Successful freelance writers don’t underprice their services. Charging too little not only hurts the freelancer, it hurts the whole freelance industry. When you underprice your services, you make it harder for other freelancers to charge a reasonable rate.
This sort of price-cutting is especially prevalent for web-based opportunities. There are thousands of internet “entrepreneurs” out there who are building bad, poorly-written sites with the lone objective of luring in visitors long enough to sell them something. These people want to pay outrageously low rates such as $500 for 200 articles. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, because no self-respecting freelance writer is going to take so little money to produce so much writing, but the web is worldwide and there are writers all over the world who are willing to take such a tiny amount of money. They may be poor, just starting out, or idiots. Whatever the case, they are out there.
The problem is that every time a writer (and they aren’t all in third world countries, some of them live just down the street) takes such a low rate, it makes it more difficult for other writers to make a living. This is one of the reasons I have stopped freelancing web clients almost entirely. There are still some clients out there who respect writers and pay a reasonable rate, but it is hard to convince a potential client to pay $1.00 a word or more when there’s someone out there willing to work for a $0.01 a word. For the most part these cheap writers haven’t figured out how to reach the corporate market, so it is still safe to freelance there — at least for a while.
If you are looking for a way to fight rate abuse, you might want to check out the National Writer’s Union. They have some excellent guidelines on what you should be charging for your work.
For a quick rule of thumb though — if the rate you are charging means that you make less than $30 an hour (US), you are definitely charging too little. A good average for a beginner is $40 an hour (remember, you have to pay all of your expenses out of this). There are plenty of professional writers whose rates equal $100 to $120 an hour and a few who charge more than that. If these numbers look impossible to you, then you are probably the sort of person who these web businesses are looking for.