In the world of writing professionally, you will come across budges of all shapes and sizes. There are those with a pea-sized content bubble, those with more funds than you can possibly charge for (morally at least), and the rare baby bears of fees – those who have your exact fees allotted for their writing needs. But more often than not, you’ll be low balled beyond belief. If you ask for 40, they’ll offer 15, until you’ve met in the “middle” – and the company still spends less than needed.

Whether these businesses don’t understand how much good writing can cost, or they actually can’t afford it, they’ll try every tactic in the book to doc your fees. Sure not every writing job will attempt to be shady, but I’ve yet to be offered more money – that’s only a luxury that occurs on Pawn Stars.

Before stepping into your first (or next) writing job, come up with a bottom line. A minimum fee that you fee comfortable completing work for. Obviously, the longer the piece, the higher the bottom number. The same goes for those with more experience; you’re able to charge more than first timers.

Haggling Numbers

Starting high is an obvious negotiating tactic, that way there’s wiggle room if the client haggles. If not, you’ll just get a bigger paycheck for that job. However, it’s also worth noting that you provide discounts (a somewhat fancier word for “lowered rates”); some will see the fee and run for the hills, not even offering a “thanks but no thanks” email in parting. Starting high can certainly bring in bigger paying jobs, but failing to take smaller ones as well can alienate the rest of the field.

Next, list everything that your fee includes. One edit, two, research time, posting, etc. Show your client just how much value they’re getting for the price. Failing to do so can leave clients thinking you’re charging much too much, especially those who haven’t dealt with many writers. This also clears up any inconsistencies, showing both sides what’s required up front. Agreements and/or contracts can (and should) also be signed, but this initial list of services helps divide up price vs. merchandise.

Finally, look at what’s in it for you. For ghostwriting services, writers charge much more as they’re not getting credit. The only perk payment, and possibly a repeat client. In other scenarios, for instance writing for websites with clout, a link or bio can be placed, providing exposure and credit to the writer. In these instances, it’s feasible to take a smaller fee.

The bottom line is never a comfortable place for writers to sit, but having one ensures payment, and keeps them from a far worse situation – having no work. Start figuring your bottom line to help keep your bank account and writing career on track.