Getting Work

“We’re a Start-Up, We Can’t Afford to Pay You Much”


Featured image for the '“We’re a Start-Up, We Can’t Afford to Pay You Much”' post. It features a US dollar bill.


I was really looking forward to working with you.

I’d come across your start-up’s website while surfing Facebook. A friend of mine had shared the link.

I clicked through to your site, and I thought what you were up to was pretty awesome. And when I saw that you were hiring freelance writers to write for your blog, I knew I had to send in my portfolio.

So I did, and went back to my current writing assignment. To your credit, you replied really fast – the next day. I was impressed.

I opened the email.

“Hi there,

Thanks for applying to write for us! We checked out your portfolio and we love your writing. We’d love to get you on board.

Our rate is $5/article. If that’s all right with you, reply to let us know and we can get you started. Thanks!



My jaw dropped.



There had to be some mistake.

I spied a phone number at the bottom of the email. I grabbed my phone and dialled the number.

Start-Up Rep: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi, I’m calling about your email on engaging me to write articles for your blog? I just wanted to double-check the rate you’re offering me for each article.”

Start-Up Rep: “Sure! We’re offering $5 per article.”

(So I hadn’t read wrong.)

Me: “…how long do you expect each article to be?”

(At this point, I was thinking: maybe we can still work things out. Though I don’t think I’d write even one TWEET for $5.)

Start-Up Rep: “About 800 words.”

*long, awkward pause*

Me: “…I see.”

Start-Up Rep:*concerned* “Is everything all right?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I’m really interested in your start-up and have some great article ideas to contribute, but I can’t do the work for just $5 per article. Is there any way you can increase your offer?”

Start-Up Rep:*sounding unsurprised, but apologetic* “No, I’m sorry. We’re a start-up, so we can’t afford to pay you much. This is our best offer.”

Me: “I see. Okay, thank you. Bye.”

I hung up.

Then I immediately replied your email to decline your offer.

[NAME OF START-UP REDACTED], I understand you’re a start-up and so you probably don’t have that much cash to throw around. I totally get it.

But if you can’t afford to pay me a decent amount for my work (I mean, the amount you’ve offered me is probably only SLIGHTLY better than me writing for you for free in return for “exposure”), then it just shows that currently your priorities aren’t in line with getting quality content for your blog.

Writing a good article takes time. Hours of research and writing. And at the rate you’re offering, I could probably earn a better wage working at McDonald’s for just ONE hour.

Not to mention all the time, money and effort I’ve spent to hone my writing skills. If you think I’m going to give you what I’ve learnt for such a low sum of money, well, you thought wrong.

Also, I ain’t a student anymore. (Though then again, even a student deserves to earn more than $5 per article.) I have bills to pay. How many articles do you think I have to write at 5 bucks a pop in order to earn myself a decent living? (If your answer isn’t in the mid- to high few hundreds a month, then it’s wrong.)

Therefore, just N-O = NO.

All this said, I hope your start-up does well. I really do. I think it has a lot of potential.

But unless (and until) you can pay me for what my work is worth: I’m sorry, we can’t be friends.

May I suggest you approach a content mill instead?


Freelancer Too Expensive For You

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

Leave a Response