How Much Should I Charge for Writing an Article?

This is an actual project listed today on Elance.

“I need 3 x 500 word articles written on the following subjects:”

The 7 bids range from $50 to $400. So, let’s break that down.

In the low range of $50, the provider will be paid:

10 cents per word for ONE article, which is the LOW price according to the 2009 Writer’s Market. This provider has bid on THREE articles, so they are actually writing 1500 words, which works out to roughly slightly over 3 cents per word.

In the high range of $400, the provider will be paid:

80 cents per word for ONE article, which is the AVERAGE price according to the 2009 Writer’s Market. This provider has bid on THREE articles, so they are actually writing 1500 words, which works out to roughly slightly over 26 cents per word.

* The 2009 Writer’s Market has article writing estimated in many different ways. I am basing my figures on the lowest prices they list under magazine writing.

I’m going to watch to see who that project goes to in the end. I am betting on the 3 cents per word bidder.

Now, I don’t have a problem with the buyer choosing the low bidder. Do you blame them? I can pretty much guess that the low bidder is the guy from Pakistan, and I say that not because he is from Pakistan (although we know that those regions typically will do this work for peanuts) but because he is a new provider. We all start out bidding lower than dirt because we need to make a presence for ourselves.

Here is the problem: When we as freelance writers bid on writing a 500 word article for a mere .03 cents per word, we hurt our profession. Tell someone you are a freelance writer, and they laugh at you. Tell someone, “I’m working.” When they ask what you are doing today, and they say, “Oh, that. Come on, that can wait for later.”

Well, no, it can’t wait. This is my job. This is how I make a living, pay my bills, buy groceries, go on vacation.

And I deserve to be paid more than minimum wage for my talents.

But still I write for peanuts. I write 400 word articles on Demand Studios for $15 each. That is less than .04 cents per word. I get sick to my stomach thinking about it.

Necessity. That is why we do it. Because in this economy, our full-time jobs don’t cover the bills. Because we’re one of the thousands of teachers who have been laid off (that is a subject for another blog). We do it because we are educated and talented and we don’t want to work at the Mini-Mart serving gangsters who wave guns and threats in our faces.

What SHOULD I charge for writing a 500 word article? No less than .10 per word.

So, tell me – what do YOU charge for writing a 500 word article? I am interested to see what other freelancers have to say about this.

Next blog: What Should I Charge for Ghostwriting a Book?

About Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.
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2 Responses to How Much Should I Charge for Writing an Article?

  1. Luke Pennell says:

    Good read, as always.

    Here’s my thought (and we will probably come to you with this in the not so distant future); what you charge should be completely reflected by what you are writing for. For instance, Josh and I have a band that is working on establishing ourselves as the band that writes about historical events (starting with family histories and branching out from there). When we need a press release (which will be soon), we will probably come to you to help us. In this instance where a phenomenal press release could make or break the band, I wouldn’t expect anything less than to pay at least $100 for 500 words and quite possibly more.

    If you are writing something that makes people money, I’d want my piece of that up front. $50 for 500 words seems like you’re selling yourself short. I’d always shoot for at least 20 cents a word and settle in around 15 if they want to negotiate.

  2. Charley says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I, too, write for Demand Studios and get that same, sick feeling when I think of just how little they pay me. It’s to the point where what I submit reads like first drafts, to me. But, what can they expect for $15?

    It takes me 10 hours a day, 7 days a week to support myself. There is no time left in each day to focus attention on anything that might get me out of the DS sweatshop. So, daily I contribute more of my drek to the assembly line.

    That 20 cents a word sounds like heaven. Now THAT is sad, isn’t it?

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