Setting my freelance writing rates was the number one challenge I faced as a new freelancer back in 2013. I mean, I agonized over this for hours. I overcharged. I undercharged. I barely scraped by. I couldn’t afford food and rent at one point.
This blog post is meant for freelance writers who need help setting their rates, but it will also be helpful if you are a client who is hiring a writer and aren’t sure what you should pay them.
Now, let’s clear the air!
What’s a “Good” Freelance Writing Rate?
My Personal Opinion Based on 7.5 Years of Freelance Writing Experience
To me, a good freelance writing rate is to internally aim for $100/hour. What does that mean? Well, I charge per word when I write for clients, and the type of writing I do is content writing, mainly long-form blog posts for tech companies (pay attention to that because it affects how much I can charge.)
My per-word writing rate that I tell my clients is $0.25 to $0.40 per word, depending. Even though I charge by the word, internally, I track my time. And at the end of each month, I can check how many hours I spent writing and how much money I made. I try to keep that at $100/hour. Again, my clients do not know about this; I do not charge them by the hour because it doesn’t matter how long it takes me. But internally, I know that for me to reach my financial goals, I want to be at $100 per hour.
Example: In September 2020, I wrote two blog posts for a client at $0.30/word. Each blog post ended up being 2,000 words, so I invoiced my client $1,200. Then, I checked Toggl (the app I use to track my time) and saw that it took me about 10 hours to write those two blog posts. So, here’s the math:
Invoice Amount / Hours It Took Me to Write = Internal Hourly Rate
$1,200 / 10 Hours = $120 per hour!
But remember, I’ve got 7.5 years of experience under my belt. If you’re just starting out, expect your rates to be lower.
Other Freelance Writers’ Opinions
Six-figure freelancer Carol Tice: Minimum of $100 per blog post. On her blog, Make a Living Writing, Tice writes, “My general rule as a paid blogger is that I try not to take less than $100 a blog, no matter what. ” But, keep in mind that she wrote that post several years ago, so it’s likely her minimum rate has gone up.
Corporate freelance writer Jeanette Juryea: Minimum of $50/hour. On her blog, Freelancing in the Fast Lane, she writes, “Even $50 per hour is low if you’re a corporate writer, but it’s not so low that it’s an insult. Major corporations will easily pay $100 and more per hour to quality writers who have proven their worth.”
What are some typical freelance writing rates?
This depends on whom you ask, but I can give you some numbers.
- In my experience writing for blog posts for medium to large tech companies, $250 for a 2,000-word blog post is pretty standard. I’ve been paid as low as $0.10/word for an ebook, and I’ve been paid as high as $800 for a 2,000-word blog post because the client accepted my rate of $0.40/word.
- According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, these are median rates:
- Writing (business/sales): $61-$70/hour or $.16-$.20/word
- Writing (journalism): $51-$60/hour or $.31–$.50/word
- According to the National Union of Journalists, here are some typical rates (keep in mind this applies to the UK, but I converted the British Pounds to U.S. Dollars):
- $387 for 1,000 words of writing and research
- $516 for intense research and writing
- Here are two VALUABLE databases where you can find tons of real-life rates that other freelance writers share publicly:
5 Factors That You Should Bake Into Your Freelance Writing Rates
- Location – The cost of living varies wildly by city and country. For example, the average cost of living in Tbilisi, Georgia (the country) is $783 per month, while the average cost of living in Phoenix, Arizona is $2,237 per month. That’s nearly triple the amount for Tbilisi!
So, it stands to reason that a writer living in Phoenix would need to charge higher than a writer living in Tbilisi.
- Experience – A writer with 10 years of experience will, naturally, command a higher rate than someone who started freelancing two months ago.
- Type of writing – Freelance writing rates can change dramatically based on the type of writing you’re doing. For example, in general, copywriting costs more than blog writing.
- Industry – Certain industries are more lucrative than others. For example, Fintech (financial technology) would probably be more lucrative than fashion.
- Paid time off and other benefits that employees get – A freelancer, unlike an employee, does not get paid time off. Therefore, you must “bake it into” your freelance rate.
Should I charge by the hour, per project, or per word?
Charging an Hourly Rate
- It’s simple. You give your client X number of hours, and they pay you X amount.
- It’s what most people are accustomed to. Hourly rates are pretty standard in every industry. Entry-level jobs pay by the hour. So almost everyone is used to seeing hourly rates.
- It’s misleading and easy to reject. For instance, telling a Marketing Director that you charge $100/hour sounds insanely high. Why? Because a salaried Marketing Director can make around $140,000 in their annual salary. If they work full time (40 hours a week for 52 weeks), their hourly rate is $67.31. So now, suddenly, the Marketing Director is looking at you, a freelance writer, and wondering why on earth she should pay you nearly 49% more than their hourly rate. (In reality, she would be wise to do so because you’re excellent at what you do, and you have to cover your overhead like insurance and PTO, so of course, your hourly rate is higher than hers.)
