Free Advice Friday: Setting Freelance Rates Sensibly

Has it really been a week since I’ve been here?

This is what happens when your life has a hiccup.

I had a good excuse — the day before Thanksgiving in the early hours (1 am), my daughter gave birth to a gorgeous little creature named Jaxon. We were so excited and in love that it was 2:30 before we left to come home, and 3:30 before I got to bed. We visited the next afternoon and yes, he was still gorgeous.

It’s a theme that continues.

Amid all this, I had work and a holiday and house guests. Today was my first full day back in this chair, and even that was interrupted. I had a much-needed massage appointment that I wasn’t canceling no matter what, and there was a little bundle of cuteness I had to go visit.

The other side of the spectrum — my dad is declining quickly.

Today will be spent in the car heading five hours west. The hospice nurses have had him transported from home to their care facility for observation. I will be there. No way I won’t be there.

Work will go with me. You never know.

One thing that won’t go with me is the can’t-do attitude that I see cluttering up the internet. A writer wanted to know how best to put together a letter of introduction. Another writer told him to forget it because he is an editor and doesn’t like them. Except when he does. (He forgets that not every person receiving a LOI is an editor.)

Another struggling writer wants to know how other writers broke through their doldrums and started making money. One writer wrote that she should just give up now because the struggle never ends (only minutely true and only occasionally if you work hard).

Still another writer wanted to know how to charge for a particular project. The responses were dollar amounts (and low ones) and didn’t take into account any single fact about the project. One writer did give the best answer — switch the question around and ask how much you’d like to make on the project.

That right there is common sense.

A number of years ago a writer named Walt Kania guest posted here what I still think is some of the best advice there is on pricing one’s writing. His Dirty Little Secret About Pricing is absolutely true:

The difference between a $1,200-a-day writer and a $500-a-day writer is “the $1200-a-day writer — for whatever reason — decided that her ‘get out of bed’ fee was $1200 a day.”

Boom. Right there.

That’s how you learn to charge — by following your gut.

Here’s a list of things to ask yourself when you’re trying to figure your rate:

  • Is per project or per hour better for me? (hint — go with per project)
  • How much do I want to make every month? What’s my annual salary goal?
  • Is the amount of money I want per hour (you’ll still come up with an hourly even if you do per-project billing) going to be enough to make this worth the effort?

What not to do:

  • Use other writers’ rates solely as your benchmark (what if they charge too little?). Do ask around, but don’t make this your only factor in determining rates.
  • Rely on those awful “range” charts — projects and clients are way too varied for those to be useful.
  • Go low thinking you’ll go high later — start where you want to be. It’s just easier than finding yourself stuck with low-paying clients.
  • Listen to the naysayers who insist you can’t charge what you’re charging.
  • Cave in to pushy clients who won’t pay your rate. Negotiate, yes. But don’t allow yourself to be browbeaten or guilted into dropping your rate.

Writers, how did you get to your current rate?
How much has your rate increased over the years?  What what your lowest/highest point?

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  • Joy Drohan December 1, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Congrats, Grandma Lori! Peace be with you and your dad and your family.

    • lwidmer December 4, 2017 at 8:18 am

      Thank you, Joy! We’ve certainly been running quite the emotional gamut these days.

  • Cathy Miller December 5, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Lori, sorry to hear about you dad. Hopefully, the new baby brings him peace and joy. Hugs to you and your family.

    • lwidmer December 5, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks, Cathy. Dad is fighting it, but his body is winding down. It’s heartbreaking.

      But that baby, oh! What a joy! Life gives us both good and bad, doesn’t it?

      • Cathy Miller December 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm

        Indeed it does, Lori. Hope your holidays bring much comfort and joy.