Are You a Rate Snob? Why Your Per-Word Obsession Is Killing Your Career
“I’m sorry, I just can’t make those rates work.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
There I was, offering a writer a steady ghost-blogging gig – only to have her turn it down because the rate I could pay was two cents less per word than her “standard” rates.
Now, let me start by saying that the rate I was offering was fair compensation for her level of experience and the type of project in question.
I’m the first to argue that freelance writers deserve to be well-compensated for their work.
The writer in question didn’t decline because the rates I was paying weren’t reasonable – she turned the project down because they fell slightly below the arbitrary limit she set for herself.
That’s her right, of course. Just as it’s my right to think she’s making a big mistake by being a rate snob.
All too often, I see writers set rates for themselves that don’t allow for any flexibility.
And one situation in particular that requires that flexibility is the opportunity to take on regular, recurring projects – like the gig I was offering.
Let’s do some quick math…
Suppose it takes me five hours of marketing, on average, to get a writing job.
Now, imagine that the job I get is to write a single 1,000-word blog post at a rate of $0.50 per word.
If it takes me two hours to complete the article, my average pay per hour – taking into account the time spent marketing my services and attracting clients – is around $70.
Now, let’s imagine that I’m offered a project that involves writing three weekly posts – still 1,000-words in length – on an ongoing basis. This time, however, the rate offered is just $0.35 per word.
That’s a big drop, right? Obviously, I’d be better off taking the $0.50 per word project.
Not so fast…
If the posts still take me two hours to complete, I’ve earned $1,050 (for 3,000 words billed at $0.35 per word) for eleven hours of work total (five hours of advertising and six hours of writing).
That makes my average rate $95 per hour – beating out the one-off project billed at the higher per-word rate.
It gets even better in the subsequent weeks. Since my $0.50 per word project wrapped up, I have to go out and put another five hours into marketing my services to secure another assignment.
In the $0.35 per word case, my project continues. I still make $1,050 for my three articles, but now I’m splitting my rate across six hours of work, since no additional advertising was needed.
My hourly rate jumps closer to $175 per hour, on average.
Obviously, this is a hypothetical example.
I’m sure some of you are already picking apart reasons why these scenarios are unrealistic or why they wouldn’t apply to you.
I get that it’s tough to attribute individual marketing activities to specific projects won. And certainly, with ongoing clients, there’s some maintenance time involved in keeping the relationship going.
Don’t overthink it here. The numbers themselves aren’t the point.
Instead, what I want to illustrate is how foolish it can be to stick to rigid rate requirements without considering the full context of a project.
A lower per-word rate may make sense if you know you can complete a project quickly or if its recurring nature means you can cut back on unpaid marketing and advertising time.
Other times, it may make more sense to hold out for higher-rate projects if you aren’t looking for ongoing work (or if it isn’t available in your niche).
Just don’t get so obsessed with your per-word rates that you fixate on the trees instead of the forest.
Look at the broader picture to avoid missing out on great opportunities.
Are you guilty of being a rate snob? Leave me a note below sharing your experiences: