Flame Away, Fancypants

I spend a fair amount of time on this blog making fun of so-called “employers” who think it’s totally reasonable to pay decent writers a pittance for their hard work.  I’ve heard every argument for why they can get away with this.  New writers need some way to get started, and these gigs get their foot in the door.  What seems like a ridiculously small amount of money to my bourgeoisie self may be a fortune to someone in another country.  Blah, blah, blah.  Today, I want to look at the other side of the equation, though.  I want to know what is up with writers who charge incredibly high fees for their work.

I’ve worked with a couple of coaches now who have encouraged me to go after higher paying gigs.  That sounds like a great idea, although it does require a ton of effort on my part to break out of my comfort zone.  There’s fear and insecurity, and to be honest, a fair amount of good old fashioned laziness holding me back.  There’s something else, though.  I kind of think some of these other writers are ripping off clients.

I’m not one for creating controversy on the web, but someone has to say it.  How exactly do you justify a $400 press release?   I know several writers who charge in that neighborhood (and if they have any extra work, they’re certainly welcome to send it my way).  I, on the other hand, don’t charge nearly that.  I’ve also seen a lot of arguments for not accepting less than $60 for a blog post.  That’s awesome and all, and I’m all in favor of finding those kinds of clients, but I do think it’s a bit odd.

I guess I’m wondering what on earth they put into those press releases and blog posts.  I write a lot of press releases, and I think the quality I send out is generally far higher than even the client expected.  At most, I’d say a press release, with a phone interview of the client, takes about two hours.  Are these highly-paid writers putting in more than that?  Do they know some magic formula that clients are paying them $200 an hour to employ?

And $60 blog posts?  We’re talking like typical 350-500 word blog posts, right?  These generally require a bit of Internet research and some personal insight, and voila!  Blog post.  Even if you’re not familiar with the topic at first, you’re going to learn as you go along and get faster and more efficient.  There are some posts I’ve written that have taken a lot of time, but I would say most are in the ½ hour range.  So, that’s $120 an hour for blogging?  Sounds like great work if you can get it, but I’m just incredulous that people actually do.

So, I’d love to hear from those of you who get this kind of dough, especially the ones who disparage newer writers for not charging as much.  I want to ask where you get off putting people down for not earning in excess of $100 an hour.  I also want to ask you where you find those clients with so much money to spare.  I think I’m a damn good writer, and I’m pretty pleased when I make $30 to $50 an hour.  I used to be happy with $10 because it replaced the crappy job I left to be a writer.







26 responses
  1. Deb Ng Avatar

    I admit it, I charge an exorbitant amount for a blog post, for several reasons.

    * I always give every post my best effort and my clients know that I’m worth the high price. I write, help promote, respond to comments and more.

    * I have a good reputation and clients hire me on word of mouth recommendation and my good name.

    * I’ve been doing this for ten years and have given myself raises accordingly.

    Why do we pay thousands of dollars for art or hundreds of dollars for a single truffle? Because people are willing to pay for the best, and the best don’t come cheap.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Query Letter Writing: What the Editors Say =-.

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      Just in case I have any clients reading this blog (oh, how I hope I don’t), I’d like to make it very clear that I also put my best effort into the work I do for them, and I am quite proud of the reputation I have with the people I’ve worked with.

      Just felt like I had to say it. 😉

  2. Camilla Avatar

    I’ve been making $75 an hour writing for a university, and I have to admit, I feel kind of weird about making as much money for two hours of writing as I did for a whole day of waiting tables back in the day. The problem with underpaying jobs and overpaying jobs is the same: no one knows what we’re worth. One employer pays me $75, while I’m lucky to make one fifth as much in other places, and then there are all the people who think I can just knock out an article for their newsletter for free in my spare time! I’m all for a range according to talent, experience, etc, but for writers, it’s ridiculous.

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      You’ve definitely got a good point there. In addition to clients not knowing what we’re worth, I think so many writers simply have no idea either. It’s hard to walk that line between not wanting to sell yourself short and not wanting to price yourself out of work.

  3. Sharon Avatar

    I’m not commenting here because I earn this sort of dough Laura, but I am currently seething about the attitude of a writer who charges astronomical fees, so I hope you don’t mind if I let off a little steam here.

