Setting your freelance writing rates will determine your income for the next few months or even years.
It’s not something that you should take lightly. Your survival depends on it!
So how do you know how much to charge? Is there a magic formula that other writers use?
Not really. It’s more of a recipe than a formula.
Here it is:
How much, in a month, do you spend to keep your freelance business running? It goes beyond obvious expenses like paying for your internet or hosting your website.
When you are working for a client, everything around you that enables you to do your work has some kind of cost. Do you travel to meet clients? Then that would cost you money for transportation, accommodation, and meals. Do you use a paid piece of software for creating content? That’s another cost to consider.
There are also other important expenses like your children’s tuition fees, mortgage, clothes, food, entertainment and other items that you need to purchase.
Although these are not directly related to your business, it doesn’t change the fact that the money you spend on these would be coming from your freelance writing income. So it’s up to you to take these external costs into account when you set your rates.
Once you come up with the overall cost of your freelance writing business, you will have a better idea what you need to charge to cover for all these costs — and even more to earn profit. Which leads us to the next part of this article…
Your freelance writing income shouldn’t only cover your costs. What’s even more vital is that you gain profit. But first: What is profit?
Profit is the amount that’s left when you take away all expenses from your earnings.
Let’s say I earned $2,000 in January 2018. In that same month, I had to pay bills and buy a few things that are directly related to my freelance writing business. The total of those expenses amounted to $550.
Using the formula below, my profit is $1,450 for January.
When you calculate this with your own earnings, how does the profit amount make you feel? Is it enough, or do you feel you need the amount to be higher?
If you want higher profit, then you can do two things: lower your costs or increase your rates. Both options have their own pros and cons and you would have to choose which decision would be best for you at this stage in your freelance writing journey.
Lowering costs sounds simple enough, but cutting back on these may affect the quality of your work. I once cut off my web hosting account a few years back and just stopped updating my website to try and save some money. As a result, client offers also stopped coming and I decided to bring the website back despite the added cost.
Increasing rates would be great — if you find the right clients. To find the right clients, you need to execute a consistent strategy — whether it’s pitching, networking, or guest blogging. These things take a lot of your time (which will be unpaid because no one is paying you to do this) and also involves significant cost.
So you can do one of these things, but I don’t think you can do both. If you do try them both and you’re successful, let me know in the comments.
If you don’t like the idea of coming up with a random amount as your profit, then another way of getting to a rate that you like would be to set it manually.
Instead of asking: “How much can I make?” you can ask yourself: “How much do I want to make?”
What is your income goal?
Your income goal is the amount that you feel you deserve and that will give you the comfortable life you want. How much do you need to get to that point?
But here’s the catch — if you’re just starting out, you can’t expect to get the income you want if it doesn’t match your level of expertise.
You might have problems getting clients on board if the rates are set too high. If you want to make $10,000 a month but don’t have an impressive writing portfolio, then it’s hard for clients to believe you’re worth the high price.
While it’s great to aim for the income you want, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start with a smaller figure that would be more appropriate to the quality of work you can deliver. If you haven’t been writing professionally for a while, then there’s a good chance you still have a lot to learn — and it sometimes doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you’re a great writer.
Do you wonder why some writers get paid hundreds of dollars for their work, while others get just enough to pay the bills? While it may be because of poor pricing on the writer’s part, it may also be because of that writer’s niche.
Some industries are simply more financially stable and thus have bigger budgets for marketing and content creation.
If the companies in your niche are large corporations, then it’s likely that you have the chance of getting the kind of rate you’re aiming for. However, if your niche is something that serves small businesses, then these clients may not have enough money for paying writers.
Where you publish your writing would also make a difference. Print magazines (the good ones) offer up to $1 per word to qualified writers.
It’s more challenging to get your pitches accepted, but the effort pays off a thousand-fold when you do get published. On the other hand, writing for websites and blogs rarely offer you the same type of compensation.
Even when it comes to writing content for the web, some websites and blog owners pay more than others. This would depend on how the site generates income and how much they’re willing to pay for great content.
If you want to know which publications and websites offer great pay for writers, check out this Freelance Rates Database from Contently.
Simple blog posts which require light research should pay less than, say, a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a mobile app. A 500-word article about the latest makeup trend shouldn’t cost more than a 10-page case study on the effects of a vegan diet to cancer patients.
Unlike a niche, you can offer different content types for clients. The rates will vary depending on length, level of difficulty, and expertise required for the piece.
For instance, as a technology writer, I vary my rates depending on the kind of content the client needs. A listicle about the best keyboards of 2018 will cost less than an e-book about starting a WordPress blog.
There’s a lot other content types you can make for your clients, most of them you might not be aware of. If that’s the case, then head over to Carol Tice’s helpful list of 50 niches that can generate the income you want.
Setting your freelance writing rates can be a daunting task. The key to finding a rate that you can stand by is to consider all these factors before coming up with an exact amount.
That being said, a great price always has to maintain a balance between what you think you deserve and what you know others are willing to pay.
Have you set a freelance writing rate that you’re comfortable with? Share your experience in the comments below!