot. I wish I had kept him on the phone so I could have asked this recruiter some questions.

Questions like, “Are you serious?” and “Is that even legal?”

And “Do you actually find qualified people willing to write legal content at those rates?” and “Don’t you feel ashamed to be offering what will work out to less than the minimum hourly wage (more than $8 here in Washington State) for a very specific writing skill that requires years of experience?”

He let me know his current team was “pretty maxed out” – yeah, I’ll bet. More likely that was code for “It’s really hard to find anyone who can do this work competently at these rates.”

To which I say, good.

I thought a lot about this call because for a tiny moment, just an instant really, I considered taking this gig.

Legal is easy for me…OK, I’d have to work a LOT of hours to make it into anything like a living…if each post took an hour, it would take me all day and night to earn something like my normal hourly rate…but this firm has a lot of clients I could connect with. Maybe I should take this and hope to build the account into some better-paying work.

Then I snapped out of it, and wrote this:

7 Reasons Why I Won’t Write A $15 Blog Post

1. I’d rather quit writing. If that’s all I’m going to make, I’d rather go out on the lawn and play Frisbee with my kids. They’ll only be young once. If I can’t really pay the bills writing, I should pack it in and enjoy life.

2. I won’t be part of the problem. I won’t contribute to the current downward spiral in pay rates by accepting insulting pay. If I accept this kind of work, it reinforces the idea that high-quality content on specialized topics can be obtained from professional writers at one-tenth or less of what was, until recently, market rates. I refuse to encourage this trend.

3. Low paying work begets more low-paying work. Say I worked for this legal content sweatshop, and managed to convince one of their clients to work for me directly. Even if the connection helped me land other clients and I cut out the middleman, I’m doubtful the wages would be appropriate. Any client I got through my association with this low-payer would likely also want to pay me joke wages. Once customers have the impression you’re cheap, it’s hard to convince them you’re not.

4. I’d rather get a day job. At those rates, I could make more money as an assistant manager at a fast-food place, and work on that novel in my off hours. So if it comes to it, I’ll do something else to pay the bills. My creativity will be fairly compensated, or I’ll earn money another way. I type fast – I have made a living as a secretary in the past, and could again.

5. I want to take a stand. I believe we’re at a turning point in the world of online content that requires accomplished professional writers to take a moral stand. Thousands of scam operators have flooded into the marketplace, hoping to get writers to write for peanuts and then monetize that content, or sell their whole Web site to someone else and make a killing – all off our backs. What they’re doing is morally wrong. I want to resist this trend. Accepting low-pay assignments may pay a few bills in the short term – emphasis on a few – but in the long term it will foster more exploitation. That’s why, for the sake of our vocation’s future, it’s important to me to refuse this work.

6. I have good-paying clients. Contrary to what you may have heard, there are still magazines and corporate accounts out there that understand that writers who freelance need to make an appropriate wage, or they’ll soon leave the vocation. Maybe there are fewer good-paying markets, but I know they still exist. That knowledge makes it easier to turn down slave-wage gigs.

7. Market forces will raise rates in time. As the economy improves, I believe the pool of good freelancers willing to deliver sophisticated, quality content for pennies is going to shrink dramatically as many find new jobs. The number of quickie-post assignments for writers who speak English as a second language is shrinking rapidly, thanks to the Google update. I’m expecting rates will naturally be driven back up as it becomes harder to find qualified writing help. The fact that Demand Studios now offers some of its writers health care is a sign that we’ve hit the saturation point. These sweatshops are struggling to attract the talent they need, so their compensation will have to rise.

I believe this is a momentary market glitch in our industry that’s flourished due to the downturn. Meanwhile, people are not going to stop reading quality publications, and companies will still need to communicate clearly with their customers in the future. The economy will recover, many content-mill writers will probably get day jobs again, and rates will rise.

If you’re with me that sweatshop wages are wrong, make a commitment to yourself not take any assignment that pays less than $50.

Why $50? That’s what I got paid per article when I first got into freelance writing in the early 1990s. Rates shouldn’t be lower now, accounting for inflation. So I think that’s a good cutoff.

I’d love to see writers organize around this issue. Who knows? Maybe Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong site or Amazon.com (have you seen their mill, Amazon Mechanical Turk?) would improve their pay rather than face public embarrassment over their rates.

But in any case,  not taking super-low paying gigs leaves you more time for marketing your writing and finding fair wages.

Do you have questions about how to earn more from your writing? Learn more in my community Freelance Writers Den — take ecourses, attend live events, ask writing pros your questions in our forums, and use our exclusive Junk-Free Job Board.

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  1. Lisa

    Totally agree with you. I think sometimes people think “Sure it’s only a couple of hundred words – I’m not paying more than $20 for that!” – but they totally underestimate the time and skill it takes to write those words. I work with writers for a living, and in my experience, you generally get what you pay for!

    A regular blog post, averaging 350-500 words would take me a couple of hours to write, and if it’s a paid post, the minimum payment would need to be $50 as you recommended, to make that worthwhile.

    • Laura

      Carol, I just wanted to say thank you. I found your site after doing a search for ways to earn more through writing. I’ve literally read nearly all of your posts now. The information here has been utterly invaluable – I used to be one of those people that thought writers were forever doomed to be “starving artists”, slaving away for hours on end for a pittance of pay, even if they had a degree. I went into college studying to be a pharmacist because even though I love writing (and believe I’m fairly decent at it), I never imagined I could make a strong income with it.

      When I switched majors this year it felt more like a defeat than inspiring the excitement it should have incited since I’d be doing more of what I truly enjoy. But now I know much better; I know writers can be very comfortable and even earn six fgure incomes. You are hugely inspirational (I live in the Seattle area too, by the way!) and honestly, you’ve probably improved the quality of my life by helping me realize that I can demand far, far more money than I’ve been earning for my talents. I’ve decided to drop a poorly paying client within the next month (one of the $20/500 word article types – I’ve even been and submitting writing press releases for $20) and have already taken steps to involve myself with better and more professional employers.

      It’s not a sure thing yet, but I’ve gotten a bite on a big ghost writing and blogging project. It’s a scenario that would not only pay professional wages, but one where I’d be writing about a topic I’m passionate about. It’s looking pretty promising so far – fingers crossed! I’m also looking into submitting to some magazines, marketing myself directly to companies I’m interested in, and investing in the online Writer’s Market (for all my love of writing I didn’t even know it existed until I found you). Your blog has truly been a blessing!

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. For letting this writer know she is worth it and can make a killing doing what she loves. I can’t wait to read your next post, and I’ll always be grateful.

      • Carol Tice

        Hi Laura —

        Glad to hear you’ve found the blog so useful! That’s what it’s all about around here.

        Don’t know about making a killing in freelance writing — but it’s certainly possible to make a good living. Keep doing whatever you did to get that first legitimate bite.

        For more support, consider joining us over on Freelance Writers Den — members get their questions answered on forums, at live events and in private messaging to me, and then there’s multimedia courseware you can work through, including posts I wrote for other blogs besides this one and free access to ALL my previous teleclasses and Webinars.

        • Laura

          Thanks for the reply, Carol! I will definitely look into doing that once I transition, hopefully to the interested company, from my current writing gig. Luckily I have another day job which is more stable (and reasonable), but until then I need to keep watching my funds. I’m definitely intrigued by all the info you and the other writers are offering there, however. You are so wonderful for sharing your knowledge!

    • victoree

      It’s just like creating lessons. A teacher is paid for the 6 hours on site, but behind every teaching hour is twice and three times that much time in research–all done off site. That time is not paid for at all. One hour of “planning time” per day does not take care of the entire need plus it is often used to do administrative chores like grading papers. At 5 lessons per day– you do the math.

      Writing is real work. I want real pay.Content mills are professional abuse.

  2. Jeffrey Kang

    I think it’s all relative… to what they’ll end up using the content for. If it’s for a blog that needs new content, it’s likely they don’t need professional copy, just something for the search engines to crawl. So if I don’t need to be very good with my writing, I’m happy to do it for a cheap $0.01 per word, but if it’s evergreen content, $50 is cheap. I mean, if they’re going to make thousands off of that content, why can’t they pay $50?

    • Carol

      Exactly. If you look for clients who understand the value of what you’re creating and the revenue it could help drive to their business, you can get appropriate rates. My bottom rate is $100 a post these days.

  3. Anita

    Thanks Carol, for the great post, as always! Hope you’re having a fantastic holiday!

  4. Gip

    I agree with most of this post, but if point 7 was included in the original 2009 post, then I’m afraid it isn’t true. The recent Google update (which hadn’t happened yet in 2009) may reduce the number of quickie posts needed, but that is far from a certainty. And I’ve seen no evidence since 2009 of a rise in rates for online content writers.

    There are hopeful signs, but there’s very little progress yet.


    • Carol

      True Gip– in the original piece Google’s change was only a rumor, not a reality.

      But I’ve seen rates recover quite a bit since then–if you’re looking beyond Craigslist ads and finding your own clients.

      Low-paying work will always be around…the trick is not getting confused and thinking that’s the only kind out there.

  5. anne

    I agree with Lisa…. when some people assigns a 200 word piece, they think that a writer sits down and bangs out 200 words. In reality, we research, outline, think about who will be reading and how, let it stew in its juices, write it and perfect it. I told one of my last clients that I didn’t charge per word for marketing material because it’s often more time consuming to write with fewer words. He was stumped for a second and then said, “I never thought about it like that!”

    I did stop fooling myself into believing I could write a 400-500 article in a half hour or hour — research and editing included — to earn $15-30 an hour. After months of being more selective, I have a nice mix of high-paying assignments.

  6. David Treadwell

    Totally agree with your post. By the way, the post reminded me of some good lawyer jokes. Thanks.

  7. Bruce H. Johnson

    Even if you could type out that blog post/article in 15-20 minutes, that’s not what you should be getting paid for.

    The old joke of paying a mechanic $50.10 for a job which was “just” turning a screw still holds. “$50 for knowing which screw to turn and how much. $.10 for turning it.”

    While I might take an hour or so to write my own posts and articles, including doing the category assignments, keywords, and all that, there’s a lot of time involved in mulling it over for content, sequence, wording, bullet lists (if needed), pictures (if needed), and other professional-level activities which produce a quality product.

