How to Figure Out Your Freelance Writing Rates
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer it’s tough to decide how much to charge your clients. There’s always that fear of losing clients because you charge too much, or losing out on money because you didn’t charge enough.
The tough part is, everyone’s “enough” is different.
So how do you know what to charge without scaring away potential clients and still put enough money in your pocket?
There is no right or wrong answer.
Ha! I know you’ve heard that before. But that’s not what I’m going to tell you here. Well, it’s kind of true, but there’s a way around that broad, bland statement.
Most freelancers go by the easy way to calculate things: per word or per hour.
This can work, but only if you know what you’re up against, your writing style and what you’ll end up with in the end.
Let’s clarify that.
If you have ever seen the rates paid at a content mill, you know there are LOTS of writers out there working for $0.05/word and are happy to get it.
GET OUT OF THAT MINDSET!
That is NOT a professional wage and you WILL burn yourself out trying to make this a viable career.
Let’s look at how much you’ll earn if you go that route:
Say you’ve decided you’re ready to take on a client. You let them know your rate is $0.05/word and they agree to those terms.
They tell you they need a blog post about their new fitness business. The post should include a few of their keywords, have an interesting title, talk about the new protein shakes they offer and be around 1200 words long.
And you’re off! You do a little research on their business to see what they’re all about, what kind of content they already have and what style of voice they use. That takes you 30 minutes.
You also look around at their top competitors so you know what you’re up against. You want to knock this one out of the park because if you impress this client, you know they’ll hire you again. That takes another 30 minutes.
You do some keyword research and come up with some great phrases that’ll help them rank better. You also take some time to learn about the new protein shakes they offer. You’re now at about 2 hours.
After this research is done, you create an outline for the blog post. Now you can go back and fill in the content according to the main points you want to hit. The outline is the hardest part because you have to think about everything that needs to be included in the post and it’s got to be interesting. The outline takes another hour by itself. You’re at 3 hours.
When you begin writing the content for the post, you have to go back and research a few things to make sure you’re getting it right. Once you’ve finished the last sentence and re-read the entire thing for errors, you’re a full 5 and a half hours in.
Now for the headline. It’s got to be catchy, enticing and include a key phrase. You make a list of about 15 possibilities and finally narrow them down. Then you change it a few more times. Done. You’re at 6 and a half hours.
You send the post to your client and bill them for $60.
You just traded a whole day of work for $60.
You may be excited because you’re now a paid writer.
Don’t settle for this. You are a professional and don’t work for content mill rates.
But what if you get it done much faster? What if fitness is your niche and you don’t need much research at all? You can bang this out in an hour or two, tops. That’s about $30/hour, right?
So what if you can do it faster?
If you don’t need to research and this is your niche, you are considered an expert and should be paid accordingly.
You should not be penalized for being an expert!
This scenario works the same way if you’re charging them per hour. So you’re a fast writer, that doesn’t mean you should make less. And what if you’re a slow writer? You may have clients complain about paying you for 15 hours for one blog post.
What about this situation:
You’re hired to write an email. Or you’re hired to write product descriptions. Maybe the client wants you to write a few social media posts for them.
None of these will take very long. So should you charge for 1 hour and leave it at that?
No. Because if you can write good sales copy, you are essentially making money for that client by helping sell their products. Your writing is worth more than the basic per word or per hour rate. It’s also about skill.
Hourly rates are fine for some services, but not for writing. I don’t care if you’re brand new or you’ve been writing for decades, hourly rates won’t work.
Per word and per hour are a no-win situation for freelance writers.
So how would you take this situation and charge a better rate?
You don’t have to guess at it.
I suggest calculating your price with an hourly rate.
But DON’T disclose this to your clients.
I know I know, I just said don’t use an hourly rate. And I meant it. But you can use it as a base for your own personal use when coming up with your rates.
Do it like this:
Figure out about how long it’ll take you to write a blog post. Include time for research, even if you’re an expert. Include time to edit. If you know a big blog post will take you 4 hours to complete, think about what you want to earn for that time. Think about paying taxes at the end of the year.
Say you come up with $50/hour. You do not tell the client your hourly rate is $50/hour. Tell them your rate for that project is $200. Clients may ask for your hourly rate, but don’t give it to them.
You know why? Because they don’t really care.
