Have you wondered how much you should charge for your freelance writing rates in 2019?
If you’re like most new writers, this is one of the most commonly asked questions. You’re trying to understand if you should charge by the hour, the project or by the word.
Does that sound familiar?
I know when I started at the end of 2017 and early 2018, I had no clue what to charge. I was scared if I charged too much, no one would give me a shot.
And I worried if I charged too little, I would write an endless amount of content for slave labor wages. If you’re experiencing this dilemma in your freelance writing business, I’ll show you how to price yourself in this post.
My goal is to help you ditch the term “broke writer” and become a wealthy writer. You can make a full-time income as a freelance writer but pricing yourself correctly is a vital part of your success. Keep reading to learn the most important factors to accurately pricing yourself.
Freelance Writing Rates: How to Calculate Your Projects
When I first started in my online writer journey, I took any job I could get. If you know my story, I was a struggling blogger who had already quit my 9-5. I needed money fast if I was going to keep my entrepreneurship goals alive.
I still remember my first paying gig, it was the coolest $80 I had ever made. Someone paid me to write about golf (which now represents 20-30% of my monthly income).
While I drastically undercharged at the time, it gave me a boost of confidence and momentum. Instead of operating from scarcity as I did, I highly suggest you set your rate before applying for any gig.
Think about it like this…If you work at a 9 to 5 job, you have an hourly rate, don’t you?
Whether it’s per hour or you earn a salary, you have some way to value your work and your time. You need that same kind of stability as a freelance writer as well.
This is one of the biggest mistakes as a freelance writer that I made in the beginning. So many freelance writers think they aren’t “experienced enough” and let customers pay them scraps. Don’t fall into this trap!
I will say that in the beginning, you might have to work for a smaller amount as you don’t have much experience. Sometimes you need to gain experience and get some sample pieces under your belt.
Establishing Your Rate
Now that you have the right mindset, let’s talk about your establishing your rate as there are a lot of factors involved.
Establish a Minimum Viable Amount
Wouldn’t it be cool to make .50 cents or even $1 per word? Some experienced writers can demand those types of rates but it won’t happen overnight.
You should have a minimum before reaching out to any projects. Maybe you don’t work for less than .10 cents per word, $200 a blog or $500 per project. Whatever it is, keep it in mind when you’re creating your rate.
Should You Take a Lower Rate?
This is bound to happen as it’s happened to me and I’m sure it will continue to happen at some level. Whatever rates you establish, there will probably come a time where you ask yourself if you should take on a client who pays below your minimum.
Maybe you really want the backlink for your writer’s website or you want the byline. Maybe you just need the extra cash and your other work is drying up. Or maybe you’re just getting started and want to build some momentum.
Flexibility and resourcefulness are crucial if you want to earn a high income as a writer. Sometimes that means bending your own rules to get what you want.
Remember, you have to do what works best for you. For me, sometimes that means taking on clients that pay less than I would like because I see a benefit to my own bottom line.
Here are some questions I ask myself when thinking about acquiring a lower-paying client.
Will It Look Good On Your Byline?
The bigger and more platforms you’ve been published on, the more clout you have as a writer. The more clout means more money you can charge in the future.
Bylines give you credibility and help establish your authority as a freelance writer. Don’t get me wrong, with both this question and the one above, there are limits.
And a lot of big publications don’t even pay you! While the sites and models are always changing, don’t be shocked if you get an offer in the future with little or no pay at all. But even one article on Forbes, Fortune or Business Insider can make a huge difference in your career.
How Low Is The Rate?
I remember Lifehack inquired about me being an author for them. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the site or how this entire freelancing process worked. So I said yes…even when they said it was an “unpaid” gig.
That article took forever to write. It was a 3,000-word blog post with a laundry list of requirements.
In fact, looking back I’ve never had more requirements for one project in my entire career. And I did all this for free!
One article wasn’t awful (as I had little to do at the time), they wanted me to keep writing on a regular basis. I said no thanks and went my separate way. I learned from the experience, got the byline, and a sample for my portfolio.
