10 Steps To Setting Your Freelance Writing Fees

by Anne Wayman

Freelance Writing moneyAs you know I won’t try to tell you what price you should charge for your freelance writing. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that setting a price seems daunting to new writers. I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s sometimes scary even for those of us with experience.

That said, and pointing out that there’s already a whole bunch of material here on setting prices, here are the ten things to know and do to set your prices well:

  1. I know my monthly expenses. Actually I know my absolute minimum, the amount where I feel some ease and the ‘I’m abundant’ amounts.
  2. I know how many hours I’m willing to work. This too has a couple of components. I know how many hours I can actually work in any day or week, and I know how many I really want to… which is less.
  3. I know what kind of writing I want to do. In my case, I coach writers, write ebooks for myself and others and ghostwrite books. Obviously I also blog.
When a possible project comes to me – which may mean I’ve searched for it or someone calls or emails me (which happens often because of my website and other marketing efforts) I’m in a position to evaluate and price the work. Here roughly are the steps I might take:
  1. Determine if it’s the kind of work I do well and if I believe I can do it well.
  2. I will estimate the number of hours it will take me to do the job. Yes, this is difficult if it’s a new area or you’re a new writer and you will make mistakes, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

  3. Take the number of hours and using my expenses etc. figure out what I need to charge for this job. Usually I’ll come up with a range. I’m looking for an hourly rate here.
  4. I will add at least 10 percent to my hourly rate for contingencies.
  5. I will multiply the hourly times the estimated hours I need to come up with a flat fee.
  6. If I don’t yet know my price or feeling insecure, I will do a google search for the price (ie what do ghostwriters charge) and check with writer’s market. But in truth, what other people charge has nothing to do with what I charge except, maybe, to reassure me.
  7. I create a proposal for the client and present it with my fee and a rough outline of what I plan to do. This can be a formal proposal or just an email depending on the complexity of the project and the relationship I have with the potential client.

Okay, I no longer go through all of this. I do track my expenses carefully. I do estimate the time I think a writing project will take me, but I’m experienced, so this all happens now more or less automatically. You too will get to that place with practice.

How do you set your fees?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg December 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Good tips, Anne. Once again, I’ll save it and refer back!

I never thought of charging an extra 10% for contingencies. I’ll try that. I’ve noticed recently that it always takes me a little more time than I estimated to finish a job.

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annew December 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thanks Greg – I had to be taught to add 10%. I don’t tell clients that unless they ask. Contingencies happen often.

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Mark Keating July 15, 2011 at 11:53 am

Anne:

A resource that I’ve found particularly valuable is How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business by Lucy Parker. Among the many, many excellent tips she gives is a job estimating form, with fields for expenses, buyouts (if any part of the job is subcontracted), travel, etc. that as a rookie copywriter I would not have thought of on my own. One of those categories that stands out is a line item for PROFIT.

$10 on Kindle, or $12 in hard copy – money well spent.

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annew July 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Thanks.

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Raluca July 14, 2011 at 4:15 am

Thank you for the good information… I also bealieve that when setting prices we should
consider about how important and useful is our information because people don’t ask for quantity but for quality.

People are paying for information.. secrets… something that others don’t know.
So, are we able to offer valuable content? In my opinion this is the secret
question we should ask ourselves befor setting a price.
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Anne July 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

Well, I’m not sure it’s always secrets as such as much as good writing. There’s always a new audience.

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Adeniyi July 14, 2011 at 2:18 am

Thanks Anne, for those wonderful tips! Sometimes, it is difficult to maintain a fixed price. Sometimes, your price could vary between certain ranges, depending on the dictates of the market. Nevertheless, that does not mean that, as an experienced writer, I don’t raise my head above others in terms of setting reasonable fees and changing these when necessary, depending on the urgency and volume of work to be done per project.

Fortunately, I now earn nearly three times higher than when I started a couple of years back.

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Anne July 14, 2011 at 11:26 am

Yes, I earn at least that much more than I used to… so much is a matter of attitude.

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Nicky Parry July 13, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Great advice Anne, and a lovely step-by-step approach for writers to think about. I was reading Megan’s comment above too, and I think that’s a very common issue amongst writers when they start out – I definitely undersold myself too initially, but not for long. I think that if a client accepts your proposed quote without negotiation, then likely you should be charging more. I guess there’s little wrong with some initial underselling – it gets the foot in the door, starts the portfolio going, raises self-belief, & might even get a referral! As long as the rates keep going up, of course!
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Megan Collins Quinlan July 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm

This is a difficult one as I often undersell myself. On freelance sites it is often the case that the expectations of prices are very low, so I bid accordingly. However if someone has come to me as a recommendation I feel i can charge a bit more.

Either way I always ensure I am getting a certain amount per hour of work, plus a bit extra for any admin associated with the job.

My hourly rate has crept up though – in fact I now earn twice as much as when I started.

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Anne July 14, 2011 at 11:29 am

Megan, if you’re depending on auction sites it’s really difficult to get your price. Once you start working for private clients you find yourself it won’t be so difficult.

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