Writers Worth: Changing the Writing Conversation

I remember the first time I connected with Sharon Hurley Hall. It was on social media, and it was one of those moments I’d waited for. I’d noticed Sharon before, found her blog, and loved the work she put out. I wanted to know her. Thanks to social media, it happened.
I’m happy to consider Sharon a friend. She’s also an incredible business person, and her freelance writing business is based on solid experience and knowledge. This is Sharon’s second post for this Writers Worth Month, her first being about her core business — writing online content. Here, Sharon gives us an education in how to build the confidence (and knowledge) about your rate that helps you nail it in negotiations.


How to Change the Conversation about What Your
Writing is Worth
by Sharon Hurley Hall
Whether you’re new to freelancing or an
experienced freelancer planning to cover something new, negotiating can be a
minefield. If you’re not sure of your ground, it can be difficult to ask for –
and get what you’re worth.
There might be other reasons why you can’t make
the mental leap. I remember being new to freelancing. Many times, the client
was in the driving seat because I was a terrible
negotiator and felt pretty unsure about whether
any client would really pay what I felt my experience was worth. (When I
started freelancing, I’d already been a professional writer for quite a while,
but my experience was offline in trade magazines, so it felt like starting from
scratch.)
Working for copywriting agencies didn’t help
much, because in order for them to make money, they didn’t pay writers very
well. I got valuable online writing experience, but I wasn’t going to get rich
any time soon. Something had to change – and that something was me. I set out
to put myself in a better negotiating position.
Finding Out about the “Going Rate”
The first step was to get informed, so that I had
a baseline for charging for writing jobs. Since I was mostly working for US clients,
I used the Writer’s Market rates guide as one starting point but I also looked
at:
●     
NUJ Rate for the Job – a database of
what publications have actually paid (Contently
now has something similar)
●     
NUJ Freelance Fees Guide – recommended
rates for different types of writing.
I found the Writer’s Market rates useful in one
way because it provided a low, middle and high rate. I usually aimed to quote
somewhere north of the middle rate, unless I had clips to support charging the
top rate. (By the way, take the “going rate” with a pinch of salt;
the important thing is whether you feel you are earning what you’re worth.)
Website Assessment
Next, it was time to look at my website. It’s
been through many incarnations. I designed the first one myself, but it wasn’t
doing a great job of promoting my writing services and social media was still
in its infancy. I switched to WordPress, bought a professional theme, and
tweaked the copy to reflect the skills I could offer. (Looking back, even that
iteration needed some work after a while. Keeping your website fresh and
effective is an ongoing task and I’ve had to update the look and the copy at regular
intervals.)
As part of the process, I managed to get a couple
of external website assessments. This told me how people who might hire me saw
the site. That’s a useful exercise, and if you’re on a budget,  you can usually find someone willing to do an
initial assessment in exchange for your email.
Free Marketing
The third step was to take some unpaid gigs with
an eye to their marketing potential so I could balance my ghostwriting with
work I could take credit for. It’s something I still do. I may not always get
money, but posts that people read, comment on and share multiple
times
do more to promote my writing than 100 pitches.
Writing high quality guest articles proves to prospective clients that I can
deliver value – and I don’t have to sell my services. Jenn Mattern would
be proud, as she advocates query free freelancing.
Those three steps helped put me in a much
stronger negotiating position, and a while back, I did one more thing. I put
some guideline rates on my site. I don’t mind telling you that for some items,
I wondered whether I had gone too far. But I had a look at the rates charged by
writers of similar experience and went for it.
I’m glad I did.
Now, when clients approach me, they already have
a good idea what I’m going to quote. And the content on my site and online
portfolios tells them what they will get for each service I offer.  When they come to me, I don’t have to argue
about rates  – and neither do they. The
conversation is all about what I can deliver for their budget,
rather than whether I’m charging too much. 
(After 28 years of writing, I’m tired of that conversation. I’m sure
most of you are too).

My point: even if you’re not a good negotiator
and even if you’re not confident about what to charge, you can put yourself in
a position where you don’t have to talk about it. And then you earn your worth,
every time. 
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

About the author

Related

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Comments

  • Jennifer Mattern May 27, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Proud indeed Sharon. 🙂

    Guest posting can be a great thing when done right. Sadly not everyone handles it well and, as a result, it's gotten a bit of a bad reputation in some circles (like everything internet marketers touch!).

    You've always set a good example. Some people are so hung up on the size or traffic of a website that they miss the best, most targeted host sites. Others write drivel because they essentially spam their guest posts to as many sites as possible, and they have to rush to cram them all in. You've found a great middle ground where you seem to focus on truly targeted sites, and every guest post of yours that I've come across offers real value to readers.

    In the end, that's what it's about. And that's how things like guest posting get attention from high paying prospects. 🙂

    Reply
  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 27, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Thanks, Jenn. I've always been inspired by your idea of query-free freelancing and this strategy has helped me get 90% of the way there. The key thing is to be strategic.

    Reply
  • Lori Widmer May 27, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Wonderful post, Sharon. Thank you again for your wisdom here.

    Funny how we perceive our rate from the client's perspective so often. That fear of negotiating with ourselves in mind is so foreign at first. Your method here sounds like a great way to gain confidence in knowing what to charge, but also why it make sense.

    Reply
  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 27, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks, Lori. It's about learning that giving a good service to our clients doesn't mean we have to suffer financially or otherwise. That was an epiphany for me, and I'm sure many pro writers have experienced it too.

    Reply
  • Lori Widmer May 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Same epiphany here.

    I just realized how stupid my sentence was — I meant we're afraid to negotiate with ourselves in mind. Clearly I haven't enough caffeine in me today. 🙂

    Reply
  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 27, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    🙂

    Reply
  • Ashley May 27, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Great post, Sharon. It's a very good idea, as you say, to find out what the "going rate" is among other qualified writers, rather than from clients' perspective. Rates must be within what clients are willing to pay, of course, but just because one client says they can get the work for cheaper doesn't mean that's the "going rate."

    Reply
  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 28, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    True, Ashley, and since all writers bring their own skills to the table, the "going rate" for one writer might not be appropriate for another.

    Reply