Writers Worth Three: Hobbyists Need Not Apply

Three weeks of Writers Worth posts — can you believe it? Thanks to everyone who posted and those whose posts are in transit. You have helped make this a fantastic movement of learning and sharing and encouragement (and butt kicking — can’t forget that!). May what you’ve written and commented inspire another writer to change bad habits.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Vancouver, inches from losing my electronic connection for a week and looking forward to it. The trouble with bringing electronics on a getaway — you never really get away. But it was necessary this week as projects and invoices had to be sorted.

I’m also here because Samar Owais delivered on her promise to guest post, and I knew you wouldn’t want to miss this. Samar is someone I’ve been acquainted with for a while, but whose presence on the Five Buck Forum has been inspiring to say the least. She’s prepared a fantastic beginners’ course on getting a freelance business off the ground, and it’s offered in self-paced form over on About Writing Squared. That’s my shameless plug.

Samar, thank you for the post! It’s a strong reminder that this is a business. Amen, sister.

How to Stop Treating Your Freelance Writing Business Like a Hobby

By Samar Owais

Four years ago when I started freelancing, I thought I’d hit pay dirt. I’d be paid to write on topics that interest me? Sign me up!

Unfortunately, what I’d hit was a content mill.

While I eventually left content mills behind and moved on to actual clients, the damage was done.

I had no confidence as a writer and because I believed my writing wasn’t good enough, I charged accordingly. In short, I undervalued myself.

After working for rates that were higher than content mills but still low enough to keep me in the red, I had a bit of an epiphany.

None of my client had ever complained about my work. In fact, quite a few of them had me on a retainer. More than that, no one had demanded their money back!

That’s when it hit me.

I’m a writer.

I’m a bloody good writer!

And my freelance writing isn’t a hobby – it’s a business!

These three simple truths still hit me every day.

If you’re a freelance writer struggling with rates, if you have trouble valuing your work, if you’re stuck writing for deadbeat clients – it’s time to do yourself a favour and believe.

You’re a writer

That’s right.

You’re a writer. A professional one at that!

Ask yourself this: If you weren’t a freelance writer and instead had a kick ass job that you loved, would you still write?

If you answered yes, then you’re a writer.

Stephen King nailed the sentiment recently in an interview with Neil Gaiman. “They pay me absurd amounts of money,” he observes, “For something that I would do for free.” (You can read the entire interview here)

You’re a bloody good writer

You use words to help your clients reach their goals. Because of your writing they sound professional, personable and trust worthy. That makes you a bloody good writer.

More importantly, if you have clients who are happy and satisfied with your work then that’s all the proof you need.

It’s high time you start believing.

Your freelance writing isn’t a hobby – it’s a business

This is the crux of it all. This is the key to valuing your work. You’re not doing anyone a favour by writing for them. Nor is anyone doing you a favour by giving you work.

You’re a bloody good writer which is why they come to you. Charge accordingly. You’re running a business after all!

Don’t know what to charge? Forget the going rates for the kind of writing you do. Simply figure out the amount you need to make to stay afloat.

Next, figure out how many clients you’ll need that will keep the work at a manageable level and let you earn enough to stay in business.

Put these two on and X and Y scale and find your happy medium.

Then go find those clients and slowly raise your rates to start making a profit.

Samar Owais is a freelance blogger and ebook writer. She offers rock-solid tips for freelance writing success on her blog The Writing Base and is passionate about helping freelancers break free from low paying content mills.

About the author




  • Samar May 30, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for letting me guest post for you Lori! Following Writers Worth Week has been an eye opener to say the least!

    To anyone interested in reading Neil Gaiman's interview of Stephen King, here's the link: http://bit.ly/KO5tCq

  • Cathy Miller May 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Love how simple you make it, Samar. You know how I love simple. 😉

    I'm not sure why we feel we need to apologize for earning a living. We are not only bloody good writers, we also work bloody hard and deserve to be paid accordingly for our time and skills.

    Great post, Samar.

  • Paula May 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I've met writers of all levels of success, and realized that some very successful writers still have self-confidence issues. It's as if we're conditioned to think we're "merely" writers.

    Lori's Writers Worth Week(s)is so important because it lets writers like Samar remind us we're not merely writers, we're bloody good writers and we're valuable assets for our clients.

    Okay, guys. Listen to Samar. Our mantra for the day is: We're bloody good writers!

  • Kimberly Ben May 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Well said, Samar. I also worked with a content mill briefly when I first started out. the work load and deadlines were insane and I won't even get into the payment…

    I like the way you emphasize the fact that freelancing must be treated as a business – this can't be overlooked.

  • Wade Finnegan May 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Way to lay it out straight, Samar. We need to remember that not everyone can do what we do, therefore we're worth compensation. If you are good at what you do then go forth and make money.

  • Devon Ellington May 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Unfortunately, it's not just content mills. Some of the teaching gigs pay less than a pittance, too, and wannabes are expecting more and more for free. That's the spiral I find myself in now — I've been scrambling with teaching gigs that don't pay what they should, but now the audience doesn't want to pay what it's worth.

    Therefore — find a new audience.

    It's the transition that gets a little sticky sometimes.

    Great post.

  • Samar May 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Cathy – I love how you make things simple Cathy!

    I was just talking to my sister today who hadn't realized I'd changed the look of my website and blog. She went through the copy and called me up to say 'I'm loving the new confident writer you.'

    Ever since I started treating my freelancing as a business, everything just fell into place. My rates and terms & condition are on my blog. Clients know before contacting me how much they'll be paying me and how I work. Saves a LOT of time and trouble of hammering out the details only to have the deal fall through.

    Paula – You're so right Paula! There are still days where I find myself doubting my abilities – especially when there's a new work I haven't attempted before.

    Lori's Writers Worth Week has totally boosted my confidence!

    Now instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about not being good enough, I shoot questions to my client. This way I get the answers I need straight from the horse's mouth.

    Kimberly – I worked for content mills for a year. Not only did it destroy my confidence but I had to deal with the stigma that comes from writing for low paying content mills.

    Of course, at the end of the day, you gotta say to hell with it and get on with establishing your business 🙂 Glad you liked the post!

    Wade – Exactly! Nobody else can write like you do. Your clients come to you because they want writing that only you can produce.

    That's a priceless quality and we need to charge accordingly 🙂

    Devon – One of the reasons I was never attracted to teaching was because of the low pay teachers seem to get world over. Heck, private tutions pay much more! Or private schools. Lol. Also, don't think I had the teaching spirit if I was swayed away from the profession because of the money 🙂

    I hope you find a teaching job that pays what you're worth.

  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Samar, love how simply you put this (I love simple too) – and you're right – treating your freelancing as a business makes all the difference. Great post!

  • Samar May 31, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thanks Sharon 🙂

    Thinking of my freelancing as a business has certainly given me the confidence to not lower my rates when quoting on a project just because I fear the price is too high.

    Now I tend to hit Send first and then freak out 😛

  • Lori June 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Wonderful post, Samar! Thank you again for it. I love the "I'm a bloody good writer" line, and I intend to use it when telling people who argue my rate why I won't work for them for a pittance.