    Last night an interesting (to me) project was posted on elance. It required 4000 words to be written about a natural remedy which happens to be a favourite of mine, so I added the project to my elance ‘watch list’ to enable me to keep track of highest, lowest and average bid amounts (bids are sealed on elance, so this is the only way to get an idea of what others are bidding). Then I went off to think about the project and plan a proposal.

    When I returned to the computer the watch list indicated that three bids had been placed, and I almost fainted when I saw that the highest was for $1,035! $1,035 for 4,000 words!!?? I was intrigued, so I looked at the public profiles of the three who’d placed bids and quickly came to the conclusion that it must have been placed by one who’s ‘a scientist with a PhD in Biomedical Sciences, an MS in Management and years of research experience with Kraft Foods and in academia.’ There’s an accompanying photo of her in her white lab coat looking highly clinical and professional. Well fair enough, she’s got qualifications coming out of her ears and if she wants to charge that much, and people are willing to pay that much for her services, that’s up to them. This wasn’t what made me angry; it’s the next (capitalised) bit I have a problem with,

    ‘All our writers are American-based scientists with formal writing training, NOT THE TYPICAL SELF-PROCLAIMED WRITERS’

    Force nine rant coming on…

    Excuse me, fancy pants/lab coat, you may be qualified up to the back teeth in various scientific disciplines, but that doesn’t give you the right to pontificate about the writing skills of others; in fact it’s pretty unscientific of you, as you haven’t got any evidence to back this claim of yours up. Little hint of racism in there too?

    I think it’s fair enough to sell yourself on your profile, but to suggest that your competitors are deluded is bad form, in my opinion. It would be like me saying ‘I am an English-based writer, with a Masters in literary theory and creative writing, not like the typical scientist/foreigner who claims to be able to write’. I wouldn’t dream of it. Just because I’m English and have a Masters in writing doesn’t mean that those who aren’t/haven’t got one can’t write.

    To add insult to injury, my proofreading eye spotted a couple of what I consider to be grammatical errors in her profile.

    Am I overreacting?

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      I don’t necessarily thing you’re overreacting. It seems to me that something like that profile should be geared toward a very niche market, rather than just being out there trying to compete with everyone. Yes, scientists are smart. On the other hand, most employers aren’t really looking for that particular brand of smart.

      On the other hand, like this group, I do take exception to what they call “self-proclaimed writers.” I get really annoyed that just anyone can call himself or herself a writer without actually having any talent or ability. I came across a competitor’s profile the other day, and the sample that was posted was so bad that I was actually embarrassed, not just for that person, but for all of us who are supposedly in the same category.

  4. Andrea Avatar

    I have been hired to do some 400 word blog posts lately on things that involved research, interviews, and plenty of back and forth with my editors. I don’t feel I am being overpaid. I am sort of surprised that you’re knocking people for earning a good wage. It’s not hurting you at all, in fact it can only make you a more appealing candidate if in fact you charge less. I find this really surprising and sort of insulting to boot. why is one restaurant pricier than another? Why do some khakis cost $50 and others $500? (Thinking about today’s NYT piece.) frankly… MYOB

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      Your comment made me feel a little defensive, so you must be on to something there. Let me reiterate that I think it’s just swell if you can get those higher-paying gigs. When you’re putting in as much research and back and forth as you’ve mentioned, then it totally makes sense to charge a higher rate. There are some things, though, that do seem a bit excessive, such as the press release example. Of course, I’m also the kind of person that thinks one is a fool to spend $500 on a pair of khakis, so there you go.

      Please realize that I’m not necessarily trying to disparage other writers for getting what they’re worth (although I do doubt that there are many press releases that should cost $400), but I am genuinely interested in how this whole thing works.

  5. Jennifer Avatar

    I agree with Andrea. I have a blog client that pays in the 60-100+ dollar range, but I do a heck of a lot of research for those posts into original sources on PubMed. My per hour amt. doesn’t come out to be that much in the end. As a health writer, I look at supposed health sites that pay 5 or 10 dollars a post/article and think about the crappy research that is going into those. When you’re dealing with serious subjects that will influence people, sites should be prepared to offer (and pay for) quality.

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      Yes, in those more technical fields, such as medicine, I think it definitely makes sense to pay for quality rather than to just hire someone who can string together words.

      Please see my comment to Andera’s remarks.

  6. C Vishy Avatar
    C Vishy


    I am what you could call, a Third World Writer. Though the post has some sky-high numbers mentioned (And I admit, I would have been a millionaire had I charged, even half of that), I would say one thing if that doesnt disturb the sanctity of the forum

    Writing is based one’s perception. Similarly, how much to pay and to get paid is a two-way deal between the client and the writer. If the client wants to pay X Bucks and the writer’s fine with it, why are we shouting?

