Why I’m Glad I’m not a Full Time Freelance Writer

I was reading a post the other day about setting your rates as a freelancer, and it made me ever the more grateful for my current full time employment. As much as I love the freedom of freelancing, negotiating fees is a pain in the ass and something I’m not good at.

Case in point, I obtained a new client by responding to a posting on Craigslist for a blogger. Originally, we agreed on a fee for the blog posts which was a little on the high end for them but what I thought was fair for the amount of work and the going rate for this type of work. Then the marketing guy decided that I would be writing all sorts of content for the company, and that’s when things got messy. I quoted them a rate for some specific types of projects which was obviously higher than they wanted to pay, but they agreed. Or so I thought they agreed.

A month or so later and my main contact has apparently either left the company or doesn’t want to be involved in managing the marketing writing anymore. While there seems to be some recollection of our agreement around the office, no one thinks the work I did should be paid what we agreed on. I asked originally if they’d prefer to pay per hour or per project, and they said per project. The per project fee is designed to include edits, but they chose ultimately not to give me a chance to edit any of the work and instead do all the edits in house. That’s when things got really messy.

I wasn’t sure what to do in that situation. Do I offer a lower rate because they chose to do all the edits in house without sending the work back to me with feedback? Maybe I should have, but it seems like regardless of what I quoted them they would have been upset, and convinced themselves that I did little work on the assignment and basically they shouldn’t have to pay me much of anything.

On top of that, I was assigned blog posts that were structured a certain way and rather short. Again, I was going to offer a lower fee, but had I offered a lower fee for these posts they would have probably come back and asked for even lower than that. So I put the posts on the invoice as full blog posts. Honestly, I think this is fair because some blog posts are longer and others are shorter – and that is what happens when you pay per post instead of based on length (word count) or hourly.

Within a month the contact I had at the company handed me off to another woman (who seems to be much better at advocating for my cause, though she is in a tough spot because she also writes for the company and is undoubtedly getting paid less than I would be on an hourly rate, even though after you look at insurance and self employment taxes perhaps her rate is closer to mine than she thinks). She is working with me and now assigning me blog posts and I think a lot of the drama has passed. I dislike that the company now thinks I charge too much for my work, but I personally think I don’t charge that much for a for-profit company and for marketing and PR writing. If I were a full-time freelance writer, I’d need to charge that much to get by. Luckily I’m not one anymore, which makes it easier to step back and say, ok, I’ll take $400 less than you’d owe me if you paid what I thought we had agreed on. I’m glad I have the luxury to accept that with only a tiny bit of bitterness and be done with it. I won’t be writing anything other than blog posts for the company, and this is best because we all agree on how much I’m owed per post. Everything else was getting too confusing and uncomfortable on both of our ends.

I’m also compromising because otherwise I wouldn’t get paid, or I wouldn’t have the opportunity to keep doing work for them. It still pays fairly well and it’s a nice side income stream. It’s worth compromising here, but makes me more hesitant than ever to go back to full time freelancing.

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3 thoughts on “Why I’m Glad I’m not a Full Time Freelance Writer”

  1. Indeed, the financial minefields of freelancing are what really put me off. As a side job that doesn't suck up too much of your time and energy, sure, but I couldn't handle it full time. I've also always wondered what happens if you are paid per word and assigned say 400 words, but go over that? Do you invoice for the agreed word count or the actual word count?

  2. @anonymous — no contract, however I do have emails stating what I would be paid. The problem is that I assumed that I would be paid x amount for a type of assignment and they assumed that if they did all the editing work they didn't have to pay me that much, but never decided what they'd pay me if I wrote the first draft (with a few notes provided by them). Additionally with the smaller blog posts, they never quoted me a lesser price for the posts until I sent them my invoice with the agreed upon fee per post and they freaked out. I know in the future to get a signed contract, but even if I had one I'm not sure it would help much right now. I'm willing to be flexible in this situation… I originally signed on to write blog posts and they suddenly decided to offer me a ton more writing work. It was difficult to argue that the other writing work was worth more than the blogs, but I thought I got them to agree. I even emailed a breakdown of my rates. It turned out to be less about my rates and more about the work I did and if it should count as a full assignment versus have money deducted since all the edits were done in house. Anyway, I could have raised a stink about it but at this point in my career I'd like to continue working for them (they're a good client otherwise, now that all the payment kinks are worked out and I'm only working on blog posts). And I've learned my lesson for the future.@eemusings I'd ask the assigner that question. Sometimes an assignment of 400 words is an estimate of how many words they want. I'd usually ask for a range (I'd ask if it can be 400-500 words). Or, if you're going to get paid for 400 words if you hit 398 or 429, just know what that fee is so you're both in agreement.

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