    We don’t pay a lawyer $10 to whip up a contract, even if it’s a page. We pay the lawyer to watch out for our interests, the unintended consequences, and the unknown-to-the-layman laws and precedents.

  8. Karen

    I have written for peanuts, and content mills, before, but I don’t any more and I never advise anyone else to. In the end I did use my content mill clips to get my first online paid writing assignment and my first magazine assignment (People say you can’t do this. I promise you, I did.) Now I won’t write anything for less than $50. It’s not all about the money. I’d rather do something I love for less money, than something I hate for more. It’s more about taking a stand and not being part of the problem, as you put it, Carol. If all I could get was $15 blog posts I wouldn’t take them, but I wouldn’t quit writing either (I don’t think anything could make me do that). Maybe I’d take a mind-numbing day job and pour all my creativity into writing my novel!

    • April

      I agree with Karen, as I am just starting out doing freelance work, and have yet to get my first paying position.

      I am considering taking the lower end work for a couple of months to build up my resume and just get more experience “doing the job”. I am a SAHM, so a couple of $$ right now is more than I am currently making and do not have the option to go back to work.

      Karen, why do people say that you can’t use “content mill” work as your samples / resume and get higher paying / more professional work?

      Thank you to Carol for her amazing site and all I have learned reading her newsletter.

    • Lisa

      In 2009, I got desperate and worked for Demand Studios for a couple of months. It got harder and harder, though, to sit down at my PC and bang out an article for a lousy $15. It just didn’t seem worth it to spend an hour doing that.

      Besides, the work I ended up with wasn’t impressive enough to use as part of my portfolio. My magazine spreads, at four to six pages, were far more interesting and showed the breadth of my experience.

      The recession has encouraged many unemployed people to try their hand at writing. They are usually not professionals, though. I’m praying that as jobs finally return, these wannabes will go back to what they used to do or find a career in health care, perhaps. Then and only then will our hourly rates be able to rise to a more normal rate.

      By the way, I only charge by the hour because you never know how many rewrites the client will want. Is this the way most of you charge?

      • Samie

        I agree with you on this. I believe that a lot of people are trying their hand at writing because they do not have as many options and are forced to be unemployed or take lower paying jobs. A lot of people specifically advertise to these people (stay at home moms, students, etc.) that may or may not know how to write professionally.

        Hopefully more jobs will start opening and people will start deciding to do what they’re good at and can actually make a decent amount on instead of writing for pennies.

      • Ana

        Lisa, jobs are never returning to where they were before. We’re not just in a “recession.” We’re in an era of systemic change in which traditional job slots have disappeared. There will never again be enough jobs for everyone. Isn’t anyone else wondering why profits are soaring but no one’s hiring? Employees are no longer needed.

        It’s more important than ever to market ourselves aggressively in the freelance world because, truly, that’s the only working world left.

        • Carol Tice

          Mega-agree with that, Ana!

  9. Mandy Harris

    I completely agree with your post. The problem is: I am one of those blasted content writers. I write for Textbroker at their level 5 pay rate. I earn $0.05 a word, and I can average about $10 an hour doing so.

    I don’t plan on staying there. But, I do plan on writing for a living for the rest of my life. So, why do I work so cheaply now?

    Because I am learning how to be a writer. I don’t have the benefit of a college degree, much less an MFA. It isn’t a piece of paper I am missing. College grads don’t impress me much, and I believe in the value of hard work.

    When I say I am learning how to be a writer, I don’t mean that I am learning how to write. I was published in high school, and plenty of people have told me I write too well to not be a writer, including professors from my two years in college.

    I am learning how to meet deadlines and how to manage working at home with children. I am learning marketing and business strategies. I am learning how to network through various groups in my community. Oh, and I am learning how to leverage the Internet and all the accompanying tech-knowledge. I’m learning lots more, too.

    So, I am an inexperienced writer working for pennies. But, that does not mean that I write badly. And, I am not going anywhere, especially back to an office job. Instead, I am going to leverage my newly gained “soft” skills to garner higher-paying work.

    And, I am not going to feel bad about starting out as a content writer. Without the content mills, I would not have stumbled into a career that would have been a difficult squeeze without a college degree.

    You are right that quality work pays. I fully expect my work, both the pieces that I write and the professionalism with which I deliver them, to be worth as much as those of any other professional and experienced writer. I don’t mind taking the nontraditional route of content mills to get there.

    • Carol

      I don’t have a degree, either.

      Sounds to me like you’re ready to move up from textbroker NOW, if you ask me… 😉

      • Cori Padgett

        Sounds that way to me as well. 😉

    • Kimbra

      You stated the value of these mills very eloquently. Although I’ve been a career writer (20 years) and I do have a degree in journalism, the world has changed quickly. I went to the mills in part to learn exactly the things you went to the mills to learn. How to have an online presence and what exactly that means. How to use it, how to market with it. Perhaps that’s what the mills are for.

      As I said in my post, I struggle with the idea of it because I have benefited from the very thing I have decried. It sounds like you’ve taken a very wise approach to it. It also sounds like you are ready to go out there and sell yourself to some places that will pay you what that wisdom is worth!

    • April

      Would anyone be willing to share which is the “best” content mill out there? Or am I getting away from the point by doing that:-)

  10. Kimbra

    You know, this is one I struggle with. I have written for content mills. And yet, I will not write for a print pub that pays less than $200. I think the mills lower journalistic standards and flood the web with unreliable information. I won’t read an article if I see it comes directly from a mill because I don’t trust it. BUT. . . . I’m guilty.

    In 2009, I tried the mills just to see. At that pay rate, I considered most of those “other” content mill writers hacks, and felt sleezy and dirty for doing it myself. I felt like a hack. Wished I had used a pen name, but I stand by my work with my real name.

    I did it again at the begining of the year because, well, I think I was bored. But here’s the thing. . .
    My Demand Studios articles just got picked up by National Geographic online. No extra pay of course, but not a bad credit! So, do I think the mills encourage hacks and undervalue good writing, absolutely. Will I do it again? I don’t know, I hang my head low and say, “maybe”.

    • Carol

      Or maybe you’ll take your new credits and use them to get much better paying gigs and not have to go back to mills? That’s one of the tricks I recommend mill writers use to move up–if you do get a reprint like that it makes your portfolio look a lot better and you should be able to get better gigs.

  11. BCH

    It’s nice to have ideals. But ideals won’t pay your bills.

  12. Kathi

    Hope you’re having a great vacation Carol!

    First, I’m glad to read in the comments about the time it takes others to do blog posts and articles. It seems to me like I take *forever* to write, but if the folks here are average, then so am I. That helps.

    Second, sadly, the economy has not improved in the two years since this post was written, which makes the $15 blog post all that more appealing. Money is money is money. I’ll take it anyway I can get it– well, except I won’t break the law to do it. I don’t think I’d like jail very much.

    Finally, I am brand spanking new to this business and am having a really tough time breaking in. No one wants to give me a job. Am I terrible writer? I don’t think so, but apparently anyone who is hiring thinks so. At this point I’ll take any pay rate I can get in order to get a job. Anytime I apply for a low paying job I think, well, this may lead to other jobs, at the same time thinking about the point you made, Carol: low pay begets low pay. But am I worth $25-$50 an hour? At this point, survey says- no.

    Oh, and one last thing… I was rejected by Demand Studios. The pool of quality writers is, according to Demand Studios, not shrinking as they are forced to turn away good writers because they receive so many applications from talented writers. Is that their way of telling me I suck, or is this business so saturated with good writers that newbies like me have no hope?

    The long and short of it? Yes, I’d take $15 for a blog post. I’d rather make better money yes, but I’ll take what I can get if that’s what the market is paying.

    • Carol

      The market is paying more, but you have to look other places besides mills.

      DS seems to reject people pretty randomly–they wouldn’t take my husband as a videographer even though his film degree is from UCLA and he worked in hollywood for years.

      Be glad–hopefully without DS you can move into better markets instead.

      • Cori Padgett

        Yes, they do seem to take people pretty randomly. My mom applied once and apparently she was “over qualified”. lol

    • Kimbra

      DO NOT be discouraged by employer rejections! It IS very tough out there. I’ve never seen it like this. I’ve been at it for 20 years.

      I check the boards just to see what skills publishers want. I’ve applied for one job in 3 years because it was perfect for me. I had to do a writing test that took a full two days (unheard of before). There were 300 candidates. That’s right 300. It took them a writing test and three interviews to whittle the field. I was called back for all three interviews and still didn’t get the job. I don’t think they thought I sucked in any way. I think the market is so competetive. If it’s that competetive at the senior level, everything down the line is just jammed with writers looking for work.

    • Christina

      You don’t suck. I just finished sacrificing fluidity of content to write like my I was the tin man; there were no transitions and it really looked like something someone writes in a short period of time, including poor citations and more problems. There was nothing original about it besides the thesis. And the tone was exceptionally watered down. Why did I do it? It worked. After 6 or 7 article rejections, this one was accepted. What I did was create a template of what they’d allowed for other people, imitated their style and there you go. The problem?

      It’s not up to standards. The paragraphs are stilted and the sentences are stiff. Transitions are like bugs to those editors and flow is a foreign concept. It’s not something I would present to those I want to freelance for because it is completely generic and sounds like a 15 year old kid wrote it in between playing video games and doing math homework (sorry kids, but you get the picture). They’ve found a remarkable way to take inspiring concepts and make them sound run of the mill. They can take a consistent argument and make it look scattered; and this is their preference. Plus, they require a real name and, at this point, I see that my name must be connected with something I can present to potential clients.

      I have my bachelor’s in English. Maybe the content mills became so common that the editors themselves now come from the very same place and poor quality abounds. If I were to take one of the reputable articles that I used as a resource and present that as mine, I guarantee you it would be rejected by the site I am referencing. And the funny thing is, they require a style that is so unoriginal that social media runs away from it, yet they want a great response from social media. There is no way I would connect either one of my twitter profiles to this website: not the one with over 100 followers and not the one with just 5 because I can do better and would want others to see the best.

      And now I’m waiting for assurance of payment so I can produce more because I have bills to pay in a little over a week. Pray for me. I guess I’ll need to build a portfolio online and look for more resource boards to find better opportunities…Got to go far outside of the box to fix this situation.

