How To Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates

by Anne Wayman

moneywritingIf you’re like most of us, when you first started freelancing you were delighted with any paycheck at all, no matter how small. The prospect of doing a search engine optimized article (SEO) for $5 or less, the notion of getting $20 or less from your local weekly newspaper thrilled you beyond measure simply because you knew earning anything at all meant you’d become a professional writer.

It didn’t take long, I’ll bet, before those ¬†tiny amounts of pay no longer cut it at all. Now you’re trying to figure out how to earn more money, maybe even a decent living, from your freelance writing. Since you’re freelancing part of what you need to know is how to set your fees.

Here are some additional things you need to do in order to get paid more:

Consider if the kind of writing you’re doing will allow for more pay

Be honest with yourself and with a close look at the market. If you’re writing nothing but SEO articles you might be able to push it to .05 or .10 a word, but the nature of that kind of writing is quantity is what’s required, quality is only nice to have. ¬†Look over the articles you liked writing the most and start sending queries to magazines that pay at least .25 a word, and maybe $1 or more a word.


If you’ve been writing for a weekly newspaper, contact the daily newspaper in your area and ask if they need freelancers or stringers. With the downsizing of journalism staffs this is becoming a real possibility.

Check Writers Market . They have a section on how much writers and editors are paid for various sorts of work. This time, however, look over the list with the goal of finding higher paid specialties you can do and start working in those areas.

It’s usually much easier to find new clients and charge them more than to raise the rates on existing clients.

It’s often a matter of opening up your thinking. SEO writers can certainly get paid more for trade magazines and maybe even the higher paid consumer publications.

Or maybe you want to explore corporate writing. (The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds A Second Helping Of “How-To” For Any Writer Dreaming of Great Bucks and Exceptional Quality of Life is the place to start learning about corporate writing of all sorts) Or copy writing. Dare to explore

Poorly paid book reviewers can begin to solicit higher paying book review sites and are likely to get at least a trial because they’ve got some credits.


If you’ve been ghostwriting books, keep doing what you’re doing, but the next time a potential client calls, up your rate by $5,000 and see what happens. If you’re bidding for jobs, decide now that at least 25% of your bids are going to be 25% higher, AND that you’re going to bid on jobs you know will pay more even if you don’t have credits exactly in that area.

See what I mean?

About Existing Clients

Look over your client list. Consider carefully what you know about them. Chances are at least a few are at least capable of paying you more. Set those aside for the moment. Contact them and tell them in the next thirty or sixty days you’re raising your rates by 10 or 15 percent. You will probably be delightfully surprised to find at least a couple of them will agree.

Do the same with clients you know are not likely to pay more. Be willing to be surprised. Most, even all of them may say no. If they do, thank them and sever relationships. You can always find clients willing to pay that little, but right now you need to create some space for better paying clients.

Okay, maybe you can’t afford to have any clients quit you right now. If that’s the case, you’d better start saving and expanding your client base so you can begin to expand your income.

You don’t have to settle for poorly paid writing work if you have any writing skill at all. It’s a matter of attitude, and willingness to ask for more that are the real secrets of increasing your freelance writing income.

Have you managed to raise your rates? Tell us about it.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark December 27, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Anne,

I hope your holiday was a pleasant one.

As you know, I have been an avid subscriber for a while now. This series of articles is very interesting–and important.

I simultaneously laugh in amusement and scowl in annoyance at the content mills, as well as the many online businesses, who insist on paying a paltry sum situated around the $1.00/100 standard or even less. How can anyone live on that?

Just a couple of questions: How can you get business by charging per hour when many of these entities insist on paying such dismal rates as two or three cents per word? My expenses, insurance, taxes, savings, vacations and retirement mean absolutely NOTHING to them. How did you break away from these cheapskate losers? I don’t work for content mills, and I stay as far away from them as possible, but even many independent prospects hold similar attitudes.

By the way, after four years of freelancing, and several years of tutoring and translating, I am starting to expand my online persona: I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, and have two blogs so far. I will be starting on my personal site next. Slow, perhaps, but I always thought one needs money to set up a professional site, and that’s difficult to do when one has no money (or minimal amounts of money) in the first place (my personal life is a long story, sorry). A friend recently told me about free hosting. This doesn’t provide one with a personal domain, but it is a start.

Thanks again, Anne.

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annew December 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Hi Mark, the short answer is you either find other markets or you write a different kind of article – that pays more. We have had some readers living overseas that found low rates acceptable, and also a smaller number who were using them to supplement a partner’s income.

If you stay away from content mills maybe you’d like to do a guest post on where / how you find clients?

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Mark December 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Hello Anne,

Thank you for responding.

Yes, these options are, of course, obvious. I wasn’t referring to me; instead, I was making a point that such strategies, although sound, are not easy for everyone to initiate, depending on a writer’s particular set of circumstances. That doesn’t mean that such achievements are not possible.

Again, I praise the article for its valuable information and for your sharing it with us. It’s much appreciated.

As for finding better-paying clients, various job lists, I have found, constantly offer ads from independents (either individuals or website owners) who have larger budgets and are open to negotiation. As you have said, too, magazines and journals generally pay more, as do corporations. Sometimes, too, regular clients who know and trust a writer’s work will refer said writer to associates who will pay handsomely. The better-paying jobs are there, but one has to search for them and maintain attempts to contact them whenever possible. And, yes, I know you mention several of these in the above article, but I thought they were worth stating again.