What they care about is how much this is going to cost them in total.
They ask for your hourly rate or your per word rate so they can compare it to the other writers who have guessed and given them an hourly or per word rate.
All the client is worried about is getting good content and a price they can afford.
If you tell them your hourly rate is $50 and another writer tells them their rate is $25/hour, they will hire the other guy. But what if that other writer is much slower than you are, pads their time and ends up billing the client the same or more than you would have, and you’re the better writer?
Yeah, it can get tricky.
Avoid all of that nonsense and charge per project.
You ask for details about a project so you’ll know what you’re getting into. Ask for the basics like what type of content is needed (blog post, landing pages, etc.), what the niche is (if you don’t already know) and what the client expects from this piece (more traffic, sales, etc.).
From there you can give a price for the whole project. Clients love this method because they know how much to pay you from the start. They don’t need to fear paying for 25 hours for one blog post because you’re slow. You don’t have to feel undervalued because you wrote it all in 2 hours.
If they insist on knowing your hourly or per word rate, explain this to them so they’ll know it’s better for you both to charge one flat fee. Let them know that unless they totally change the goal of the project once you get started, they will not be charged any more than the flat fee you’ve quoted them. They will also get quality work because you aren’t trying to rush through it.
This is a win-win for both of you.
There are other things to think about here too. Some writers will start at a lower rate just to get a good client. So you land that client you’re wanting to work with and give them a discounted rate. What happens when they hire you for more work? What if they are a long-term client and you’re still working with them 2 years down the road? Are you still giving them low rates?
No. The answer is no.
Now it is okay to charge newbie rates if you’re a newbie. I’m not talking about Fiverr or content mill rates, but a rate that doesn’t cause you heart failure to say out loud and seems like it fits the project is good.
But once you are paid for this, you charge a little more for your next project. And then a little more for the next one.
No one said you must charge newbie rates for a certain time period.
Once you’ve got a few good pieces under your belt, you aren’t a newbie. You’ve got several good, solid samples to show other clients.
Congrats! You’ve moved up. Charge accordingly.
So what are going rates for certain projects?
There really is no answer that fits across the board. Sorry ☹
It’s just a fact that some niches have higher paid writers than others. That’s life. The finance industry can afford to pay higher rates than the WAHM industry. There’s nothing wrong with writing for either one, but just go into it knowing you can’t compare a writer’s rates from one to the other.
Look around at other writer’s sites in your own niche to get an idea of what they are charging. Just remember, there is no standard so you don’t have to charge those rates. But seeing actual numbers can help you get an idea of what your niche industry is willing to pay.
This leads us to another area of rates:
Should You Post Your Rates On Your Website?
Again, I’ll laugh and say there is no right or wrong answer here.
Some experienced freelance writers have their rates posted. Some don’t.
If you do post your rates, potential clients will know exactly what to expect from you. They may choose you over another writer based on your rates. Or they may choose another writer instead, because of your rates.
But if you don’t post your rates, potential clients will eventually see them anyway and may choose you or another writer.
The argument for not posting your rates publicly is it gives you a chance to show your value to potential customers before they see your rates. You can give yourself a little build up. But really, you should do that on your site by way of your home page, your about page and you should have samples posted.
It basically comes down to what you prefer.
I personally don’t post my rates on my automotive site. The only reason I don’t is because I have many different types of clients, from single-owner small businesses to huge international corporations. Yeah, you should have the same rates across the board, but I may charge different prices on particular pieces based on many factors.
You can do this up front or change it when you’re more experienced. It’s up to you, because you’re the boss, momma.
Another thing – don’t stress over lost clients.
So your rates are too high for a potential client. Sorry, not a good fit, let’s all move along.
You aren’t going to please every potential client. Don’t try to.
A secret I’ve learned over the last decade is lower paying clients are almost always the hardest to work with. A company with a marketing department can pay your higher rates. They already know the value of a freelance writer. They aren’t going to choke on their coffee when you tell them your price for website copy. If they don’t like your price, they will tell you it’s not a good fit and they won’t waste time worrying about it.
A client looking for low prices is almost always the most difficult, hard to please person on the planet. Don’t ask me why this is, but it’s a fact based on hundreds of clients over the years.
If you have any questions about freelance writing rates, what you should charge or need help with anything else, drop me an email. I’m here to help you.
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