Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Opinion On Penny A Word Writing Gigs

I have been reading a lot of criticism from writers and buyers about those who deal in the penny per word writing job space. As a freelance writer who started in this business just over two years ago, the penny a word gig is how I got my start.

I had a comment on an old post today where I described how much I make freelance writing. It was an old post and my rates have definitely increased since then. Not only do I make money per word but I also have project and consulting rates as well. I also have my own stuff with affiliate marketing that I do as well so some of my income does not even come from article buyers.

Today I'm (thankfully) doing much better than $5 an article but I definitely don't knock $5 articles because: that's where I got started and it did a lot for my career.

As a matter of fact, I still deal with some low paying buyers for easy work and for volume work that keeps myself and my team busy with regular income. Penny per word writing gigs did a lot for me in my early days including teaching me a lot about writing for the web through having multiple clients do things various ways. Today I write for clients and for myself. I also have writers who work for me.

Because of earning one cent a word I:

-learned an awful lot about search engine optimization
-learned how to write quickly for various audiences
-learned how to research just about any subject online
-got paid to write
-started my own business

I have a small team of writers working for me and the work still starts at a penny a word and up. The rates depend on a lot of factors including how much work is involved. As my rates increase, so do my team member rates. I've often made $75 an hour writing for clients and I've made $10 an hour as well. The thing is, you need to start somewhere and you need money to pay your bills so don't let someone else's opinion of how much you're earning impact your self-worth. If you don't have to start at the very bottom, good for you but if you do, just learn what you can so you can move up quickly.


Jenn Hollowell said...

cYou couldn't have posted this blog on a better day. I've been facing a lot of "you shouldn't be doing that because it doesn't pay you enough" flack lately and it's exhausting. I've been in the business since 1999 and, to be honest, there are times when I take the lower paying gig because I really love the topics, because I really like the employer, or because there's nothing else really going on (a low paying gig is better than no gig at all).

Thank you for posting this - it's very timely!!

Dana Prince said...

Thanks Jenn. It's also the fact that not everyone needs to earn the same amount of money. Many factors like where you live, whether it's your only income and other things come in to play as well.

I've had .05/word gigs that have taken me days to write instead of a few minutes so sometimes the job isn't just about the rate.

Sometimes it's about: how fast you're going to get paid, how much you'll enjoy the work, how many rewrites might be involved and other factors as well.

Thanks for commenting.

Sharon Hurley Hall said...

Well said, Dana. I don't think writers should write for that rate long term, but sometimes accepting that rate will gain you necessary experience.

Dana Prince said...

thanks Sharon. I agree!

Jen said...

Good post Dana. As a new freelancer, I've written for a fee of anywhere between a penny and twenty five cents a word. To me, the per word fee is less important than how much I can make in an hour. If the penny a word gigs are relatively easy and fast then I've found they make sense for me at this stage in my writing life.

Dana Prince said...

Thanks, Jen. I've done low paying work that I could practically do with my eyes closed while turning out a product that clients were thrilled with so it made it very worthwhile so I know just what you mean. I also have a client that started out as a low paying gig 18 months ago and who has given me 3 raises in my rates due to loving my work so they're now one of my highest paid clients. Sometimes it is worth it.

Diana said...

Great post Dana. I just tracked down your blog from a very old WAHM post. =) It can be incredibly frustrating when you're being told not to accept certain offers, simultaneously being turned down by better paying ones, and seeing others do so much better than you in certain formats. Deep down, I know I have solid writing skills but boy has my writing self-esteem taken a huge hit the past week...

Dana Prince said...

That's the thing, Diana...
In some cases writers really hurt other writers when they belittle them for the amount they're paid.

I'm definitely a fan of networking with other writers but sometimes an environment gets a bit toxic and if it doesn't nurture you, it might be time to find a new virtual water cooler for a while.

Chin up :)

. said...

I think it's up to whoever to accept whatever. The lowest rate I accepted was $1.75 per 100 words. It was worth it until the topics became such that more time and more time was required to research them, thus lowering the hourly rate.

I gave it up eventually. I think I'd rather have a little less money and with less eyestrain, less headaches (staring at pc) and less frustration for not being paid a decent amount of money for a decent amount of work.

This said I have provided volumes of free exclusive content in the past just for a link to my site. So it's swings and roundabouts and what is 'worth while' to the individual. Ie it might be exposure you after.

References and experience though mean more than anything to new clients, so if it's free work or low paying work that enables you to obtain those in order to progress. So be it.

Good luck to all.

Jeanne Dininni said...


Very balanced approach to a tough topic! Every writer is different, and every writer is at a different point on the writing road, so there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how little pay is too little. Different writers--and a single writer at different times in his or her writing career--will answer this question differently. And that's the way it should be.

Each of us is free to handle our writing business--and our writing, living, and making-a-living education--as we see fit. And if our viewpoint should later evolve, we'll be just as free to adjust our practices and expectations accordingly.

Great post!

P.S. Visited this post via Michele Tune's link at Writing the Cyber Highway.

Dana Prince said...

Thanks, Jeanne. I know I've evolved in two years of doing this and that's one of the things I love about this job :)


Jack Payne said...

Do publishers still pay a penny a word? Hard to believe. This was the rate 60 years ago, before I wrote my first book. I'd thought, with all the inflation since then, times had changed.

Dana Prince said...

Hi Jack,

Maybe not magazine publishers but online publishers, yes. $0.01 and less, even.

I guess writing for the web is seen by some as the bottom of the writing totem pole so some pay even less than .01/word. Not long ago there was an e-book circulating to internet marketers suggesting they should visit work at home mom forums on the internet to find great $3/article writers.

Then again, some web writers are making $5,000.00 for just one landing page for a website, too so like in the print world, the price for online written work can vary substantially.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jen Brister said...

Great post. I have some low paying gigs and some higher paying ones as well. It's nice to have the lower paying ones to tide me over.