When it comes to the question of how much freelance writers charge – or should charge – step back and consider a few things first.
Importantly—why do you want to get into freelance writing?
- To earn extra money on the side of your full-time gig.
- To earn a full-time income while being your own boss.
- For fun.
Placing yourself in one of these three buckets is the biggest determination of rates. Not experience. Not competition. Your rate is very closely tied to why you’re doing freelance writing in the first place (and thus, your lifestyle needs).
So, I’ll make this relatively easy.
If you’re writing for fun, charge a nickel per word, or $25 per 500 words, which is probably also $25/hour.
A nickel a word. Who would be happy with that? Anyone?
It’s an obvious answer, yes. If you’re writing for fun, charge close to nothing, like a nickel.
But if you’re trying to actually earn money, support your family, put money into savings, etc. – either on the side or as a full-time career – you need to hold higher standards. Even if you’re just getting started. It’s very possible to land freelance jobs online with zero experience.
So, again, is $.05/word worth your time?
If you’re writing on the side and trying to earn extra income, how many extra hours do you have at your disposal?
Even when I was single and the only people I had to worry about were me, myself, and I, I only had a few extra hours per week; perhaps 3-5 Monday through Friday, and then a chunk more depending on how weekends were shaping out.
Are you really comfortable filling what little free time you have with $25? And again, that’s just earnings, and not even considering costs, taxes, etc.
Then if you’re in the second bucket as someone looking to do this full time, there is no way $25/hour is sustainable. I’m not saying you can’t live off $25/hour; each of us have a different set of circumstances.
What I’m saying is, if you’re going to be a freelance writer full-time, you need to remember your days won’t be filled with 8 straight hours of work, 5 days a week.
Meaning, you might have a few jobs at one time, but there will definitely be times where you don’t have a job or something you’re working on. So, then that means, you’re not earning $25/hour for 8 hours, or $200 per day, but instead, maybe you have 4 hours of work per day, resulting in $100 in earnings.
So, how much should a freelancer charge?
My number one rule is, always put a premium on your time. Even if you’re a beginning freelancer, you can get jobs, and you can get paid—and get paid what your time is worth/what you need to sustain the life you choose.
Here is more on that, and a few more tips.
Tips on What to Charge as a Freelance Writer
Add a premium
Come up with the figure you’re comfortable earning, then, add a percentage to it.
For me, I am comfortable working for $125 an hour, but to cover costs that creep in, taxes, etc. I’ll typically bid/charge my $125 rate plus a 20% markup, or $150/hour total.
And don’t forget about Upwork fees if that is in fact the platform helping you connect with clients in need.
Charge a flat rate
Honestly, I prefer to work for a flat rate for a number of different reasons. I’ll get into it in more detail with another post, but for now, a lot of it comes down to psychology.
Frankly, as a freelancer, you’re entering into contracts with strangers. They don’t know you, and you don’t know them. Charging by the hour requires a level of trust that is often difficult to achieve as strangers.
Thus, you need to be diligent about tracking your time, and you essentially need to prove that yes, a job will in fact take two hours, with any extra time needed to be cleared and further justified. From the client’s perspective, they are going to place extra scrutiny on your tracking, and rightly so, as they need to make sure they’re paying for truthful clockage.
With a flat rate, though, you don’t have any of that. You and the client agree on a price and you go from there. The client is at ease because they now know for certain how much they’ll be paying in total, and you’re at ease because you can work as you want, and not have to worry about proving and justifying every step you take.
The client also knows they can ask for edits and revisions without being charged for additional work, leading to a better chance they’ll be satisfied with the end product when all is said and done. (You, of course, just have to set boundaries here to ensure you’re not being taken advantage of.)
Most importantly, flat rate projects encourage efficiency. If you know you’ll be earning $300 for a project, and you would normally charge $150/hour, you’re not going to want to spend more than a couple hours on said project, right? It’s simple math. Thus, you’re going to work as efficiently as possible to ensure you come in around two hours.
Not to mention that some gigs just lend themselves to the flat rate—want to be a writing coach for an entrepreneur? Or, working on a single-deliverable project like a resume? Flat rate is the way to go.
So, the question then becomes, what should you charge? Well, you can chunk it up a few different ways (as stated in the next section).
Find an Anchor
The rate you charge as a freelance writer doesn’t have to be pulled out of thin air.
We already talked about valuing your time, but, you can also “anchor” your rate in a number of different fashions.
What this means is, attaching your rate to the circumstances. Just like a retailer prices their products by supply and demand, product type, etc., you can price your services the same.
Classify by the project: Set a price for how much you want to charge for sponsored blog posts, press releases, emails, or any other of the many types of copywriting. If you know a press release will take you about an hour, you can price at $150, or add a bit of a premium for back and forth edits, etc. and say $175.
Go by your schedule: If you are chock full of jobs at the time another opportunity comes across, introduce a multiplier. Now, for this job to fill the last slot of your availability, it’s going to cost 1.5x your regular rate. Now, that $175 press release comes to about $260.
On the flipside, and this might be the case when it comes go blogging jobs for beginners, you might not have much on the docket. If that’s the case, it might make sense to relax your rates by a multiple. Maybe you’d be willing to do a press release at 75% of what you normally would, or, about $131.
A word of caution here, though. Avoid racing to the bottom. Meaning, the majority of other freelance writers out there are going to try and bid as low as possible, which essentially lumps everyone together in the same pool. If you can stick to your relatively higher rates, you might actually find this helps you stand out against the crowd, especially to a price insensitive client.
Play off the client’s budget: If you know the client’s approximate budget, you can tailor your rate accordingly. So, for example, if they’ve stated they’d like to keep their press release writing project under $100, your choices are a) walk b) adjust your offer c) keep your going rate. Better yet, if their stated budget is $300 or lower, guess what you can raise your normal $175 rate to?
Like many questions, the more you know, the more confused you actually might become. That’s why, above all else, go back to the opening question—what is your time worth to you?
Sure, if that causes you to be bidding too high for projects, it might lead to you not landing any jobs. But what is worse? Landing more jobs that pay a fraction of what you’d like to be earning or landing fewer jobs at your sweet spot rate or higher? You’ll easily find yourself burned out on the idea of freelance writing if you’re finding all of your free time being sucked up by $25 jobs.
As always, I’m here for questions and comments. What has worked for me might not work for you, and I get that. All I can do is speak from experience and what has worked for me in hopes that at least some of it can work for you as well.