How much do you make PER HOUR writing articles? $100? $50? Less than $10? Here are two critical questions: How much do you need to make every day, week or month to run a profitable full-time or part-time freelance business? How does this income requirement translate into an hourly rate?
It’s great to earn $1 per word or more for national consumer or specialty magazines. However, the word rate doesn’t always indicate how truly profitable an assignment will be. In addition, the total number of words isn’t always a good indicator. I believe what really counts is how much you make an hour.
The reason is simple: what you have to sell as a freelance writer is your time. I have usually two to four good writing hours per day. This includes writing, researching, interviewing, rewriting and communicating with editors and others. This time doesn’t include invoicing, bookkeeping, filing, researching markets, writing queries, networking, attending writing or business meetings or other non-billable functions.
By using certain strategies, I’ve regularly earned $100 – $125 per hour on article assignments. The word rate for these articles averaged 50 cents per word. I’ve also earned about $100 an hour for assignments in the 70 cents to $1 a word range. The most I ever made was $1,000 in 15 minutes for four reprints! While I don’t always earn the $100 hourly rate on every assignment, I have found that it’s a worthwhile and attainable goal.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
It took several years for me to develop a system to produce high-quality writing in less time, without stress or strain. Here are my five time-tested tips on how to raise and maintain a good hourly rate:
1. Get clear on what it costs to run your writing business. Perhaps $100 per hour seems high, but it’s a reasonable fee when you consider your business expenses and taxes, plus paying for basic benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings, paid vacation and sick days. But even if you earn less than $100 an hour, you can still run a profitable writing business if you are aware of your costs.
2. Think in terms of completing a certain number of billable hours each business day. I found it extremely helpful to allocate two to four hours daily — and make completing those hours a top priority. It’s easy to get caught up in answering e-mails, reading magazines, filing and cleaning, and not accomplishing anything during a work day that’s actually directly income producing. If I don’t have an assignment, I’ll use those time slots to write queries to publications that could pay $100 an hour, follow-up on queries or research new potentially lucrative markets.
3. Carefully track your time. Freelance writers typically don’t bill editors by the hour. However, it’s been useful to record exactly how much time I spend on each assignment every day (right down to the minute). I write down exactly what activities I did during that time such as research, interviewing, writing and rewriting. After completing the assignment, I take the total fee and divide it by the total number of hours to learn what I’ve made per hour.
4. Improve on your results. I increased my hourly rate from $35 to $100 per hour by analyzing how I can save time. For example, if I’m excited about a topic then I tend to overwrite and have to spend time making painful cuts. I also make careful note of my editor’s requests for rewriting and compare her editing changes with what I’ve written. I always want to make life as easy as possible for editors and this approach saves valuable time while improving my writing.
5. Estimate how much you can potentially earn per hour BEFORE submitting an article proposal based on how much time you spent on similar assignments. In addition, analyze articles in the publication regarding the number of interviews and the amount of research. Remember, you deserve to do work that you love and be fairly paid.
Resources For more information on how to avoid underearning:
Earn What You Deserve: How to Stop Underearning & Start Thriving by Jerrold Mundis.
L. L. Star has worked as a full-time professional freelance writer, editor and newsletter designer for over 20 years. She has written at least 1,010 published articles, and specializes in writing about travel, history, Americana, business, personal finance, children and families. She welcomes your comments and questions and can be reached at: LStarwriter-at-aol.com.