Do you know what your freelance writing rates should be for your services?
“How much do freelance writers charge?” is probably one of the biggest questions you might have if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer. And if you’re an established freelancer who’s been at it a while, you might be wondering how you can raise your rates and make more money for your writing.
I’ve been on both sides as a freelancer, so I get the struggle when it comes to setting your freelance writing rates.
Because there’s a mental trap many freelance writers end up falling into. On one hand, you might be worried about charging too much and scaring off clients. On the other, you worry that you’re not charging enough and lowballing yourself out of money.
It’s a fine line but figuring out what to charge as a freelance writer is one of the most important parts of building a successful career. And it can be tricky whether you’re just getting started or you’re building up a steady clientele.
So to help you out, I’ve got a definitive guide you can use to establish your rates and start racking up the money from your writing skills.
How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?
The number one thing to know about freelance writing is that every freelancer and every client are different. So when it comes to how much money freelance writers make, the answer is different for everyone.
Freelance writing rates can depend on:
- How many years of experience you have
- Whether you’re writing in a profitable niche
- Whether you’re an expert in that niche
- The type of writing you’re doing
- The types of clients you’re working with
What you might charge as a beginning freelance writer probably isn’t going to be the same as someone who’s been writing professionally for a decade or more.
For example, when I first started out I charged $0.15 per word because I didn’t have a clue what I should be charging. Now I get paid $1 or more per word for most projects.
It’s a big jump but it comes from working in a lucrative niche (personal finance) and being a subject matter expert. To give you a better idea of what other writers charge, here’s a rundown of a survey of freelance writers conducted by ClearVoice:
- The majority of beginner freelance writers (around 30%) charge between $0.01 and $0.10 per word.
- One-quarter of beginner freelance writers charge $1 to $20 per hour.
- The majority of expert freelance writers (approximately 55%) charge $1 or more per word.
- 40% of expert writers make more than $100 per hour (myself included)
So the biggest takeaway is that it pays to be an expert in your niche. But more than that, there’s a whole range of freelance writing rates you can charge based on whether you’re a beginner, at the intermediate stage of freelance, a freelancing pro or an expert.
Another word about niches here. Aside from being an expert, your niche can influence how much you can charge as a freelance writer.
My niche is personal finance and that’s always lucrative for writers who have the knowledge and skills that financial brands are looking for. Other profitable freelance writing niches include:
- Business (related to finance)
So if you haven’t chosen a niche yet, take a quick pause and think about what kind of writing you’re most interested in and what you’re most skilled at writing. That can help you figure out what your specialty should be.
How to Set Your Freelance Writing Rates
Okay, so now that you have an idea of what other freelance writers charge it’s time to think about how to set your rates. I’m going to give you a really simple blueprint you can follow for deciding what to charge. Ready? Here we go!
1. Decide how much money you want (or need) to make each month
This sounds like an odd way to approach setting your freelance writing rates but hear me out.
When I first started freelance writing full-time, I was a brand-new single parent with only a little bit of savings and two kids to care for full-time. I had worked out a budget so mentally I knew exactly how much money I needed to make from freelancing each month to cover my bills.
That number–$2,800–was the first income goal I set for myself as a new freelance writer. I used that as my baseline for setting my rates when I was cold pitching clients and applying to writing gigs on job boards.
Back then, I focused on what writing jobs paid per piece. So if I came across an ad for a gig that paid $50 per article for four articles a month, I knew right off that if I landed it I’d have $200 a month toward my income goal.
Having a set income number each month helped me avoid undercutting myself too much. (Although I’ll admit, I did take lower-paying gigs sometimes just to make my monthly goal.)
So as you set your freelance writing rates, get clear on what your monthly income goal is right now. You’ll need this number for step two.
2. Calculate your target hourly freelance writing rate
If you’ve got your big income number for the month, now it’s time to break it down. There’s a really simple way to do this.
Figure out how many hours you can work on freelance writing each month.
That’s almost too easy, right? But figuring out how many hours you can realistically spend on pitching freelance writing clients, applying to jobs, networking and of course, actually writing is important.
Say that you want to make $3,000 a month as a freelance writer. You’re also a stay at home mom (been there!) so you can only realistically spend about 15 hours a week on your business.
Assuming four weeks in a month, you’d have 60 hours a month in which to earn your $3,000 income goal. That works out to $50 an hour.
And if you’re a beginning freelance writer, that’s a really good number to aim for. It sends the signal to clients that you can’t be had for pennies, which is always good. And it’s a solid figure you can build on as your experience grows.
If you’re an experienced writer charging $50 an hour, on the other hand, I hate to tell you but you’re not charging enough. Believe it or not, there are clients that will pay you much more. I know, because I work with some great ones.
Why charge hourly and not per word or per piece?
That’s a good question and I totally believe in charging by the word. You’ll make a lot more money this way, especially if you can charge premium rates as an expert.
But establishing your baseline hourly rate is a helpful way to gauge what your time is worth and what you need to charge to hit your monthly goal. And it can help you sidestep low-paying projects that don’t deserve your time.
3. Tailor your rates to the project
If we’re going off the previous numbers, charging $50 might sound pretty good. But not so fast.
You still have to factor in how much time you’re going to spend on a project. This matters because some things can take longer for you to write than others.
For example, I can knock out a 700-word blog post for a client in 30 minutes if it’s a topic I know inside and out. On the other hand, something like a fully researched white paper might take me several days (or weeks) to wrap up.
