Every so often, someone shoots me an email or corners me at some event and asks some variation of the question, “How much does the average freelance writer charge?”
Depending upon who it is, I demur and don’t really answer the question and then say, “It depends.”
The reality is that it really does depend. It depends on the freelancer; it depends on the project; it depends on the time of year, and how busy the freelancer happens to be at that time. And, so on, and so on.
Still in my readings about being a professional freelance writer with a freelance writing business, I have never really been satisfied by what information is out there. I try to ignore such things, but eventually it keeps bugging me, and here we are. I’ll be writing a series of posts over the next, well… how every long it takes…, covering not only how much a freelance writer charges for writings, but also what a client should expect to get out of those writings. (Another thing that keeps bugging me is how clients think blogs posts “sell”.)
How Much Should a Freelance Writer Charge For…
Let’s start by noting that there are very different types of writing projects. That’s why there will be a series of these articles. There are whitepapers, blog posts, executive summaries, product manuals, copy writing, magazine articles, books, eBooks (yes, there is a difference), websites, training materials, courseware, the list goes on and on. Furthermore, it is important to note that even within the same project type, there are huge variations.
For example, blog posts is one popular type of freelance writing project that I get hired for on a regular basis. However, not all blog posts are created equal. The most important differences revolve around time and effort. If you want a freelance financial article written by me, that is something I have deep experience in. On the one hand, that would make it cheaper. On the other hand, I think that topic tends to have a lot of poorly written stuff swirling around out there. If we take it a step further, there are still enormous variations in difficulty. I can crank 500 words about the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA without touching a book, or searching on Google. Conversely, I’d spend at least a day making sure I got everything right before I even started writing, if you wanted 1,500 words about how to use a Charitable Remainder Trust to avoid estate taxes.
As you can imagine the pricing should differ significantly.
Next up, is how the writing works and who it comes from. Ongoing projects from people who are good to work with, and who always pay on time, are the best projects, so I’ll charge less for 500 words twice a week, than I will for 500 words this one time, or even once per month. If you don’t pay on time, I go all Red from Shawshank Redemption on you, “We never do business again, not for a shoelace, or a stick of gum.”
(The same goes for people who repeatedly talk to me about projects, get a lot of details on how I would do it, and then don’t end up hiring me. I get that it happens sometimes, but if it happens more than a few times, either you don’t like my style, or you’re using me to figure out how to do your business for free.)
There Is No Right Amount For a Freelance Writer to Charge
When we get into the specific articles, of course, I’ll take about what I charge which may, or may not, have any relation to what you, or your freelancer, can / should / would charge.
For now, know this:
On every project that I ever got, my first reaction was, “I probably should have tried to charge more.”
On every project that I ever ended up not getting, my first reaction was, “I probably should not have tried to charge so much.”
The reality is, as always, that something is worth, what someone else is willing to pay you for it. That means getting the right clients is as much about being the right freelancer for them as it is about charging the right amount.
Until we jump into those specific articles, I’ll leave you with two thoughts:
First, as often as possible, charge by the project or the deliverable. No one ever thinks good writing should take as long as it does, and there is no faster way to a bad relationship with a client than having to defend your hours.
Second, if you are charging by the project, your formula is either what you want to make per hour, times the number of hours you think the project will take (rounded up by at least 10 to 20 percent – you’ll be wrong, a lot…), or simply the amount of money you are willing to take to produce the requested product.
Remember, unless you are a starving writer, or you are just starting out, your goal is not to collect the highest number of projects, or the most clients, but rather to get properly paid for the work you create. In other words, this is about the writer, not the client. (Of course, each article will explain to clients what they can / should expect from a writer, at what rate. – In that case, it’s about what you need.)