I cry a little inside when someone sells their creativity for single digits — or worse — pennies per click.
But, in reality, so many writers simply have no starting point for negotiating writing fees.
Writing is hard work. You deserve to be compensated fairly for your efforts.
Before we figure out a good rate for your work, please, please, please don’t undervalue your talent.
So, that brings us to the questions that make freelance writers cringe and hold off on returning emails and calls to clients who are almost on board with their services.
“So, what’s your rate?”
“How much will this cost me?”
“What do you charge?”
I’m here to tell you, that there’s no longer any reason to fear these questions. Stand tall. Be proud of your services. And, request what you’re worth. Here’s how.
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Look to Industry Resources
From online writer’s forums to printed guides for freelancers, there are tons of resources out there that publish average rates for a variety of freelance work projects.
One of my favorites to browse is the Writer’s Market book. Not only does it list companies looking to hire writers (and their rates!), but it also includes pages of general fees for a variety of writing services. I’ve consulted that list more times than I can count to get an idea of what I should charge for a project.
Account for Uncle Sam’s Cut
Once you have a vague idea of what you want to charge, be ready to cut a big chunk out of it for the government. As an independent contractor in the United States, you owe self-employment taxes to the federal and (sometimes) state government. The rates vary based on your annual freelance income, but you can bet you’ll be slicing a good 10 to 30 percent off the top of your earnings for old Uncle Sam. So, plan your rates accordingly!
Know Your Cost of Doing Business
Next, adjust the fee to cover the cost of writing the piece. Sure you might initially think there are no expenses, just creative powers.
Well, what about the cost of…
- that new laptop you only use for work
- the writing software you loaded onto the computer
- the transcription app you use for interviews
- the ink for printing out monthly business reports for the file cabinet
- the PayPal fees you absorb when you transfer funds from a client to your bank account
- the cost of hosting your writing website that brings in business
- the money you spend on Facebook ads or promoted Tweets to grow your network
And the list could go on and on.
When you’re a freelancer, you do have costs beyond sweat equity. Pad your writing rates a bit to offset these expenses.
Charge Per Hour or Per Project
Finally, the number one question you need to ask yourself is if you want to get paid by the project or by the hour. This question comes up for debate in popular writing chats at least once a year.
In my opinion, new writers are attracted to the hourly option. If you’re transitioning from traditional employment, you’re used to thinking of pay in terms of hourly or salary rates.
But how much work you can do in an hour can be easily underestimated and leave you working for less than minimum wage. The client will expect you to do mountains of work in an hour (and you’ll spend, oh, say three hours but submit your invoice for one hour, because that was the agreement) and feel terrible about the project.
Personally, I opt for per-project rates. I estimate the amount of time and costs it will take me to do the project. That way I never feel pressure from the client to turn something around on a ridiculously short deadline.
I can work at my pace. (And, do better work as a result.)
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Note: This blog post was last updated on June 1, 2022.