If you’re accepting a gig that pays $50 per article, you might just assume you can bang it out in an hour but it could end up taking you two or three times as long. If it takes you two hours to write the piece, you’ve effectively cut your $50 hourly rate in half.
And that’s not what you want.
So, be realistic about how long it’s going to take you to tackle a writing project. Remember, that this time includes:
- Covering the details with the editor or client
- Creating an outline
- Researching the piece
- Writing and fact-checking
- Proofreading and editing
- Making additional edits if the client sends it back for revisions
How long a blog post, article, white paper, landing page or anything else takes you to write depends on you. But you need to have a clear idea of how much time you’ll typically spend on something when deciding what to charge.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes things will take longer and it won’t be your fault.
I’ve had projects that seemed like they’d be short and sweet end up being a drain on my time because there were multiple editors involved in revising the piece. One would make a change that the second editor didn’t like, meanwhile the third editor would ask for something totally different. So I’d rewrite the same article three or four times.
Which just plain sucks. But it brings up another great point about setting your freelance writing rates: what to charge for edits.
Most experienced writers offer one or two revisions at no additional charge and tack on a fee for revisions beyond that point. For example, there might be a 20% increase in rate.
That’s a great practice because it keeps you from dwindling your hourly rate down to nothing when trying to appease a client. Bonus tip: you can also charge more money for rush jobs that need to be completed on a short turn-around.
So for example, if an editor normally gives you a two-week deadline and bumps up a story to be due in two days, you can add on a 20% rush fee. This is another good way to make sure you’re being paid fairly for your time.
4. Adjust your rate for taxes and expenses
So you might be cruising along thinking you’ve got this freelance writing rates thing figured out. But I bet there’s one thing you didn’t account for.
Well, two things. Taxes and business expenses.
I’m lucky that since I work from home, my business expenses are minimal. Mainly, I only pay for Microsoft Office and internet service to run my business. Every couple of years I have to replace my laptop.
Taxes are a bigger part of the picture. As a six-figure freelance writer, I pay a hefty chunk in taxes each year. And once you start earning money from your writing you’ll have to pay the taxman, too.
I won’t get into specifics on how much you’ll owe since that depends on your personal tax situation. But as a good rule of thumb, you should be setting aside 20% to 30% of your freelance writing income for taxes.
So if you make $1,000 per month freelancing, then $200 to $300 of that should be held back for taxes. (Remember, you have to pay those quarterly and at the end of the year.)
And the money you pay to taxes and expenses should be factored into your hourly rate.
So let’s go back to that $3,000 a month example one more time. Assume $600 of that needs to go to taxes each month and you have $0 business expenses.
Now your take-home income is down to $2,400. If you’re still working the same 60 hours a month, your hourly rate is effectively $40 instead of $50.
Bummer, right? Because you need to make that $50 an hour to meet your household bills.
But there’s an easy fix. You just add in what you need for taxes and expenses to your hourly rate.
So to net $3,000 per month, you’d need to make $3,750 (assuming you’re holding back 20% or $750 for taxes). That means your new hourly rate would need to be at least $62.50.
Easy peasy, right? It’s an important step you can’t afford to skip in setting your freelance writing rates.
5. Watch out for scope creep
Repeat after me: scope creep is not your friend.
Scope creep means anything a client asks you to do outside of what’s outlined in your contract. Scope creep is bad because what often happens is clients ask for more work but don’t offer more money.
If you feel like a client’s venturing into scope creep territory, that’s a great opportunity to hit pause and ask for more money.
You can frame it politely by pointing out the terms of your original contract and what you’re being paid to do currently. From there, you can use that as an opening to expand your contract (and up your rate).
If a client gives you pushback on changing the contract, then you have two choices: you can either do the extra work for nothing or find a new client.
And I know that door number two is the scary one. But sometimes, you have to walk through it as a freelance writer. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck earning low pay instead of breaking through to the six-figure club as you should be.
6. Raise your rates strategically
By now, you should have a good idea of how much you should be charging hourly for your freelance writing services.
Again, you can also set your rates per word or per piece. If you’re going this route, think carefully about how much time you’ll invest in a project.
If you want to make $100 an hour and you’re expected to write a 1,000-word blog post that’s going to take two hours to write, then you know you’ll need to charge at least $200 (not including the extra amount you have to add in for taxes).
The last and most important thing to know about setting freelance writing rates is that they shouldn’t be set in stone.
I’ve come a long way from making $15 or $25 for blog posts (yes, I actually charged that little as a beginner!) and it’s because I’ve raised my rates strategically over time.
So how do you raise your rates?
There are a few ways to do it. As a guideline, you should be raising your rates:
- At least once per year for existing clients (January is a good time to do this, as most companies are setting their budgets for the year.)
- Each time you take on a new client
- Any time a client starts to get a case of scope creep or changes the details of the project
The key to raising your freelance writing rates successfully comes down to one thing: confidence.
Raising your rates with confidence is one of the biggest secrets to making six figures as a freelance writer. And I assume that’s something you’re interested in if you’re reading this.
So here’s a solid rule of thumb to follow when setting your freelance writing rates:
Charge what you know you’re worth.
Because here’s the truth: your clients will only value your work as much as you do. So make sure you’re getting paid a fair price for your skills!
What are you doing to raise your freelance writing rates?
Hopefully, these tips have given you a framework for deciding what to charge.
Have you raised your rates recently? Leave me a comment and tell me how it went!