What Do They Pay Other Writers?
Negotiating is a must if you want to increase your earning potential in the long run. Luckily you can use, WhoPaysWriters.com to help you research how much the client is willing to pay writers. This research can help you negotiate a rate that’s at least closer to your standard, even if it is a slight pay cut.
Do You Feel Good About It?
Finally, what other skills or benefits can you learn from this opportunity? I’ve taken on lower-paying gigs just because the topic was interesting and I wanted to learn more about it. Similarly, I’ve taken on several golf gigs because I love golf and it doesn’t feel like work.
Granted, I wouldn’t do this work for free, and these clients still paid good, but what pushed me to give in was knowing I’d have fun writing the topic! And you never know, you can always ask for a raise in the future.
Lastly, think about long-term potential. I’ve worked with several clients because they are successful entrepreneurs and people I admire. That has led to referrals from their network as well.
Freelance Writing Rates: 7 Pricing Models
I’m sure you’re still thinking…how much should you charge for freelance writing as a beginner?
There’s no one clear-cut method when it comes to creating your services but here are seven popular strategies.
If you’d rather watch the Youtube video, click here.
Here are the seven most popular ways to price your services, regardless of if you’re a beginner or an advanced writer. Please note these aren’t copywriting rates but more for content writing.
1. Hour Rate
The first way to establish your freelance rates is to charge by the hour. Personally, I hate this method. I got out of a 9-5 to never think about my time as hourly and never even considered this rate in my business.
When I worked in the corporate world, I never understood why I made the same amount as someone who took more time to do the same work I did. The same goes for my writing, I’ve had clients try to pitch hourly and I said hell no.
You should get paid for your value, not how long it takes to write epic content.
The main problem with hourly rates is that you make less and less money. You can’t scale your time as time is finite. Plus, as you get more advanced as a writer, it will take you way less time to create articles than in the beginning.
Seriously, content that used to take me hours now takes a fraction of the time. When getting charged by the hour, you get penalized for being more skilled and completing jobs twice as fast as inexperienced writers.
Doesn’t seem right, does it?
Another big (and fair) argument against per hour rates is that they limit your income potential by tying your income to your time. This makes it hard to step away from your computer but also a hard way to stay sane!
Lastly, the time spent on a project is a poor measure of the value of your output.
For example, imagine you charge $100/hour and it takes you three hours to write a sales piece, for a total of $300. That sales piece goes on to generate $30,000 in sales for your client. The $300 price tag, in that case, is far too low and it is not reflective of the value your work delivered.
On the flipside, hourly rates are an okay option if the project isn’t clear from the beginning. And trust me, some editors and entrepreneurs aren’t always sure what they want from the start. Your client will normally want some sort of figure so they can make sure they aren’t writing a blank check.
Charging By the Hour Tip
Don’t make the mistake of basing your hourly rate on your past salary as an in-house employee. In my case, I was making over $100,000 in my career but had zero formal writing experience. In the beginning, it wouldn’t have made sense to price my writing services that high.
On the other hand, you’ll become a starving writer if you’re not careful with pricing. Remember, as a freelancer you are responsible for your own insurance (if full-time) and taxes, therefore, you’ll need to charge more as well.
2. Per Word
Charging per word is also a very popular pricing model for content writing. It’s most common in journalism or creative writing side, but not always in business writing.
If you’re a content writer who will produce X number of blog posts per week or per month, this is a common pricing model. I actually prefer this method over per hour as I don’t have to document my time.
Getting Over the Fear of Charing More
The better and more in demand you become as a writer, the more you can raise your rates. Another huge mistake I made when I started freelance writing was taking the same low price after I wasn’t a beginner anymore. I had a scarcity mentality that I wasn’t good enough to warrant more.
But let me tell you, that’s BS. If you’re a hard-working, talented writer who works well with editors, you can make great money. I finally learned this lesson from my mentor (and #1 writer on Medium), Benjamin Hardy.
