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Freelance Writer Fees: Is There a Standard?

Novelist

Making a living as a freelance writer has its perks. Work to your natural rhythms. Travel. Grow from competition. Meet some great people.

It’s why so many of  us are drawn to it.

It also has its lows, mainly the stress of putting enough projects together to earn enough money to make a living.

All of this, however, comes down to this question: how much should I charge? The answer is two-fold.

Experience as a Freelance Writer

I wish I could tell you there was a formula to this. Or even a standard. There really isn’t. I mean, on average I think writers charge $50/hour. But what it really comes down to is experience.

If you have very little experience, then $50 is high. You might be worth $25/hour. On the other hand, if you have a ton of experience (keep in mind, this doesn’t always equate into quality work), then you could easily get away with charging $100-$500/hour.

Exorbitant prices, but you are famous. People love you. And want you.

The thing you have to keep in mind is what will the market handle? If demand for writers was off the charts, then greenhorns could get away with $100/hour. When demand is low, however, $15/hour may be more realistic.

The Customer’s Budget

The other thing you have to think about is your customer. Big brands with deep pockets won’t flinch at $100/hour. A non-profit, on the other hand, will ask if you were joking.

What I’ve found to work really well is simply to ask the customer if they have a budget. This will tell you how much money they want to spend. You then need to decide if you can work inside that budget.

I like this approach because you are in control. You are not showing your cards, but getting them to show you theirs.

And if someone flinches at your rates, tell them you will back your work with a majestic amount of customer service. Better yet, tell them that BEFORE  you tell them your rates.

Your Real Concern Isn’t Money

Here’s the deal: for new writers experience is more important than money. Cash flow isn’t the concern–obscurity is. That means you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get a few jobs under your belt.

Even if that means working for minimum wage.

What do you think? Do you have experience setting freelance writer rates? Share your secrets.

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Comments

  1. Demian, good post.

    I would add that it’s important to get in front of the clients that understand the value of the type of copy you write… and have the budget to pay whatever fees you’re comfortable charging.

  2. Great post! I hit this dilemma with my first job and really had to weigh up the need for good income against not pricing myself out of the Market. I’m in Ireland so we talk in pounds so I charge £15 a blog post which must equate to roughly $25 – low enough down your payscale. But then again I’m only new and building a rep. Anyways cool to see your blog and il be following. Peace out @brianjohnspencr

  3. Demian,

    Great article.

    I have problems in convincing some of my clients to reveal their budgets. I guess they think if they show their cards, I’ll charge them more. What do you do in such a case?

    Thanks.

    • Great question. Just go high. Think of the amount you would be satisfied with–and then double that amount. That will draw them out. If they say that’s too high, then ask them what they want.

  4. Great question…and one I’ve always struggled with. The way I’ve done it is to charge what I think my time is worth. I know how long something is going to take me, and I charge according to what I think my time AND knowledge (read: expertise) is worth.

    I’ll say this… Any time where I’ve been in a situation where I’ve discounted my rate, the client has been much more work than the pay was worth. Lesson = don’t discount your rates.

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