“What should I charge?” is probably one of the top 3 questions that newbie and even some seasoned freelance writers frequently ask. I don’t blame them because it can be a bit confusing. How much to charge as a freelance writer can and will definitely vary from person to person, and from project to project. Therefore, there’s definitely no “one size fits all” when it comes to pricing. The thing that gets under my skin is that the first thing people tend to do is settle on the amount close to what they were used to getting when they were employed … at a minimum-wage job. Translation: Writers are charging (settling) for just above, if not the same rate, as minimum wage.
In this article, I’m going to explain not so much “what” to charge, but “how” to properly charge as a freelance writer in a way that grants you a decent living, as well as the respect and dignity that you deserve.
Adopt the Mindset of a Real Business Owner
Let’s make this clear: You are not working “for” your clients. You are working “with” them. You own a business here so you must behave accordingly. By adopting a business owner mindset, you’ll present yourself as a business owner, and uphold yourself with much more integrity and confidence. When you agree on a project with a client, you become two business owners working together to reach a specific goal. This arrangement is a business partnership, not an employer/employee relationship.
Just because someone is “hiring” you to get the job done doesn’t make them your “boss.” While it’s obviously important to do a great job, and meet the client’s expectations, you are still your own boss. Don’t allow them to control you, or bully you into giving them whatever they want for measly wages, or any wages really.
Let’s use a hairdresser for example. When you set up an appointment, you’re hiring someone to provide a specific service for you. Do they “work” for you? No, they work for themselves. Are they going to fall for your attempt at trying to shame them into changing their prices just because you feel they’re too expensive? No, they’re not. Are they going to end up broke and homeless just because one difficult person didn’t agree with with how they price their services? Nope.
As a business owner, your clients do not call the shots. Either they can accept your terms or they can find someone else to be their subordinate.
You Don’t get Benefits, So Charge Accordingly
As an employee, if you show up for work, you got paid. It’s not at all the same as a freelancer. Besides the fact that a paycheck is not guaranteed for you, freelancers and business owners often work many, many non-billable hours. Non-billable hours are time spent on work that will not directly result in a paid invoice from clients. Non-billable hours are hours of your time spent on things like planning, advertising/marketing, networking, follow-ups, bookkeeping, software updates, studying (if you invest in books, courses, or consume online material that educate you on the business). On top of that, you’re also held responsible for all business related expenses, taxes, insurances, retirement funds, etc.
An employee is not only guaranteed to be paid on ALL the hours they have worked, but they oftentimes receive a plethora of benefits that you don’t get as a freelance writer, including paid leave, vacation time, and even travel stipends. Therefore, charging the same wage a corporate employee in your position would receive is a huge disservice and mistake. Doing so can even put your entire freelance business at risk! Instead, you should add up ALL of your living expenses and business expenses, and calculate that to discover the amount you’ll need to bring home per month just to survive. Also, keep in mind the estimated cost of living in your area, and potential inflation.
Then, determine exactly the amount of billable hours (time spent directly working on client assignments) you’re willing to work in a month. Divide the number you need to bring home per month by the number of billable hours you plan to work per month.
For example: If you need to bring home $3,600 a month to live comfortably, and have room to work on client assignments 20 hours a week, or 80 hours per month, that means your hourly rate will be $45. This will be the lowest rate that you charge. The bigger the client, or the more demanding the project, the more you should charge.
Please note that, unless a client has agreed to pay you by the hour, your desires hourly rate isn’t what you should quote your client. If you’re working for a flat-fee client, based on your initial quote to them, they are not tracking your time or paying you by the hour. This is just a guideline to keep in mind when quoting a project (e.g. If you estimate a certain project for a client will take up 10 work hours, and if your rate is $45/hour, then you would quote $450 as a starting rate for that project.)
Always Charge 50% Higher Than You Think You Should
Those who are self-employed fall for the trap of charging way too low for their services. They fall into a mentality that says, if they’re offering their services for higher or premium prices, then it’ll be harder for them to find clients that are willing to pay them. While that’s partly true, it still isn’t a good reason to completely low-ball yourself either. After all, you’re still a business owner with bills to pay and a life to live. Lowering your prices to appease a certain demographic isn’t the best practice as a freelance writer. In fact, what you end up doing is attracting clients who aren’t a pleasure to work with. While you may feel like it’s “easier” to attract a client who is happy to pay you $10 per 1000 words, you’re only hurting yourself, and, honestly, cheapening the industry.
An easy way to train yourself to charge higher than you normally do is by charging 50% higher on what you’re tempted to ask for, or are currently working for, without any hesitation. For example, if your instinct is to charge $50 per article, then your 50% increase will make it $75. That is now your new average rate. This teaches you to charge based on what is fair, and what your work deserves, not by what you think a client is “willing” to pay.
And, don’t just raise your prices once. The cost of living keeps increasing. Make periodic price increases part of your long-term business plan. When you raise your prices, inform current clients 4-6 weeks in advance of your upcoming increase, and charge new clients the new price right off the bat.This way, your business is consistently growing in revenue and you don’t get comfortable settling for lower pay.
Maintain a Consistent Marketing Strategy
The reason a lot of freelance writers struggle with the feast or famine cycle is because they get lazy with their marketing, or don’t have a solid marketing strategy for their business.
The easiest way to combat this is by having and remaining consistent with a solid marketing strategy. This strategy can (and should) include a professional writer’s website, guest posting on popular sites in your niche, staying active on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, and reaching out to cold prospects via calls or emails introducing yourself, your services, and how you can help them with their business. Marketing yourself independently also gives you the opportunity to match up with high quality clients that will pay top dollar for your services. You can research businesses and get some background on their reputation, funding, yearly revenue, company size, etc. This will give you an idea if a particular client may be a good fit for you, and if they can afford to pay your good rates.
Toss Social Anxiety Aside and Network in Person
Getting to know potential clients in person has proven monumental in scoring not only high-paying gigs but long-term retainer contracts! It also makes the on boarding process less intimidating for both the writer and the client, believe it or not. This is because face-to-face interaction is crucial in building relationships with others, even in business. At in-person networking events, you’re meeting people who are extremely serious about their businesses, and are looking to connect with those who can help them excel to the next level. In-person networking events are a gold mine for getting in touch with business owners who are willing to pay top dollar for your services.
By charging what’s fair to you and your needs, you’ll no longer feed into the “starving artist” stereotype. You’ll work with great clients who don’t nickel and dime you, provide premium quality work at premium rates, and enjoy the financial and emotional freedom of truly living life on your terms.
- Fair Pay…or Cruel and Unusual Punishment? By Rich Mintzer
- Effective Bidding Pays Off By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
- “I want to charge a realistic amount for this freelance job. How much should that be?”
- Should I Charge an Hourly Rate, or a Flat Fee for This Project?
- Why I Don’t Post My Rates on My Website By Kathleen Krueger
- Sticking to Your Rate in a Market With Writers Willing to Work for Peanuts By Lindsay Pietroluongo
Haneef Davenport is a freelance content strategist who specializes in creating content for beauty and wellness brands and businesses. She’s previously worked with companies like Amazon and The Lip Bar, and is the founder of her own beauty and style blog with a reach of over 40,000 monthly views. You can find out more about her writing services at yourwritingheroine.com and check out her blog, rosegoldpearls.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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All good advice.
Thank you for a useful article!