      • Carol Tice

        Christina, we have a ton of resources in Freelance Writers Den to help you get out of this grind. As I write this, we actually have a link to a free training event posted right on the home page, so check that out! Hope you can make it.

  13. Elizabeth

    I have read posts like this from Carol before, I’m thinking of the velvet rope one. Right now I have a pretty decent gig that sends me a job every two weeks or so, and their rate is $75. So guess what…that’s my lowest rate right now! Why not? I know someone out there will pay it. That’s where I’ve set my bar. I’m totally on board with this perspective.

  14. Lisa

    I’ve never applied for DS, but I see their ads EVERYWHERE, which leads me to believe they must have a pretty high turnover rate. Otherwise, why would they be advertising so heavily? The whole thing seems … fishy to me.

    I live in a college town and there is a guy who puts fliers up to advertise his editing/writing tutoring/coaching service. It says right on the flier he charges $30/hour. I looked at his web site and this editing/tutoring/coaching service is his main line of work. So, if he can get *students* to pay him $30/hour to help them with their writing, it seems pretty darn clear to me that writers can get better gigs than $15/blog post.

    Also, the Editorial Freelancers Association posts its typical hourly rates for services like editing and writing. http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php I’ve sent that link to clients and they’ve always found it totally reasonable. Notice that it indicates $50-$100/hour for writing or $.05 – $2/word.

    • Jean

      Lisa – thank you SO much for that link to the Editorials Freelancers Association. I had no idea it existed! This will definitely help me in not only determining my rate, but showing it to cheapskates who think they can get away with charging pennies for quality work.

      Seriously, if they just need something fast, why don’t they get get a PLR article? Ugh.

      • Lisa

        Jean – You are welcome. I really like that rate table for so many reasons, and I think the main reason is that it is an “objective” source and that helps clients see that, hey, this is what the fair range is. It becomes less about what you’re asking for and more about what’s typical.

  15. CJ

    I too started out on one of the mills but got out as soon as I read Carol’s article. I’m still trying to find solid clients but Carol’s confidence in the market emboldens me. The velvet rope approach is a common-sense approach. Though I’m not yet earning a living from my writing, I have faith that eventually I will. Discussion boards like these – where fellow writers affirm the value of our work – helps me to keep trying though some days it seems easier to sink into a deep Craigslist-inspired funk.

    Thanks everybody and enjoy your holiday, Carol!

  16. Samantha Gluck

    I would not write an article for the web for less than $50. No way. No how. For print work, I charge anywhere from $250 to $500, depending on the topic and the research it entails. Like you, if I had to write for less than that, I would spend more time outside, running around and whooping it up with the kiddos. I probably would never quit writing, I just wouldn’t do it with the fervent intensity I do now, since it is the sole source of income from mom that our family has. I love writing and feel blessed to have clients who pay me a fair wage for my work. Incidentally, I specialize in medical writing as I am a former research nurse. Like you, I have had some crazy potential clients try to hire me for $20 a post to write referenced, accurate, medical articles. Ha! Not gonna happen!

  17. Marcy Orendorff

    I recently dropped a couple of clients who wanted me to work for very low wages. Beyond my writing skills, I realized I have other skills as well – business consulting, speech coaching. I find when talking with my clients, they have been seeking advice about how to best use my written pieces. I have not been charging for this advice. With that in mind, I am expanding my slate of services to include those consultations. I will no longer give away PR and marketing advice when I write a piece. Perhaps each of us can ask ourselves, are there related services I can offer?

    In regard to our banding together and not accepting these low-paying gigs, that’s a tough one, as each of us has different needs. I certainly don’t plan to accept them, but I currently have the luxury of doing so.

    Good Luck Everyone!

  18. claudio alegre

    Well said Carol!

    Right now for industry specific posts that can be considered original content, well optimized for search and even syndicated if client wishes, my rate is about 75/post: 350-500 words.

    I usually bundle it as a Blog Editorial Management and content creation item on proposals. But if writing was all I did for a particular client, that’s what it would come out to per post.

    So if you are posting 2-3 times/week and focused only on content marketing, just on that item you should be in the 600-900$/mo range. At that point they realize that it makes sense to work out a flat rate that makes sense for everyone especially if they are budget constrained.

    Enjoyed your post … thanks for sharing!

  19. Jean

    50.00 a blog post sounds good to me! It takes me about 2 hours to write one on average, so I’ll definitely accept 25.00 an hour. However, I’m just starting out, so I don’t know if I’m even in the right place to demand that rate. I’ll try it out (when I finally get my first client) and see how it goes.

    What discourages me is that the advice above still applies 2 years later. I had thought about starting a freelance writing career back then, but life and my then job kept me distracted. Now I wish I had gone ahead with it anyway.

    That cheap client should be ashamed. Who charges that little for quality legal content?! And how can he do that with a straight face? Wow.. just wow. These people are clearly very ignorant about what it takes to be a professional writer. They probably think it’s easy – you’re just putting words to a document. If it were, they don’t they do it themselves?

  20. Deborah

    Although your blog is more than 2 years old the complaint is as fresh — and valid– as ever. Only this morning I read a posting: 2 researched articles (different subjects of course), 500 and 600 words each, full rights relinquished —$45!!!
    And of course, they want an experienced writer. Good writing takes time and it’s worth money. Real money. Every writer should keep that in mind before they start reaching for that “apply here” button. As long as professional writers keep lowering their standards, we will all suffer. It’s the basic supply and demand concept at work.

  21. Samie

    Thank you for (re-)posting this. I posted in one of your other topics about this and so I feel like I was responded to.
    I am, however, a bit conflicted on the matter though. As being fairly new to the industry, not many people who pay decent pick me over someone cheaper, and overall my local area doesn’t pay writers very much. So I’ve been declining jobs that don’t pay very much, but I was wondering, for a new freelance writer, should I still try to aim for $50+ a blog/article, or would a lower rate be acceptable since I’m starting out in the field?

  22. Lee

    I’ve never been paid to write. Ever. I’m mostly a novelist, and I’m still at that point where I’m trying to make my writing better before I try and get money for it, but still. I would be happy to get $15 for a blog post. Hell, I would consider it for $10. I love to write. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do. And if I could make money doing it, any amount of money, I would be happy.

    • Samie

      When I first thought about freelancing, I shared your stand point, but after doing a couple of $5-$10 articles, I decided that if I’m not gonna be getting paid well, I would rather be working on my novel(s) or be writing in my blog. Basically, I would rather write what I want than write some two-bit article or blog because someone else is too cheap to pay well.

      • Sarah Porter-Pennington

        That’s how I have felt for months. I could spend all day working on non-paying blog work and be happy. But the second I look at a Demand Studios assignment, forget it. I don’t want to do it, I have to force myself through it just to pay the bills.

        • Carol Tice

          Anytime you’re having to put a gun to your head to get an assignment done, you know it’s time to find some new markets.

  23. Michelle

    Well, it depends on the extent to which we are aware of the content we have been dealing with and the real worth of our time. I still know many writers [I’m not a writer!] who are always underpaid and HAPPY WITH that!

  24. Sarah Porter-Pennington


    Another one of your posts that I find at the exact point in my life that I need it. All week I’ve been forcing myself to write 400-500 word articles for DMS that I’m only making $16 to $17.50/each. By the time I research beforehand and stop to research things I’m not 100% certain on (in order to ensure that I produce the highest-quality articles), I am spending AT LEAST 3 hours writing. That averages out to less than my state’s minimum wage, which is just under $8 an hour. And although I detest the idea of working in fast food again, I could honestly make more money and have more free time if I did go back to flipping burgers and smiling politely at ungrateful, rude customers.
    But this week I have forced myself to write DMS to get the bills paid. And let me just say–it’s a vicious downhill spiral. I’m not making any money, I write all day and half the night, and every month for the last year, I’ve had to dip into savings to get all the loans and utilities paid. That’s how bad content mill writing is. And…I sincerely HATE that I am contributing to the problem that DMS is causing for freelance writers.
    But without much savings to lean on, I’m stuck in the vicious cycle, hoping that the little bit of marketing I sometimes get time to do will pay off soon with a great gig that will allow me to better afford more marketing time.
    I think I may just have to consider starving for a couple of weeks while I devote all my time to marketing, and hope that somehow I’ll land some assignments with acceptable rates. I’m thinking of finishing up the articles in my DMS queue right now, then calling it quits and living on a prayer for a few weeks while I work on marketing…
    I don’t want to keep contributing to the problems caused by content mills, and I don’t want to encourage their dirty business tactics anymore. It’s zapping all my creativity, and I’m giving away ideas that are worth more than $15, without the writing.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Sarah —

      Try to find a way to save up and then do more marketing — the Marketing Basics course in Freelance Writers Den should help you do that in an effective way.

      I’m not a fan of going broke to create marketing time — it creates too much desperation and then it tends to not get the result you want. When you market you really have to come from a place of confidence that you have something great to offer.

      Most of the successful DS people I know churn out 3-5 articles per hour, usually working off knowledge that’s already up in their heads. If it takes you 3 hours to do one, DS is probably not a good place for you, as your math has shown you.

  25. Jonan Castillon

    Hi Carol, last month, I turned down a writing job because he won’t agree with the higher rate that I was offering. I was just fresh from your webinars and I intend to follow your tips. Until now, the “what if…” thoughts are nagging me but I am optimistic that somehow I could get a good-paying writing gig. This post is an encouragement. Enjoy your vacation!

  26. Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg

    Great post. Oldie but goodie!

    The amount of time you spend writing it should have no effect on the price, unless you are en employee working by the clock.

    if it takes me half the time of the next person to write, why should I only deserve half?

    It’s about what you get, not about how much of mt time it took to make it happen.

    That needs to be detached in people’s minds! I have clients that come to me after getting a
    “sponsored” mentor/coach for 15 hours… and then leave exclaiming, “that wasn’t free, that was 15 hours of my time, plus travel expenses! I’ve learned much more in an hour with you!”