He recommends me pitching new clients and asking for double my normal rate. While it made me uncomfortable, I got past limiting beliefs and did it.
And guess what? I landed my biggest client at the time.
As he said, there is no downside to charging more money. You either get the job or you don’t.
If you get it, you will level up to deliver on your price. If you don’t get it, you find more clients to pitch.
Personally, once I got the new, high-paying job I started to level up my writing. I finally felt like I was good enough and began attracting more high-paying clients at my new rate.
I teach an entire lesson about raising your price in my freelance writing course.
3. Fixed or Flat Rate Fee
With a flat or fixed fee approach, clients pay for the work you deliver, not how long it takes you to complete it. I’m also a big fan of this type of freelance writing rate as you’re not paid on time but instead performance and meeting deadlines. Whether you get it done in 1 or 10 hours, the project price (and its value to the client) remain the same.
This model enables you to charge premium pricing because it changes the conversation from hours to overall value. Value-based pricing usually does require a deeper conversation with a prospect upfront so that you can discern the project’s value to their business and frame your conversation around that. The extra effort enables higher prices.
4. Monthly Retainer
Another great option is a monthly retainer. It’s one of my favorite models as you are able to predict income and plan your schedule in advance. Retainer agreements commit you and a client to recurring work, typically at X dollars for X deliverables or hours per month.
Plus, it’s a win-win relationship between you and the client. It’s a win for clients because they have a trusted writer who knows their business, messaging and audience well. Like hiring new employees in the corporate world, hiring new freelancers is a pain for most companies. They have to train, learn communication styles, editing, etc.
And that relationship and familiarity enable faster project turnaround and higher-quality writing, for less than they’d spend hiring out individual projects. It’s a win for you because you have a guaranteed income and steady workload for several months, or at least for the foreseeable future.
I’d recommend suggesting a retainer agreement as a savings opportunity for the client when you sense he/she has a recurring need for content. Repeat customers are great candidates for this model.
5. Consulting Package
The fifth pricing option is a consulting package model. If you have more to offer than just word wizardry, make sure you adjust your rates accordingly Maybe you know Pinterest, SEO or Facebook ads to help your clients grow their business.
You decide upfront what the gig will entail — its scope, processes, and output. You then package those elements into a product, give it a name, a price, and you’ve got a productized service.
This is a great way to scale your income and make way more money than just endless amounts of content.
6. Tiered Pricing Model
Another model I haven’t tried yet is a tiered pricing model. The reason I haven’t tried it is because I’m working on scaling my blog and podcast so I only have so much time for freelancing. But tiered rates are a simple but powerful way to boost your income and sales conversions without much effort on your part.
I recommend naming them Basic, Standard, and Premium on your writer website. Each relates to a different service level and deliverables.
The Tiered Pricing Model
When prospects ask you for a quote, give them three options to choose from. This marketing hack would look something like this:
- Basic package: This is a minimum (low-end) rate (i.e. doesn’t include keyword research, images or internal and external linking)
- Standard package: This is a middle-tier package that is where you’ll primarily operate from in the future. (i.e. does images and linking but not keyword research)
- Premium: This is a high-end rate that usually includes everything from the bottom two and additional revisions.
The basic option might require the client to do some of the work upfront. You can limit research and the number of revisions.
The premium option might include moderate to deep keyword research, in-person or phone interviews and extras. I got this professional Fiverr pricing sheet for $20. It didn’t cost much and it looks super professional.
The Mindset Shift
The coolest part about this pricing model is the shift that happens when prospects are staring at three rate options: The conversation in their minds moves from “Should I hire this writer?” to “Which service level will I buy?”
Human nature for most people is to avoid the super cheap one and the most expensive one. Sometimes you’ll meet a prospect who wants everything and won’t worry about money as much as others.
Give tiered rates a try next time someone asks what are your pricing model. You’ll be shocked by how many prospects choose a more expensive option when you make it available. This is an easy marketing strategy I highly suggest you try out.
