Why I Turned Down $400 (Even Though I Could Use the Money)

(www.inkthinkerblog.com) — Last week, a new potential client asked me to bid on a project to create a 1,700-word landing page and two 1,000- to 1,500-word auto responders. The turnaround time was 4 days from receipt of project materials, and it was set commence in less than a week from the time the potential client first contacted me. Short notice + fast turnaround + ~3,000 words of copy = hefty rate. I thought my quote of a couple grand and change was reasonable, and debated whether I had actually quoted too low.

So imagine my surprise when the client replied that the project budget was $400. And imagine my relief that we were discussing this via e-mail so there was no shocked silence or horrified look to have to explain away. I pulled myself together and said,

If you’re really looking for more of an edit and reformat, I can definitely work with you on the price. However, $400 is not feasible for me given the time required to do all three pieces plus the fast turnaround. For a straight edit/rewrite of the landing page alone with no independent research, etc., I would typically charge $500. Do you have any flexibility in your budget? I would love to work with you on this, so I hope we can find a mutually agreeable price.

Several days later, I got a polite “Thanks, but no thanks.” No shock there.

Could I have used $400? Yes. But was $400 enough for me to give up four days to focus exclusively on this project at $100/day? No. It was tough, but I’m glad I didn’t do the project for that price. I would have hated myself for it, resented the client, and been miserable doing the work.

What’s your price bottom line? Mine fluctuates, but that one was decidedly on the wrong side of it.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King


8 comments… add one
  • Michele Dec 8, 2008

    I don’t blame you, Kristen. I recently had a bazaar (for me) request from a potential client and I politely declined. The money would have been really good, but not worth living with my conscious! We have say no sometimes and/or stand firm on our rates. :-)

    Way to go!


    Michele´s last blog post..Help Naomi Dunford Fight Domestic Violence

  • Rachel Rose Dec 8, 2008


    I don’t blame you one bit for turning that assignment down. Sometimes–correction: most of the time–I feel like people who put out bids for writing projects have no concept of how much time/effort/energy it takes to complete them. Writing is hard (as we writers know); but, all too often, non-writers have this totally twisted take on what the writing process entails, and they just can’t seem to justify paying us what we’re worth.

    Recently, I inquired about a writing gig that was posted on Craigslist.org. The “editor” e-mailed me back and wanted me to work not only on spec, but also for a paltry $0.03/word! It nearly blew my socks off. I wrote him back (read about it here: http://notesonawhim.blogspot.com/2008/12/continuing-my-tirade.html), but, needless to say, I never heard back from him again.

    I say GOOD for you! :-)

  • Miranda Dec 8, 2008

    Good for you! I recently turned down an offer because I have other things I could spend my time doing — things that are more profitable in my personal life. Sure, we could all use the money. But if it messes up your quality of life without offering much in the way of compensation to make up for it…well, you’re probably better off.

    Besides, what if that paltry commitment had you tied you up when a better, more reasonable opportunity came along?

  • Kristen King Dec 8, 2008

    @Michelle, go, team, go!

    @Rachel, you are SO right. People just have no concept. Thanks for sharing your link!

    @Miranda, That is the big thing: Little junk like this keeps us from taking on appropriately paying projects because we get tied up in waste-of-time-projects.

  • DeeDee Dec 8, 2008

    I am so glad you did that (turned down the underpaid work). People need to understand the value of creative work and not pay slave wages for it! (speaking as a self-employed graphic designer who turns down work for low wages, too)

  • Kristen King Dec 8, 2008

    Thanks, DeeDee! Sadly, for every one of us who turns it down, there’s another willing to work for half that amount. Sigh.

  • Alena Dec 10, 2008

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first

    comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this

    blog very often.


  • Kristen King Dec 10, 2008

    Thanks, Alena! I’m glad you’re here and I hope you’ll come back and comment regularly. :)

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