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      No shouting here. Just a little curiosity and probably a bit of jealousy. Like you said, it’s all about perception.

  7. Jennifer Avatar

    I make $50 plus with some blog posts because… clients want many images which require a ton of searching, editing, and so fourth to fit their very picky image criteria. I have one client with such rigid image requirements that images alone, not counting the post can take up to 20-30 mins. After that many clients want all the little extras. They don’t just want a well written, well linked post. They also want all perfect info given in a post (so do I), 7-14 images tagged and fancy galleries set up, social media promotion, seo packages filled in, and so on and so on.

    Also, if I break news for a client that I could have just as easily broke at my own blog, they’re going to get those extra page view perks, not me. ALSO when I don’t get paid rev, but flat fees, my posts at a clients blog will stay on and continue to make the client money, while I only get what I get once.

    I could go on and on. I work very hard to give clients not only good posts but all those little extras that make me a good blogger to hire.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Feed Your Blogging Addiction with Highly Addictive Links =-.

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      Excellent points. I had a client that required quite a few extras, such as images, links, tags, posting, etc., and I would definitely like to think I would charge more for that particular kind of job in the future than I did back then. I think the per-post price can be a little misleading, as – like you’ve pointed out – different jobs require a varying degree of detail. That’s one reason I kind of like to break things down (for myself, not the client) into a per-hour rate to make sure each job is truly worth my while. If I discovered I was making $200 an hour for something that was really very simple, I might be stoked, but I’m pretty sure I’d feel a little guilty, too.

  8. Phil Avatar

    $400 for a press release might be a little high, but not if distribution is taken into account.

    Rates have come up time and again in the forum. Rates have to take into account one has to spend time finding the work (unpaid), pays health insurance (don’t get me going on that as I look at $22,000 — after insurance — for my daughter’s back surgery last year) and other overhead covered by an employer.Insurance costs me $800 a month, and not for a “cadiallac” plan. Mine is an Edsel.

    The press release, blog post, etc., might also take a lot of back and forth with the client, and there’s the risk of non-payment. Non-paynent is a risk, even from long-time clients. I’ve seen several go out of business the last few years. Though my percentage of uncollected receipts is low, it still has to be a consideration.

    Additionally, research can be very time consuming, particularly if you need to get input from one or more sources. Just contacting them and getting a mutual time for an interview can be time-consuming.

    I will grant that rates in this country are higher than elsewhere, but so is cost of living (see note about surgery above).

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer


      I’m not going to respond too much here because a lot of what you’re talking about is going to be addressed in my next post…but I didn’t want you to feel left out when you saw that everyone else got a comment. It’s not you, dude. It’s totally me.

  9. Marta Avatar

    When determining price, I always keep these two adages in mind: “The worth of a thing is the price it will bring” and “Price to the point of indifference.”

    Markets determine the worth of everything, including content. Any number of factors, like quality, expertise, responsiveness, availability, or competition, will determine what a client might pay regardless of what I personally find fair. If the market will bear a high price, I gladly accept. If not, then I move onto my second pearl of wisdom, pricing to the point of indifference.

    I balance how much I want to be paid against how much I would regret not getting a job. If I really want it, I bring my price down because my compensation comes from intangibles such as making a new connection, breaking into a new field, or garnering necessary experience. I never want to price myself too high and then regret having done so after losing a job. Conversely, if I find a job unappealing or burdensome, I raise my price to the point where it’s worth the inconvenience. The variables are all subjective and vary with each individual and market – hence the great variety in pricing. For me, it’s a moving target based upon the client, job, and my availability.

    Writing is still a craft requiring an individual’s talents, abilities, knowledge, and creativity. Unlike the discoveries of science, which all would eventually be discovered by someone, crafts involve something unique depending on the specific person doing the work. The value in the marketplace of that uniqueness is why someone like J.K. Rowling makes much more money than me, which brings me full circle. “The worth of a thing is the price it will bring.”

    1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
      Lorna Doone Brewer

      “For me, it’s a moving target based upon the client, job, and my availability.”

      This is a great way to describe what so many of us do. My business partner once gave someone an incredible deal to write a short ebook on the Scottish Highland Games just because she thought the topic was fascinating. I get that. On the other hand, we also price less appealing jobs at a rate that’s high enough to justify taking it if the employer actually bites.

