Before I check out on the OfficeMax website, I check to make sure I have applied all of the coupon codes they have sent me. I have discounts on paper, toner, and even a new office chair. What’s not in my online cart is a well-written blog post about freelancers and taxes.

For that, I have to go somewhere else, and when I shop for content, I have choices. I can get content from Fiverr or some bargain spot like Upwork or Elance. As long as I don’t mind sub-par or at best mediocre work, that is fine. Kind of like when you are out running errands and you get hungry. You can stop at a convenience store or a fast food spot for a snack, but it won’t be good.

Because food is not just food, and writing is not just writing. A bargain almost never means good or even great food or writing. Because creating something is a skill, and a skilled chef does not work at McDonald’s for long.

To Freelance Clients Looking for Writers

The most talented writers also do not work content mills and job boards for too long. Someone, probably them, discovers they are much too talented to work for peanuts, and they start charging real rates for real clients.

If you aren’t willing to pay higher rates you are no longer the client they are looking for, and they move on.

Notice that high-end steak houses always seem to be busy: you have to make reservations to dine there, and they seldom if ever offer coupon or Groupon offers. Why? Those offers are designed to increase business by bringing new customers in. A restaurant that is always full and requires reservations to get in doesn’t need to advertise to get new customers. Customers come to them.

The same is true of a good freelance writer. Customers seek them and pay them full market value and more for their work. They try to retain them the same way they would any other employee.

To employ a good writer, you have to make reservations. Generally they are busy, and while there are times when they can, or are willing to, slip you into their schedule, generally, that just isn’t possible.

If you’re going to hire a freelancer to write for you, know what market rates are, and be willing o pay them.

To Freelance Writers

Even if you are new, and trying to get your foot in the door of the writing business, please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t put an ad on Fiverr or Upwork and offer your services for $4 an hour or $15 a blog post.

The damage you are doing to the market is significant. There are a ton of reasons you should not undercharge for your work, and just one of them is what you are doing to client expectations. Clients should know what market rates for good writing are, and undercutting the competition just gives them leverage against other freelancers.

“I can get so-and-so to do this for $15. Why can’t you do that?” they say in a negotiation, and then the writer bidding the job has to justify the value of their work, which is significant. At the same time they have to throw you under the bus:

“The only writer who charges that low of rates is new or does not provide quality work. You want someone with my experience and credibility to handle your project.” Suddenly your work is downplayed, and all you have proven to anyone is that you will work for much less than you should.

Offering cheaper rates because you are new is fine when you are starting out, but for a client to value your work, first you must value it. Pricing it way below market is no way to do that. A slight discount may make sense, but when you figure out what you actually make if you charge super low rates will make you think twice about them.

How do you know what market rates are? Google them, look them up, ask other freelancers what they charge for certain types of projects. For good freelancers, there is more than enough work for one person to do or even a group. They will often share knowledge with you, and if they learn they can trust you and the quality of what you do, they may even refer overflow clients to you.

No matter what, don’t undervalue your writing and that of others by pricing your writing too low.

Writing is not a Commodity

A fine meal cooked by a talented chef costs much more than a burrito wrapped at Taco Bell by your neighbor’s teenage son. There is a reason for that, and a taste of each would be all the explanation you need.

Neither is all writing created equal. A good blog post is worth much more than a poorly written one, and a crafted conversion page can mean the difference between feast and famine in online sales.

You can’t pick up writing at the gas station or the office supply store. Not everyone enjoys writing. In fact, some people can’t stand it. Those who have the skill of constantly plagiarizing the alphabet over and over every day deserve to get paid for it.

Writers should also charge respectable rates for their work. Undercharging hurts the market overall and creates mistrust with clients that is totally unnecessary and undesirable.

So let’s stop treating writing like a commodity. Pay (and charge) reasonable rates. It’s the only solution for a healthy market.