Today, I'm talking payment models. Specifically, I am weighing in on the question of whether or not I think freelancer writers should accept result-based payments. While I recognize that there are situations that warrant such an arrangement, I explain why I would generally be wary of accepting payments based only on results.
This week I am answering a question from a subscriber named Cynthia –she asked, "Should I ever accept payment based on results for a freelance writing project?"
There are some freelance projects where it makes sense to offer payments based on results. Sales commissions, for example, are a great way to understand how people might choose to pay you based on an incentive. When you are a freelance writer, however, it’s a little bit more difficult to guarantee results to your client.
Remember- it's not all within your control
Let's imagine that I am writing a blog post for one of my clients. They might ask me to base my payment on how many people open that blog post or take the action at the end of blog post. Personally, I don’t know the specifics of their website traffic, and I don’t know what other things on their website are out of my control. For this reason, I am not going to accept payment based on results – there are way too many factors that are outside of my control.
If you are a freelancer specializing in search engine optimization specialist, or you are running Google Ads, then your clients may pay you bonuses based on the results that you achieve; in that situation, it makes sense to accept payment based on results. However, I simply find that it’s never really worth it when it comes to a freelance wiring project. Why would I accept payment based on results when I can’t guarantee those results? My goal is that all of the projects I am submitting help provide value to the readers of the blog or website that I am writing for, and that they prompt those people to take action. But because I am not in control of so many other steps of that process, including the design of the website, the general tone and style of the things that other people have written on the site, or even the website’s loading speed – I am not going to guess that my blog or my written piece is the reason why people are not clicking through.
I'd be very wary of accepting payment based on results as a freelance writer because there is a very low chance you are actually going to get paid. If a client is pushing you to pay out this way, then I would simply ask them why. There may be situations where it makes sense for you to take a base pay and then more incentives; for example, you write a blog, and you are able to get it placed in Business Insider for the client. Of course, they would pay you more for getting that piece accepted in Business Insider, mentioning their website; it's great publicity for them. But should you take payments based on results? I am not so sure.
I have had people come to me before and ask for a bid to get things placed in Entrepreneur, Business Insider, or Huffington Post, but you can't always guarantee that the article is going to get accepted there, nor do you want to ruin the credibility that you have with the editors of those sites by sending them spammy articles all the time.
Think it through
So, because there are so many factors outside of your control, especially if you are not the one writing the article, I am always hesitant about taking payments based on results. Think carefully about the value that you bring to the table, regardless of whether that piece leads to millions of click-throughs or gets placed on a bigger website. It takes work and effort and a lot of time to pull things off as a freelance writer; factor that into your prices. Perhaps you want to offer them incentive pricing for going above and beyond, like an article that goes viral or gets placed in a bigger public area. However, I would be very wary of accepting payments based only on results, simply because you can’t control all of the elements.