Freelance Writer Rates: Are You Charging Correctly?
When I first started freelancing, I honestly had no idea what I was supposed to be charging. I didn’t know what the average rates were, whether it’s best to charge per hour or per word. I didn’t know I could charge per project. I didn’t really know anything.
For the first six months, the paid gigs I scored came from content mills, which meant I was doing a bunch of writing without seeing a whole lot of money for it. I was writing long (2000 words) articles or blog posts with keywords, research, footnotes, references, quotes, and more. I was putting forth my best writing, but only received $10 each and some really nice testimonials from anonymous clients. Not only could I never use any of this experience to build a portfolio, but I it also impacted my confidence.
Working for content mills meant I didn’t know what I was worth. As such, I kept doing a large amount of work for mere pennies.
I realized I would never make the kind of money I wanted to – needed to – if I kept my rates ridiculously low. Let’s face it - $7 to $10 for a well-researched article just isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it’s pretty damn insulting.
As I started picking up more clients and branching out from content mills, I decided to raise my rates a bit. One client was incredibly upset at paying more than $0.04 per word for website copy, or more than $30 for a great blog post. That hurt a bit, but I realized the problem wasn’t with me.
I pitched to some more clients, and raised my rates. I quoted $75 for a blog post, and was pleasantly surprised when the clients were more than happy to pay that rate for my services. That was the moment I gained the confidence I needed to charge what I was worth, and to make sure I wasn’t spending astronomical amounts of time on something that was only paying pennies per hour. At this stage, I charge a minimum of $100 for a credited blog post of 800 words – quite a big change, huh?
How do you set freelance writer rates?
Knowing the average freelance writer rates for 2016, and what you should charge, is one of the biggest hurdles new freelance writers face. It doesn’t matter if you’re working full-time, part-time, or somewhere in between. You probably find yourself wondering:
Should I negotiate my rates with the clients?
Should I ask them what their budget is, and then charge accordingly?
Is it best to charge by the word or by the hour?
Maybe I should just charge by the project?
What is the standard rate for freelance writers for hire?
I know this probably won’t do much to alleviate your stress, but there really isn’t a universal rate for freelance writing. The amount you charge is completely dependent on you, how much you need to earn, what niche you are in, your target client, your experience, the effort you put into your business, and how you market yourself.
If you’re trying to raise your freelance writer rates, there are some considerations you need to take into account:
You Need to Know Your Goal Income
The first thing you need to do when figuring out your freelance writer rates is do decide how much you need to make, and also, what your goal income is. We’re not talking about just the current expenses you have – we’re talking about your dream income.
If things are pretty bleak right now, and you just need to cover the bills, then charge as little as you feel comfortable with. But, remember those rates are not set in stone. They should be changing over time, especially as you gain more experience within your freelance writer niche.
If your goal income is in the six-figure range, then you are going to have to charge a premium price to get there. Perhaps you’re not quite at that stage yet, but you can certainly work up to it.
In order to determine your freelance writer rates, you need to figure out how many hours you plan to work per week. Got it? Okay, now figure out the number of hours per month. Now, figure out the number of hours per year. Great! Now divide your goal income by that year number. After you figure that out, you will know exactly how much you need to charge per hour to hit your goal income.
If you are charging per project, like I do, figure out how much each type of project takes you. Charge accordingly. If you are charging per word, figure out how long it takes to write x number of words. Charge accordingly.
You Will Probably Be Told ‘No’
Just because you suddenly raised your rates, doesn’t mean you will be bombarded with a bunch of prospective clients who realize your worth.
There will be some contacts who come to you, looking for a freelance writer for hire. They will tell you they need x, y, and z, but can only pay $30. You will send them your sample pieces in their niche, give them your rate, and will sit their anxiously waiting.
This contact will tell you no. They will tell you they can’t afford you.
You may question whether or not your rates are too high. Should you lower them? Are you charging correctly? What are you doing wrong?
