Are Your Freelance Writing Rates "Highway Robbery?"

In one community I'm very active in, there's a particular member who always gives me a good laugh (unintentionally). He repeatedly claims that the rates professional writers charge are "highway robbery," essentially because he feels articles are easy and / or quick to write. Originally I figured he was probably just burned by a lousy writer in the past, or jealous because he can't command those higher rates himself (and by "high" rates I'm only talking about $50-75 per article, which in fact is relatively low in the grand scheme of professional writing).

I used to just think he was a nut about writers, but I saw him react to someone else's post in a completely unrelated area the same way. Someone posted about very successful earnings they had for the month, and this guy went on and on whining about how it wasn't right to post about such things. At that point there was no doubt. Jealousy was definitely playing a role (all he seems to be able to talk about is that people should charge the bare minimum, and never make money a motivation--apparently in anything, but especially in business).

Now, as far as I'm concerned, the guy's just ridiculous. It does, however, bring up an interesting topic that I'd like your thoughts on.

First, has anyone ever used a phrase like "highway robbery" to describe your freelance writing rates? And if so, how did you react?

Personally, I very rarely get a complaint about rates. I make it a point to publish them publicly, so people who don't have the budget for them simply don't contact me (I don't aggravate them by making them waste time asking for a quote that's out of their budget).

On those rare occasions where someone does have a problem with the rates, I generally either ignore them (if they're not a client, and just contacting me to be antagonistic about it), or if it's a client I have no problem referring them to someone else.

I have a somewhat strict policy - if my schedule is relatively full (and it often is), then I don't offer lower rates. If there are enough people willing to pay my standard rates, then those are the projects I take on. If it's a slower time of the year, I might compromise with them in some way (not generally just offering a discount, but rather tailoring what I'm offering to fit their budget - the lower budget might be quoted with fewer edits, with the client providing some of the research material, perhaps a shorter piece, etc.). The first reaction, though, is always to refer them elsewhere to someone who might be able to give them exactly what they want for their exact budget.


While it means losing a few clients here and there, in fact most of the people I refer elsewhere end up coming back to me for projects down the road (why it's vital to only refer people you trust - your referrals can say a lot about you).

In other words, when someone feels like my rates are "highway robbery" or anything along those lines, I let them know they're welcome to look elsewhere, and they're welcome to come back if they ever need something in the future where my rates fit within their budget.

So how do you handle complaints about your rates or requests to work for significantly less than your standard rates?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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7 thoughts on “Are Your Freelance Writing Rates "Highway Robbery?"”

  1. I have some folks approach me and ask my rates for projects (even though my rates are posted on my website). They want discounts for bulk work, and don’t understand the difference between bulk work and long term work. I give discounts for long term work because it’s something I can hopefully rely on for a period of time. Bulk work just means more work short term, and does not generally get a discount. When I explain my rates to these folks, they generally state they can’t afford it and we all wish each other luck. I’ve not had any bad experiences. I have taken low paying gigs during times when I freaked myself out and convinced myself that I’d never make it. That is always a mistake because then you get locked in to these projects that pay nothing and take time away from the big clients that eventually come. Either way, ly last low paying contract is almost over- I WON’T make that mistake again- partially thanks to Jen’s book.

  2. I was approached about five years ago by a commercial website that wanted copy for their catalog for $5 per article. When I told them my rates, the editor indignantly told me she had dozens of writers willing to write for the rate she quoted. I stood my ground, and the website cratered about two months later. Evidently the “dozens of writers” were not good enough to sell the products on the website.

  3. Very interesting discussion. I’ve never had a problem with my rates because they’ve always been fairly low. Once I had someone contact me and decide I was too high.

    Then I had a potential client contact me via email for a quote. I decided (with encouragement from my husband) that I had enough low paying work to keep me going 24/7. So I shot her a higher quote and told her to call me if she wanted to discuss more. Guess what? She called.

    Thankfully, many people realize that you get what you pay for. Cheap rates often equal lousy writing.

  4. Yo – I offer bulk rates on certain types of projects, but don’t take on a lot of those projects simply because I make more elsewhere. It can come in handy though. For example, I offer several packages for press releases. Individually, the regular rate is $179 each. At the largest package rate, they’re $125 each. What this does is encourage regular clients to order more – not really individual clients, but middlemen clients (like a marketing, SEO, or design firm that has me write releases regularly for their clients – these are some of my favorite projects too). But if bulk rates wouldn’t do anything to help you, I’d say to stick to your regular rates.

    Stephanie – Live and learn, right? Good for you for being willing to stand your ground on that. And in the end, you were probably much better off without a now-defunct company taking up space in your portfolio.

    Kathleen – Good for you too! That’s often how rate increases happen – you just have to go for it! 🙂

  5. I’m feeling very cranky these days about people who want to procure top-quality work…without being willing to pay for it. I just had a potential client drop off the face of the earth because I actually quoted what I believe is a reasonable price for what I would be producing for him. I can’t afford to work like a dog and not make anything for my efforts and not have any time left over to pursue better-paying assignments! I don’t think any of us can, right?


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