    As soon as that “clicks” in many writers’ minds, they will be so much better off…

  27. Scott

    I think point #6 is why posts like this are controversial. You have other high-paying gigs. Many people don’t. I’m currently writing $18 articles that take about 45 minutes each, a $24/hour rate that I’m extremely happy with. It’s not a content mill btw, it’s a reputable news site with a small staff.

    I love the fact that you are fighting for higher wages for writers, but wages and rates are relative, depending on the person and his/her needs and desires. I wrote for much less before I found my current gig, and that was fine – I considered it part of working my way up the ladder.

    • Carol Tice

      Point taken, Scott.

      While $24 an hour may sound great — and it would be if it was a staff-job rate — once you deduct your costs for insurance, equipment, taxes, unbillable administrative hours, etc it is not a livable wage for most. $100 an hour is what I advise writers to shoot for.

      Yes, everybody starts somewhere and works their way up. I just find many writers think they need to pay their dues for about ever before they think they deserve to earn more. If you’ve got a half-dozen clips, you’re ready to earn pro rates, in my view.

      Glad to hear you’ve moved up to this gig, and hopefully you’ll keep on truckin’.

  28. Sophie

    Found myself facing the exact same thing two weeks ago.
    I would add reason #8 – Whenever I write, it is time that I don’t spend with my kids. It has to be worth it, and $15 isn’t…

  29. Carol J. Alexander

    Seems this is the current topic, lately. The first time I was asked by someone to write for their blog, I didn’t know what was the going rate. So I asked a prominent writer from whom I was taking a class. She told me to ask $25 per post. I have been writing 600 word posts for this site for almost a year, one per week, for $25. Now, I’m trying to get another gig for a different site that pays $50 per post plus bonuses based on comments. I do this because it’s regular and I get paid at the end of the month. I’ve been published at a much higher rate in national magazines; but the pain in the butt factor is much higher and the wait for my check is about a year longer. And, I’ve found my hourly rate comes out to be about the same. I would NOT, however, take less than $25 as that is currently what I try to make per hour. And in my very rural area, that is good. Finally, if I found a higher paying online gig in a niche that I had an interest and experience in, I would go for it. Just haven’t found any as of yet.

  30. Elizabeth Creith

    Carol, thank you for this article. When I made my living as a potter, I tried to convince other artists to ask for a fair price for their work. Self-sabotage was rampant; pottery going for $5.00, paintings that took days sold for $100. I made a living because I refused to compete with Taiwan.

    I believe the same thing applies here. The content mills are not our competition. I tried them, never got a gig because I was unwilling to write a 600-word article (requiring perfect English, plagiarism check and expertise in the area) for $8.00.

    I’m slowly building a list of publications who like my work, and I was recently offered a blogging gig at $60/post. The editor told me that was $10 more than they usually paid, but they like my “voice”.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on…just keep on raising your rates. I have one blog client now at $175 a post. Better work is out there.

      • LS

        Where on Earth would you find something like that? I make a good wage with $15 and $20 articles, but I can’t imagine anyone paying more than $50 for a standard-length Web article or blog post. Are you cold calling? Unless you are spending hundreds of hours cold calling and blanket emailing, I just can’t see this happening. And if you are spending that marketing time, your hourly wage isn’t quite what it appears in terms of earnings and writing time.

        • Melody

          I think that more writers, in order to make more money, must believe that they can. This writer doesn’t believe that it’s possible and that also ties into not have confidence in her writing ability and the value or in on another person’s site. The writer that gets 175.00 for a post is worth it, because the post will draw traffic. The owner of the site will receive over 175.00 in compensation via traffic. I hope this makes sense. In other words, $175.00 is nice, but is not a lot in comparison to the benefit that the client receives.

        • Gloria A

          Maybe Carol can point us to one of her $175 blog posts, so we can see what we’re doing wrong in terms of creating a $175 product that a client wants to buy? That could be pretty inspiring.

          • Carol Tice

            Sure, Gloria…here’s an archive of several of them. I’ve gotten more for posts in the past on another project — up to $300. I know others who’ve gotten that rate as well.

            In general, to earn more from blogging, you need an expertise area, and to pitch large corporate or publication clients. A background in traditional journalism is a big plus as well.

            But I’d say it’s not so much that you’re doing something wrong in what you write — likely not — but that you need to know how to negotiate (we started at $100 a post) and how to find clients that understand the value posts have to drive their sales. And have sophisticated topics you can write on to a specialized audience.

          • Gloria A

            Thanks so much. I’m definitely checking them out right after I finish client blogs today. I have a couple areas of expertise. I was a paralegal for 17 years and know PI, product liability, municipal law and probate. Currently I blog for medical malpractice attorneys (plantiffs and defendants), healthcare fraud, PI and estate planning. I’m also a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor’s from Kent State and have written for Livestrong (when they had their Health forum — I have some excellent clips), and tons of private clients. I just bid on all the medical content for a new site startup on diabetes. On a large project such as that, I give a discount because I’m guaranteed the income. My areas of expertise in nursing are all things cardiology, diabetes and gerontology (I worked in Adult Critical Care in the Cardiology Dept.). For 25+ years I’ve practiced holistic medicine in my own family (we don’t go to doctors much). I can crank out the words like nobody’s business. (Years as a secretary made my fingers fly over the keyboard.) I know I need to market more (I do a little everyday), but as a single mom of a teen, I’ve little time to do much more, plus the actual work. I’ve had an AWESOME project on my back burner that would create ebooks (complete with short, snappy videos on my blog), but it’s overrun by cobwebs.

            I write fast because I stick to the subjects I know from all angles, I’ve got Google alerts set up for the latest developments and I used a customized search engine that I tweak once a month. My hourly rate runs between $50-75, but that’s with more than one project. I’d like to get it down to one, instead of two, and increase the rate.

          • Carol Tice

            Hi Gloria —

            You need a writer website, girl! You have terrific expertise and ought to be able to command good rates…but without a site you don’t come off as a professional. I have a whole e-course in Freelance Writers Den on how to get it set up and best practices for making it draw and convert clients.

          • Gloria A

            Oh I used to have one, cost more money than it brought in and had very little traffic. I also NEVER had time to update it. I could always get more visitors to a blog post (when I have time to write those too). Maybe I need an office assistant to take care of some of these things. That might be the best initial investment, and they could take care of the PR. (I used to do PR too….. ugh, I’ve worn too many hats!)

          • Carol Tice

            I get Fortune 500 clients who find me on Google searches from my website…I consider it an essential tool at this point.

            It’s not that it needs to get a lot of traffic…it just needs to be there for prospects to find.

          • Gloria A

            Okay, you’ve talked me back into it. I’ll hire a college student with website and social media savvy.

          • LS

            I have a writer’s website, a degree in journalism and I’ve been writing professionally for 10 years, but I still don’t see rates anything like what you describe. There must be a step that I’m missing, or I unfortunately have to say that I don’t believe some of what I’m reading. I’m not an amateur by any means- I have a broad experience range and I’ve even written a book, but the rates described here are just not realistic.

          • Carol Tice

            You’re not the first person to say that to me…and it breaks my heart when writers tell me they feel like professional rates are a mirage. That I’m making it up, that you can earn a good living as a freelance writer.

            But I’m not. And I’m not the only one still making six figures in this economy.

            It’s a question of finding the right kind of clients, knowing how to negotiate, and doing a lot of proactive marketing.

            Participants in Freelance Writers Den are learning how to find better pay and move up every day. Ditto with the Blast-Off Class participants — one told me she got 1600% ROI on her fee.

        • Elizabeth Creith

          I’ve never had a $175 blog post – yet – but I got the current gig, which has been going biweekly for more than a year, because I wrote several pieces for the print and web editions of a trade magazine. I worked to length and deadline, and the editor clearly believed she could trust me to produce the content she wanted (pet-trade-related humour) when she needed it. So far it’s working very well.

          I got another blogging gig at Old Farmer’s Almanac because I wrote them a piece on sheep which will be appearing in the print issue in Canada in 2013. The editor, again, liked my voice and my ability to work to word count and deadline. I also made my expertise in the area of pets, farm critters and exotics clear, and had the chops to prove it. To date I’ve done ten blog posts for them, and expect I’ll be doing more.

          In other words, it’s basic writerly work, showing what you can do and persisting in asking. I pitched for some of my blog posts in OFA, but some they came to me for. Pet Product News approached me after I’d done four articles for them. Pick your niche and work it. And good luck!

  31. Dorothy Sander

    I traveled a similar path and came to the same conclusion about 2 years ago. I wish I had read this then as I wouldn’t have felt so all alone! 🙂 I am with you 110% and I like your optimistic take on the situation. As an “older” late blooming writer I have a sense of urgency about what I’m doing and the internet appeals to me for that reason. I submitted my first book to a highly recommended publisher 10 months ago and still have not received a yea or nay. I’ve self-published another and have a 3rd in the pipelines since then. I’ve yet to figure out the magic ingredient for finding lucrative online markets so keep going back to my own sites. Thanks for your encouragement and for sharing your knowledge. I look forward to reading more articles here and maybe eventually I’ll find my way!

      • Dorothy Sander

        I was already considering it! 🙂 How much have I missed? Do you recommend becoming a member of Editorial Freelancers Association?

        • Carol Tice

          I see you signed up! You haven’t missed a thing.

          You should be getting a couple of emails today that will get you started, and then you’ll get new materials weekly for another 5 weeks. To get the most out of it, join Freelance Writers Den as well — that’s where you can ask questions about the materials.

  32. lynn braz

    This post should be mandatory reading for all professional writers. Your 7 reasons for turning away work that offers ridiculous pay are dead on. Only an amateur would accept some of the payment terms that have now become standard. That’s why so much web writing truly sucks. Thank you, Carol, for being the voice of sanity and professionalism in our industry. Lynn Braz (www.wandering-lotus.com)

  33. Marte Cliff

    I actually had someone contact me who wanted to pay $6 per RESEARCHED article. They couldn’t understand why I said no, because after all, they needed a couple hundred articles per month. Didn’t I want steady work?

    No, not that kind of steady work, thanks just the same.

    • Carol Tice

      I like when these type of people say, We’re really having a tough time finding good writers, and we need people to start right away! I’ll just bet you do, bud.

