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Going Rate? Fair Rate? What’s Freelance Writing Pay Really All About?

freelance writing paySharon Hurley Hall wrote a great post called Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates: 4 Steps to Help You Get Paid What You’re Worth

It got me thinking about freelance writing pay in general and more specifically how we throw terms like ‘going rate’ and ‘fair rate’ around.

What, I wondered, are we really talking about?

Money is an odd thing

On one hand, money is a tool, a way to represent value without carrying around sacks of oranges or a cow in hopes of finding someone who wants to trade their chickens for one or the other. At least that’s more or less how money got started.

Today, money is fraught. Meaning is all over the map. Some people associate a person’s value by the amount of money they have. Some hoard money, certain it will buy some real security. Others are ashamed of their relationship with money, or at least confused. Many have associated the amount of money they have with their own self-worth.

About that going rate

The Free Dictionary defines going rate as “the current rate or the current charges for something.” This assumes that the typical price of something is knowable. More specifically, for our purposes, it assumes the typical price for a piece of writing is knowable. I’m not sure that’s true.

For example, when I google “how much does a press release cost,” the first organic (non ad) result is an article called How Much Does It Cost To Write A Press Release *Now*? which talks about an article written in 2007. That said the cost of a press release was $5,000. Apparently the number was calculated from a corporation’s point of view and included everything from staff costs to building costs. Not helpful. Although it is interesting to look at the chart which shows the differences in goals of a press release between then and now. They’ve changed – who knew?

An article by Janet Attard at Business Know How called Press Release & Article Feeshas a range of prices – interesting, but not truly helpful for a freelance writer trying to figure out what to charge.

Writer’s Digest online suggests a high of $180 and a low of $30 per hour and a per project high of $1,500 with a low of $125. I don’t really believe those figures and they date back to  2009 and 2010. The ranges make the prices almost meaningless.

I could generate the same type of numbers for ghostwriting books, or articles, or content, or… you name it.

Fear of being priced out of the market

So many of the questions I get about how much a writer should charge are based on a fear of being priced out of the market.

Notice that my first reaction to the prices in Writer’s Digest was disbelief. Which really means I don’t get the high rates for press releases they quote. When I look at them again, I can’t think of any reason why those shouldn’t be real numbers, at least for someone.

I don’t get those prices because I don’t write many press releases. I have one client who pays my fairly regularly for releases about his business, and I know I won’t get even the low per project rate, because I’ve occasionally asked for significantly more and he’s said ‘no.’ I have moved the price up over time, but if I demanded even the lowest per project rate I’d price myself right out of that market and lose a good client and friend.

Since I don’t write many press releases it doesn’t matter that much to me.

It’s my belief system, and yours

Your top income possibility is based more on your own beliefs, particularly the unconscious ones, than anything else. That’s also true for me. There are bloggers making seven figures and more – I know at least two of them. There are ghostwriters who make $50,000 a book, and some who make half a million. There are copywriters who make six and seven figures. And in every category there are also writers who don’t earn the equivalent of minimum wage.

Sure, being able to quote a going rate and back it up with some documentation is comforting. And sometimes it even impresses the client, but rarely. You need to set your own fees based on any number of things, including what you believe you can get.

Look at your beliefs about fees – just as you saw me do with press release fees above. Know you can change your world by changing your mind – even about how much you charge, and get, from your writing.

Write well and often,




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