What my farmer father taught me about being a writer – plus tips for deciding how much to charge and creating long-term goals

Do you know the price of a fifty-pound bag of onions?

For 40+ years my dad has grown the sweetest onions on the planet. Available only ten weeks out of the year, Imperial Sweet Onions are bursting with flavor but lack that pungent bitterness that brings tears to your eyes and keeps lovers away. They’re perfect for that first barbecue of the summer and, if you keep them dry and out of the sunlight, the onions will hold their sweetness clear through to Labor Day.

Me driving a tractor

Foodies, chefs, and people in the know wait impatiently for those first bags (the earlier ones are the sweetest), and buy hundreds of pounds of onions as soon as they hit the market.

With all that excitement, it should be easy to sell them all at a premium price, right?

I’m going to assume you know the answer is no because everyone knows the price of produce fluctuates. We understand that there are circumstances that affect the cost of crops: weather, yield, labor, shipping, demand, quality, access to water, land rights.

To be a successful farmer, you have to take all of those factors into consideration year after year. You also have to gamble on the long-game, accepting that you’re going to lose your ass a lot of years but hoping that the years when you have a great crop and/or an amazing market will make up for it.

How does any of this apply to writers?

The two best business lessons I learned from my farmer father were:

  1. know your cost of production, and
  2. focus on the long-game.

Which correlates with the two biggest mistakes I see writers making in their careers:

  1. not charging enough, and
  2. not having a long-term plan.

How do you know what to charge?

When I teach my classes on the business of writing at conferences or colleges (and now online too!), I’m constantly asked what people should charge for their writing, product, or service.

That is going to vary greatly person by person, depending on what your costs are and your lifestyle choices.

Here are things to take into consideration when deciding how much to charge for a product:

  • How much time did you put into creating it?
  • What’s your hourly rate for your time?
  • What costs – direct and indirect – go into creating it?
  • Is this your premium product or a smaller offering?
  • What do you want to do in the future (with your life and your career) and what money do you need to start doing it?


Want help figuring out exactly how much you should charge? Check out my free course Jumpstart Your Writing Career.

Enter your information to get my free 7-day course, plus exclusive content sent to your inbox every Wednesday.


Charge the amount you need to thrive, not just survive.

The pay gap that exists in the rest of society is even more pronounced in writers and creatives. Societal issues lead to the devaluation of some people and products and the inflated value of others. This especially affects those of us in traditionally marginalized and silenced groups.

While political and social change would be amazing, you don’t have to wait for the fall of capitalism to make a change. You can make a significant difference in the pay gap by simply ASKING FOR WHAT YOU’RE WORTH!

Ask for more. (Not only from your clients/bosses/publishers, but also from your friends/lovers/coworkers/readers.)

Raise your rates.

Value your time.

Understand the worth of your experiences.


If you can’t charge more for yourself, do it for your fellow writers.

Over the years, I’ve watched my father till under perfectly good produce that wasn’t worth harvesting because the market was flooded with products people were selling at ridiculously reduced rates. In a panic of scarcity mentality, people dump their goods on the market, screwing everyone in the industry.

In the same way, I’ve seen writers give away their work, time, and knowledge for free or at severely reduced rates, scared that if they charge what they need and deserve they won’t have any clients.

Trust me, I know what it’s like to want to flood the market with cheap goods, to want some kind – any kind! – of money coming in. I’ve launched courses that no one signed up for, written books no one bought, and written pieces no one read.

I get that it’s tempting to think your price is the reason people aren’t buying, but just like farming there are dozens of factors that go into whether or not people will buy your product and at what cost.

Yes, at times you may need to reduce your rate, but the key is to do it intentionally and with your long-term plan in mind.

Here are some great ways to consciously offer your products for less:

  • Accept a speaking gig at a reduced rate because you know it will be great exposure to a new set of potential readers/clients.
  • Sell your book for $1 for a limited time to get publicity on it or raise your Amazon ranking.
  • Offer early-bird pricing to get people into your course when it starts.
  • Run a scholarship program that offers your work to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.
  • Create free courses or material to get people on your mailing list.

The key is intentionally reducing your price now to help you achieve your longer term goals. It’s not about panicking and lower your price. Reducing your price in a fit of worry that no one will pay what you need to make, that’s only going to hurt you and your fellow writers.

Focusing on long-term success not just short-term satisfaction.

My family has farmed in the Imperial Valley through the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Great Recession, a dozen presidents, hundreds of weather changes, and billions (maybe even trillions) of bug infestations. What kept my great-grandpa, grandpa, and dad going through all those years is thinking about the long-game. They weren’t just building something for themselves, they were creating something that continue for generations to come.

They created more than a company; they created a legacy.

Writing is the same for me. I want to build something that lasts, not just through my lifetime but into the lives of my nieces and nephews. My parents and grandparents fed the world’s bellies, I want to feed the world’s souls.

Whenever I make choices in my life and my business, I think about my one-year, five-year, and lifetime goals.

Not only does that help me stay on track to achieving larger goals, but it also helps me roll with the punches, understanding that not everything I try is going to be successful.

Sometimes, you have to till under a beautiful crop of onions because no one will buy it. Sometimes you’re going to write a book that no one reads. But as long as you’re practicing your craft, making connections, and adjusting as needed, you’ll find personal and professional success.


Create a long-term plan for creative and financial success with my free course Jumpstart Your Writing Career.

Enter your information to get my free 7-day course, plus exclusive content sent to your inbox every Wednesday.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.