How to Determine Your Rate as a Freelance WriterMay 9th, 2007 by Michael Kwan
Freelance writing rates are a tricky business. Unlike many other professions, there aren’t any real guidelines for how much a freelance writer should charge for their work. There is no governing body or anything of that sort, so when you’re first starting out as a freelancer, it can be one terribly confusing experience to decide how much you’re worth. After all, because you are essentially self-employed, it’s up to you to determine how much money you want to make.
One issue that most writers face, especially in the beginning, is the fear of not finding any work. I know that it was a challenge for me to get my first gig, because no one knew who I was or what I was capable of. As such, it can be very tempting to accept the first offer you are presented, even if it is well below how much you were hoping to make as a freelance writer. You update your own blog for free, making pennies from Adsense, so if someone offers you a buck or two to write a SEO article for them, it sounds like a good start, right?
Sadly, I fell into this trap when I was first trying to establish myself as a freelance writer. It was a one-time deal and I walked away from that arrangement with no trouble whatsoever. Thankfully, I make more than a couple bucks per post these days.
But how, exactly, is a freelance writer supposed to determine how much they should charge? Freelance writing rates vary considerably based on how much experience the writer has, what level of specific expertise he/she has, and how much background research is required. For this reason, a 500 word article can fetch anywhere from $5 to $5000.
Think of it this way. If the task is to write a SEO article stuffed with keywords and the actual content, spelling, and grammar aren’t all that important, the person hiring the freelance writer will just go with the lowest bidder. By contrast, a highly technical report that requires specific knowledge, terminology, and expertise can cost a lot more, especially if it requires extensive research. For this reason, basing your freelance rate on word count alone is not sufficient.
Most freelance writers, myself included, charge people based on the project and not through an hourly rate. This works in the favor of both the freelancer and the client, because the client knows he/she is not getting ripped off (“Oh, I need an extra 20 hours to finish this”) and the freelancer is motivated to finish the project quickly so that they can move on to the next one. But that’s not to say that an hourly rate is completely irrelevant.
Quite the contrary. I base my freelance writing rates on how much I want to make per year, per month, and — as a result — per hour. Bear in mind, though, that not all hours worked as a freelancer are “billable”, because there is time spent soliciting clients, advertising your business, preparing invoices, completing administrative tasks, and so on. In a standard eight-hour work day, you might only spend four or five actually writing, using the rest of the time doing other things. It takes some time (no pun intended) to determine how many billable hours you can squeeze into a work week, so you’ve got to play it by ear. You’ve also got to realize that super steady business is unlikely as a freelancer, so you will have to withstand the ups and downs.
There are no hard and fast rules to determine the appropriate freelance writing rates for you. While I don’t encourage you to be greedy, you must also not sell yourself short. As a professional, you should be charging professional rates and not the same hourly wage as the guy flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Speaking for myself, I charge about $30 per billable hour. This will likely increase as I gain more experience and more exposure, but that’s where I sit now. You CAN make a living as a freelance writer, but you have to stay motivated, stay on track, and stick to your guns.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Filed under Freelance Writing.