As writers, we always wish to provide the best service and maintain utmost professionalism at all times. We understand that there’s always going to be criticism or clients that we just don’t click with. That’s fair enough. With that being said, there’s always going to be that one person who pushes you and pushes you until you don’t see the point in dealing with them any longer.
I hope that reading this post will help clients understand why writers charge the rates that they do. Simultaneously, I hope this post can provide some level of comfort for writers who have been in the same or similar situations.
To explain, I’ll use a real-life client as an example. Let’s call him “Peter”.
In order to keep matters confidential while still providing as much information as possible, let’s begin with some background context.
Peter reached out to us at MJ&Steff around three weeks ago requesting that I (Steff) write a blog post detailing a bad experience he had with a businessperson. I was empathetic toward his situation and felt that he had been ripped off. Seeing as that it was a short piece that required no research and only took about half an hour to write, I charged Peter $30.
This morning, Peter email us again requesting that we help him draft some court documents. I have conveyed to him at least 3 times throughout our email correspondences that I am not a licensed attorney; only a law student. Below is one of the several instances where I had emphasised that I was not a lawyer.
Below is a further email from Peter requesting help drafting three items. For the purpose of keeping things as confidential as possible, I won’t say exactly what he requested. However, I want to make it clear that these documents are pertinent to the outcome of a court case. I called the New Zealand Bar Association and several attorneys to ensure that I was permitted to draft these for him, and received confirmation that it was fine for me to do so.
My colleagues and friends who have had experience dealing with court cases agree that $300 is way below market rate. One of them who got an attorney to help her draft the exact same documents charged her $6000. But as I said before, I felt bad about his situation and wanted to charge him as fair of a rate as possible. Below is my response.
I thought surely he would understand that this pricing is more than fair. Such important documents are the deciding factor as to whether he receives judgment for or against him. One minute of online research would show that engaging an attorney to fill out such documents would cost him more than he would likely be rewarded in court.
This was not the case. Here is Peter’s response:
Despite my experience, I could see from his perspective that filing his requested documents looked relatively straightforward. Just filling a few documents right? How hard could it be?
I want to emphasise that it’s definitely not as straightforward as a layperson with no legal experience or knowledge would think. As I mentioned earlier, these documents make or break the case. This is particularly important due to the high fail rate of pro per (people representing themselves in court) plaintiffs and defendants. A quick Google search would reveal that the success rate of pro se actions in his state are only 0.04%.
Below was my response which I kept as professional as possible. I wanted to give him peace of mind regarding paying my more than reasonable rate.
You’d think that would be the end of it. But he then asked what I would charge if he dropped one of his three listed documents.
Below is my response. I felt that we weren’t getting anywhere with the going back and forth through email, and I thought it would save us both time if we could speak about it over the phone. This way, I could explain why my quote was much, much lower than market rate. It’s important for clients to understand why we charge the amount that we do. We don’t want anybody to walk away feeling like they got ripped off.
But alas, Peter was still under the impression that somehow, charging him literally a fraction of the market rate was still too high. His response below, “when you’re not even a lawyer” is, to put it politely, ludicrous. I had conveyed to him multiple times that I am not a lawyer, and encouraged him to seek legal advice. He was not engaging me as a lawyer, only as a writer. By this point, my business partner told me to just stop responding.
It’s insulting when clients undercut writers’ rates. Obviously, there’s always room for negotiation. We negotiate rates with clients all the time – especially if they’re in difficult situations, or are in serious need for help.
Seasoned writers know better than anybody what the market rate is. I’m sure any writer can relate to this feeling of absolute frustration. We understand that some clients will consider that our charges are “too high”. In that case, feel free to engage a different writer who will charge less. Successful writers aren’t desperate for your business, so there’s no need to act entitled.
Any client of mine (and MJ’s) knows that we’re nothing but professional and friendly. But if you’re going to come and insult us after giving us grief all morning and afternoon, don’t expect feel entitled to further professionalism. In fact, don’t expect us to write anything for you again.
End of conversation. Five minutes later, I receive a notification about his review of our writing services on Facebook:
If you’ve been fired as a client, have a long and hard think to yourself. Why would somebody turn down the opportunity to make money off of you? It’s simple. Your business is not worth their time nor money.
Obviously, there’s always room for negotiation. I happily negotiate lower rates with clients all the time. $300 for filing court documents is unheard of. I get it. I’m not a lawyer. But in my capacity as a writer with legal experience (interning for law firms), $300 exceeds fair pricing – it’s the lowest rate that anybody in my position would charge.
If you’re reading this, “Peter”, I wish you nothing but the best of luck with finding a quality writer who can help you file your court documents accurately and for less than $300.