What Method Should I Use to Charge My Freelance Writing Clients?

When setting your freelance writing rates, it’s tough to decide where to set them and how to set them.

There are three ways you can charge clients.

What Method Should I Use to Charge My Freelance Writing Clients?

  1. You can charge per-word. This means the more you write, the more you get paid.
  2. You can charge per hour. The more time it takes you, the more you’ll get paid.
  3. You can charge a flat fee. No matter how much you write or how much time it takes, you’ll get paid the same amount.

Each option makes sense, but let’s compare more deeply.

Charging Per Word

If you’re writing a 500-word article and charge $0.25 per word, that means you’ll make $125 no matter if it takes you an hour to research, write, edit, and submit your article or if it takes you six hours. If you client gives you some leeway and you submit the article at 520 words, you’ll make $130. However, if it takes you six hours to complete the project, that means you’re only making about $20 per hour.

Charging Per Hour

For the same piece, you could charge how long it takes you, which means you’d make more money if it took you six hours rather than one hour. So you could charge $30 per hour and make $180 for the project if it took you six hours. But this comes with complications, too.

  1. What time do you calculate into that? If it only takes you an hour to research and write the article, you’ve made $30. But what about the time you’re taking to talk with clients or revise the piece? If that takes you an extra two hours, you’re only getting paid $10 per hour.
  2. If you get your work done quickly, you’re pretty much punished for productivity. That doesn’t seem fair.

Charging Per Project

If you charge a flat fee for your project, this means that you could charge $125 for your 500-word article regardless of if you exceed the word count or how long it takes. But then if takes you six hours, you’re still at the $20 per hour mark.

How Do You Resolve All This?

Did you know that writing a 500-word article for $50 make you more money than a 500-word article for $100?

How? If you can write three 500-word articles priced at $50 in three hours, yet the one priced at $100 takes you three hours, you’d make more money in the same amount of time writing those $50 articles.

Jenn Mattern of All Indie Writers explained it to me once. Here’s what she said:

For example, a blog post paying $.25-.50 per word might sound like a lousy deal compared to a print feature paying $1.00 per word. But you might be able to write a blog post in your specialty area in less than an hour whereas that print feature might involve 8-10 hours factoring in research, interviews, back-and-forth with your editor, writing, and revisions. Sometimes the gigs that appear to pay less actually end up paying much more.

What Really Matters?

What really matters in the end is your per-hour rate.

I’m not saying that you should charge per hour. I’m saying that if you set a timer that goes from when you sit down at your computer in the morning to when you shut it off at night and you add up how much money you made in that time and divide it by the time you sat at your computer, that’s the number that really matters.

So you could write one $200 article in that time or five $50 articles, and the lower-paid articles would be worth more for your time.

How Should You Charge Clients?

There’s no “right” way to charge clients, but most writers I know (myself included) charge per project. That makes it easy for you and your clients to budget, and then there are no surprises when the invoice comes. Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind also points out that it makes you more productive. In regards to charging per-hour, he says:

If you charge by the hour, it will only be natural for you to work less efficiently than if you had priced on a per job basis. And given that you only have a certain number of hours available in the day, you are essentially capping your maximum earning potential.

But how do you choose a flat rate while still factoring in your per-hour rate?

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Determine a per-hour monetary goal you’d like to shoot for.
  2. Estimate how much time the entire project will take you (including time spent speaking with your client as well as time spent writing, researching, revising, finding photos, etc.)
  3. Multiply your per-hour rate by your estimated hours and charge a flat fee. This means that even if you get done quicker, you’ll still make the same amount of cash.

Now I want you to test your per-hour rate. Next time you sit down to work, set a timer. When you’re done, stop the timer and add up how much work you did in that time. Divide how much you made by how much time you spent working. Do you need to up your rates?

Leave a Reply


Hi Alicia, Thank you for the post. On the basis of the bottom line hourly assessment, I left a better paying client in favor of a low paying on. It also had an element of research work associated to it that led to the decision. I have seen some clients totally ignoring the research part of writing and negotiating rates only on the basis of the words they want. That’s something I have gotten much in control now. I believe it varies from client to client. Moreover, it rests on the writer to explain the details to the client upfront. SabitaReply to Sabita
Sabita, you make a good point. I’ve also let go of higher paying clients when they just cause a headache, so you have to think about your values, too.Reply to Alicia
Hi Alicia, Like you and Elna, I price on a per project – and like Elna, I adjust my price up or down depending on how much research I think I need. I do not like charging by time as it often leads to disputes with clients who do not believe you spent four hours on their 500-word post, even though you have detailed resources and two interviews. Nor do I like charging by the word. To make my numbers, it seems that my ppw is too high for clients and many balk. But, a fixed project price with a list services included in the price is where I do best when making a proposal to a client.Reply to Alan
You make a lot of good points. I can’t imagine charging per hour because I’m not always working on one project from start to finish at one time. I might get sidetracked on another client’s work,, and I definitely don’t want one of my clients paying for work I’m doing on someone else’s article. I also think that charging per word makes it easier to put in fluff, and that only makes your content less valuable. I agree with this statement: But, a fixed project price with a list services included in the price is where I do best when making a proposal to a client. It’s the same for me. I don’t think it works for EVERYONE, but that’s the way I see most people doing it, and it’s what I would recommend.Reply to Alicia
I agree with your points Alicia and Alan. I was charging per word, but finding I wasn’t getting many responses back once I told them my ppw. It makes more sense to price as a writing task. This way, you can judge how long it will take you and what research is required as factors when coming up with a flat rate. My issue is figuring out what my cap is. I don’t want it to be too high as to scare off prospective clients, yet I don’t want it to be too low where I’m ending up making minimum wage because it’s taking me 6 hours to complete a project.Reply to Elna
That is one issue charging per project. You don’t always know how long it’s going to take you.Reply to Alicia
Great post Alicia, I find that I need to price each client differently based on the writing task. While I price on a per project rate, I will charge differently if the task requires less work from me and is easier to do. So for example, one client I have does mostly lifestyle topics and I find that easy to write, so my bottom line is $100. For another client, I charge more because the topic isn’t too familiar and I require more research. I tell my clients this upfront when I present them my rates. I have written that prices are subject to change depending on the familiarity and research required. ElnaReply to Elna
It’s good that you mention that because I think a lot of freelancers do that! I try to stick to my rates table (and I charge per project), but I do let people know that I might charge more if there’s more research required. People seem to understand that pretty well. I do mention that if you charge a flat fee, you should charge it based on how long you think it will take you, so I think it’s definitely a smart idea to charge more when you’re faced with a trickier project.Reply to Alicia