7. Daily Rate
This rate isn’t as common as the other six and more commonly found in Europe. Similar to hourly pricing, day rates cover all work completed within a 24-hour time period. This is more often found in consulting than it is with freelance writing.
One plus is that daily rates do offer more flexibility than the hourly model since you don’t have to track every hour. Beyond that, the same rationale discussed above for hourly rates apply here as well. Unless someone is paying me a $1,000+ for 8 hours, I don’t think it’s worth the cost or hassle.
FAQs About Your Freelance Rates
Do freelance writers get paid?
For some reason, people still don’t believe that people can make money writing words online. Even though I’ve been doing this for years, even friends and family act surprised when I tell them how much I make as a freelance writer.
So the answer is yes, freelance writers don’t work for free! In the beginning, you might have to take a lower rate while you’re building yourself up but it won’t last forever.
I was able to 10X my income in 12 months ($650 to $6,500) working part-time. Plus, I’ve made $20,000 in one single month as a freelance writer.
How much to charge for a 500-word article?
While this is a common question, it’s not a one size fits all. A lot of factors come into play including your niche, skill level, experience, market, types of clients, types of projects, and so on. If you have advanced skills and some writing experience, it will be a significantly higher rate than a college student.
The lower your rates, the more you’ll deal with prospects trying to haggle. They’ll likely be high-maintenance too because low rates tend to attract cheap customers who don’t value your time or services.
How much should you charge for a 1,000-word article?
You can opt to double your prices or charge more for the 500 if you need to do a lot of research.
Also, here’s a freelance rate calculator to help you find the right prices as well.
Should I really do custom packages?
Yes, you should get into creating and marketing custom, full-service packages. Custom packages are something I think every writer should offer.
While it’s more work for upfront to create the packages, it’s usually well worth your time. You can often charge more per project and better forecast your monthly income.
Should I advertise my rates online?
This is a great question and one I struggled with at the beginning. Here’s what I would do, instead of posting your exact rate or prices, give a range for your custom packages.
A benefit of doing so is that a price range doesn’t lock you into a single number, and it automatically disqualifies prospects who want something cheap and can’t afford you. You want to have enough information on your freelance writing portfolio to educate your client but not too much to where they don’t need to contact you as well.
Remember, no two freelance writing jobs are going to be the same requirements. Some are going to take a lot of work, while others are going to feel simple to write.
Not to mention, no two clients are the same as well. Some clients are going to approve everything and some are going to have a lot of editing requests.
Which rate model do you personally, use?
I use a mix of retainer and per-word rates. Every time I write a blog post, the client and I have already negotiated the rate ahead of time.
Today, a majority of my freelance income comes from per word clients. Again, these are my preferences but make sure you find what works best for you. You may decide a different model works best for you.
What about freelane writer rates in the UK?
As I’m based in the USA, I haven’t quite learned a copywriter salary UK or freelance writing rates UK yet. If I interview someone on my podcast, I will be sure to update this.
Charging Your Worth Summary
Hopefully, this article will give you some clarity on creating the freelance writing rates for your income goals. Ultimately, there are a number of factors as everyone has a different niche, business, and experience.
I suggest skipping hourly rates and get paid for blog posts per word. But my biggest piece of advice is to charge your worth.
I see so many freelance writers who are operating from a scarcity mindset and barely paying the bills. Remember, if a client doesn’t value you someone else will.
Don’t forget, you have skills unlike anyone else in the world, never forget that!
Finally, choose one or two ideas I’ve covered above and try them out. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t wait to have it all figured out before you move forward.
When it comes to freelance writing, continuous experimentation and learning what works for you are vital ingredients for success.
Lastly, I challenge you to increase your rates. Once I doubled my rates, I’ve never gone back down. Not only have I generated more revenue more without any more work, but my writing skills have also greatly improved as well.
You are worth it!
Want more info about making money as a writer? Check out my ultimate guide to freelance writing here.
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