How to Price Your Freelance Writing Work


Many freelance writers have questions about pricing their services. They wonder if they are too high or too low or even what the norm is for a particular type of writing. Pricing isn’t an easy question, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. You must consider a few elements to come up with the right price for what you do.

Many freelancers tend to under price and under value their services. They err on the side of being the cheapest or lowest-priced competitor, thinking that will surely land them clients. And it might, but not the type of clients you want. It’s usually never good to price your services very low when you are a solo professional or running a service business. That is because there are only so many hours in the day and you could very well find yourself working at a full-time rate for what, essentially, is part-time money.

But overpricing yourself isn’t a great option either. This does not mean you can’t charge a rate higher than the average or higher than your competition. You can do that, but only if you can back it up. Some clients don’t mind paying a higher rate if it means some added benefit —higher quality, higher level of service, etc. In fact, some clients will steer clear of the low-price option when it comes to service providers. They wonder why there is such a low rate. For them, such a low rate means lower quality and they don’t want any parts of that.

So deciding just where to price your services is important.

Consider what you need to earn from your efforts

A good way for a freelancer to price her writing services is to consider how much she would like to earn in a year and break that down into an hourly rate. For instance, if she would like to earn $50,000 a year and assuming she would like to take two weeks of vacation, then her weekly income should be $1,000. Let’s say she wants to bill 30 hours a week. (Not all of your work hours are billable, because some of that time will include marketing, administrative tasks, etc., that are not directly related to a client project.) That would bring the figure to $33. But she can’t just charge $33 an hour because it doesn’t account for taxes, operational expenses, etc. So a better figure may be $50 an hour.

Is that a realistic figure? Will people pay $50 an hour for writing services?  Absolutely! And much more. But the only way to know is to check the market. You can do this by viewing rate surveys and listings, including The Writer’s Market. Seeing how much other writers charge can help you know if your rate is in the right neighborhood, so you’re not too far out of the range. But it’s not necessary to hit it on the head exactly. Remember, your needs and experience may mean your rate will be different.

Experience, quality get you more money

Yes, I said experience. The more experience you have, the more you can charge. So if you are a beginning freelance writer, you may set your base rate as $45 or $50 an hour, but you may give yourself a raise after some time. Your experience will mean you’ll likely write better, know how to handle certain client issues and concerns better, and produce an overall better product.

Extras also earn more. For instance, in our writing and design business, I always provide a higher level of service than is outlined in the contract. I give my clients individual attention and walk them through their projects, as much as they need. I provide answers and insight they may not have, based on my experience, so they aren’t just getting someone to ghostwrite, edit, or design a book. They are getting a guide, someone who has been where they are and can offer them some suggestions and advice for success. Do I have to do it? Of course not. But I choose to do it because it’s a higher level of service.

Use a per-project rate instead of an hourly rate

Your hourly rate is just one piece of the equation when it comes to charging for what you do. It may be easier to simply send a quote with an hourly rate in it, but I discourage it. Unless there are specific reasons for sending a quote with an hourly rate, go for a per-project rate. You can create your quote on a calculation based on your hourly rate, but the quote you give the client can simply show the rate. No need to go into the fact that it’s based on X number of hours. That’s for your internal estimation. All the client needs to know is that it will cost X amount for this service. You can detail what the service includes, so the client has a full understanding of what she is paying for, but it shouldn’t matter what time you do it or how long it takes. After all, what you are doing is about the value you provide, not when or how long you work. Whether you work at 10 in the morning or 10 at night is your business.

I suggest a per-project rate instead of an hourly rate because this will offer you more autonomy and the focus is on the value you provide, not how long it takes you to do the job.

If you quote based on an hourly rate, do you really want a cheap client cross-examining you about how many hours you spent on a project? And what happens if you finish the project early, but do a great job? Should you be penalized for being efficient and good? Besides, you left your 9 to 5 because you wanted more freedom; you certainly don’t want a client breathing down your neck counting your hours rather than looking at the quality of work.

Another reason why I prefer the per-project rate is that it’s a lot more transparent. The client knows from the outset what he will pay. I don’t like changing the rate on clients once a project has begun, so even if a project takes me more time than estimated, I don’t charge my client more. I just know better for next time or work to be more efficient. This makes for a smoother experience all around. Your client gets to count on the rate you quoted, and you get to focus on doing the best job possible.

A per-project rate can also allow you to add in some extras that can boost the value of what you provide. These extras can help justify a higher rate and set your business apart as the quality solution.

Remember, setting your rate is about more than simply X dollars an hour. It’s about the service, experience, and value you provide. Calculate that equation to set your rate.

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Monica Carter Tagore

Monica Carter Tagore is an author and business strategist. She helps authors, freelancers, solopreneurs, and other small business owners brand and market what they do. A former journalist, she launched her writing business in 2002. Her writing business has grown into a training and education company for business growth and personal development.