Rates: what determines them?

Before you start into this article, you need to read the Being Relevant In A Modern World post, because it’s the first part of this particular article.

So, at the end of the last article on being relevant in a modern setting, we left readers with the question of standardized rates. Now, as we discussed in the previous article, there are various factors which can effect rates.

With print publications, they are generally located in a regional setting. Let’s say you have two different print publications. One is in New York, another is in Delhi. The cost of living and the country the publisher’s city is located in are just two of the very many factors which can influence the rates a particular publication can pay its writers. As we discussed in the first article, region dictates pricing to some degree. A magazine from New York is likely going to have a higher budget to work with, meaning their standard rate of pay will be higher than the magazine in Delhi, due to the difference in cost of living, economy, and otherwise.

It’s extremely important to understand that standardized rates only apply dependent upon the country, the quality of the publication, the size of the publication, the city, and various other factors. This is why every publication pays differently, because they each have their own standardized budget that they are working with. What you have to do is find publications that fit within your particular budget and qualifications and work with them.

But how do standardized rates work in the digital world?

The easiest way to answer this is: they don’t.

Most print publications will hire local writers. Why? Local writers have the expertise, they are local, and their rates will be within what is considered the applicable budget of that particular publication. It is rare for a publication in, say, Pakistan, to hire a writer from Alaska, or South Africa. Firstly, there is the language barrier. Secondly, there is the regional influence in rates. The magazine in Pakistan has a budget which is in sync with Pakistan, not South Africa, America, India, or Canada. As such, hiring writers from those particular areas is generally out of league with what they can afford to pay, because writers from other countries may want more per article/word/hour then the publication can afford to pay.

But when we get into the world of digital publications, all those standardized rate equations go out the window. Suddenly anyone with an Internet connection and a grasp of whatever language the publication is looking for is a potential candidate, provided they meet the qualifications of the publication in question. We aren’t talking about a publication in Pakistan with a budget that is dependent upon a local region. We are talking about a publication that anyone in any part of the world can write for, as long as they have an Internet connection and are willing to do the work for the rates set by the company in question, and have the necessary qualifications.

There is a lot of frenzied analysis and panic from print writers about the declination of rates over the past decade as more and more people gain access to the Internet and uncover the world of freelance writing. What many of them fail to grasp is simple economics. They want print rates to write online content, and are upset that online (digital) writers are doing the work for such a low price, and doubly upset at the companies in question for paying what they think is an obscenely low rate for the work.

Firstly, you have to remember that online publications are not working with the budget of a print publication, in most cases. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule. But we are talking about the majority here. Secondly, the pool of writers isn’t limited to their regional base. Let’s take the U.S. for example. For years, the print writers in America have been allowed to work for X amount per article/word/hour. Enter the digital age. Now, at the start, only major industrialized nations had access to the Internet. Print writers began to transition into the digital world, and found that the rates were lower, but still within their “standardized” frame they had become accustomed to.

Enter the 21st century. More and more countries have Internet. Nearly ever cafe has WiFi, regardless off where you are. Suddenly those writers from America are competing with writers from the Philippines, from India, from Pakistan, from South Africa…places where the cost of living is dramatically lower than exists in the U.S. As a direct result, those writers–many of whom have the same qualifications necessary to be considered competition–are suddenly “stealing” the jobs that the American writers were so used to getting by default of simply being in in the U.S.

It’s not theft. It’s simple business. If five different people are qualified to write an article, and the highest rate is 100 dollars per article while the lowest rate is 20 dollars an article, most employers are going to look at the guy charging 100 dollars an article, raise an eyebrow, and immediately move down the list to look at the other qualified candidates. Why? Because the 100 dollar per article writer isn’t even in the ballpark when it comes to global relevancy. He’s still trying to live in the past, back when the Internet was just the U.S. and a couple of other countries.

A lot of freelance writers clamor for standardized rates for digital work. It will never happen. Why? Because in order for that to happen the entire world would have to become standardized. We would all have to have the same economy, income level, and cost of living. In much the same way that print publications in different countries have different budgets based upon the same statistics, the digital world is in even a greater state of flux due to the fact that the pool of writers is that much larger. Since there is no such thing as a standardized rate of living, economy, or income level on a global scale, there can never be a standardized rate for digital content, because the rates are dependent upon each and every writer and where they are writing from.

The key is to find clients who fit into your particular budget, regardless of which country they happen to be from. You need to be the farmer using the threshing machine, moving into the next age of technology and global awareness. You cannot afford to be the laborer, standing in the field with your torch, defiant that the world has passed you by and adamant in your refusal to adapt to the times. That only leads to a lack of work, a lack of money, and stagnation. If you truly want to be successful you have to learn how to evolve with the times, and the only way to do that is to become globally aware.

The world is not limited to the Western countries anymore. The entire world has access to the Internet, which means you are competing with a global pool of competitors. But that also means there is an entire world’s worth of opportunities out there just waiting for you to take advantage of. Get out there and find the ones that are perfect for you.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

Posted in Freelance Writing 101 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
2 comments on “Rates: what determines them?
  1. forex robot says:

    great post as usual .. thanks .. you just gave me a few more ideas to play with

  2. Not a problem, mate :) Glad you found something to help you in your daily business!

    That’s the key to being globally successful. The ideas presented here aren’t specific only to writing…they can be applied to any business.

    Keep us posted!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • The lie that is “free writing sample”
    Imagine the following scenario: It’s been six months or so since your last dental checkup, and it’s time to get your teeth cleaned. Your old dentist is out of town, or maybe you’ve moved into a new town, so you…Read more ›
  • How should I price my copywriting rates?
    Rates are one of the hottest topics of debate among writers in the United States. Ironically, not so much outside of the U.S. As someone who has spent much of the past 13+ years traveling, and four and a half…Read more ›
  • A Day in the Life of an Expat Copywriter
    As most of you know from reading the blog and following along at our Facebook page, I’ve been extremely busy with my current full-time job, which is managing my online community with Marginal Boundaries and establishing niche sites and products…Read more ›
  • Copywriting Services
    While I don’t regularly post blog updates for other writers anymore due to being extremely busy with my Marginal Boundaries and other products such as The Expat Guidebook, Complete Writing Solutions still exists as a platform for my clients past,…Read more ›
  • CWS In 2012
    It’s been pretty quiet on the blog front for Complete Writing Solutions in 2012, and there’s a reason for that Those of you who have been following along for some time already know it’s because things are in full swing…Read more ›