Ask the Expat Freelancer: How Do I Set Writing Rates?

May 2, 2011

in blogging, writing

I’m just starting out and want to know, what are your tips for setting rates? I know a lot of writers write for free and I’m afraid I’ll ask for too much. — P.L.

There are some basic guidelines listing the range of prices per word depending on what you’re writing. You generally don’t want to write a blog post for less than $20, but you can be flexible if you’re just starting out; if a client wants $15 a post, say you’ll do three for $50. You shouldn’t ask for below 10 cents a word for other projects. Many web sites pay around $100 or more for an article or feature between 500 and 800 words. Major glossy magazines start out paying around $1 per word.

While it’s sometimes true that price is attached to the complexity of the topic or assignment, this doesn’t matter as much as you would think, as evidenced by the going rates for major magazines regardless of subject matter. Generally, a good way to spot an ill-intentioned ad or client is by the volume of work they ask for. The sharks will want 50 “articles” of at least 600 words for $20. That is highway robbery. Reputable places that pay well will ask for quality, not quantity, because very few people can produce 50 well-written articles of 600 words at such a rate that the $20 payment would be justified.

That being said, really think about how much time it will take you to complete the assignment(s) when you set writing rates. As I’ve said in another post, time is money in freelance writing. You can waste five hours of your eight-hour day writing for $35. That’s a rate of $7 an hour. You might as well go work at McDonald’s. If a client tries to  sell you on the fact that this is “easy writing” or that it will take “10 minutes” to do, take a step back and reconsider the gig.

As you progress, use your fee experience as leverage when you set writing rates. The idea is that while you may not be able to continually go up, especially in a slow-to-revive economy, you don’t want to to go down, either. If you’ve been writing blog posts of around 200 words for $50 a pop, why would you do three 500-word posts for $20? You’ve already reached a certain level, either by writing skill or expertise or knowing the right people to ask for gigs, and you want to stay at that level until you can get more.

How do you set writing rates?

5 Comments - Add Yours!

  1. Ashley

    Excellent advice. I’m not a freelancer, but I’ll definitely pass your article along to friends who are interested in writing or freelancing!


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