This week’s blog entry in LinkedIn touched upon the failure of buyers to comprehend the limitations of the platforms they use to hire freelancers and then veered off into familiar territory: that of low expectations.

My husband, as usual, is correct: You can ask for good, cheap, and fast, but you’ll only get two of them in any combination. Too often, I come across solicitations that demand all three. Fiverr is notorious for skinflint buyers:


I freely admit that my temper starts to sizzle when I come across RFPs like this, because it indicates the following:

  • The buyer has no concept as to how much effort and skill goes into writing a book, even if it is “only” 20,000 words long.
  • The buyer does not value the effort and skill that goes into a writing project like this.

The one thing he did get right is the delivery time of 30 days. That’s about how long it will take to write, edit, and format a 20,000-word fiction story.

Here’s another:


This person left the budget open, probably because he hasn’t a clue as to what this type of project entails. Because he doesn’t have a clue, the delivery time completely misses the mark. I’d need at least six weeks to write, edit, and format the book.

And here’s another:


Yep, it’s another absolutely clueless buyer.

My solution to dealing with such buyers goes one of three ways:

  1. I ignore the RFP. If the buyer states something along the lines of “I have a low budget and won’t pay any more than this,” then a project that pays less than one penny per word simply isn’t worth my time to respond, regardless of how much I would have liked to do it.
  2. I reply to the RFP and enter the real time and cost for service in my offer. Sometimes, the buyer contacts me to negotiate, sometimes to complain about my high quote, sometimes to hash out another option. More often, the buyer never responds and I see that same buyer posting another RFP for the same project.
  3. I reply to the RFP and inform the buyer just what he’ll get for the paltry sum budgeted. Again, sometimes the buyer responds, but more often he doesn’t.

I’m probably missing out on quite a few projects that way, but I refuse to so drastically undercut the value of what I do. I’m fighting the good fight on behalf of all writers and editors. It’s a war I’m sure to lose, but perhaps I can teach a few people out there that the service they want performed on their behalf really does require skill, effort, and time.

Business seems to understand that–except for those that use freelance platforms like Textbroker. That platform offers a range of writing projects from 50 words to 2,000 words. The average 500-word blog article on Textbroker yields payment around $5 to $7. Considering that it takes me about 90 minutes to write that kind of article, the hourly rate to produce content just isn’t worth it.

Freelancing is a cutthroat business. Vendors hungry for work undercut their competitors, practically giving away their service for free. It’s a poor precedent they set. The only silver lining I can see is that those vendors usually produce poor quality work, leaving buyers dissatisfied. Unfortunately, a buyer who was disappointed by one vendor will then be reluctant to spend a fair fee to hire another. He knows that hiring a second vendor to fix what the first botched increases his expenses, but he doesn’t stop to realize that his costs overall would be lower if he’d hired the better vendor first at the higher rate.

Caveat emptor. Buyer beware. You get what you pay for.

And if you’re a freelancer, too, consider your rates carefully. By undercutting your competition to be the lowest priced vendor out there, you’re devaluing the entire profession. Don’t lower your expectations. You’re trying to make a living and you can’t do that if you’re working for a fraction of a penny.