Hello and welcome back to another installment in my – „how to write and how much should I charge for my words” series. Contrary to popular belief, even if letters are free to press, they’re right there on the keyboard and even a monkey could do it, words have a cost, especially if they inspire, increase sales, awareness, reach, engagement and...insert pompous marketing word here. The only exception where words don’t cost is when you write for pleasure or voluntarily, of course, but even then they have value.
So, to cut to the chase, if you’re here today, you’re either a freelance writer or simply interested in freelance writing and eager to earn your first bills. However, I bet you’re currently dealing with a very common dilemma for all of us, especially when starting off – how do I set my rate? How much should I charge in order to attract clients and not lose them in the long run? Should I compromise or should I be firm in negotiation? Should I write for 1 EURO or should I quit and just go sweep a street or something?
Stay put as I’m about to answer all of your questions. So, have a seat, get comfortable, don’t forget you coffee and keep reading....
Freelance writing rates – how do we set them?
Whether you chose to work on a specialized freelance writing platform such as Upwork or Freelancer.com, whether you opt for having a direct freelance relationship with your clients by cutting the middle man, there are 3 main methods to come up with a rate for the service you offer:
- Hourly rate
- Wordcount rate– e.g. – 20EUR/500 words
- Rate per project – you come up with a distinct price quotation for every individual project
What you need to remember is that all three methods of charging can be beneficial to you depending on your objectives, experience level and the materials you need to deliver.
#1 Hourly rate
If you choose this manner of working, you’ll have quite a few advantages, especially in the case of lengthy projects that involve many hours of work per day. However, listen up – you cannot use that as an excuse or pretext not to deliver promised results.
The client will pay you by the hour but he will also expect you to deliver results in that interval, not play Solitaire or watch paint dry. Like the ol’ wise English man (or was it American?) says – „time is money.” Therefore, make sure to choose this alternative only if you know with utmost certainty that you can stay organized, not let yourself get distracted during those billable hours and that you can deliver what you promised.
#2 Wordcount rate or pay per word
Frequently used in freelance writing, this work method is one I usually go for, too, in most cases. However, it also has quite a few disadvantages.
If you set a fixed rate for 500 words, for instance, you’ll see that the work volume is very different depending on the niche/field. In other words (no pun intended), writing 500 words about engineering involves a whole different mental effort and research as opposed to 500 words about fashion.
Which is why, I recommend wordcount rates or pay-per-word only when you frequently write for a particular client or niche, preferably one you know very well. You’ll be able to set an adequate price quotation/rate this way because you know your skills better.
#3 Rate per project
It can be a pretty advantageous method for large projects and it can be very motivating to receive a significant payment in advance with the rest of the sum following when half of the project is completed. Personally, I am motivated by this manner of working because I feel more responsible towards what I do.
What do I mean by that? If a client entrusted you with a large project and sum of money up-front, respectively, you’ll feel a lot more „indebted” to deliver on time and do the job right, least in my experience.
It is also preferred to work this way when you have projects such as content for online stores, website content, presentation brochures or other painstaking materials.
There is, however, a downside too, especially in the case of beginner freelancers. It is possible to not be able to accurately assess the value of a project firsthand or the work volume involved and fail to charge properly.
What else do I need to keep in mind when charging as a freelance writer?
Your fee/rate can also be influenced by a bunch of other factors aside from the ones I just mentioned above. These have more to do with your skillset as a freelance writer and relate to aspects such as:
- Experience level – you cannot come up with an exorbitantly high rate if you’re only just starting out and you don’t have a solid client base or a relevant portfolio. If you’re a beginner, you can take a look over what other writers charge for the same service and set your rate a bit lower, at least until you gain experience. But, I repeat, don’t write for 1 EURO either, no matter how much of a novice you are.
- Portfolio and/or number or clients – before agreeing to work with you, a new client will first want to see prior work (articles or other materials you wrote), as well as a list of former clients you’ve collaborated with successfully. The more impressive your portfolio and former client base is, the more you can charge.
- Credibility – this is largely influenced or even given by the ratings received on freelancing platforms or the testimonials left by former customers. My advice? Try to keep a good relationship with ex-clients or partners – you never know when you might need a recommendation.
- Field/niche – some fields, namely the technical ones involve a certain level of knowledge and specialization, being familiar with a specific terminology and having an overall impeccable vocabulary. If you’re a specialist in fields such as medical, pharmaceutical, IT&Communications, you’ll be able to charge more, as opposed to fields such as fashion and online journalism. I’m not saying that these last niches I named aren’t valuable and that just about anyone can write about them, but it’s a matter of supply and demand, first and foremost. If you can learn to write about fashion, doing the same with forklifts is a whole new ballgame, it’s draining and it’s gonna involve a hell of a research. That is why you should charge according to your knowledge and abilities.
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner freelance writer or you have spent quite a while on a specialized freelancing platform, you have to remember that the suggestions above should be taken as rough estimates/guidelines. In freelance writing, every rate/fee chosen is also purely subjective and it depends a lot on the manner in which you choose to evaluate your own work.
Don’t forget – you offer the service, therefore no one can value it better than you can. Don’t over-evaluate yourself but don’t underestimate yourself either and if you’re confused or just starting out, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the competition, too.
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