I’m going to tell you something: I got plenty of these when I first started out. I got a couple just recently from someone who found me and really needed a freelance writer right away. They only had a budget of $20, though. Would I still do it?
Obviously, that was a ‘no’ from me.
Once you realize your worth as a writer, and set your rates accordingly, don’t budge from them. (Well, unless you are charging CRAZY high prices, like $10,000 for a blog post.)
Make sure you are pitching several times per day. On your sixth pitch (I like to do things in threes), quote your higher end rate. Eventually, you will only get clients who don’t even bat an eye at these rates, and will pay what you quote.
You Should Have a Target Client in Mind
How can you write attract clients if you don’t know what type of clients you are trying to attract?
The client is the most important factor when it comes to setting freelance writing rates. If you want to get as many jobs as possible, you need to pitch to clients in the right niche, business, industry, and budget.
Before you set your rate, ask some questions about your client:
- Is your client from a small business, large corporation, a trade publication, or a major magazine? Are they a solopreneur, startup company, or new brand?
- What does the client’s website look like? Are you impressed? What is lacking?
- What does the client charge for their own products or services? Do you think they have a big enough budget to afford you?
- How is their business going? What is their annual revenue?
- Is this going to be a one-off project, or is there potential for more work?
- Would you want referral traffic from this type of site?
All of those questions help you to better understand your client and their business, which will make it easier to set your freelance writer rates. Once you know what they can pay you, you will be able to set a rate they are likely to accept.
Remember to Update Your Portfolio
This is a hugely important step toward determining (and raising) your freelance writer rates.
Your clients need to be able to see you are able to produce high-quality writing within their niche.
After you landed your first few major byline posts, and maybe have a few client pieces in your portfolio, you can really focus on taking your writing in the direction you want it to go.
This is when you try to get spots on big sites like Lifehack , BlogHer, or TweakYourBiz. Again, this depends on your niche. It would behoove you to get guest posts on the popular sites within your chosen industry/niche.
Make sure you update your portfolio often. Take out pieces that don’t really showcase your best writing or are not within the niche(s) you want to focus on.
Put the portfolio pieces from your preferred niche first on the page, since this will get the most attention from prospective clients.
When setting or raising your freelance writer rates, check out your portfolio. Be critical: Does it impress you? Is there a good number of quality pieces in there? Are they from your niche? Do you have posts on popular websites?
Answering these questions with a ‘yes’ across the board will increase your value as a freelance writer, which means you can feel confident charging higher rates. Plus, clients will be far more likely to pay those rates you are setting.
Your Pitch is an Audition
Your pitch is like a job interview, or an audition for a play. It shows you can write, and that you can sell your own services.
If you really want to sell your freelance writing services at higher rates, you will need to have the pitching process down pat. This takes a bit of practice (okay, a lot of practice), but there are some factors to keep in mind:
- Does your pitch sell your personal brand?
- Does your pitch sell your services?
- Does your pitch set you up as the MOST qualified person that client could possibly find to contract with?
- Does it highlight an issue the client is having, and offer a solution to that issue?
- Does it relate back to the client’s website readers, visitors, or customers?
The difference between a stellar pitch and a mediocre pitch is that the former shows you’ve done your homework. It shows you know the client’s business, the industry niche, and the current state of affairs in regards to the client’s company. If you’ve already checked off the above factors, asked questions, checked out their marketing, revenue, and budget, then you will know how to best speak to them. Their website will give you a feel for the type of tone they prefer, and will help you communicate in a way that will best make them want your services and pay your freelance writing rates.
Make sure your pitch shows you stand out from everyone else. What sets you above the rest? Do you write superb headlines that get a crazy number of clicks? Talk about that! Are you faster than other freelance writers? Mention it! Whatever your specialty is, don’t be afraid to show it off.
Your pitch should be one of the best pieces you ever write, because it determines whether or not you get hired.
Wrapping It Up
Ready to set or raise your freelance writing rates?
Keep the above things in mind, and you’ll continue to have more and more success each time you re-evaluate your rates.