RATES: They can be one of the biggest stressors we face as freelance writers.
Do you bid high and hope a client will take the bait, or do you keep it low, for fear of getting undercut by another candidate on the market?
Can you negotiate?
Should you charge hourly or by the word?
So many questions.
But one of the biggest questions I get from readers?
“What is the going freelance writing rate?”
So many freelance writers wonder about what to charge. Are they charging too much? Too little? What are other people charging anyway?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter!
There really are no true “going freelance writing rates.” The rate you should charge depends on many factors, and you can customize them for each and every project and client.
It sounds like a hassle, but it’s the best way to ensure that…
1) you land the job
2) you get paid enough for your services and talents.
So before you go setting a random hourly or per-word rate based on some quick Google search, take a few minutes to really analyze the job you’re bidding on. Look at each of these factors below, and follow the negotiating tactics listed at the bottom of this post. You’ll have it figured out in no time!
Factor #1: Your Financial Situation
The first thing you need to consider when creating your rates is your financial situation, because ultimately, that’s why you do this job – to get paid, right?
So the first step is to determine what you want to make… not just what you need to cover your bills and monthly expenses, but your real, true income goals.
Do you want to make six figures? I’ve said it time and time again that it’s possible. You just have to structure your rates and schedule your time in a way that fits those goals. You’ll have to charge a premium price and avoid bargain-basement rates that will significantly hinder your chance of reaching your desired income.
If you simply need to make enough money to get by right now (which I know happens from time to time!), then you’re in a different boat. You may want to accept a lower payment to make some quick cash. It all depends on you and your personal situation.
Factor #2: Your Work
There are two facets to this:
The first is… how much do you want to work?
Are you looking to work a full 40-hour week or more?
Or do you want a looser schedule, with maybe just 20 to 25 hours of work per week?
Once you determine how many hours you want to work per week, divide your total annual income goal by the number of work hours you have in a year. That result is what you have to make per hour to reach your goals. (For full details on this equation, see my recent post.)
The second facet of this is your actual work – the quality of your content, the experience you bring and your talents, skills and specialties.
If you’ve been doing this for years, you have a master’s degree in English and you specialize in a specific type of writing, you may be able to ask for $100 an hour or $.50+ cents a word with no problem. If you’re less experienced, you may want to hold back on asking for those sky-high rates until you have more time in the field.
However, if you think you don’t have enough experience but this is driven more by FEAR, you don’t want this to hinder you from charging clients what you are worth. If you have any concern or worry about your writing performance and you feel any bit of fear, you will want to read my report, “Freelance Writing Fear Smashers.” Learn how I overcame this fear and built confidence to become the well-paid freelance writer I am today.
Factor #3: The Client
This is a big factor you want to consider. Do your research and find out all you can about the client.
Are they a small business or corporation?
Does their website look professionally done or haphazard?
What are the price points on their products and services?
Basically, you want to get a feel for what they can pay.
Then, you want to get a feel for what the project entails – all the details that could make it longer, harder or more time-consuming for you. Get info on the deadline and turn-around time, find out where your research and information will come from (will you need to do interviews, etc.?), and ask about the editing and revisions process. Get clear on what’s required of you before you put a number on your services.
Finally, you can even ask the client flat-out: “What is your budget?”
Some will be tight-lipped and want you to cite a number first, but many – especially the more legit ones – will be happy to give you some guidance on what they’re looking for.
Be careful not to ask a client about their budget if a price is already listed in the job ad. If they contacted you directly or the ad is unclear, then it’s fine to ask – but only then!
Factor #4: The Job
Next, you’ll want to analyze the job or project.
How long will it take you?
Is it research-heavy or will it be easy and quick to crank out?
What is the deadline?
You need to know exactly how much effort it’s going to take to complete before you give any sort of number, or else you risk eating into your profits should the job take longer than expected.
If the job needs to be completed quickly, forcing you to push other work away, you may want to add on an upcharge for the rush work. The same goes for anything that requires extra research, interviews or long revisions processes. These will all eat into your time – time you should get paid for!
You should also consider this: Is it niche content or something any writer could produce?
If it’s content that’s specialized and fits only your and a few other niche writers’ skill sets, then you should definitely be charging a premium. This client may not find your services elsewhere, and they need your expertise. Be confident in that, and present a rate that’s commensurate with your knowledge.