  34. Samie

    I subscribed to this and realized today how much things can change.
    The biggest thing, I think, that hinders a lot of writers in earning the money they deserve is not pushing the price-tag and being too scared to negotiate price. When I posted on here last, I hadn’t gotten a single gig paying more than $10. Now only one client pays less than $15. I’m not making anywhere near $100 a post, but my latest one was $35, and I hadn’t thought I’d get it because I thought I was aiming too high. Difference of a couple months and being willing to aim high to begin with.

    I really agree with all your reasons. If you don’t accept less than $15 a post, you’ll get people who will pay you more than that easily.

    • Samie

      I’m also not writing for big companies or anything. Just blogs on topics that I would love to write about anyways. Video games, and dogs.

      • Carol Tice

        That’s great to hear that you’re finding better-paying blog markets!

    • Gloria A

      I don’t have a problem writing a $35 post (depending on word count), because I will sell that post four or five times over simply by changing a few things. Would I like to get $50 per article for it at the outset? Absolutely! But that isn’t what the market is bearing in most places. Competition is stiff, and writers with medical degrees out of India constantly undercut my rates. With many of them excellent writers in their own right, I’m better off working with people that have been referred to me. Another thing I have going for me is that I know how to turn a client’s idea for one article into four or five. My rate will also increase at the beginning of the year, just as the cost of everything else goes up. Where I can get really good rates for articles is in the U.K. market, and they LOVE American-trained RNs.

  35. Luana Spinetti

    Oh dear, you’re right, Carol. The mills will never stop to do a self-examination if writers continue asking for such a slavery.

    Personally, I believe it’s okay to start with mills, to gain experience as you still earn a few bucks to – say – renew your website and buy a book or magazine (that’s what I do), but it can’t go on forever… When your living depends entirely on freelance writing, there’s no more room for mills… they’re time consuming and bring little food on the table – or nothing.

    I’m a student who freelances in between subjects, but I’m starting to grow out of content mills (with the exception of sponsored posts, but I no longer accept anything below $5 for a very short write-up) and trying to climb up to better paying markets.

    A stair at a time, but we need to get going, no stops. 😉

    ~ Luana S.

  36. Laura Roberts

    A great article, even in 2011. I particularly like your point that if you were originally paid $50 per article back in the ’90s, you certainly wouldn’t want to make any less than that. I think these days, writers may feel “spoiled” to receive $50 an article for their work–and that is truly shameful. Sure, it depends on the type of writing you do (i.e. a 100-word quickie post on a TV show is less difficult/time-consuming/specialist in nature than a law blog article of 500 words or more), but if you are a specialist with years of experience in the field, then why accept insulting pay? Just say no, and find clients who believe you’re worth the prices you charge.

    • Carol Tice

      I once had a blogger say to me, “I’ve been writing for $5. $15 is a gold mine.” (Maybe it’s even somewhere back in this thread, actually!)

      Perception truly IS reality in this situation. If you believe all you can earn is pin money, that’s exactly what you’ll make.

      Maybe some folks will want to join me in Freelance Writers Den this week…our Den Meeting live call this coming Thursday is on how to kick the content mills. I’ll be featuring a writer who did it and now earns six figures. (If you’re reading this later, you can still hear the recording if you join, as I store all my live events in the Den for taking a listen whenever you like.)

  37. Lisa

    I am definitely writing for peanuts right now, but reading this post has definitely helped a lot. I am going to get the info on now i can market my writing in 40 ways because honestly, I really think i should be getting more for the content that I produce. The question is where to find clients who are willing to pay more. Thanks for sharing, I will be following your posts

  38. Josh Sarz

    Inspiring. This post makes me want to step up my game so I could earn more money on writing. I’m from another country, and I didn’t know $15 for a blog post was low.

  39. Anders

    I strongly believe in capitalism. The fact that you can pitch your services for $175 an article (per the examples you provided) is wonderful for you, but I pity the business owner that would pay you that much.

    It reminds me of the unions. They want higher wages but do not create enough value to justify their pay.

    Your article entitled “Better than plastic: Unsecured business lines of credit” will never generate $175 in value for that client.

    I could write the same article in 30 minutes with a 6 minute proofread. I could write an article at that speed at a higher level than yours with better cohesion and readability. My grammar would be 98% accurate, because I went to school to become a biochemist. My article would have a better title and obtain more traffic from the search engines. The article would not contain first hand information in the form of interviews.

    You do not need a first hand reference stating that a FICO score over 700 is desirable. There are a dozen authoritative sources stating the same thing already on the Internet.

    None is this is meant to criticize, but many writers do not understand business at all.

    There is a marginal return to any service or product beyond a certain level of quality. What is the difference between a $100,000 and $500,000 car? Why do more people visit eHow than the New York Times? Why do more people read Wikipedia compared to Britannica?

    From a business standpoint, $25 for an article will generate a profit. This means I will always have a demand for my product. Of course, I have no intentions of ever becoming a real writer.

    If you believe you create so much value Carol, why don’t you create your own niche sites and rake in the money in adsense revenue or affiliate marketing?

    While I have some skill in ranking sites in the search engines, I cannot think of any niche that could turn a profit if I paid $175 or more per article. I would be better off paying someone $50 per high quality article and spending the extra $125 on buying powerful back links.

    I think it is great that you fill all the little boys and girls with dreams of lollipop fields and unicorns by encouraging them to seek out better jobs in a market where the value of services declines annually, but you do not have to put such a negative spin on SEO/content mill writing to do so.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Anders — I’m sorry to hear you think the idea of making professional rates is lollipops and unicorns. I find that attitude is a major stumbling block to ever earning well. If you don’t believe professional writing is a valuable service, you’re unlikely to find clients who value and pay well for what you do.

      While there is an underworld of junk sites that would rather buy backlinks than pay for something coherently written, real companies that sell real products and services in the real world, that have existed since long before the Internet, continue to want to reach their readers and customers in compelling ways. Through quality articles, for which they pay well.

      The fact that you can’t think of a way your business could profit from using high-quality content only points up the limits of your business knowledge. There are other business models besides cheap-crap-articles with adsense boxes on them.

      The value of MY services has not declined annually — I’ve made more every year since 2005. Maybe the value of YOUR services is declining annually, because as you put it, you “have no intentions of ever becoming a real writer.” I believe you’re right that the value of being a non-writer is going down. If you think eHow is working out well financially for its owner, you might want to read Demand Media’s financial statements.

      On the other hand, compelling, well-researched stories will never go out of style, and the real writers who craft them do not go hungry. And I don’t usually get $175 for an article — most of my article work is at $700 or more.

      Look around, Anders…you ARE on my niche site. You might want to take a look at some of the testimonials on my other niche site, Freelance Writers Den. It’s not lollipops and unicorns, Anders — if you get off Demand Studios and market your business, you can make a lot more money. And that, my friend, is capitalism at its best.

  40. Elizabeth

    Just found your blog and wanted to say….

    Amen, Sister!!! I’ve been tempted by some of those opportunities, but have managed to resist the urge. I write because I love it. I’m afraid that if I started accepting some of these less-than-minimum-wage positions, I’d burn myself out writing for peanuts and never get any better paying positions. I’ve been paid for writing full-time. When I switched to freelance, I decided to not work for less than I had been making. And so far, so good.

    Thanks again.

  41. Matt Meakins

    Thanks for the post, Carol – I’m working on a long-overdue overhaul of my prices, most of which have been, to be frank, suicidal. Not to mention irrational – feedback for my work has always been very positive, and there’s no reason I couldn’t very reasonably ask for more. It’s not just a matter of wanting more money (as we all do) so much as being able to do the best job I can for the client. When you charge peanuts you can’t give yourself the time and space needed to produce the best piece of work possible – when you must factor in establishing requirements, research, outlines, rewrites and editing, not to mention giving yourself room to be just plain creative – let alone marketing and other areas of your business.
    One client was actually kind enough to let on that I was underselling myself, and gave an analogy – imagine hiring someone to cut down a tree. Do you hire the guy who only charges $30 an hour, uses a handsaw, takes four hours to do the job and doesn’t have time to tidy up when he’s done because he has another job to rush to? Or $80 an hour to the guy with the chainsaw who’ll only take 45 minutes to do the tree and another 20 minutes to clean up?
    I like the $50 rule, too.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Matt —

      I think you’ve pointed out why it is that many companies and publications still pay good rates. They’ve figured out they can pay twice for junk that has to be done over, or just pay once to get it done right.

      When an editor doesn’t have time to hold someone’s hand and needs something they know will be great off the bat, they pay more so that they get someone to pay full attention to the assignment. It’s like the building contractors say — measure twice, cut once. Or you can end up cutting over and over, which can end up being more costly and blowing your deadline.

    • Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg


      That (the wood chopping story) is an AWESOME example!! May I use it???

      • Matt Meakins

        Absolutely! I thought it was a really good example of how failing big can lead to the most valuable insights. You might even call this one an epiphany. Something that perhaps _should_ have been fairly obvious hitting me square between the eyes (looking at one’s bank balance dwindle ever so steadily is also a good reminder that something isn’t quite right).

        Carol – exactly! When I started and was writing for REALLY low rates (somewhat justified in that I was just trying to get a foot in the door), the quality was all over the shop. Some pieces still hold up remarkably (improbably) well. Others… well, if only I’d had the chance to do just one more draft (or two. Or five). And, understandably, companies and pubs would prefer not to take that gamble.

  42. Mike L.

    You guys want to know what’s sad, is hhis this guy named Alex Hammer from Maine operates in trying to guide writers for his Media 2.0 empire. However, what is more sad is that pro blogger keeps his ad for so long:

    None of this sites have been updated in like forever and I think they’re fake. They alll look generic and copies of one another as well. He offered to pay me like 30% per blog post generation rate and 10% for what other writers would get ai would edit. The thing is none of these sites get even any visitors. What is also crazy is he has serious bipolar disorder and is a schizophrenic — for proof read this:

    After I wrote two blog posts for him he surprisingly paid me $100 but the nezt day wanted his money baxk and is threatening to sue me. I tried working with him and wrote another post (3 now) and he even said good job on the third one, but a couple hours later started threatening to sue me again and wanted $75 back this time. He even got some lawyer to send me a letter demanding it and threatened to send me to a collection agency.

