Taking Baby Steps for a Better Pay Rate for Writing

Many writers struggle with the decision of pay rate. What is a good pay rate for a writer? What amount is my work worth? What can I get paid for my writing? What are others getting paid? How do I compare? What rates for writing should I set?

Oy. That’s a bunch of questions and they can be stressful ones to answer, creating a situation of doubt, worry and a dip in confidence.

I say, forget that. Instead of deciding your own pay rate, let your clients decide for you. How? Using baby steps and the ‘no’ point.

Baby Steps to Grown-Up Pay

Many writers feel they have to go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye. That’s a big step. It’s scary and intimidating. It brings up worries, doubts and fears about the biggest question of all: Will anyone pay that rate?

Who wants to worry every day?

There’s no need to go from low to high overnight. No rule says that you have to leap from a crappy rate to a substantially higher one in a moment’s decision.

It’s often far more comfortable for a writer to raise rates slowly, working upwards and taking little steps to reach the goal of a pay rate they like.

That’s right – rates aren’t written in stone. Writers don’t have to set a fix rate and stick to it stubbornly. Rates can be flexible and slide around a scale at your choice, and that can be advantageous to finding that perfect rate.

A new client doesn’t need know your rates or what the last client paid, so start raising your rates 5% or even 10% for each new client. That isn’t a big amount at all, and it isn’t a scary high leap.

Plus, it’s a low-risk strategy. You didn’t have the client before, so worst-case scenario if the client says no to your rates, you’ve lost nothing. If the client tries to negotiate, then you have a little bit of room to maneuver back to your current rates.

And if the client says yes… well, that’s great, isn’t it?

It’s going to take some time to raise your rates using this method, so be ready to be patient and stick with it for a few months. The experience can be quite fulfilling.

The ‘No’ Point

The beautiful thing about raising your rates with each new client is that you can find the ‘no’ point, the point where more clients say no to working with you than clients who say yes.

Typically, as you raise rates slowly, most clients will say yes. Then the scales will start to balance, and you’ll have an even number of ayes and nays. Creep upwards more, and the scales start to tip to the side of no.

That’s okay. Don’t stop. Getting turned down more often than not is perfectly fine – after all, you’re being paid more for your work anyways, and you’re banking up repeat clients. You’ll have less new clients but a better customer base.

When you realize that the scales have definitely gone past the point of 75% of new clients saying no, then you’ve reached the ‘no’ point, that point where you may not be able to charge higher for your work and still attract new clients.

Slide back a bit to a ‘yes’ point that brought in enough new work at a good rate. Now look back. See the difference in what you used to be paid and what you’re paid now?

Sometimes, that difference is substantial. Good luck!

Have you raised your rates slowly in this way? How much were you able to gain, just by taking baby steps? Share your stories!


  1. says

    Great post, interesting discussion.

    I’ve also sometimes asked for “just a little bit more” from my lowest-paying client. After first telling me the budget was fixed, she upped me $25 on a $300 gig, so I did OK on that one. It’s still too low for what I do for her, but she was there for me when the bottom fell out of my market early last year, so I’m keeping her on anyway.

    BTW, I love the “looking for more tips?” sidebar – very enticing!

  2. says

    @ Hazel – It’s a start. And slowly, as you continue working, you can raise rates a little and eventually get to the point you need to be.

    (And yeah, good sidebar, eh?)

    @ Susan – Tricky is an understatement! :)

  3. says

    James, I’ve found it easier to raise rates as your confidence also increases. The question now is whether to stick with per-word or go with a flat rate and in what situations either option is best suited.

  4. says

    @ Ed – I’ll take flat rate any day and here’s why: Most clients can’t figure out how many words they need, what amount that comes to for them and what they’ll end up paying. Give them a nice, solid number and say, “Here’s what it’ll cost you.”

  5. says

    @James – I’m moving to flat rate, also. It seems to help self-limit the PLR type that want to pay pennies. The change is also removing me from the blogging market and helping me concentrate on journalism and corporate clients.


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