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How Much Should a Freelance Writer Charge Clients?

good paying freelance writingA coaching client of mine was startled recently when she was offered a fee from a corporate client that was just under a dollar a word. She actually was worried that it might not be a legitimate offer.

I was a bit embarrassed because although we had talked about moving her earning rate up, and that was working, I’d lost track of the fact she’d started working for the low pay folks so a buck a word seemed like a lot.

And it’s nothing to be sneezed at for sure, but I realized I hadn’t emphasized moving to better paying markets as much as I might of. Okay, she was delighted that when we started she was making a couple of hundred, give or take a week and was now up to between $800 and $900. The writing had gotten more interesting too.

A closer look at pay rates

Successful writers learn to really understand what’s going on with their money. They know, for example:

Roughly how long it takes them to write 500 words, 1,000 words, 2,500 words, etc. Of course, there are variables. A blog post requiring research will take you longer than one you can write from the top of your head. Writing longer pieces almost always takes me longer per word than the shorter pieces; other writers find just the opposite.

How much they need to earn each day, week, month and annually to (a) meet their minimum monthly expenses and (b) to be really comfortable. To do this well requires you knowing how you spend your money.

How many hours they can actually work at writing well each week and stay productive. It takes experience to really know this but make the best estimate you can.

How many hours that leaves for running the business.

A clear sense of their own values – which could be anything from becoming a monk to raising a family.

So if it takes you an hour to write a 500 word blog post and the client pays you $30 obviously you’re making $30 an hour.  You’re also earning only 6 cents a word. If you can write effectively for six hours a day at that rate you’re making $180 a day or $900 a week. Which sounds pretty good, but wait – $900 a week is only $45,000 a year working 50 weeks. And remember, as a freelancer you’re paying for all  your benefits from health insurance to vacation time. You also need to build in a profit margin. LifeHacker estimates that if you want to net $45,000 you need to charge $66 or $67 an hour.

It’s in the marketing of you & your self-worth

Suddenly 50 cents or a dollar a word looks quite different. That same 500 word piece that took an hour now earns $250 or $500. And frankly it is just as easy to write for a dollar a word as it is for pennies – the difference isn’t in the writing, but in how you market yourself.

How well you market yourself has a great deal to do with your self-worth.

In other words, how much you make, and how much you charge is in your own hands. Sure there’s a learning curve. Yes, you’ll likely make some mistakes along the way – we all have.

My advice? Don’t hesitate to ask for more – maybe not a whole bunch more at first, but get clear on what you are earning and what your expenses are and start nudging that rate up. I suspect you’ll be glad you did.

Your turn. How do you decide what to charge a client? What’s your experience with the relationship between your fees and your self-worth? Tell us about it in comments.


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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • It’s unfortunate that most freelance writers seriously undervalue their services, in a misguided attempt to “compete” with cheaper writers.

    I think writers understanding that they should NEVER compete solely on price, and that many clients appreciate many other aspects besides price.

    In order to come up with my price, I’ve figured out how much time it takes to write a standard article, how much I’d like to make per hour, and then add about 15% onto that. That way if I have to give a small discount, I’m still making a decent enough amount.

    I think it’s crucial for writers to understand that they can charge far MORE than a penny a word and still have lots of clients, once their writing is good enough and they market themselves well.
    Daryl recently posted..My Monthly Freelance Writing Income Report – September 2013My Profile

    • Yes, and marketing is the real key as you’ve found out.

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