Factor #5: Your Pitch
Finally, your pitch plays a major role in the rate you can command.
How well does it sell you, your services and your talents?
Does it present you as the single best person for the job, or could it easily be lumped in with the rest of the applications, with no discernible difference?
The more your pitch or query letter stands out from the pack, the better chance you have of getting the gig, and the more willing the client will be to pay for it. Take your time, get a second pair of eyes on it, and write and rewrite until it’s perfect. Remember, pitches and query letters are samples of your writing, too. They should be just as great as any paid content you produce!
Per Word, Per Project or Per Hour?
Once you’ve considered all these factors, it’s time to decide:
Should you charge per word, per project or per hour?
Essentially, you want to choose the option that will be most lucrative for you, but also one that will fit in with the client’s needs and budget (and not scare them away the second you quote them!)
So not only should you use your income goals and desired workable hours to determine your ideal rate, but you should also balance that rate with everything else you’ve learned about the client and the job.
Could they afford to pay that rate?
Would the rate look “more affordable” if presented as flat, per-project rate, or would it seem more budget-friendly in hourly or per-word form?
You generally don’t want to stray from your ideal rate too much, unless you’re really hurting for cash. The only other exception would be if the job is a particularly good one – one that would look great on your resume, give you awesome clips or help you get more, higher-paying jobs in the future. Sometimes, with these gigs, it’s worth lowering your rate for the short term in exchange for some great long-term benefits.
Presenting Your Rates
Once you determine your rate, present them to the client.
If you’re worried a too-high rate might scare the client away, you may try presenting your price as a range instead. So you could say something like this, “a job of this scope would cost between XX and XX to complete.” That way they’re prepared for the higher number, but they know it’s still possible it could come in lower than that.
If you really want the job but you aren’t sure they’ll bite on your price, you could ask them for feedback on the quote. Some writers even include a note like “If you consider another vendor purely because of price, please let me know. I’d appreciate the chance to re-evaluate my bid before you move forward.” Now that doesn’t mean you will lower your price should they find someone cheaper, but it does give you the chance to consider it before they throw the job elsewhere.
Also, frame your rates as an industry standard by saying something like “The market rate for this kind of work is XX,” so instead of it sounding like you pulled the number out of the blue, you’re showing the client that you charge what’s expected of an industry professional. This 1) shows them they’re getting a great candidate who knows his or her marketplace and 2) tells them they’re probably not going to find similar talent elsewhere for anything lower. It’s a win-win.
Negotiating Your Rates
Sometimes, even after making these careful considerations, you may still have a client on the fence – interested in your skills, but unsure if you’re worth the rate. Here are some tips for nailing the job without changing your rate too much.
- Find out what the project would cost in-house. Taking into account salary, benefits, desk space, electricity and more, what would doing the job in-house cost your client? Most likely it’d be significantly more than what you’d charge. Do some research and bring this to their attention if they’re wavering.
- Bring up past similar work. Have you done similar projects in the past? What were the results of those? Did they improve sales? Bring in new customers? Boost their web traffic? Show that evidence to your potential client, and let them see the true benefits hiring you could produce.
- Incentivize. Give them one more reason to hire you. Maybe you can offer a quicker turn-around than originally planned, or include a free content analysis for their website. Make it worth their while.
- Show them the difference. Show them what the differences are in your work vs. the work of a lower-paid writer. Point to articles you write, versus less-professional content you have seen on the web. Outline how those differences can matter to their company, their customers and their bottom line.
Remember, you can also prepare for negotiation when setting your rates; simply add another 10 percent onto your price, so there’s wiggle room. If the client starts negotiating, you still have plenty of space to drop your rate before dipping into the profit margin.
Don’t spend too much time negotiating though, as this cuts into your overall profits, too. If they’re going back and forth over and over, it may be best to cut ties and find a client more willing to pay for your services and your time.
The Going Freelance Writing Rates
Now that you know how to customize your pricing, it’s time to forget those going freelance writing rates and focus on what matters: Getting the money you deserve for the time and effort you put in.
Do you have other tips for negotiating your rate or determining what to charge a client? Please share it in the comments.