5 Reasons to Skip Low-Paying Gigs

Even when you’re starting out, I suggest keeping away from low-paying writing gigs as much as possible. I’ve encountered more than a few writers who have managed to justify taking on gigs that pay near enough to nothing that I can’t tell the difference. I understand their justifications: if they weren’t going to have any other work to fill the time, they may as well use it to pound out some articles, right? I don’t agree, but I understand. If you’ve been thinking about those justifications, though, I want to give you some other things to think about.

  1. If you can make more selling plasma, you are doing it wrong. Depending on where you live, you might be able to sell plasma for up to $35 a donation. Of course, you’re limited to twice a week. However, it takes far less time than cranking out 50 articles for a dollar a piece, and nets you more.
  2. Do the math. If you write 20 articles at $5 a pop (still a low-paying gig in my book), and you’re damn fast, you may be able to bring in $100 in 20 hours (I’m being generous here). Even if you spend 10 hours researching markets and querying and write only one article in the next 10 hours, you only need to find one market that will pay you $100 for an article to make the same amount of money. Trust me, it’s doable for even beginning writers.
  3. Passive income can fill the hours. Even if you really can’t find a single opportunity to write for a better paying gig, you can make more writing for yourself. Whether you put together an ebook that you can sell, write a blog with some affiliate links or take another approach, you’ll wind up with a source of money that lasts long after you’ve stopped typing.
  4. Low-paying clients aren’t keepers. A client who doesn’t pay you a living wage will never raise those rates. Even if that client offers you work every week, it’s a losing proposition. You’re better off using the time to apply to long-term gigs that will actually pay you enough so that you can continue to afford your internet connection. A client who pays you a fraction of a cent per word is asking you to decide between checking your email and eating.
  5. You aren’t leaving anyone in the lurch. There are plenty of people in countries on the other side of the world that can actually live on less than $20 per day — and they’ll take on those low-paying gigs. That doesn’t mean you should: there are plenty of writing opportunities that someone based internationally has no way of taking. Think local interviews and regional magazines if you need an example.


  1. Joe Ferry   •  

    Good post. It’s hard to believe people would write an “article” for $5 but I guess some do.
    What do you suggest is a fair hourly wage for the type of writing you do?

  2. Michele   •  

    So true! It is hard to believe folks would write an article for $1-$5. Of course, I guess if we were in another country and could live comfortably, we might take those gigs, too. I guess I can see their side of it. That doesn’t mean it makes it easier for us trying to earn enough to live in the U.S., eh?! 😉


  3. thursday   •     Author

    @Joe, I’ve run the numbers and to be able to afford all of my expenses (including covering those hours when I’m querying or otherwise working but not getting paid), I need to make $50 per hour. Does that sound similar to your own experiences?

    @Michele, I’ve run into more than a few writers in the U.S. who I know have taken gigs on at such ridiculous rates. Some think it’s necessary to pay dues at such low rates in order to move up the ladder, others just don’t know any better.

  4. Pingback: Just Write Blog Carnival April 10, 2009 Edition | Incurable Disease of Writing

Leave a Reply

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