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.
- You can charge per-word. This means the more you write, the more you get paid.
- You can charge per hour. The more time it takes you, the more you’ll get paid.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Determine a per-hour monetary goal you’d like to shoot for.
- 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.)
- 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?