Oh yes, they did.
Last week, someone asked me if I knew any writers who would accept $25 for a 350-word article.
Honestly, the project itself sounded great – but far too low doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to those rates.
How long does it take to write a 350-word article?
Sure, if it took you 5 minutes to churn out 350 words, you’d be getting a great deal.
But here’s what’s actually involved in writing a 350-word health article (or any article, really):
- Client liaison/project management – probably 1-2 hours of emailing back and forth, preparing a brief, getting a contract together and organising the required invoicing
- Background research, interviewing and sourcing studies – this could take 2-3 hours, depending on the topic
- Drafting – we all write at different speeds, but most writers need 1-3 hours for this amount of words
- Editing and proofreading – this may require 1 hour, ideally 24 hours after the drafting stage
- Revisions – most writers are expected to include at least two rounds of revisions in their projects, and these can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours (especially if we’re dealing with one of THOSE clients – or if the wife gets involved)
So, following these steps, it can take 3-8+ hours to write a 350-word article.
It’s just not possible to produce a high-quality, original, useful, and engaging health article without working through those 5 steps.
Some writers can bang out a 350-word piece in 20 minutes. But do these writers understand the topic? Are their health claims accurate? Is their work credible, valuable, and inspiring?
If we worked for $25 per 350-word article, following the steps above, we would be earning anywhere from $8.33 per hour to a mere $3.13 per hour.
And I think the horrendous-ness of those figures speaks for itself.
Clients, listen up: Health content is not FMCG.
High-quality health content is not just a marketing strategy – it’s a business investment.
Quality health writing boosts business prospects and raises a company’s credibility. It helps readers to live better, healthier, happier lives and be more informed. It prevents the spread of misinformation. It educates and inspires our audience.
Thankfully, not all clients pay these incredibly low rates.
But what do we say to those who do?
Here’s my advice:
- Change starts with you – accept you are worth more than $25 per 350 words
- Explain why you charge what you charge – a breakdown like mine listed above is an effective way of demonstrating the complete writing process
- Educate your clients on the value of working with you – you’re degree-qualified, with years of experience and a particular interest in health and medicine, and there is an incredible amount of value underpinning your specialty skills
- Stop accepting low-paying jobs unless there is something else of comparable value in it for you – I’m not totally against working for free or in-kind, but any work of this nature has to work for you, and most of the time there’s no good reason to accept $25 for 350 words
- Ask the uncomfortable questions – if necessary, and if you’re feeling brave, ask clients if they think it is a fair rate? Ask them why they haven’t allocated more funds for their projects? Ask them how they will feel if they can’t get quality content for that rate?
Sometimes, you may enlighten these clients. Most of the time, though, they will simply tell you they can’t afford your rates and look elsewhere. There’s only so much you can do about that – but every low-paying client you refuse is a step in the right direction.
What should you charge?
As health writers, we are in the fortunate yet unfortunate position of having no industry rates.
Having no baseline means we can be flexible with our rates, and often this is needed as most writing projects require a different approach.
We can also turn small jobs into larger, ongoing jobs by offering loyalty discounts and early payment discounts. (Discounting can work in your favour as it helps you to secure ongoing work – but only discount if you are happy with the terms.)
Yes, having no industry standard makes it hard for new health writers to know what to charge.
But even experienced, professional writers grapple with quoting and need to adjust their rates.
Quoting is always going to be a negotiation and a process – this is just a part of freelance life.
And, at the end of the day, we all have unique objectives.
Some of us need to make a certain amount of income to stay afloat.
Others are in it for love.
These motivators shape our business decisions and define the types of clients we choose.
Not sure what to charge?
Charge what you feel you are worth.
Not sure what you’re worth?
Well, I can tell you what you’re NOT worth – and that’s $25 for 350 words.
Honestly, I don’t really like telling people what to charge as we are all different, as I mentioned.
But, a lot of people ask me this question – so, if you need a starting point, then this is what I feel you are worth:
- Per word – anywhere from 70c to $1+ per word
- Hourly – $75-$100+ per hour
- Per article – $250-$350+ up to 800 words
Now, go forth and make those rates your own. Add value, be creative with your quotes, and work out your fees based on the value and quality you offer.
How do you deal with low-paying clients?