It happens to all of us eventually, I guess. We go into something with enthusiasm and a bright outlook only to be scaled back by reality.

I set my per-word rate for writing content at $0.05, which is $12.50 per average manuscript page. (An average manuscript page is 250 words per page.) That’s not outrageous; in fact, it’s actually a bit on the low side for writing original content. But I have come across too many bid requests that vastly undervalue the work writers do. Some examples:

Yesterday I responded to a bid request for a ghostwriting job. The potential client wants a book and cover blurb written under his name and copyright for not more than $500. He has specific formatting instructions. OK, I said, I’ll do all that up to 15,000 words, which with one round of editing thrown in for free, should work out to be 6-week project. (That essentially means the 200-word cover blurb is thrown in for free.)

That’s too expensive, he replied, because his book will be 50,000 to 60,000 words. Was I willing to negotiate? So, knowing that he wants me to write his book for less than a penny per word, I asked him what he was willing to offer in exchange. We’ll see if he even bothers to reply.

Today I came across another bid request to ghostwrite a 100-page book in 30 days for a flat fee of $25. That’s payment $0.001 per word and doesn’t include time spent on editing. Really? Really?

I’m a freelancer, not a volunteer. That means I expect to be paid a fair wage for my work. I might negotiate a little on my rates, but I won’t grossly undervalue my work or undercut the profession. If I want to work for free (or practically free), I’ll write my own stuff and publish it.

Oh, yeah, I already do that.