Deb’s fabulous post last week, WAHMs: Make Sure the End Justifies the Means, was, as Deb noted, based on a thread or two from WAHM.com’s WAHMs Who Write board. Being a WAHM myself, I’ve been to the boards in the past but quit visiting a long time ago. I just got tired of some folks being so excited by monthly wages that wouldn’t even cover my monthly grocery bills. It’s too frustrating to read.
There are ups and downs big time in freelance writing, but one thing is always true, you never have to work for wages like the ones quoted in the WAHMs thread Deb references. Some of the income noted included 17 ehow articles worth $5.91 in three weeks and eight articles in one month worth $15. Right up front, I’ll grant that due to revenue, these folks could earn more in time, but personally, I don’t count possible revenue as income, not as a single mama with a son to support. It’s not just these boards either. If you hit up any of the major bid sites you’ll see all sorts of folks bidding a few bucks for pieces or projects that will take hours.
How not to work for low wages:
Well, of course the easiest answer is don’t. Don’t take a job that pays low and expects a lot in return. The more in-depth answer is…
Set an hourly income goal and stick to it. You can set a project income goal instead, but in most cases I think it’s smarter to calculate hourly earnings, because in the writing biz, time really is money. My own current low-end income goal for web writing and blogging is officially $18 an hour although if I see a job that really interests me I’ll go as low as $15. Of course, I have jobs that pay more than $18 an hour, this is just the number I use to keep myself in check. Your goal may be larger or smaller depending on where you live, your bills, and so on. Your goal also may be different if you do other sorts of writing. For example, I know that I can pay all my bills and support my son if I make $18 an hour and work 40 hours. When I lived in New Mexico my goal was lower because it cost less to live there. If I’m also taking print work, I pop my goal up to $25 an hour, because print pays more. If you’re not sure how to calculate your hourly income goal as a blogger click here.
Don’t use “paying your dues” as an excuse to work for low pay. When it comes to new writers, I’ve heard, “BUT my portfolio is too small, I can’t get gigs that pay well yet.” It is easier to get gigs the longer you’ve been writing, but overall, paying your dues in this business is pretty much what you make it. You can spend years working lower paying gigs, or you can jump right in and get decent jobs. Actual writing experience is not the only way to score gigs. For folks with a small portfolio (or NO freelance portfolio) you can use the following:
- Start your own blog to showcase your skills.
- Use what you have. If you’ve written anything for a job – brochures, care plans, other copy, etc. use that to showcase your skills. Even if your job title wasn’t writer, you can still show off your work.
- Past job experiences. I got three high paying gigs almost immediately when I started freelancing FT because I applied for gigs that related to my work and college experience. I didn’t have a huge portfolio, so I knew I’d need to look appealing in other ways.
- Your pals. As a new writer, it’s smart to network often with other writers. You may become close with someone who can hook you up with a gig.
Use the law of averages: In that WAHM thread someone said something like, “Not all writers have time to apply for 100s of gigs so low paying gigs are better than nothing.” Ahhhhhhh! Ok, here’s the deal. If you’re going to freelance FT for a living wage, you have to apply for gigs and apply for gigs often. Although as a seasoned writer you sometimes are offered gigs without applying, it’s not an everyday thing so there’s really no way around applying. A while back I needed to pick up a couple new gigs. I’ve been writing for years but it’s not like I just sauntered in and got the first two gigs I applied for. I had to apply a lot, just like everyone else. I think I applied for 40 or so gigs and was eventually offered 6 of them. If you’re not willing to put in the time to search for decent gigs and apply, you won’t make a living wage.
Coming up next, how to avoid the temptation of low-paying gigs when you can’t find a job.
What tips do you have for making a living wage as a blogger or web writer?