- As you learn to work faster, you get paid less. When you charge by the hour, you get paid less as you become more efficient.
- It commoditizes your work. As a freelance writer, you are an expert in your craft and in your niche. Your client is not buying your time; they’re buying your expertise and value.
Charging a Flat Project Fee
- It opens you up to earn more. You are no longer limited by how many hours you put in. Here’s an example of this:
– Situation A: A client asks you to write a 2,000-word blog post about the benefits of homeschooling. You are very accustomed to writing long-form blog posts since you’ve been doing it for a while, and you are an expert in the child education niche. Your hourly rate is $100. It takes you 4 hours to write the blog post, so you get paid $400.
– Situation B: Now, let’s say the same client approaches you for the same piece, but instead, you charge a flat fee of $250 per 1,000-word blog post. That means you’d get paid $500 ($100 more!) for the exact same work!
- It’s predictable; there are no surprises. With hourly pricing, there’s no way to know for sure how long it’ll take you to write the article. That means the client could end up being surprised by a much larger bill than expected (though there are ways around this, such as giving the project a “cap,” and when you hit that cap, you give them a heads up).
- It can be complicated to calculate. It’s challenging to come to an agreement on a flat project fee when the project changes a lot, the client doesn’t know what they want, or you’re unsure of how long it’ll take you.
Charging Per Word
- It’s simple and easy to predict. If a client comes to you and says, “Hey, I’d like a 1,000-word blog post about the best gluten-free flours,” and you have a per-word rate, all you have to do is multiply your per-word rate by the number of words they want, and voila! You and your client know what it’ll cost.
- It protects you because even if the piece ends up being a higher word count than originally planned, you get paid for the extra value. Sometimes, a client gives you the freedom to go above the word count. If a piece needs more explanation, and you go over the word count, you get paid accordingly.
- It can backfire because sometimes shorter pieces take more time to write than longer pieces. Sometimes I write 1,500 words, but the client only wants 1,000 words, so I have to spend another 30 minutes just trying to cut 500 words. And then I get paid less. So watch out, as per-word rates can backfire like this.
- It commoditizes your work. Similar to hourly rates, per-word rates turn your work into mere units. The client thinks they’re buying X number of words from you, but really, they’re buying your expertise and the value they get from having your writing for their marketing.
Does Your Head Hurt? Here’s Best Advice for Setting Your Freelance Writing Rates
Use this easy 5-step process
Step 1: On average, how much do you spend each month? How much do regular bills, like electricity, internet, and food, cost you?
If you weren’t able to answer those questions, you need to stop thinking about your freelance writing rates and first figure out your spending. I highly recommend You Need a Budget for this.
Step 2: What are your financial goals? How much do you want to save each month? How much are you going to put away for retirement each month?
If you cant answer those questions, again, stop thinking about your freelance writing rates and first figure out what your financial goals are.
Step 3: Combine your typical cost of living expenses with your financial goals to arrive at an amount you need to earn each month to reach both. Now, tack on taxes. Yep, you will need to pay income taxes on the freelance writing money you make. No one takes that out of your paycheck, so you need to budget for it.
Alright, so now you have it: You need to earn $6,000 per month from freelance writing to meet your monthly living expenses and savings/retirement goals.
Step 4: How many hours can you/do you want to work each month? Let’s say you want to do 20 hours per week, which is 80 hours a month.
Step 5: Divide the number in step 3 by the number in step 4.
$6,000 / 80 hours = $75/ hour
Now, you have an hourly rate. Whether you choose to charge by the hour, by the word, or by the project, having this hourly rate will guide you in quoting projects for clients.
Spy on your competitors
As you become more established in your freelance writing niche, you’ll start to get familiar with many freelance writers who write in the same niche. You will likely see each other’s names in the same publications.
Google the names of freelance writers within your niche, and check out their website to see if they list their rates. You should be charging at least as much as your competitors (if you’re offering the same level of value as their writing).
Test the waters
If you’re new to freelance writing, you will make pricing mistakes at first—it’s okay! It’s all part of the process. So to find out if you’re setting realistic but ambitious rates, send them to prospective clients. If all of them accept instantly without hesitation, it may be a sign that you’re charging too little. If all of them reject them instantly without hesitation, it may be a sign that you’re charging too much. In general, you’ll know you’re doing it right when your freelance writing rate is one that most of your clients accept but some reject.
Reevaluate and tweak
When you make mistakes, you gain valuable data. Use that data to inform your next steps.
There’s no rule saying that if someone says your rate is too high, you can’t lower it. There’s no rule saying that you can’t raise your rates once you’ve found out you’re undercharging. The beauty of freelancing is its flexibility. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes and then change your strategy going forward.
The Final Word on Freelance Writing Rates
I hope this advice on freelance writings rates from me, other freelancers, and groups has helped you. In the end, though, realize that a “good freelance writing rate” is one that helps you reach your financial goals and one that, of course, your clients will accept.