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Freelance Writing Fees – Ignore The Going Rate

Freelance Writing FeesFreelance writing fees are a constant source of uncertainty for many writers. I often get questions like:

“How much should I charge for writing X?”

This is what I call a how long is a piece of string question. In fact, it’s largely unanswerable, at least in exact terms.

Another form of the question is “What’s the going rate for writing X?”

It’s still a how long is a piece of string question.

There simply is no single way to determine freelance writing fees nor is there a single way to determine the exact value of a piece of writing. ‘The going rate’ is at best a guestimate based on guides like Writer’s Market, various websites, or a chat with other writers.

Sure your freelance writing business might seem simpler if everyone charged the same price, but it won’t happen and it shouldn’t.

Willing seller, willing buyer set freelance writing fees

Back when I was in real estate, the definition of a fair sales price for a home or other property was simply “whatever a willing seller and a willing buyer agree on.”

I think that’s also a pretty good definition for the price of any piece of writing. It also offers a helpful perspective on the whole subject of determining freelance writing fees.

Take the six or seven figure advance sometimes given when true celebrities write a book. The publisher decided the book was worth the advance for any number of reasons including publicity, and the author decided they’d accept the offer. Lots of publishers offers are turned down or negotiated upward.

Compare that with a new writer who is so happy to get their book published they do it with no advance, only royalties.

Both cases are examples of a willing buyer and willing seller equals the agreed upon advance. Neither is right or wrong.

The same thing is true for, oh say, a blog post. Freelance writing fees for posts run from zero to several hundreds of dollars.

Why would a writer write a blog post for free? Probably to get their name out there, and/or to link to a site they run.

Why would a blogger pay hundreds of dollars for a post? Because they believe it will earn them at least that much back in publicity, product sold, traffic, etc.

Again, willing seller (the writer) and willing buyer (the blogger).

So-called going rates

Lots of ads for writers get around naming a price for a piece of writing by stating things like:

  • Will pay the going rate.
  • Will pay standard fee.

These and other dodges are totally meaningless.

The client has a price in mind. In fact the client usually has a range of freelance writing fees that he’s willing to pay. You have no idea how he arrived at that number, and often, neither does he. What the client is willing to pay is based more on budget considerations and their view of the value of the writing.

Standard fees and going rates are all over the map, just as the examples above demonstrate.

What you really need to know when setting your freelance writing fees

Truly, all you really need to know about setting freelance writing fees is how much you’re going to charge.

Okay, if you charge too much, whatever that means, you won’t get the work. If, for example, you want to get a dollar a word and no one is buying, you’re either not writing as well as you think you are or you’re offering your writing to the wrong market.

A truth is it can be helpful to look at going rates from time-to-time. It can be helpful as long as you truly understand that the answer to ‘how much should I charge’ is an unanswerable question if you’re looking for specifics. When you do, you may find you’re trying to charge way too much, or way too little. I’ve had it work both ways.

Informing yourself in a general way about how much people pay for different types of writing is probably worth doing. Hanging your own hat on a particular pay rate because someone else is using it makes no sense at all.

How do you set your freelance writing fees? What questions do you have about freelance writing fees?

Get help with your freelance writing business by signing up for this special freelance writer business solutions series – at no charge to you at all.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer




{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Great advice.

    “Going rate” is a vague term that is often manipulated.

    It’s also helpful to look at income surveys from professional writing organizations that list average rates. When a prospect tells you X dollars is the going rate (usually a low figure), you can refer them to one of those surveys.

    Of course, if they only budgeted X dollars for the project and you charge twice that, they probably can’t afford you anyway.

    • I’ve never had much luck convincing someone to pay me more because of surveys or lists like that Laura… their usual reaction is something like “I don’t know about that, but I’m willing to pay you X.” Might be the type of clients I deal with. OTOH, the lists can help you feel more confident.

  • When I first started in 2008, I reviewed the rates of other writers and then considered my experience. I also looked at various rate sheets from writer’s markets. After all of this, I determined my rates.

    Fast forward to present day, and I increase my fees based on my expertise, background, education and continued education.

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