    Another sad company is RHUB and this Chinese lady that works there called all in Yao. She advertises on Craigslist (bay area).literally scammed me into taking $20 for an 800 word review after forcing me to revise it multiple times and even change the way Iw rote it or took out any negativity about the product in the reviews. she claimed that RHUB was unable to meet the budget need of paying me over $25 and blamed me on the rewrites in her broken Mandarin (I mean English). How do these silicon valley companies even hire people like this? She also lied to me and admitted to matching my other rates but if I didn’t accept the $25 I wouldn’t have gotten anything. Later I posted the real review of the product on Examiner and she literally called me on the phone saying I had no permission to do so (it had a low review lol as well to stick it to her and her crappy company). Any of you familiar with RHUB and silicon valley practices of hiring Chinese people and contracting writers for peanuts?

    • Carol Tice

      Nope…I try to stay out of this low-pay gutter.

      Hopefully you won’t have any more negative experiences on mills before deciding to go out and find your own clients. Tends to work out much better, both in terms of pay rate and not being constantly threatened with lawsuits. I’ve never had a client threaten to sue me in over a decade of freelance writing work for clients like newspapers and legitimate businesses.

      • Mike L.

        One thing I realized is that writing about certain topics or subjects makes it impossible to make any money. For instance writing about iaphone and iPad apps and games. Even the most popular Apple sites pay peanuts. There is this site called Appadvice that gets thousands of dollars in ads per month:

        They claim to get a million visitors monthly. You guys want to know how much they pay their writers? The answer is $5 per blogg posts. For proof here is my profile from there before I stopped writing for them and they didn’t even want me back (they claimed I was inscribe for so long and made it sound like a privilege writing for them):

        What made this even more of a joke is they have an incredibly annoying editor and he has to approve every post before submitting it. And on top of this, they have so many writers that you would sometimes end up writing a story someone else was covering. Simulatenously and get paid nothing for it. Another site called Appmodo pays even less. They only pay $5 per reviee (with multimedia added) and only one per day. Every apple, app, iOS gaming, etc. Site is a joke when it comes to pay. I have no idea why. I bet video gaming console sites pay more even. Maybe it has to do with the App Sore having almost alll apps for free or for a few dollars being sold there? But what would their app ecosystem have to do with writing sites about it?

        • Carol Tice

          That’s interesting…kids and pets are the two topics I find seem to pay poorly online, but then I don’t have the urge to review apps.

          Sites that pay squat do it because they can. There are enough writers who have bought the ‘exposure’ line, and they have a topic many writers know at least a bit about.

          These sites don’t have the philosophy that they can stand out with quality writing and reporting from better writers…and they’re unlikely to get a sudden revelation and change their attitude.

          I find writers online often waste energy on “can you believe how they’re exploiting me?” type conversations, instead of moving on to find better-paying markets. If you know about apps, why not see if you could do copywriting for one of the paid-app makers, for instance? Or create your own app-review site and monetize it and keep all the revenue? Write for trade-pubs for the technology industry?

          There are plenty of other places to take that knowledge and get paid, I think.

          • Mike L.

            This is what I’m talking about:

            Every time I see an iPhone or mobile app review or news job posting on pro blogger, elance, Craigslist, etc. It’s always for like around that price range. even for the big sites like I mentioned Appadvice.

          • Carol Tice

            Mike — did you see this recent post about the job ads? https://makealivingwriting.com/2012/01/20/marketing-101-dream-date/#p6

            To find better pay, you’ll need to be more selective about where you look for jobs. Once you stop looking at job ads and start prospecting for your own clients, things start to improve.

            Also, if there isn’t good pay in writing iPhone and mobile app reviews, you might want to think about developing another specialty that pays better.

          • Mike L.

            Here is an interesting article about giving advice to young game writers or journalists:

            I always wonder why is it so hard to break into the mostnpopular fields like mobile apps and gaming when they have so many readers and interest? It would seem niche markets and subjects would generate less income due to less readership but it’s opposite. Just because these sites and publications have many writers willing to work for little doesn’t equate to quality. Also Appadvice seems to always be hiring:

            Who the heck wants to work for an annoying editor at $5 a post?

          • Deb

            I am so glad to hear your advice on this one. I am one who firmly believes in the mantra “if it doesn’t pay me well enough to do it, I won’t do it”. If I can only get $8 an hour for working my fingers off, I will be a bread-baker, not an underpaid writer!
            I am tired of seeing all the low-paying ads for writing gigs that obviously require experience and background. If they settle for the inexperienced who will sell out for that rate, it is no wonder that some of the content online is lacking in accuracy.

    • Carol Tice

      You’ve got to stop beating yourself up about the state of this bottom-feeder market, and go out and get your own clients, Mike! There’s nothing productive to this. We could all go look on Craigslist and find insulting low-pay ads. We know they exist. The key is to ignore, ignore, ignore them.

      • Mike L.

        I’ve been trying to find my own clients on linkedin and by going to the big sites ir blogs like 9to5mac, gizmo do, TechCrunch, etc. And none of them ever respond or give me the time of day. I have a xouple stories of over 1k words just waiting for someone to read them and publish them, but they won’t even look. These stories are unique as well and not covered bynall sites. Whats so said is that many of these sites don’t even have contact info or tell you whe to or who to pitch to or any submission guidelines. How do they ever recruit new talent? One guy on linedin was so selfish he stated that he wanted me to get him some apple code ir images that are secret and only employees know. It was all abot him and me me me. He want an editor but some PR drone though I was hoping would be a bridge.

  43. Bill Hitch

    While understandable that writers want a fair wage for a task that requires both intellect and creativity, I really have to wonder what a fair rate is. If anything, the internet showcases the large amount of people who are gifted with those attributes. While there is a certain amount of pride one should take in quality work, the emphasis of online content is output.

    Due to fast fingers I’m more cushy than a number of personal friends (I’m a recent college graduate), many of whom can’t find employment though they have top caliber resumes and outstanding GPAs. Those without safety-nets work minimum wage jobs that entail a number of mindless tasks. It brings perspective to what my contract work is; listening to music while writing random stuff and sometimes doing light (internet) research. At least my mindless work isn’t minimum wage and has potential.

    Don’t get me wrong, skilled writing is skilled writing. However, general knowledge of different formats or protocols should only make one more efficient- not less so.

    How much should anyone make an hour? What’s the moral paradigm? Doesn’t the general problem of greed start with arrogance? How many of my friends could find employment (and contribute- these are very bright people) if others didn’t demand excessive wages to pay for excessive lifestyles or privileges?

    • Gloria Attar RN

      I’m with you on this one. I have clients that pay me more, but I also have a client that pays me $20 for blog posts between 100-300 words. How fast do I write them? About 3 an hour after I’ve pulled the research from my Google alerts. It’s crazy money. I make a little more than half of that an hour as an RN. Should a writer be making more than an ICU RN? I don’t think so. At that writing rate, I can work 7 hours a week and have my living expenses covered for the month. Why? I don’t live above my means. I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle. I do a lot of things the old-fashioned way. I budget and watch our expenses like a hawk. I’m sitting here with a blanket over my knees, a baseball cap on and a space heater in the office instead of turning up the thermostat. I buy on sale, with coupons and drive an older model year Camry. We don’t take expensive vacations, and we don’t take a vacation every year. That’s why we’ve got a gazebo and quick set pool. We recycle items for different uses in our home. We redesign and remake clothes and will be copying the newest Jason Wu line for Target.

      I was raised by a frugal woman, but I really learned the meaning of the word while living in Italy. I live with what I need and don’t have to worry about “how am I going to pay for ____?” Even my daughter is saving up for her first car and knows she will need to work to help pay for her college. That’s okay, she’ll learn you can live with the financial freedom of the 1% without needing to earn a six figure salary to pay for a six figure lifestyle.

      • Carol Tice

        Just have to weigh in and say that while I have a similar frugality ethic, I am the sole support of a family of 5, one of whom is in college and 2 of whom are special-needs kids with a variety of costs involved that you might not have. Everyone’s cost of living is different, and I’m not judging anyone for what their nut is that they need to make.

        Most writers I know aren’t starving because they’re living an extravagant lifestyle — they’re starving because they don’t know how to market their business and get good clients.

        I know few people who can go on cranking out 3-7 articles an hour for years on end. It’s good stopgap money if you can get those assignments right now, but how long can you do that?

        Also, the demand for those kind of quickie articles is shrinking fast — witness how Demand Studios has drastically scaled back its assignments. Take a look at what’s happened to that company’s stock price to see where the whole content-mill industry is headed: down a drain. Google is on to junk content now, so it’s a fading opportunity. Unclear how much longer you’ll be able to earn for writing quick pieces about “random stuff,” Bill.

        I think a lot of people who’ve written $20 articles can’t understand why another article might be worth $2,000, because they’ve never tried to execute an assignment at that level. But the latter are very different assignments that call for a much greater skill level and time investment (though the hourly rate still works out better, if you know what you’re doing).

        If you’re trying to make me think I’m greedy or arrogant for wanting to be well paid for doing complex work that most writers couldn’t pull off, it’s not working. What I am is a professional, and I do expect to be paid like one. And I want to encourage other writers to have that same self-respect.

        My commitment on this blog is to help writers understand that they don’t have to have a poverty mentality. Writers deserve to make enough to put away retirement money and pay for healthcare — and yes, to go on a decent vacation once in a while if they like (which creates jobs, by the way, Bill).

        • Deb

          Thanks for standing up for the “I am in this to make a decent living” mentality. I am not a recent college graduate. I have over 25 years in my profession (computers and technology), and am trying to switch careers. My experience was hard-won, and not learned in the classroom. In fact, I teach college-level and continuing engineering education classes. I am not starting over, but focusing on my expertise from a different angle – writing. I am met with the same low-pay mentality in both the writing world and the industry-side of the business. I am in it for the money, or I won’t do it.

  44. Jawad Akhtar

    Thanks Carol. Indeed a great blog and an enormous avenue to learn and gain some valuable insights.
    I stumbled upon this blog while doing some research on finding better ways to earn a ‘decent’ paying writing opportunities online. I had no idea that it pays so much to write blog posts ($50-100).
    I had been checking out freelancing sites (oDesk, Elance, vWorker etc) where the rates are horribly low, so this is the reason I haven’t been very successful in finding many writing jobs! 🙂
    My technical niche (SAP/ERP) does not have many writing opportunities for me to explore (although it is much higher paying and I make decent income from it).
    At one time I thought of taking up low-paying writing jobs to build up my profile till the time high paying clients come my way, I guess I will now remain focused on ONLY decent-to-high-paying clients! I hope to find them soon.
    Let me know if you are aware of any such clients! 🙂
    Thank you.

