Getting paid for writing is a double edged sword. I had a friend once give me a sign for my office wall, it read:
“Writing is like prostitution, first you do it for the love of it, and then you do it for the money”
Truer words have never been uttered. Once you have written something and gotten paid for it you have literally fallen down a rabbit hold you never even knew existed. You might be asking…but it’s work…why shouldn’t I get paid for it? The answer is, you should but not everyone sees it that way.
I am not only a writer by trade, I am also a writer by nature. What does that mean? Well it means that I can sit down with a 2000 word writing assignment and finish it in about 30 minutes. Writing that tends to take the average person four days to do will take me 3 hours. Writing, after all, is what I do. It comes naturally and, most times, easily. This is where the getting paid for it part gets muddy.
First off it is always tough to take money for something that comes so naturally and that you love doing because often times it doesn’t feel like work. You have to be willing to justify your work even though it didn’t take you very long to do it. The bottom line is that what you do is specialized…not everyone can do it and so it is a skill set that is in demand. In demand equates to money. You wouldn’t go to a great mechanic, have them fix your car and when they are done in two hours tell them that you don’t think they should charge that much because it didn’t take them that long…yet people do that to us all the time. It is frustrating.
What the non-writer doesn’t get is that just because you are good and it doesn’t take you long shouldn’t mean that they pay you less…in fact, they should pay you more because you are that good. Then there is the hidden factor, like in the comic above…it took years for me to get to the skill level I am at. I paid my dues and I worked hard to become the best I can be…when you are paying for a good writer you are paying for all those years of experience too.
It is still, after 30 some-odd years, hard for me to ask for payment. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and when I get screwed it hurts. Writing, after all is very personal and when a person tries to talk their way out of paying for the work it hits us in a very personal spot. I personally do a lot of extra research on most of my jobs and I hone a piece that I am doing until it is as close to perfect as I can get it. Sometimes I am up all night working so that the client gets what they deserve. I almost always under bid jobs or charge less than I should because nothing about charging for what I love doing ever feels “right”.
Here’s the thing though…it has to be done. You have to charge for the work and you have to insist on getting what you are worth. I had a client recently bail on me because he felt like he should pay less for a job because it “didn’t take me that long”…he ended up with the start of a book, the outline, the timeline and the basis all completed and he walked out on paying for it. I took a $1500 hit on that job. That client will now take my work and either hire a cheaper writer or he will try and complete the project his self (A lot of the heavy lifting completed) and I just have to wait for the karma bus to run him over. It hurt and it was wrong but what made it worse was that I had given him a great deal in the beginning so that’s twice the damage. Now I have to let it go and trust the next client not to follow suit which isn’t always easy.
So folks charge for the work and don’t feel bad about it. You deserve to get paid just like any other professional and demand that your clients respect that. What you do is a talent that not everyone has…
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