The Cut: Writing Site Commissions

For beginner and long-haul freelance writers alike, content mills tend to be fairly popular places to gather up steady work. Once confronted with an open order listing and barred from off-site communication with clients, it’s easy to take article prices at face value and forget that what we’re paid is not what the client’s paying.

Why Should We Care?

Okay, so the client pays a higher price to the content mill – how does that affect freelance writers? The client-writer relationship is just like any other relationship – communication is key. Knowing your client’s mindset will help you put things in perspective and realize that “picky” sometimes just means “expects what they paid for.” For example, if you pay for a $20 burger in a restaurant, you expect a damn good burger for your money, right? If a client pays for a $20 article and the content mill passes on $12 to the writer, who then has to pay $1 to retrieve their own money, that writer isn’t typically inclined to produce a $20 level article. The client may place additional demands on the freelance writer – finding a source, rewording a paragraph, etc – with their original price tag in mind, and the writer in turn may bristle at the “cheap” client that seemingly wants everything at a discount price. Things get a lot less tense when both sides realize how much money is being diverted to the mill site.

Textbroker Pay Scale

Textbroker’s Client Pay Scale

The real use of this research, however, is when solo job assignment and pricing come into play. The client may toss out an initial offer that he or she feels is generous, not realizing that the site takes a substantial cut to act as middleman. When negotiating for a higher rate, a freelancer stands on much better ground if they can say, with authority, that their content mill site “takes a 30% cut of all payments, including tips” rather than a vague “the site takes a cut of my pay.” Numbers and facts imply that you are a stand-up worker, and you know you stuff – normal clients are more likely to pay you what you’re worth and shady clients are less likely to try and bilk you.

Some Things to Remember

When you work for a content site, you are consenting to their setup – deadlines, client communication rules, and pay. While most sites hover around the 20-25% mark as far as commissions taken out, some are substantially higher and may employ practices such as charging your commission before the job has even started, such as Freelancer.com, or charging you a percentage penalty of the job’s potential pay for missing a deadline, such as HireWriters.com.  While some of these practices are a little stern and/or exploitative, it’s important to note that you are compelled to live with them if you choose to work for that site. Likewise, you are free to walk away from a site that you feel takes too much money or is too restrictive – just don’t do it in the middle of a job. A client does not “owe” you an additional x% to recoup what the site takes, so never bring that attitude to the negotiation table – freelancer writers aren’t exactly scarce, and an entitled attitude is the fastest way to usher your client towards another writer.

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