We all want to command the highest rates per word we can as freelance writers. However, sometimes you’ll run into jobs that might be worth it, even if the client can’t quite afford your full rates.
The key, in these cases, is to bend a little, but not to break. It can be worth it to lower your rate a bit from time to time if you can find other ways to benefit from those jobs. However, you should never accept gigs that pay too much below your standard rates.
In this article, I’m going to talk to you about some of my experiences with low freelance rates. Then I’ll teach you three ways to ensure these gigs are worth your time, even if you’ll earn a little less than you’d like from them. Let’s get to it!
Are Low-Budget Freelance Writing Jobs Worth It?
You should always walk into any negotiation with a number in mind. In my case, I have a base rate of $0.06 I don’t dip below, but I always aim higher when pitching clients. For a freelance writer with experience, that rate is a bit low, but I make up for it by only taking on jobs with subjects I have experience in. That way, I can be more efficient, and my per-hour rate remains high.
The point is, it can be worth your time to take on gigs slightly below your desired rate, as long as you have a line you won’t cross. For example, I wouldn’t touch a $0.04 per word gig with a ten-foot pole, no matter how many perks it offers.
Perks are essential when it comes to gigs that don’t pay as much as you’d like. If a client wants to work with you, but can’t afford your full rates, they might be willing to make up for it in other areas, so you both can benefit. I’ll walk you through some perks you’ll find interesting in a minute, but for now, let’s make one thing clear. If a client can’t pay your base rates and they don’t have an interest in negotiating at all, they’re not worth your time.
Those types of employers are probably looking for writers they can pay a pittance to, and you can always find better gigs if you know where to look for them. Job boards, for example, are my go-to places when I need to pack my schedule with more work, and Paid to Blog Jobs is an excellent one to use.
3 Ways to Negotiate With Low-Budget Clients
Assuming a client can meet your base rate, but not go higher, here are some ways you can sweeten the deal, so the work is worth your time.
1. Get a Piece You Can Use in Your Portfolio
Your portfolio is the single most powerful tool at your disposal when it comes to landing new clients. If you’re great at your job, you should get a lot of clients through word of mouth. However, having a portfolio that showcases your best work can’t hurt your chances either.
Think about your portfolio as your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Hardly any employer would take you without at least peeking at it, and it’s doubly important as a freelancer since it’s often hard to check references. In some cases, I can be persuaded to take a job that doesn’t pay as well if I think it’ll make an excellent addition to my portfolio.
This way, you can use a not-so-good gig to help you land bigger clients in the future. Plus, it can help you build goodwill with an employer who might be able to pay you more later on. In any case, if you want to include an article in your portfolio, you’ll want to make sure your name is attached to it.
As a freelance writer, you’ll always want to include a clause that discusses whose name will be attached to your work. In some cases, clients will want to use their names and hire you as a ghostwriter. However, you should always charge a bit more for this type of gig, and they’re not worth it if they can’t afford your full rates.
2. Agree on a Lower Rate in Exchange for Multiple Assignments
In the world of freelance writing, it’s common to agree on discounts for larger amounts of work. For example, if a client commissions several articles per month consistently, I’ll be much more inclined to be a bit flexible in my rates.
There is, of course, a limit to how low you should be willing to go. Personally, I’m a serial monogamist. I’d much rather stick it out with long-term clients instead of wooing new ones all the time, and in some cases, that means accepting a lower rate upfront.
You should, of course, get any work commitment in writing as part of your contract. If a client wants to hire you to produce X amount of articles per month, that number should be in your contract. In some cases, you might even want to include a kill fee in case they want to terminate the contract early. That way, you can cover your bases for lost work opportunities.
3. Suggest a Lower Word Count to Accommodate their Budget
Sometimes, the easiest solution to dealing with a low budget is to rein in the client’s expectations. When it comes to freelance writing, that can mean talking down a client from a 2,000-word article to a 1,000 piece. That way, they still get the benefit of your expertise and you don’t have to walk away from a gig.
In many cases, potential customers will be reticent to accept lower word counts. A lot of people think longer automatically means better, so they don’t want to settle for less. It’s your job to convince them it’s better to hire an excellent freelancer (that’s you) with a smaller project scope instead of hiring the cheapest person they can find.
When it comes to these situations, your portfolio and your pitching skills will make all the difference. If you have a decent roster of projects to show off and you can sweet-talk potential clients, you’re going places as a freelancer.
When you walk into a negotiation with a new client, it doesn’t hurt to highball your rates a bit. You’ll also want to have a number in mind below which you’re not willing to go. In my case, that’s $0.06 per word, and I only take jobs that deal with subjects I have plenty of experience with. For gigs that require more research, that’d be way too low for my time.
When you’re faced with a job that doesn’t quite pay what you like (but it’s still in your ballpark), here are a few ways to make the most of it:
- Get a piece you can use in your portfolio.
- Agree on a lower rate in exchange for multiple assignments.
- Suggest a lower word count to accommodate your client’s budget.
What do you consider to be low freelance rates when it comes to writing jobs? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!
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