Starting a freelance writing business? The biggest issue many freelance writers run into is deciding how much to charge for freelance writing services.
You’re worried that if you charge too high, no one is going to want to hire you.
But if you charge too low, you won’t be able to make a living writing.
Where do you find that happy medium?
The frustrating thing is that nobody will give you a real answer on what to charge. Isn’t there a nice guidebook showing where you should set your rates?
Unfortunately, setting your freelance writing rates doesn’t come that easily. With such a vast range of services you can offer, there is no one right answer. However, the following information can help you get started.
Rates Tables and Resources
The closest thing there is to a rates guidebook is Writer’s Market’s How Much Should I Charge? document. Unfortunately, the document has some “missing holes” to it, so you might not find your service listed, and if you do, it may not be completely filled out. Still, it’s a good place to start.
Highlights of the document:
- Advertising copywriters charge $92 per hour or $1.63 per word on average.
- General speech writers charge an average of $81 per hour.
- Newsletter writers charge $82 per hour or $2 per word on average.
- Web page writers charge $83 per hour or $0.86 per word on average.
- Whitepaper writers charge an average of $107 per hour.
- Magazine ghostwriters charge $100 per hour or $1.08 per word on average.
If you’re a freelance blogger, it’s also worth downloading Sophie Lizard’s Freelance Blogger Rate Guide.
Highlights from the rate guide:
- The average freelance bloggers make (from this survey) is $54 per 500 words.
- Bloggers with less than 1 year of experience typically charge around $50 per 500 words.
How to Calculate Your Ideal Rate
Resources like this are helpful, but they don’t always tell you exactly what you should charge. That’s because there is no magic formula! Your experience and qualifications will vary from every other freelancer, as will your business expenses. But if you’re looking for an answer right now, you can calculate your ideal rate with the following steps.
- Determine how much money you want to make annually. Don’t settle on what your 9-5 job’s salary was since much of your salary will be going toward things you never had to pay for before, such as business expenses, retirement fund, health insurance, etc. Be sure you’re factoring all that in.
- Divide by the number of weeks you’ll work this year. That’s your target income per week.
- Divide that by the number of days you work per week. If you’re taking off weekends, then just divide by 5, for example. That’s how much you’ll want to make per day.
- Divide your daily target income by your billable hours. Billable hours are the hours you spend working on client projects. Don’t include the time you spend marketing, emailing, or performing other administrative tasks. Only factor in how much time you spend working on billable projects.
- That’s how much you should be charging per hour.
Here’s an example:
- You want to make $100,000 this year. (Remember that this is for your business; not all of this ‘salary’ will come directly back to you as some will go into taxes, business expenses, and other overhead costs.)
- You want two weeks off for vacation and two weeks off for sick days/lazy days. You divide $100,000 by 48 weeks. You’re shooting for ~$2,084 of income per week.
- Divide that by how many days you’ll work per week. Since you want to take off weekends, you’ll divide $2,084 by 5. Let’s round to a nice number. You’ll want to shoot for $420 per day.
- Even though you spend 8 hours per day working, only 4 of those hours are spent writing for clients. The rest of your time is spent drafting contracts, speaking with clients, marketing your services, tweaking your website, filing paperwork, etc. So you’ll take $420 divided by 4. You’ll want to charge $105 per hour.
(This is an example for illustration purposes only. These rates are possible, but you may not start out here.)
Don’t want to do the math? Use this freelance hourly rate calculator from All Indie Writers.
But what if you don’t charge per hour?
Let’s say you charge a flat fee per project. Then what you’ll want to do is determine how long that project will take you. Let’s say a client requests a 1,000-word blog post. You estimate it will take you two hours to draft, research, and edit the post. Given that your per-hour rate is $105 and it will take you two hours, you’ll charge a flat $210 fee.
Now let’s say you want to charge per word. Since you already figured out how long it will take you and how much you should charge based on that, simply take your $210 divided by 1,000 words. You’ll charge $0.21 per word.
Things to Keep in Mind
Taking a look at these rates, it may seem like they’re super high. $105 per hour? That’s quadruple what you got at your day job!
But it’s not . . .
Michelle Goodman explains in her article on Entrepreneur:
You might think $40, $50 or $60 an hour sounds like a lot. But factor in taxes, business expenses, health insurance, retirement savings, vacation days and the fact that you’re hustling for work 5, 10 or however many unpaid hours a week, and you’re lucky if you take home $20, $25 or $30 an hour.
You also have to remember that not all your hours are billable, and that $100/hr or so is only in reference to your billable hours. So if you’re working 8 hours per day using the example above, you’re only technically making ~$50 per hour. Factor in all your expenses, and you’re realistically taking home maybe $30 per hour.
Another thing to remember is that you have to find a balance between supply and demand. It might sound great to start out at $0.20 per word for blog posts, but if you can’t find any clients willing to pay that much, then you’re not going to make any money at that rate.
Also consider what value you have to add to the table. Do you have a degree? An extensive portfolio? Years of experience? Those types of things will help you convince clients that you’re worth your rates.
Ultimately, It’s Up to You!
The reason there isn’t a clear-cut rate to charge as a freelance writer is because it’s all up to you. As a sole proprietor, you get to set your rates. Things that will vary from one freelancer to another includes:
- The project type
- Services offered
- Time spent working
- Income goals
- Experience level
- Living expenses
For instance, I live in an area of the country where living expenses are relatively low. Plus, I get health insurance through my husband’s job. My income goals, then, would be less than someone living in, say, New York City who doesn’t have a spouse’s job to cover his/her health insurance.
How much are you thinking about charging your clients? What are you nervous about when setting your rates? Let me know in the comment section.