  45. Ana

    I stumbled upon this site while looking through different sites for freelance writers. I’m a trained and degreed journalist with 20+ years of writing and editorial experience. My actual clips are from the 90s so they’re not so marketable today. But I’m trying to get back in after several stints teaching English abroad.

    I’m in full agreement with Carol. I won’t accept poverty wages for my level of experience. But it’s hard. I need new clips and testimonials. I so don’t want to bow down to the mills but what choice do we have? Carol’s class sounds great but I’m currently not in a position to do it. After a hospitalization ended my last expat job, my day job is in a factory for near minimum.

    On the positive side, I’ve decided to raise my editing rates to more closely reflect the Editorial Freelancers Association. In freelancing I’ve concentrated on editing because I already have some testimonials there, and there may be a tad more demand. But I intend to come back here regularly.

    • Laura

      Hi Ana,

      Carol will probably respond to you herself, but as someone who’s been following (and benefitting) from her for a while I thought I’d weigh in. You ask what other options you have aside from content mills – with your experience, plenty. Your clips may not be recent, but considering your know how you must understand that writing exceptional query letters can be enough to get your foot in the door even with respectable publications. I’d just be honest with the editors but avoid anything that could be construed negatively and focus on your most impresssive qualifications. The fact that you’ve done thorough research and understand what pubs are looking for should take care of the rest.

      I’m 21-years-old and recently dropped out of college (by choice) to focus on my writing career. If I can make a living like this, I’m sure you can! If you need immediate work why not ask around at a few places that are in constant need of marketing materials but can have a deficit of writers, like nonprofit organizations? You could even do some pro bono work if it means getting new clips at respectable places, but at least you’d be creating high quality, usable content over the random filler mills have you writing.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Ana — your ’90s clips are marketable today. Just use them. They still show you can write.

  46. Ana

    Thank you, Carol and Laura. I haven’t taken the time to go to nonprofits only because I wouldn’t get paid and the bills don’t wait.I’ve had to concentrate on paid gigs only. We only have 24 hours in a day.

    My question now may be considered downright stupid for a writer who should know better. I no longer have the actual, original 90s clips. How does one put a portfolio together in this digital age?

    • Carol Tice

      Get them. Magazines keep morgue archives. Find your clips. Also search around the Internet for them — you’d be surprised what you may turn up.

      Not all nonprofits need you to work free. With your background you ought to be able to find small business clients without a lot of difficulty that would pay more than mills. It’s sort of mindset switch. Stop thinking mills are your only option. They’re only your worst possible option, because they don’t lead anywhere except to more $15 posts.

      Also…do you know where all those ’90s editors who loved you are today? Look them up on LinkedIn — maybe you could write for them again where they are now, or they could refer you. I did that recently and got a great new $.50 a word client, from an editor I hadn’t written for for 12 years.

  47. Ana

    Thanks again, Carol, for your reply. My clips are all from the same daily newspaper where I worked for 5 years. I was first an editorial assistant and then TV Book editor. In between major duties, I wrote stories, usually about local attractions. None of it was advertising copywriting.

    Before that, I was a proofreader/editor for a market research company, where I edited final research reports for advertising copy tests. This wasn’t copywriting, just statistical reports of market research tests. Between all that, I freelanced like today.

    So yes, I’ve lots of experience. But the writing clips represent only 5 years of it. The rest of my writing is unpublished.

    I suppose the paper still has my clips. I just need to know how one usually accesses old clips as I know they’re not anywhere online.

    The editors I worked under are still there. They’re currently not taking freelancers. As for actual job openings, no newspaper has openings these days. I couldn’t interview anyway, I’m across the country now. I’d do anything to get back to that area, but I’m completely broke. Wow, a lot of barriers. Enough of that.

    Back to the clips: I just need to find out from them how to get copies. For a portfolio … what is done these days? Do writers still keep a physical portfolio or do you just scan your clips online? Can you use unpublished material in a portfolio?

    At least this stuff I can still do something about. 🙂 Thank you, all!

    • Carol Tice

      You just scan them and keep them on your writer site.

      You can use unpublished material but nobody wants to read it — they want to see what you’ve written that’s been through an editing process.

      Just call up your editor and make a list of the clips you want to buy…they’ll send you reprints or ask for them as PDFs, even better. Every paper has a reprint-sales department.

  48. Ana

    Thanks again, Carol! You’re wonderful to help someone asking really basic questions. It’s just that I have never put together a portfolio before, even before the digital age.

    I couldn’t possibly remember all the articles. Any way of telling them I want all my clips? There weren’t so many that I couldn’t get them all; I wasn’t primarily a reporter.

    Really basic: I take it scanning can be done at the library? I have no scanner. I have to learn how to do that, too. Sorry, my tech knowledge is very basic. Funny … I absolutely love everything technical and digital, yet I’m a technical dunce.

    Thanks again, Carol.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Ana –

      Unless they have a database where you could search on your name, you’ll have to remember some headlines. Even if you got a dozen of your best most memorable clips that would be plenty.

      The paper should create reprints for you. Then any good copy store can scan them into PDFs for you (don’t use the crappy copier at the library! You want them very readable and nice-looking), and any good webmaster could then turn them into HTML pages. You can also upload the PDFs but then prospects have to download something to read them, which they tend to be nervous about.

      • Ana

        It’s a major city daily, maybe they can search my name. It’s the only hope I have. I don’t remember any of the headlines, it was just too long ago. I’m going to call my old features editor and see if she knows where I can go. Then getting the money to pay a webmaster … these are tough times. Looks like it’ll be a while yet for a portfolio. But at least I know I’ll eventually have one.

        Thanks again, Carol, and best wishes to all!

  49. Kathryn Hawkins


    I love this post, and have found the many responses to it fascinating – sad to say that rates haven’t changed for the better in the years since you wrote it. I just published a post on my own blog on a similar topic, including a link to yours, though mine is geared towards business owners and marketing executives, rather than writers themselves: http://hawkinsmultimedia.com/blog/post/why-its-worth-paying-professional-rates-for-your-business-blog-content

    If any readers are scrolling this far down the page, I would also add that these high paying gigs ARE out there — it just requires specializing in what are often fairly technical, unsexy subjects, and/or building a platform so that publishers are coming to you, rather than you needing to bid against hundreds of other writers for a gig.

    Since this original post was published, search engines have deliberately begun filtering out low-quality content, so I can only hope that the people paying online writers will realize they need to pay decent rates in order to attract any traffic. Maybe the tide is turning…

  50. Uttoran Sen

    I guess your bottom-line really hit the nail, rather than taking up low paying work, one just needs to market better. If the content that you are selling at $15 has a $90 value, using it for marketing is definitely a better idea.

    Nice article, i had always stayed far away from content mills, one will never find professional content there.

  51. Joseph Hungry

    You are so right! It’s basically a game of “which sucker will work for nothing.” Collectively, the whole industry needs to take a stand. If they can get Indians to do it, fine, we’ll find something Indians can’t do.

  52. Holly

    I recently applied via an actual online application for a gig. The description was totally legit and they even required a 4-year degree. It all appeared very professional.

    I was offered $3 for 300 words. Honestly, I found that downright offensive. I wrote back with my minimum rate to which, not shockingly, I received a reply that the most they will offer is $3. I am embarrassed for them.

    • Carol Tice

      The only thing you can do about markets like this is stop responding to online job ads on mass boards. There are so few on there that aren’t like this.

      I find no one is willing to spout a rate that like to your face. If you do in-person networking and your own email prospecting targeting legitimate companies, you never run into this issue.

  53. Fletcher Martin

    As someone who has been a full-time freelance writer for more than two years, I’m right there with you. It’s getting worse too. People are putting up proposals on sites like Elance and oDesk saying things like “Only writers from Asian countries need apply”, even though they’re asking for “high quality English”.

    I can’t help but laugh when a week later that same person is looking for an “editor”. The sad thing is that they then want to pay the “editor” even less money than they paid for the original piece even though the piece basically needs to be completely rewritten.

    It is infuriating some days.

  54. Theresa Cahill

    Hi Carol, following this post out from inside the Den. It really hit a nerve (and I see it still does, funny how old is never truly “old”).

    Anyhoo, (lol, just listened to the LOI)…

    You answered an important question for me regarding mills inside the Den (thank you!), and I wanted to tell just a quick “what happened next.”

    1. Still working on the list… (that’s an aside for you)

    2. My reason for commenting: In came an offer through a popular mill. The usual 250 words with a string of requirements that could have comprised a text book. Offered payment $16.67.

    3. I went to the advertiser’s website to verify some stats

    4. It is a massive company online that I know is doing 100s of 1000s (if not millions) in business online

    5. “Negotiated” the rate back at around $100 I think

    6. Logged out

    7. Did some other work for a bit (not too long), checked email

    8. From a different “mill,” a real offer. $60 for one dofollow backlink and 2-3 paragraphs (that wasn’t even stated). Did a fine coverage of their material – time involved between 20 minutes to maybe 45 including proofing, etc.

    9. Submitted

    10. Went one round because they changed their minds on what “anchor text” they wanted. Made change. Hit submit.

    11. Approved and scheduled for payment.

    BUT what really made the difference is this… I already make $85 to just shy of $300 on my own website. So I’m thinking, “Hey wait a minute…!” Don’t be so stupid (comment to myself).

    The long and short is reading this post is like you were reading my mind!

    A friend of mine paid his $40 for 10 crappy articles THEN had the nerve to ask me to basically rewrite (you’d have to start over, they were worthless) for $5 a piece. Friend or not, it ain’t happening.

    Now every offer that comes in, I’ve got a firm stance. Nothing short of $50 (mom and pop, small budget). Larger corporations… well they have the budget.

    I stand firm with you that if it’s made clear if you want a $5 article go to that similarly named website.

