I tend to keep the lines of communication open for contract technical writing jobs, because one never knows when you’ll want more work. (And even if I don’t want something, I can forward it to friends who are looking for work and help them out.)
Only rarely do job listings give a pay rate, so if I see something I like, the first question I always ask recruiters is “How much does it pay?” This question gets a surprised response about 2/3 of the time and usually some shuffling around. The usual response is “How much do you want?” to which I say “I know what my rates tend to be, but I don’t have enough information to make a determination about what they’re asking me to do on the job based on the job description you sent me. But I would like to find out what the job’s budget is so that I can find out if it’s worth my time to apply. It’ll be in both our interests to not waste our time by having me apply for a job that’s going to lowball me.”
And at that point, they’ll usually come across with the hourly rate or something a lot like it. (Unless it’s some pump-and-dump Indian recruiting firm.) Enough for me to make an informed decision, anyway.
If they’re still being coy or pretending to be shocked (Gods know why at this point), I then say “I’m not in this business for my health. I’m in this business to make as much money as I can. So I’d like to find out what this is going to pay to see if it’s worth my time.” If they’re still dancing around about money, I tend to write ’em off at that point.
Always remember: We are in this business to make money as a rule. We’re selling our skills. We are not doing this for the honor of contributing to some company’s bottom line at the expense of our own. We are making money and, by extension, we are making as much money as we reasonably can. Stuff we do for free is something else entirely.