Rates are always a big topic of discussion in freelancer communities. I was in a Facebook group recently where some seasoned writers got into a discussion as to whether it’s ever okay to write for lower rates.
Some people were adamantly against it, stating that you are undervaluing yourself and need to pay your bills. Others said there were instances in which lower rates are okay. I personally tend to think it depends on the situation.
However, you don’t want to be taken advantage of. Here are some ways to decide whether or not it’s okay to write for lower rates.
What’s the lowest you’ll go?
“Low rates” depends on who you ask. For some people a “low rate” is $20 an article. For others it’s $200. That’s why it’s important to determine what a low rate is for you.
The best way to determine this is to crunch some numbers. How much do you need to pay your bills and how much do you want to make? Based on those numbers, what’s the lowest you can go?
It’s important to know this for three reasons. First, people are right, you need to pay your bills. Second, this is the lowest you’ll go when taking into account any other advantages of taking the gig. Third, it’s not free.
Are there other advantages?
I have taken lower writing rates if I feel like there’s something else in it for me. For example, I took a gig that paid less than what I usually get because there was an opportunity to get syndicated in large publications. I then use that as leverage when I’m talking to other clients by saying, “My work has been syndicated on Business Insider, Huffington Post, etc.”
Additionally, sometimes there are opportunities like getting in a good word in for a large publication. One of my lower paying clients even turned into a sponsorship deal.
The point is you shouldn’t dismiss something just because the rate is lower than what you would normally take. Sometimes there are opportunities that could lead to far more money and recognition that you would have turned down. That being said, none of these opportunities were below my lowest number so my bills were still getting paid.
How much is actually needed from you?
Another thing to consider is how much is actually needed from you. For example, is it a lower rate but all you have to do is write a draft that takes you fifteen minutes? Meaning, they take care of editing, graphics, etc.? Then it could be worth considering because it’s easy money.
Now, if it’s a low rate and they want you to go to the moon and back, then that’s an entirely different story. The reality is it’s up to you to decide what’s fair and what’s not. There are no rules here.
Writing for lower rates than what you would normally take can be advantageous depending on the situation. Just don’t make the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water in these situations.