    If you want value, hire a writer at fair freelance wages.

    • Carol Tice

      I just find $50 is a real dividing line, where you start to see better, more functional, quality clients…as I guess you discovered.

  55. Ryan

    I totally agree. I just started freelance writing though so accepting $15 articles just to get my feet wet in the business is something I have to do. But after like 5 $15 articles or so then ill start asking $50 and charging dollar per word or whatever.

  56. Rejoice

    $15 a word is heaven compared with some of the “freelance” sites. Most of the jobs on freelancer.com offer $1.5 for 500 words and they’re full of “musts’ ( you must meet my deadline, you must write in perfect English, blah,blah). Sometimes the cost of being on the internet for one hour is higher than the pay. I started out writing for them, but I wrote only 7 articles before I broke down. At that rate it would take about 75 articles to make $100! I’m a med student, and I’d rather spend the time studying! The disadvantage is not just the income (if it can be called that) but they make you think you’re worthless and rob you of the time you should spend learning real writing and looking for good gigs. I’ve not found a high-paying gig yet, but I know I will.

    • Carol Tice

      I get really depressed when people tell me they dream of getting $15.

      Just stop looking at online job boards and bid sites, and you can leave the underworld of underpay and find real rates.

      We were just talking about this in one of our recent Den trainings, and the thing to remember is the REASON they are offering such low pay. It’s because they have a failed business model, which is slapping ads against content and hoping to earn off it. The vast majority of sites that try this don’t end up successful. They’re not making money, which is why they can barely pay you.

      At the risk of stating the obvious, these are companies you want to avoid!

      Look for companies that sell a real product or service in the real world and have a track record of success at it, and you’ll discover a whole different pay scale, and good clients that have real marketing budgets.

  57. Marte

    I have an acquaintance who is doing researched papers for college students for $6-$11 per double-spaced page. She complains a lot about not making enough money.

    So, a month or so ago when I had more work than I could handle easily, I offered her some of the overflow – at a considerably higher rate. She said thanks, but she needed to go shopping and then had the grand-kids for a couple of days, so couldn’t do it.

    Those are the writers who will continue to do the $15 jobs.

    And no, I won’t offer her any more work.

    • Carol Tice

      Did she complain about doing something that’s actually unethical, as well as underpaid? What a story!

  58. Elizabeth West

    I’m struggling with this, because people are starting to ask me about rates. When I worked an actual butt-in-chair job, I made $12.50 an hour at most (clerical work). I consider writing more specialized, due to the amount of brainwork it takes to write, edit, and polish a submission, not even counting research time.

    It’s tough to figure out. I don’t want to undervalue myself, but I don’t want to scare people away either. If I can make similar to what I made at the office job per hour, then as I gain experience I can raise my rates. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Of course, if you have other suggestions, please feel free!

    • Carol Tice

      If you can make similar to what you made per hour at the office…you will go out of business! You have many more expenses, and often won’t have 40 billable hours a week. Your day job hourly rate as a clerk isn’t a relevant benchmark to your life as a freelancer.

      You need resources such as The Writer’s Market’s what to charge guide, and a network of pro writers you can bounce bid proposal ideas off, to start getting a sense of professional rates. I don’t know ANY successful writers who are earning $12.50 an hour. In the first world, I think we think of $50 an hour as a BOTTOM level you need to try to get to if you want to make this an ongoing, sustainable business.

      • Elizabeth West

        Hmm, yes, that makes more sense. And I did get the Writer’s Market for Christmas. 🙂

        Disclaimer: I’m not doing this full-time; I’m not experienced enough yet. My main impediment to full-time freelancing, besides a lack of experience, is that I have a serious issue with math, which precludes me doing my own accounting. I would need professional help with that.

        I’m starting a writing program at a local university through Vocational Rehab; I think they have a class that will help with this. It will also give me some tech writing skills that I don’t have and leave me with a portfolio and a better understanding of marketing. I’ll still be looking for immediate, butt-in-chair clerical jobs, though. I have to; my unemployment runs out soon. Hopefully, I can ask some of my instructors what they think.

        Thanks, Carol and Ana, for your advice. I’m going to save these comments for future reference. 🙂

        • Carol Tice

          There isn’t a whole ton of math to do at the very beginning of a freelance career, so don’t let that stop you, Elizabeth!

          I personally use Freshbooks and it kind of makes it all easy. I’m not very math talented either.

  59. Ana

    I’ll reiterate what Carol said about basing your rates on what you made at a day job. I’ve had this discussion too. Someone said I was charging too much for editing because employers are now paying poverty wages, I didn’t have to worry about being yelled at, I’m not on my feet all day, I’m lucky to get $12 an hour these days, etc.

    I gently reminded her that for an employee that’s all true. In the job world it’s an employer’s market and will remain one. But freelancers operate a business. That $12 an hour is what your employer paid you. What did your employer’s client pay them?

  60. Ana

    I also wonder what to do about fees since at the moment it’s extremely tight for me (can’t even find an office job so I’m working part time at a factory) … since I can’t pay for the Writer’s Market at this time, any suggestions from anyone on where to research rates?

    • Carol Tice

      Two thoughts —

      1) Charge a rate. Next time, charge more. Repeat until you’re making a living.
      2) Build a network of writers you can bounce rate ideas off, who can give you a sense of what to charge…like, um, Freelance Writers Den. We have a TON of rate conversations in there.

      • Ana

        Any ideas on where to find that community of writers (and editors) to discuss rates and such?

        • Carol Tice

          Sure, Ana — we call it Freelance Writers Den…and as I write this we are prepping to reopen in just a few days, so if you’re interested to get on the waitlist!

          • Ana

            Carol, I’ve just joined! I look forward to communicating with the Den.

            Thank you so much for providing it. I can’t wait to get involved!

          • Carol Tice

            That’s awesome — see you in there, Ana!

  61. Monica Dube

    Carol, thank you for this article. I completely agree with you. I am tired of people praising Textbroker and claiming to make “thousands” every month from it. Content mills are despicable.

    Also, did you hear Textbroker is raising their rates for new clients, but is NOT giving their authors a raise? With the exception of new Team Orders and DirectOrders, authors will be paid at the same paltry rates, which doesn’t surprise me. You can read more about Textbroker’s rate increase here.

    Thanks again for this article, and I’m glad there are other like-minded writers out there!


    • Carol Tice

      I hadn’t…but I find the key is to stop tracking which content mill is screwing writers over the most, or has granted some tiny raise…is to leave content mills and find your own clients. Really the only answer for earning a real living.

  62. Ana

    While I agree wholeheartedly that content mills are horrid, writers work for them for understandable reasons. We get paid paltry sums not primarily because clients don’t appreciate the time and skill involved, but because there are so many of us.

    It’s simple economics. Supply and demand. We are a big, big supply. While there is also big demand, it can be more than met by the supply. We are skilled in something not everyone can do, but our skill is not hard to find in the marketplace. It’s the age-old challenge of breaking in. Working online hasn’t changed that.

    Until it does, for those without a track record, I’m afraid content mills are here to stay a tad longer.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, content mills are definitely here to stay, as we do seem to have an unlimited supply of writers who doubt their talents and hate marketing themselves. There DOES seem to be an unlimited supply of those!

      But clients who need writing in specialized niches — they need a white paper, or someone who can write about surety bonds, or anything else along these lines — will tell you they have to hunt and hunt to get someone they’re happy with.

      So that’s where the money is, in better clients and specialized writing niches — and in proactively finding quality clients instead of taking jobs off a dashboard or a Craigslist ad. Fortunately, demand is exploding at that end, too. Some of those clients have even tried places like Elance, and have figured out they won’t find the writer THEY need there.

      I’m here to help the people with the drive to get into that other group of writers, the ones who earn high rates and are in high demand.

  63. Ana

    I’m on here because I do believe in practicing what Carol preaches. But sometimes (most of the time?), you have to have a track record before you can market yourself for top-pay jobs.

    It was mentioned in The Decent Pay Challenge that Sean Platt had slogged through content-mill hell at the beginning of his freelance career. Well, that proves me right. You do have to pay your dues first. No good-paying client is going to hire a writer without a proven track record. Proven means published.

    Surety bonds? Few writers are qualified in that realm. Ditto for many other specialty fields. If I were qualified to write about science or hardware or surety bonds, I’d have gone after the top payers from the outset. Unfortunately, my specialties are all in less scientifically exact, and highly competitive, niches.

    Most writers can’t market themselves without clips (or the digital version thereof), and most of the time the only way to start getting them is through low-paid gigs — at first.

    I strongly agree that no writer should stay there for longer than they absolutely have to.

  64. Larry Farr

    Thanks for this Carol. I’ve been writing on and off for some time but mostly edit the writing of others. I registered on Elance a while back and was successful in biding on a job of writing four or five blog posts. The writing took a lot of work (oh really?) and the pay was pathetic – something like $60. That ended the Elance involvement for me. Then, just this past week, the client contacted me and asked if I was interested in writing for him again. Not sure of what my rate should be I Googled and found many saying that anywhere from $10-$20 was a good rate. Then I found your site and was relieved when you said you’d rather play frisbee with your kids and quit writing that to work for $15 an article.
    Thanks again for posting this – it’s very much appreciated. I signed up for your newsletter and look forward to reading more of your blog.
    Larry Farr

    • Carol Tice

      Glad you found this — I consider $50 a post a *floor* below which pro writers should never go, and personally did a lot of blogging at $100-$125 a post. These days I’m earning much more with a client that pays a base rate and then bonuses for traffic, which I drive a lot of. 😉

  65. Barbara Saunders

    I totally agree with #4. I think these employers are simply preying on writers’ poor self-esteem. It’s bad enough to write for Starbucks wages if the alternative is working at Starbucks. If a person has day-job options that pay a real salary, there is really no reason to write blog posts for Starbucks wages. If the writing’s not going to pay anyway, better to write that masterpiece poetry or novel – which might eventually pay. Just being published is not enough.


  1. The Economics of Writing for Free « by.dana.sitar - [...] Why I Won’t Write  $15 Blog Post by Carol Tice [...]
  2. The Decent Pay challenge for freelance writers - [...] impractical, then successful writers like Carol Tice and Sean Platt might brighten your mood. In this blog post, Carol…

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