On Rates and New Clients: Does It Ever Make Sense to Accept a “Starting” Rate?

Since rates are such a hot topic around here and I don’t have a problem getting out a stick and taking a swat at the hornets’ nest every now and then, I wanted to bring up the topic of rates and new clients.

I have seen several ads where the employer offers a certain rate to start and states that if the relationship goes well that they are prepared to offer a higher rate for subsequent work. Now, just for the record, I don’t have a problem with this as long as the initial rate being quoted is a reasonable one.

I figure that the employer doesn’t know me (yet) and if I have a choice between working and not working that working should win out. (See my comment above about not accepting insulting rates above….) So far, this strategy has worked out well. Not only do I have steady work from a number of regular clients, but over time I have been offered better rates and different kinds of work other than web content.

If I didn’t agree to write the initial articles at $X per, I may not have been given the opportunity to write autoresponders, ebooks, and branch out into a bit of copywriting. All of these opportunities came because someone I had done work for gave me a shot. It’s all good experience that I have been able to put on my resume.

It might be a bit old fashioned but I believe in giving the person who hires me the best work that I can do every time and the amount I’m being paid to do the work doesn’t enter into it. I’m not doing them a favor by accepting their work; they are helping me to provide for my family by hiring me. Offering a certain wage to start and then reviewing compensation after a certain amount of time is common in the brick and mortar world, so why shouldn’t the same thing happen when employers who hire freelancers are looking to develop an ongoing relationship with someone?


  1. says

    Hi Jodee
    I like doing a job well. I especially love the idea of building repeat business and building a working relationship with a client. I agree with what you’ve shared.

  2. Colleen says

    Great article! I also believe in giving my all regardless of pay and I was the same when I was working in the brick and mortar world. Even if the pay isn’t amazing, I always think that with each piece I write I am improving my skills.

  3. Paul says

    One thing that puzzles me about job posters are how often they ask for your rate. That makes me think they want to weed people out. Remember the old school way about never talking about money until you like me, I like you and there is a job offer.

  4. Scribette says

    I agree with most of the article … (well done!) :-)

    However, companies do ‘need’ good writers as much as we ‘need’ them. Therefore, we are doing each other a favour (as I see it).

    Paul – what about the situation where companies are only paying $0.02 a word? Are you willing to spend your time going through the job interview process and then find out that you will be making minimum wage? Just using this one as an example … 😉

  5. Phil says

    Another solution is to work out a trial period with clients — to protect both sides.

    Using a 90-day trial period helps protect writers against project scope creep while protecting the employer from getting a writer who doesn’t produce what’s expected. I’ve used such trial periods with two excellent current clients.

    Such a trial period also helps protect the writer from getting in too deep before late payments get to be too much of a problem.

  6. Scribette says

    Phil – Good point! Trial periods are what I normally do as well. For instance, if a company wants 20 product descriptions, I will write one for the company. If they like it, I get paid for it – and then I would continue with the other ones.

  7. Carly says

    This is excellent! I have one client now who initially offered me a rate that I felt was low, but I took the job anyway. I started to feel like the work wasn’t worth it, so I asked for a raise after a few weeks. The client declined, but I stuck it out, and now (less than six months after I landed the gig) I’m being paid three times as much as the original rate. Very worth it.

  8. Deb says

    I’ve accepted starting rates from time to time. If my contract states my rates will rise after a certain amount of time, it can work out in the long run. Phil’s trial period suggestion is an excellent one. This way all involved get to see if the gig is worth the adjusted rate or if renegotiation is in order.

    That doesn’t mean one should accept an insultingly low rate, however. Even with the promise of a raise three months down the line, there’s no excuse for slave wages.

  9. Ann G. says

    You know, I’ve been bashed in the past for accepting wages that some feel were too low. Doesn’t matter that I’m earning more than I’d make working around here–that’s all I care about.

    A few days ago, I got into another discussion with a fellow writer about wages. I landed a gig writing pages at $60 for 1,000 words which she felt was WAY to low. I can do this job in an hour, so to me it’s great and as soon as I turn one in, I’m immediately sent my next assignment.

    I look at it this way. When you go grocery shopping, do you purchase from the first store you walk into even if the item is far more than you want to spend? Do you hire the first plumber to give you a quote? Do you compare insurance prices before purchasing any coverage? It’s silly to think that employers won’t do the same. We’re all in this to make as much money as possible and employers are in it to get the job done without going into debt doing so.

  10. Scribette says

    Ann G – well congrats if you can get a quality 1000 word article done in 1 hour! I know I can’t.

    That said, you probably know that you do have other non-paid tasks that you have to do during the day (finding work, emailing, talking on the phone) – thus, your overall hourly rate would be less than $60 when you take that into consideration as well.

    Also – if you can complete a 1000 word article in one hour, just think about what you can make when you are paid $1 per word, $0.75 per word, $0.50 or even $0.25 per word?


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