Writing for $5 — How Do Real Writers Compete?


There’s a protest movement in social media. “Real” writers spend tons of time complaining that non-degree writers work for $5 per article. They howl that cheap SEO writers and hacks are ruining the marketplace for “real” writers who should command $2 or $3 per word. Writers are going down the tubes!

Hold on. Many, many highest-quality journalists have never attended college much less received a degree. Quality of work in our industry doesn’t depend on education. It depends on skill, not even talent, a commitment to work hard and dig deep, and the ability to communicate effectively. It also seriously depends upon building a portfolio of, and reputation for quality product.

Writing SEO articles for a penny a word or less does not constitute quality clips. Battling over bogus ads on Craigslist or jockeying for an elite position with a content mill won’t make a career. So many writers spend so much time wrangling about soft pricing on *entrepreneurial* websites. Have you EVER lost a high-quality assignment with a legitimate print or web publication — to someone willing to take five bucks?

I just took on a brand new client from Craigslist for a 50-page business booklet. I sent him my professional marketing package and a pitch. He said he was tickled to find someone who understood the depth of his project and would be committed to doing a good job. He got 84 bids. The bid just below mine was $200. Mine was well over ten times that.
Two days ago, I took on a new client who upped their standard rate for me because my clips were “so incredibly well-written and researched.” Their words, not mine.

Read the social media sites – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, et al. This same discussion appears over and over with hundreds of comments. Why are these underpaid professionals spending so much time whining about the economy? Wouldn’t they be better served polishing clips, networking with editors and publishers, and hanging out where established writers who are making money hang out?

Success is about diligent marketing and presenting your strengths to real prospects. Troll the web in desperation, seeking work at Demand, Associated Content, Guru or Craigslist and you compete with people who write for exposure or for five bucks.

Journalists with clip files pursue good jobs in good venues. Don’t panic. The economy sucks but is getting better. Our industry is changing, not dying! Don’t reduce your own worth to match a cyber-perception of what professional writing is about. That kind of exposure isn’t going to do a thing for you.

Read more:

Why don’t people read self-published books?

Publishing jobs still exist

Make money as a staff blogger

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