Taking control of the industry, Part One: Freelance content writers can use self-promotion to counteract depressed rates...
The question of pricing for freelance content work is always controversial. If you attack low-paying jobs, someone like me with an affinity for the marketplace to sort out pricing will jump on your back. If you support acceptance of lower per word rates, a slew of writers will attack you as if you are trying to rip the last scraps of food from their plate.
I don't need to have those arguments again. Not today, anyway. We can save them for some other time when I can muster enough righteous indignation and motivation to go over the same old talking points again. Instead, I want to talk about how writers themselves may be responsible for their perceived lack of pay.
By that, I am NOT referring to their willingness to take jobs at market rates. I want to look at things from a different perspective. I have noticed a few things that I believe influence those market prices for freelance writers that individual freelancers can do something about. I have divided those thoughts into two categories and have decided to address them as separate posts. Consider this Part One...
Intermediaries reduce pay rates. If you are booking jobs through a third party, you are missing out on the opportunity to make more money. The person who has set up a writing service where they market content and then subcontract it out to individual freelancers is trying to pay the bills. He or she is taking a cut right off the top. In some cases, that cut can be substantial. In other situations, the percentage is marginal.
I don't think that's unfair, by the way. The person who is finding clients, delegating jobs, accepting risk, etc. deserves to make a living. I will personally accept jobs through "article brokers" to fill my schedule. I also occasionally wear that hat myself, lining up writing talent for clients' jobs I cannot personally complete as a solo act. I try to take a fair cut and don't use those instances to generate huge profits, but after managing some of those projects, I can tell you that the effort is significant.
However, if I had my choice, I would always line up my work personally. I'd prefer to bypass the guy or gal in the middle completely and negotiate my rates directly with the person in need of written material. That way, I know that I am securing the best possible rates for my work.
Of course, the time and effort involved in marketing and cutting deals must be considered as part of the "profitability" equation. If successful marketing required an amount of time that rendered the higher rates neglible because I was spending all my time looking for buyers, it wouldn't make sense to go that direction. However, I find it relatively easy to sell my services and the rate increase over working with intermediaries makes spending some time pounding the virtual pavement a financial winner.
So, if you are a freelance writer and are depending, in large measure, on article brokerages or third-party intermediaries as a work source, you might be contributing to your own struggles. If you can find a way to go direct instead, your earnings could be substantially higher.
Doing this, however, requires a willingness to invest your own "sweat equity." You have to learn how to sell your writing and to whom it can be sold. There is a learning curve and (in the short run) self-promotion may cost you. In a field where it seems like many are always chasing the next fast cash payout, there may not be enough writers willing to learn how to promote themselves or to invest time, energy and even money into doing so.
In the meantime, the marketers snag the leads and outsource the work cheaper. I think the decision to learn how to successfully pitch yourself as a freelance content writer makes a lot of sense...