One of the greatest perks of a freelance career is choosing when and how you work, and with whom.

You assume you have control of the “how much,” but that’s not always the case. More about that below.

Being on my own is a dream after 20-plus-years of following someone elses’ say-so every day.

In the three years since I left my full-time newspaper career I find myself writing for my favorite publication of all time, and working with other clients, here and abroad, on fulfilling and interesting projects.

I’m thankful for any and all successes that get me closer to where I want to be, personally and professionally. So, here’s the dilemma of the day:

An altruistic client offers all the proceeds from projects to charity, and wants you to be philanthropic, too. Meaning, the clear implication is that you will offer a rate that’s down in the basement in the interest of greater global goodwill.

Complicate the scenario if it’s a repeat purchaser, with the means to pay, who still hopes you will agree to write something that will get a lot of attention, but with no credit, and next to no cash.

Yet, it’s a great project.

So, what do you do?


About Michele

I am a freelance writer with three kids, two cats, and a dog with thyroid disease. I'm bouncing back from a divorce and making the most of every day. There is so much beauty around me. I am grateful!
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11 Responses to FLUMMOXED

  1. fyears says:

    A) Can you afford to do it at a discount? If the bills are coming in pink envelopes, the question is moot.
    B) How good a client? Will sticking to full pay mean the client hires someone who’ll do it more cheaply? Conversely, will offering a break “for the cause” once help endear you to the client for more full-pay work?
    C) Is it a cause you want to support?
    D) Will agreeing to a discounted rate for one assignment necessarily mean discounted rates will be expected in the future?
    E) Are there tax benefits to be had from donating your services?
    Bottom line: It may be the client’s hobby or charity work, but it’s your livelihood, no matter how good the cause. You can always donate separately to support the cause, even offering your professional services if you want to do that.
    But it’s a bit passive-aggressive — maybe underhanded, too — of the client to seek out your professional expertise then LATER suggest you should be philanthropic because she is.

  2. mmm61 says:

    Proceeds – that means the money left after expenses. You are one of the expenses. This is not your charitable project, it’s your client’s. Now, if you feel passionate about the cause, then maybe you will want to offer your services. You make a living by writing. It’s a skill that you have honed over many years – don’t give it away unless you really want to.

  3. Michele says:

    You both make very good points. The thing is, I’m not passionate about her work, but I appreciate that she is, as well as recognize the good she does. But my work is good, too. And deserves payment. Standing up for myself in a situation like this is sort of a reverse Sally Field moment. If I don’t do what she wants, she won’t like me! She might not hire me again! Etc. I guess now I have to decide if I care.

  4. mmm61 says:

    I think you could diplomatically say that you appreciate the good she is doing – or trying to do – but you have learned through experience that reducing your rates, no matter how noble the cause, isn’t a good practice.

  5. Michele says:

    I created the monster by writing two book manuscripts for her previously at low rates. It was my choice then, because I try to take on a job now and then cheap just to help someone. But the fact it’s now a given in her view is bad. What’s that old saying, you can’t unring the bell?

  6. mmm61 says:

    Is there any way to tell her that you had been working at a reduced rate already? Can you tell her what your real rate is? Let her know that you liked her and were trying to help her out?

  7. Mindy says:

    Ummm, it’s entirely possible that she’s not the only client in the world. You need the paying clients. You’ve already made your donation; you owe her nothing.

    Just wanted to throw that out there.

  8. Michele says:

    You are right, Mind. I just actually sent a response to the client quoting real-life prices, not the softball ones she is used to from me … so maybe I’d better prepare to send smelling salts over on the next international flight!

  9. mmm61 says:

    Good job!

  10. mydogmel says:

    I think there are only a very few times when you decide to do something for nearly free. And if you’re in business for all the other reasons aside from just plain keeping busy, I don’t think you do it. It sets up bad expectations from your clients and worse, lowers the value of your work — to them and to yourself, at least psychologically. One marketing guy talks about sometimes having to fire your clients. If you’re around to make a lot of money, you need to stay focused on what relationships are productive and which ones are not — and like everything else in life, get rid of the ones that are not! That’s my take. Franci

  11. Michele says:

    Another great comment! It amazes me how we sometimes almost feel beholden to a client, like we are obligated to keep them on because they gave us business. And you are right, Franci, that same sort of ethic spills over all the time into other relationships and if we are going to stay healthy, we have to sometimes show them the door.

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