Advice for Copywriters: How to Win the Freelance Bidding War

Are you a freelance copywriter working from home? If so, you've probably been on the project bidding war sites, like You've probably seen ads like this:

"Need 50 Articles Ghostwritten. 500-800 Words. Budget: $250-$500. Timeframe: one month."

"How insulting!" you think to yourself, and yet sheer curiosity lures you to the bidding area. What do you see? Lowbrow bidders losing their minds... chomping at the bit for this embarrassing offer: "Bid: $500." "Bid: $300."

All of this is doing a number on your head. You start second-guessing your own worth. "Damn. Is that the going rate? This is what I have to compete with other writers for to get jobs? Jeez." And there you sit, mired in self-doubt and confusion.

To the poster of the high-volume, low-budget article job: I'm sorry - WHAT? You want FIFTY articles in one month, and you're going to pay me no more than $500 dollars to write them, AND I don't even get any free promotion out of the deal? No way. Not taking that bait, honey. Thanks for the skimpy offer, though.

People, let's think this over a minute. Unless you plan to pimp out some interns who are willing to do the work anonymously AND for free (a preposterous notion in itself), why would you ever agree to this project? If you researched and wrote two articles a day you could have this done in a month, but it would encompass most of your time for that month... and when you were done you wouldn't even have enough money to make your rent!

Jobs like this are what I call "Copywriter Sweatshop Jobs" and should be avoided at all costs. Why? Because freelance websites who pit writer against writer for the lowest rate have one-up on the writers. Not just you personally, but ALL the writers. If you play the game, you end up working your tail off for virtually no profit, and guess who comes out the big winner? The buyer, and the bidding website. But not you, dear writer! Not you.

Think about it. You're already paying for a subscription to be listed on the site. You have to pay again if you want to upgrade to some shnazzy, portfolio-having status. You're required to pay a percentage of the job that you bidded on and won. So how is this a big cash cow for you as a freelance writer? It isn't. You know you're going to bust your hump putting out a quality piece for these people. So don't undercut your ability. And above all, don't worry that some low bidder got the job and you didn't. If the buyer only wants to pay chump change, you don't want the job anyway!

Am I trying to tell you to boycott project bidding war websites? No, certainly not. But if you, as a seasoned copywriter know that a project is going to take you 10 hours to complete, and you typically charge $60 an hour, then DO NOT AGREE TO DO THE PROJECT FOR $250 instead of $600. It doesn't matter what the buyer says his budget is. Make your bid for $600, and then quietly walk away.

Life doesn't come easy for a freelancer. As a sole proprietor, you have no corporate safety net. You must pay for your own health insurance benefits. You are responsible for every aspect of your home business, from promoting to customer service to budgeting to website design to outsourcing. If you can do all this on your own, you are nobody's bitch. So don't play the role of one!

In many ways, big companies do far better in terms of productivity when they hire freelancers to do their work. Why? A freelancer is going to do a more efficient and more thorough job, because of the codependent nature of the relationship. The reasoning: "If you don't like my work, you won't hire me again." Meanwhile, the salaried guy with a fat benefits package is sitting at his desk making personal calls, surfing the net and looking forward to his two-hour liquid lunch. Where's the justice?

Corporations save thousands of dollars when they contract projects out instead of hire full-timers. They can surely afford your services at a price that reflects your level of talent and professionalism. Smart companies know that quality work will cost them some money; and yes, they WILL pay for your expert services. Settle for nothing less than a respectable fee. Not sure what that is? Go do some online homework. Find out what others are charging. Consider your location (big city clients pay more), your level of expertise and credentials.

If every copywriter stood his or her ground when it came to fees, no buyer on that bidding site would be able to ask an insulting sum of money for his project. So instead of seeing other writers as competition, view them as your comrades. If we work against each other, we devalue ourselves. Take a stand, stick to your guns, and watch the good-paying jobs roll in. End of story.

Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.

Dina Giolitto is a New-Jersey based Copywriting Consultant with nine years' industry experience. Her current focus is web content and web marketing for a multitude of products and services although the bulk of her experience lies in retail for big-name companies like Toys"R"Us. Visit for rates and samples.

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