4 min read

What to Charge Freelance Writing Clients

How to work out your hourly rate, how to adapt it per project — plus why and when you should turn down freelance writing work.
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Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

If you want to turn online writing into a business, rather than something you do for a few bucks here and there, you need to give some serious thought to what to charge freelance writing clients.

There are a lot of factors to consider when setting your freelance writing rates – some personal to you, some universal.

I’m no fan of numbers (we’re words people, right?) but the fact is, to take control of your freelance writing career and your life, you’re going to need to do a bit of thinking – and a few sums.

How much should you charge freelance writing clients?

Whether you decide to charge by the hour or not, you need to determine your hourly rate as a freelance writer.

To find your hourly rate you need to first consider an annual salary that’s right for you and your lifestyle — yet that's also feasible.

Be realistic but don’t sell yourself short.

This is the part where it’s different for everyone:

Think about how much you’ve studied and practiced your craft and how much you can benefit companies and publications with your writing abilities.
Start with a figure slightly above your annual salary at your old or current day job if you have one. (If not, start with your ideal salary.)
Add a third to this to cover sick pay, annual leave, healthcare and a pension fund.

The amount you decide for your new salary is highly personal and needs a lot of thought, but when you arrive at your figure this is where the number crunching comes in.

  1. Take your annual salary and divide it by 200 days.
    This will give you a figure that indicates how much you need to earn each working day to achieve your specified annual salary. (Note that weekends have already been taken into account — we’re not going for a 365-day working year here.)
  2. Divide your daily rate by how many hours you intend to work per day.
    Don’t forget that as a freelancer, you’ll need to set aside time to do tasks that aren’t part of your core business of writing, such as bookkeeping and marketing.

This figure is your new hourly rate as a freelance writer online. Write it down somewhere — big and bold.

What to do if a client wants a per project rate

If you or a writing client would prefer to get a fixed rate for a project, you can use your hourly rate to work that out.

If you’re offering / they’re asking to write four blog posts per month and you know it will take two hours to research and write each one, you need to multiply your hourly rate by two hours for each blog post and then again by four for how many you’ve committed to per month.

Here's an example to break it down:

You’ve worked out your hourly rate to be $50 an hour. Multiply that by 2 hours and then 4 blog posts and charge that client $400 per month:

$50 x 2 (hours) = $100

100 x 4 blog posts = $400

When you’ve determined your hourly rate, working out what to charge regular writing clients becomes easy — particularly as you get used to how long certain work takes to complete.

Why and when you need to turn down freelance writing work

As you become better at creating and editing content to a high standard over a shorter period of time, you can revisit your hourly rate, tweaking it as you see fit.

If you started your freelance writing career from scratch, as most of us do, it’s likely to have been pretty tough going to start with.

In the beginning you’re constantly looking out for freelance writing work of any nature — and I mean anything — that will pay the bills, build your writing portfolio and perhaps lead to more interesting, better paid work.

When you get past that stage though – when you have built your reputation as a quality online writer, and have worked out your hourly rate accordingly, there’s something you need to do:

Turn down all freelance writing work that doesn’t pay what you know you’re worth.

It really is that simple.

It will feel strange to turn down freelance writing work at first, but you’ll soon find clients will respect your work and your time a lot more.

Naturally some clients will be unwilling to pay you sufficiently for your time, and that’s OK too.

In fact, that’s part of why this strategy works so well — all of that time spent on those low-paid gigs is now free for you to spend on writing work that does pay well.

Your existing clients will be much happier as you spend more of your time and expertise on their work.

As a result, these clients will be more likely to keep you on as a writer and recommend you to others who are willing to pay what you’re worth.

When this starts happening you can spend less time pitching for freelance writing work and more time writing and earning.

Turning down freelance writing work can be the best thing you ever do for your writing career.

Note: I don’t recommend this approach until you’ve got to a stage where you can prove your mettle as a capable and reliable writer. If you’re not quite there yet, it will come if you keep practicing and don’t give up with your pitches.

You’ll know when the time is right. Trust yourself.