Write for 1¢ a word? Are you nuts?

Recently, I’ve joined a group of experienced professional writers from all over the country who are mad as hell about the devaluation of their work because of low-balling “writers” (a.k.a. “word whores”) who will work for 1¢ a word.

Write for a penny a word? Are you insane?

Write for a penny a word? Are you insane?

There always will be “price buyers.” Any client who gives a writing project to the lowest bidder is probably not a client you want. If your relationship starts out on a money-grubbing basis, it’s probably going to stay that way throughout the project. First, there will be unanticipated changes in direction, then there will be innumerable rewrites (all supposed to be covered by your initial bid, which is why I prefer to estimate, not bid). A contract may help. Or not.

Advice to myself and other freelance writers:

Price buyers are out there, but so are decent, honest clients who value your work and will pay accordingly. Seek them out.

Something I read the other day rang true: if something is easy for you to do, you don’t value it very highly. When a writer underestimates the value of his or her skills and talents, s/he may feel a pang of guilt about getting paid for doing something s/he loves to do and probably has been doing since s/he could hold a pencil in his or her chubby little fist. If you feel guilty about getting a reasonable amount of money for your work, get over it.

Remember, few people can dress an idea in just the right word-clothing the way you do. So you deserve to get PAID for your art, craft, skill and talent. And if you went to college or university to learn about how to do it, remember those student loans you paid off, or are still paying off. Get the money.

The blogosphere is a gaping maw that demands to be fed with words. Like a coal furnace in a ship’s engine room, it must have fuel shoveled into it continually to keep it “hot.” The blog-fuel is the “articles” these speed-typing drones crank. Their work is not, shall we say, of the highest quality. But quality is not a concern for most owners of monetized blogs. The writing is just the obligatory filling between pay-per-click advertisements.

Cheap writing is a great deal for Demand Studios, Examiner.com and countless other businesses that are making billions by crushing writers’ pay scales. Do you resent this? I do. But it’s the writers’ fault. The blog owners put their rates out there, and the writers self-select by saying, “Yes, I’m very, very cheap. Cheaper than anybody. I’ll write for 1¢ per word. This other guy is cheaper? Okay, I’ll write for 1/2¢ a word!”

Writers need to eat and have roofs over their heads. And they need money to pay outrageous individual health insurance premiums. One very good, very famous writer is mad as hell about writers (especially himself) getting cheated out of their due: Harlan Ellison. The following YouTube clip is from a documentary I saw on IFC. Watch it whenever you need to be bucked up in your quest for decent pay. To the barricades!


  1. You can say what you want, but I make over $1,200 a month on Associated Content and will soon be making even more than that on Demand Studios. I make more writing for those sites than I’m ever going to make with the one article I can manage to sell every couple of months for a few hundred dollars.

    Some ‘writers’ may pooh-pooh at some of these websites, but many of us who are writing for them are laughing all the way to the bank!

  2. Cassandra,

    I’d be very interested in hearing how you are making so much on Associated Content and Demand Studios. Don’t they generally pay $10 or so for each article? At that rate, you’d be writing 120 articles each month for AC. Don’t see how you could do it. Please enlighten me.



  3. I’m an accountant, unemployed, and can’t get work at a decent wage. I know people with CPA’s who are getting paid 30k a year. That’s insane. But it’s called supply and demand. No one can escape that in a capitalist society.

  4. Yes, JAL, it’s insane. When the pool of jobs shrinks, wages do, too. People who in earlier years would leave a job to get a higher-paid one now cling to the ones they have for dear life. And if they do get laid off, they are shocked at how little the open jobs pay.

    I hear that employment is a “lagging indicator” of economic recovery, so the situation should improve once some of the current programs kick in. Obama is right: we ought to focus on creating green energy jobs. First, it could provide laid-off manufacturing employees with new jobs. Second, it could bring manufacturing back to the U.S. And third, it could set the stage for a more responsible energy policy for the U.S. Of course, there also is help coming for re-training, and that will help, too. Hang in there, JAL. Everybody needs their taxes done.

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