      I do have a bit of a problem reconciling the whole “The worth of a thing is the price it will bring” argument. Not because I don’t think it’s true, but because I don’t want to accept it as true.

  10. Chris Mower Avatar

    I have to put in my two cents here. I wonder why so many people are against writers charging so much for their work? If the client is willing to pay for that work, great!

    In my opinion sites like eLance, etc. are HURTING the writing industry. Those sites are forcing writers to lower their prices to what is, in my opinion, unfair and ridiculously low prices for a skill that someone has been developing to sell.

    You became a freelance writer to earn a living, right? Being someone who interacts a lot with entrepreneurs and other businesses, you might be surprised to find out many businesses charge clients an easy $125 per hour (convert that to per project if that’s your thing) for average work. Then they pay their employees $25-$45/hour.

    As a freelance writer, you’re a business owner. Companies expect you to charge higher rates because in their mind’s they’re hiring a specialist, not a full-time learn-as-you-go employee. They hire you because they feel you can save them money. And you can, even when you charge higher rates.

    It’s disheartening to see so many talented people frustrated at others who are earning more then them. Let’s not insult them, get mad at them, or belittle them, or say “who do you think you are?” Should we not all be trying to figure out how to match them or beat them?

    Let’s lift this industry out of the gutter and prove to businesses that they’re hiring professionals, not insecure writers. Other artsy folks (i.e. Deb Ng mentioned painters) charge a whopping $300 for a reprint! A reprint folks–not even an original.

    What I’d like to see is not others lowering their prices to fit the masses but the masses to lift their prices to more appropriate level.
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..12 Simple Lessons in Leadership for Those Who Want to Make a Difference =-.

  11. Jodee Avatar

    @ Laura: I have three words for you to explain how someone can charge $100 for a blog post: “because they can.” I’ve worked for lawyers who I probably couldn’t have been able to afford to say Hello to if they were billing me for that time. Why did they charge what they did? Because they could find clients who would pay those rates.

    I admit that I don’t understand the mentality involved where people who say they are making that kind of money go after those who aren’t (at least not yet). They must be getting something out of it, or they wouldn’t be doing it, but I don’t get what the payoff is.
    .-= Jodee´s last blog ..How to Stand Out from the Crowd When Applying for Gigs =-.

  12. allena Avatar

    Well, Laura, I gotta say, I have no clue. I am finishing up a series of projects over the last couple months that threw me into the $2xx per hour range. Yay! But I have no secrets to tell you, as I didn’t ask for, quote or name the price. I simply took what the client offered. So my advice, I suppose, is for writers to go after those bigger and better paying clients!
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Successful Freelance Writing Can Be Scary =-.

  13. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
    Lorna Doone Brewer

    Why is everyone calling me Laura?

  14. Jodee Avatar

    Sorry, Lorna. I was tired when I called you that. I can read, really. 😉
    .-= Jodee´s last blog ..How to Stand Out from the Crowd When Applying for Gigs =-.

  15. AuroraGG Avatar

    I would suggest that many who “get this kind of dough” have moved past the point where everything is broken down in to a basic “word count divided by rate” formula — to where they offer their clients more than just words. Most well-paid freelancers I know provide clients with exceptional, value-added services in addition to the writing service.

    Is a press release worth $400? That depends. Did the writer create something that caught the eye of journalists at a number of different news outlets, resulting in countless well-respected publications covering the announcement? Did they handle the distribution of the release and put your company’s name front-and-center everywhere? Or did they simply write an exact number of words and toss it back via e-mail for the client to post on their Web site or wire it on their own. One of those is worth $400 (or more), while the other is not.

    There are many reasons why some writers charge a lot more (or get paid a lot more) than others — and in many cases, I would think it is because the writer provides their client with services that go well beyond providing just the text.

    1. Phil Avatar


      There are items like quick turnarounds, insight into opportunities, etc., that makes one more valuable than another writer.

      The distribution alone is beyond what the client wants to do on his or her own. Also, to be blunt, many of the clients/prospects simply can’t write (but they think they can).

      Can the company find someone for less? Sure. But you get what you pay for.

  16. allena Avatar

    weird. do I not write your name on Facebook like every other day? My apologies Lorna. 🙁 my bad!
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Successful Freelance Writing Can Be Scary =-.

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