When you start work as a freelance writer, one of the first things you ask yourself is “How much should I charge for my writing services?”.
Finding an answer to that question can be difficult, at first. This is because unlike other jobs or corporate designations, there is no known pay structure that you can reference. Also, it’s difficult to benchmark yourself against other writers. Every writer has unique skills, in the type of content they write as well as the quality of writing. Someone who is just starting out can expect to earn much lesser than an established niche writer.
So that brings us back to the initial question, what should be your freelance writing fee?
I have been freelancing for the last four years, and here’s what I have learnt about determining pricing as a writer.
1. Start low: Clients are willing to pay more for your work once they have either worked with you , or when they see high customers ratings from other clients. Since you have neither of these when you start writing, your writing fee may well determine your chances of getting a writing gig. So quote the minimum amount you would be willing to work for. Remember the aim is to get the job and gradually build a client base.
My first job four years ago paid $7 for 400 words and I was thrilled that anyone was willing to hire me. Today my rate is a minimum of $25 per 400 words. Depending on the type of content being written, that rate can be twice as much.
2. Review freelancing websites for how much others are charging: I source work primarily through freelancing websites such as Elance and Upwork. Seeing how much other writers with similar experience bid for projects that I am interested in, is a good indicator of the going rate for the project.
3. Charge higher if you have relevant experience: Having written on the same topic as the client’s current requirement gives you a slight edge. Quote higher than your usual price if you have similar writing experience.
4. Look at the overall client relationship: Different clients will pay different amounts for the same type of work. For instance, my clients in India tend to have lower budgets than clients in the U.S or U.K. When an existing client has a lower budget, consider other aspects of the work relationship, such as the ease of working with the client, their promptness in clearing invoices, and the potential for future work. Some flexibility in pricing is good.
5. Increase your fee with existing clients, but not too often: As you work for more clients, across more industries and build a reputation as a solid / reliable writer, you will of course want to charge more. But how often should you increase your rates?
With existing clients once a year, or once every two years, is a good enough wait period before asking for an increase. Speak to your client or send them an email at least two months in advance of the date from when you want to hike your rates. Also communicate your willingness to work at the new fee for the next ‘X’ months.
Some clients will agree readily to the proposed fee and others may negotiate a lower than the proposed rate. There is always the risk that some clients will refuse to accept the revised rate. It is up to you to decide if it is still worth your time to work for that client.
Several well-known publications pay pittance. The low rate is justified by the exposure you get by writing for them. Also, when you start out on freelance job websites like Upwork, clients may offer projects at low fee in exchange for five-star ratings to boost your profile.
Here’s my take on this.There is no way I would work for free. My time is worth something and it is up to me to decide, within reasonable limits, as to how much minimum I would be willing to work for.
As I said earlier, I did start out at a low pay bracket to begin with, but that was just the first couple of months. Once I gained a fair understanding of my skills and how much I was charging versus other writers, I started to pitch for a higher writing fee. While my job success rate dropped, I succeeded in reaching a handful of good clients with decent pay rates, who continue to give me work on a regular basis.
When it comes to determining how much you should charge clients as a freelance writer, you are the best judge of what your writing skills are worth. But don’t be so unrealistic in your demands that your writing rate becomes uncompetitive.
All the best.