I still have clients that pay 3 cents per word. I only keep working with them because the work is easy and I write fast enough that my hourly rate ends up being ok-ish.
You’re right, of course. It’s not enough money. But when a person first starts freelancing — especially if they come from a totally unrelated field like I did — you need something to build your portfolio. You need to start somewhere.
The trick is not to stay there.