Being a freelance writer is a challenging, fun, but sometimes lonely way to earn a living, or supplement your income.There seems to be no end to people who want to talk to you when you have a full content calendar. Yet when it’s time to find out how much to charge for freelance writing, you can feel like there’s no one who you can talk to.
It’s a challenge to test your client’s budgetary limits, and you won’t get very far as a freelancer by guessing at prices, or writing on a “dollar per hundred word” basis. Freelance marketplace websites like Upwork and Freelancer can be good places to build a portfolio and write for lower prices between high value gigs. When it comes time to truly sell your services to businesses in your target market, you want to have a pricing strategy you can survive, and thrive on.
Rookie Writer Mistakes, or Harsh Reality?
Before I dig into this topic, I have to level with you. I found setting my prices to be a very challenging process when I started. In some cases, I started pricing my rate based on a very complex formula:
Length of Article in Words + Fun Factor of the Topic + Likeability of the Customer + Strategic Value of the Blog Post Series to Portfolio * My Bank Account Balance/Monthly Bills
Seriously though, all of these factors will weigh on your mind when it comes to pricing writing, graphic design, or any freelance services. Though it’s tempting (and sometimes necessary) to set your prices low as a new freelancer, as you build your reputation and your project quality improves, you’ll want to set your rates on a more strategic basis.
When you are setting your writing project pricing consider the following five factors:
Your Time is Precious
As a freelance writer, you are trading your time, talent, credibility, creativity and industry expertise for money. If you choose to contract with “content mills” that pay very little for your work, you are going to find it difficult to make any progress. Writers demonstrate respect for their clients by creating quality content which delivers a compelling brand message.
Your client should reciprocate on your respect by paying market rates.
If a prospective client asks you write “a few articles for free as a trial run”, do yourself a favour. Just run. Just like a lawyer, if you want to volunteer your services for a cause you believe in, pro bono writing is an admirable way to build a portfolio. I did so for Startup Canada, and it helped me make some great connections and get some quality paid work. Just don’t provide charity work to for-profit companies. Even if they say please.
2. Assets - Expenses = Liability
This is one of the most fundamental accounting principles, and you should always keep it in mind when you toil in your early days as a freelance content writer. If you want to build a body of work, and a roster of clients in the beginning to start your freelance career, try doing so when you have an alternative revenue stream, like a full-time job.
Allowing yourself to get deep in debt because you are trying to realize your dream of being a freelance writer is a great story to tell when you are out of debt, but you’ll get out of debt by setting rates which are reasonable relative to your costs of living. If you try and work more at low rates, instead of working a manageable amount for survivable rates, you will burn yourself out. Every aspect of your life will suffer.
3. Break the Time Barrier
There is a really great (and free) ebook by the founder of Freshbooks, a Toronto based invoicing software company. It’s called “Breaking the Time Barrier”. You really should read it. It’s an excellent resource for pricing your services on a “cost plus” basis, relative to personal and business needs. Just finish reading this blog first to get some perspective.
4. Leverage Education and Your Portfolio to Increase Your Rates
Whether you have completed online writing courses from recognized experts like MarketingProfs, or if you have a great portfolio of blogs thanks to your use of Atomic Writer, it helps to mention these elements in your pitches. If you were a journalism, marketing or business grad, don’t leave that out of your pitch either.
If you have worked hard for clients, and have raised the game to a level where you can get a byline as a talented writer, leverage past success to pursue high value projects. If you have industry expertise from previous full or freelance work, put that front and center.
5. Build Value Added Services into Your Pricing
When you are pursuing writing projects, don’t just price your work on a “per hour” or per hundred word basis. When you are delivering your pitches for short and long term assignments, ensure you accentuate any areas where your services are above and beyond your industry peers.
You may be providing unique services which differentiate you amongst other freelancers without even realizing they are uncommon. Consider whether you:
- Do keyword research using tools which are available on the internet (free or fee-based)
- Are writing long form articles, ebooks or whitepapers which can be repurposed as other short form blogs, marketing content, and inspire infographics
- Socialize articles to your own followers, who may also be in your client’s target audience.
- Generate strategic backlink value for your clients from high authority sites
- Edit your work thoroughly, and consistently meet or exceed deadline expectations
There are many writers spinning articles, creating sub-par content, and generally producing low quality content. Work on honing your craft on your own blog, and demonstrate your skills to land new clients.
Get some constructive criticism on your blogs from people you admire and trust. Build your confidence in your freelance writing abilities, and you will find it’s easier to price your work based on your income needs, and with work clients you are proud to represent.
Have you found a great resource for freelance writing prices which we’ve missed? Tell us about it in the comments below! Looking for quality writers with talent, industry expertise and authority? Check out Atomic Studio, where great writers (including yours truly) are available to tell your story, and deliver your brand message.
About The Author:
Mark Burdon is a technology professional based in Barrie, Ontario. He has worked in sales and marketing for companies including IBM, Open Text and most recently The Portal Connector for Microsoft Dynamics CRM .Mark has provided B2B content marketing services to companies including Intuit, HireVue, and gShift . He is a freelance writer with Cloudworker Solutions. Follow him on Twitter: @mark_burdon