Your Freelance Writing Rate: One Fact You Need to Know

What I’m listening to: Incomplete by James Bay

It happened again. Another forum discussion on rates, another person asking about rates.

This time, the writer was reviewing the various pricing guides and thinking it was either time to raise rates or use those extremely general price ranges to show clients the bargain they’re getting.

I get it. We freelance writers often struggle at first with knowing what to charge. We need help. So we turn to a ready-made chart listing ranges of pricing. I did it once upon a time. So did you, I’d bet.

And it’s probably a really lousy way to set your rate for these reasons:

  • These rates are often based on averages of all writers, not just those who know how to charge appropriately
  • They don’t take into consideration your experience
  • The rates are for general writing, not any one specific area
  • They could be based on something completely different than what you think they mean
  • None of them seem to be based in actual facts or figures

So when you see a list that suggests charging $50 an hour for web writing, does that mean for writing an article, a blog post, an entire website? You can’t really tell, can you? And where did the $50 figure come from? Again, no idea.

There’s no science behind it. Just random, possibly arbitrary figures made up by someone who may or may not have the experience to understand the nuances of our profession and the wide variations in projects across all genres.

So why are we following these guides at all? Good question.

Your rate isn’t that tough to come to. You need to understand one thing first:

Your freelance writing rate is yours alone to set. Click To Tweet

Got that? Good. So how are you going to set a rate that you think is fair and one that will give you the amount of money you want to earn?

You could do the math. In that case, use the tool most of us have used at one time or another: Jenn Mattern’s Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator.

If you’ve done this for a few years and you’re looking to justify a rate hike, here’s your method:

Do it.

Yes, it is that simple. You don’t have to ask permission, explain yourself, or answer to anyone for it. Some of your clients may not like it and yes, you may lose a few because of it. Or you could do what I’ve done whenever I’ve had to raise rates — I do so for new clients, keeping the existing clients at the old rate for as long as it makes sense.

Keep in mind as you set or adjust your rates that you have to account for all your expenses: healthcare, insurance, retirement, savings, bills, home and car maintenance, etc. Most clients understand what they’re not paying in benefits and full-time pay is reflected in your higher rate.

Writers, are your rates where you want them to be?
How did you give yourself that first raise? If you’re not there yet, what’s getting in the way?
How did you come to your current rate? 

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  • Paula Hendrickson February 28, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Well, the rate I WANT is $1,000 per hour, but something tells me I won’t get it.

    Something I started doing a couple years back is having what Jenn Mattern would probably call her “get out of bed” fee. Only I call it my minimum project rate. If a new project doesn’t pay at least that amount, it’s not worth the bother.

    • lwidmer February 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      I love that fee. 🙂 The minimum you’ll work for is just as important a number, I think.

  • Anne Wayman February 28, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Ah yes, how complicated it all seemed back in the beginning. I remember using those rate charts to quote a client and mentioning the source. He said something like “I don’t know anything about that – here’s what I’ll pay you.” It was lower than I quoted, more than I was afraid he’d offer, so I took it… and he’s been a long-term client ever since.

    Years ago someone challenged me to double my rates – I could only make myself go 10% higher, but it was a start and today I charge many more times than that.

    Rate setting is a journey.

    • lwidmer February 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      I like this: “…more than I was afraid he’d offer…” I can only imagine what number you thought he was going to throw out there, Anne! Glad it was more than you expected, and even happier to hear he’s still a client.

      You’re right — rate-setting really is a journey. 🙂

  • Damaria Senne March 10, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Thank you Anne. It’s a journey for me too. This week, after a long vetting process, a potential client asked what my rate is, but I was so invested in wanting the assignment I almost dropped my rate to make myself more attractive to her, thinking I didn’t want to scare her off by being too expensive. But then, if she didn’t want to pay me a fair wage, would the client still have been as attractive to my business as she is right now?

    • lwidmer March 10, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Great point, Damaria. If she left that question for the end, she was clearly interested in the quality you bring to the job.