There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding on your freelance writing rates. Some people take a client’s ability to pay into account, but that’s not the way that I would go about deciding how much I would charge for a freelance gig.

Unlike the sale of a physical commodity, setting prices for a service can take on several forms. When you go to the store to buy an Apple iPod, the price you pay is the price you pay. In exchange for your money, you get a portable music player. That’s simple enough. Now contrast this with personal injury lawyers, for example. They can set an hourly rate, to be sure, but many injury lawyers prefer to take a percentage of the final settlement instead.

Freelancers — whether they be writers, artists, coders, or whatever — are faced with a very similar situation and I feel that freelance writers should never charge by the hour. I don’t think that they should charge on a per word basis either. The best and easiest scenario is to charge by the article, based on a negotiated word count range. Let me tell you why.

Unnecessary Extra Work

The trouble with charging by the hour is that it is one extra element that the freelancer will need to track. This isn’t too difficult when you have only one client at a time, but it’s usually the case that freelancers are juggling multiple projects at the same time. It can be hard enough staying organized. You already have enough to handle in terms of getting the work done and ensuring you get paid; it’s not worth the extra headache to track your hours as well.

Selling Yourself Short

When you arrange for payment based on an hourly rate, there is no real incentive for you to be more efficient. Take my work with Mobile Magazine for instance. As you can imagine, it takes me less time to write a post on that site today than it did when I first started. If I were paid by the hour, I would essentially be selling myself short. By getting paid by the article, the client still gets what they want and I can get paid the same amount of money for working a shorter length of time. This rewards you for improving your efficiency.

By the same accord, it might take you a long time to write your first product review. After you’ve had a few under your belt, though, you’ll be busting out a killer review in a more expedient manner. From the client’s point of view, they’re paying you the same amount, but from your point of view, you’re making a much better hourly rate.

Client Piece of Mind

One of the reasons why you should hire a freelancer is that you are better able to control costs, right? By establishing a per-article rate, the client will know exactly how much it’s going to cost them to get what they want. There are no unexpected overages. If they are paying by the hour, they can estimate the cost, but they can never know for certain until the project is done.

Moreover, because the client can’t really see you working on their project, they just have to take your word for long you actually worked on it. You can imagine that there could be some disputes that arise out of this situation. They might think that they’re getting ripped off and getting overcharged. You can avoid this potentially sticky situation by setting a per-article rate instead.

Want an Hourly Wage? Get a Job!

From a freelancer’s point of view, I feel that the second point is of the most importance. One of the biggest reasons why people get into freelancing in the first place is that they are able to reap the rewards of their own hard work. When you charge by the hour, you are not being rewarded for working harder and the only way you’ll be able to increase your pay is to jack up the hourly rate. Getting paid on a per-article basis ensures that the client is just as happy paying the same amount as before, but you’re getting it done faster. Everyone wins.