Of course, from my experience, I have found that publications quite often pay so much per word (generally .08c to .20c, although this is in constant flux, too), so the hourly rate depends on the type of client a writer has. Again, this is from my experience.

Take care, Anna, and keep up the great work!

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annew December 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

All true, Mark, and thanks.

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Linda December 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I am a marketing copywriter, specializing in websites, brochures, newsletters, and other marketing pieces. I work on a project or hourly basis. Two years ago I raised my rates for new clients from $80 to $90 an hour, and bumped all of my existing clients up to at least $85 an hour. I didn’t lose any business from existing clients, and my closing ratio for new clients didn’t suffer at all. But when I tested $95/hour (with new clients only), I saw a lot of resistance. For the few people who act as though $90/hour is a lot, my response is that it really isn’t — and that this is about the same rate as what you pay your auto mechanic or plumber!

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annew December 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Great story, Linda! Thanks.

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Helen Chang June 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Perfect timing on this article. I was just thinking about how much to charge on a particular project for a repeat client. This was perfect. Thank you!
Helen Chang recently posted..Jun 27- Ghostwriter NeededMy Profile

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Anne June 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm

lol… reading your mind?

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Frank Gual May 14, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Great article. As a newbie writer, I am stuck in the article mill routine, which at one penny a word, it’s tough to stay motivated, especially when a client has the audacity to ask for a rewrite at that rate. It is a great learning experience, but after doing 75 articles, it becomes stifling.
I have never sent a query letter, one of my shortcomings. There’s a lot of jobs at Guru and Odesk, but the competition is fierce. Landed a couple which did not turn out well.
Now I’ve started my own writing site, but not sure how to ask for work.
Your articles are teaching me a lot.

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Anne May 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Frank, if you haven’t, subscribe to the newsletter… one of the tabs on the top of every page… you’ll get a free ebook that may be helpful. By all means start sending out a query or two a week.

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Karl Rohde June 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Quality and niche markets are the same for any industry.

They will always be there, and they will always provide quality service providers with an income.

Charge what it is worth to the client, and if it’s not worth it to you, “Next”. Move onto the next prospect.

You can not replace your time, therefore it is valuable.

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Anne June 28, 2009 at 9:29 am

Well said, Karl, thanks

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Ron Kness May 22, 2009 at 9:04 am

I’m on quite a few job boards (good job on this one) and one of them in particular normally has a minimum bid of $50.00 per job. It amazes me there are witers out there that bid the minimum bid of $50.00 regardless of how long the project will take. But, I have also picked up jobs where my bid came in slightly higher than the average bid, so there are at least some job posters still looking at other factors besides just the price.

Ron

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Anne May 22, 2009 at 11:55 am

Thanks Ron, that’s one reason I don’t bid often… can’t remember when the last time was. When I set a fee there’s a little bit of room for negotiation, maybe – but I won’t keep reducing my rate to get the job. The smart job posters know they don’t want to work off the bottom of the freelance barrel.

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Ron Lewis May 20, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Alas, the math does not bode well for our profession’s future. Fewer and fewer employers want, care, or need quality writing because fewer and fewer people want, care, or can even recognize quality writing. In a world of tweets, txt msgs, and IM, good writers are a dying breed.

I’m not predicting our imminent demise, and there will always be an elite 2% that make great money, but the middle class of writers is shrinking as more and more of the work pays only starvation wages. It’s just a fact of life that isn’t going to change.

And it’s a vicious cycle that feeds on itself – readers accept crappy writing, so employers hire crappy writers, so readers get used to reading crap, then, unemployed people, used to reading crap, figure out that they can write crap too, and the market becomes flooded with every idiot with a keyboard bidding jobs down to starvation wages.

The only way you can raise your rates is to find employers who value better writing, know the difference, and are willing to pay for it. There are fewer of them everyday as media outlets are closing. Also, you have to be able to write better than your competitors, and there are more competitors everyday as media outlets and corporate marketing departments downsize. If you can’t accomplish those two things, good luck raising your rates.

My personal plan is to bail on the US and find some cheap 3rd world country where I can live nicely on my internet writing income. But I’m in my 50s. If I was young and looking to raise a family, I wouldn’t rely on freelance as a long term career unless I had great credentials and contacts.

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Anne May 21, 2009 at 9:43 am

Ron, I don’t know if I agree… and we’re in the same age bracket. I hate what I see happening to the language, yet my teenage grandkids write well and appreciate good writing. And there are so many changes happening now, who knows where we’ll be next year let alone in another decade.

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Lori May 19, 2009 at 8:22 am

Great advice, Anne. This is a tough market, but it’s not impossible to navigate successfully. I just lost a regular-ish gig yesterday when the magazine’s freelance budget was eliminated. Sucks, but that means I have to look in new areas and stretch beyond where I am now. It’s an opportunity, not a curse. :)

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Anne May 19, 2009 at 10:11 am

Darn! Sorry you lost the regularish gig… I’d suggest, if they pay reasonably well, you stay in touch. My hunch is freelance budgets will be back with a vengeance as more and more staff is let go… which is also a shame, but….

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seo techniques May 19, 2009 at 5:59 am

I admit, I have not been on this webpage in a long time… however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.
Great stuff as usual….

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