Setting Your Freelance Writing Fees

By Colin

One of the most difficult things for a freelance writer is deciding what rate to charge for jobs. When working for oneself, it’s not as simple as setting a price and sticking to it rigidly for every client that comes along; there are things to consider, and all kinds of worries involved.

Setting your own fees also brings with it a new worry that may never have been considered when you first decided you wanted to be a freelance writer – negotiation. This subject, however, is too big for this article, so I’ll cover it later. Meanwhile, here are some of the things to consider when deciding what fees to charge for your writing.

What’s The Gig About?

It’s vitally important that you understand the full remit of a project, so you can provide an accurate quote for the work involved. The key questions to ask, if you haven’t been told beforehand, are:

  • Type of work: is it an article, sales letter, press release, e-book, or a review? What the job is will greatly affect the charges imposed, because a 1000 word article for a golfing website will not normally pay as high as a 1000 word quality sales letter for a large company.
  • Word/page restriction: how much writing does the client expect for his money? The more words or pages, the higher the fee.
  • Deadline: always make sure you know when the client expects the work. If the project length is too short, tell him. Don’t put yourself under pressure to get work out when you know you will struggle to produce your usual standard. If a client insists on a short deadline, factor it into your price and your contract.

How Much Knowledge/Experience Do I Have?

Specialist writers will likely have got the job because they are specialists. They can charge a higher rate compared with someone who is relatively new to the field and writing the same material.

The more knowledge you have, the more you can write, and to an editor that means longevity. To a writer that means a pleasant and regular rate.

Having more experience in a topic can be a selling point, so make sure you let the client know this when you are applying, and as such, gauge your fee against your level of experience.

Who Will Own The Rights?

Often overlooked, the issue of rights for a piece of work can vary the charge quite significantly.

Basically, when you sell a piece, you are selling the rights that go along with it, and the more rights you sell, the higher the rate you can charge.

Some clients may wish to try and avoid making extra payments for a full rights purchase, and some may not, mainly because so many writers forget or undertake work un-contracted, it is simply not mentioned.

Will There Be Significant Research Required?

Never overlook research when calculating a fee, especially if it is for a project that will require hours of reading, material preparation, or even travel. While you are browsing the Internet or sitting in a library, you are lose out financially if you make your quote based on output, and not by the hour.

Are There Any Other Expenses?

Other expenses can include everything from traveling costs, postage costs, courier costs, or making phone calls. Expenses can build up quickly so never underestimate their importance, and always look to get your charges for this type of thing built into your contract.

What’s The Going Rate?

As you can see from the above, there is much that can alter a charge for a project. There is no set standard, and the rate one freelancer may charge for a piece of work, may differ to another.

To get a feel of what is going on in the market place, and how you fit into it, it won’t do any harm to research what your peers are charging. There are various places to gather information, and gauge a suitable level of compensation for your work, and dependent on your experience.

  • Writing Books: Check your local book store or online, as there are literally hundreds of books available for freelance writers. The Writers’ and Artists Yearbook is one of the best.
  • Unions: In the UK the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) is a great source of advice and information.
  • Freelance Writing Websites: There’s no shortage of websites on the Internet where a freelance writer can research what the going rate for a project is. Also check the job boards and see if there is a ball park figure you can live with.
  • Writers’ Forums: A good forum can be a great place to ask for advice. You can also make great contacts for the future.

All of this may be surplus to requirements if the publication or client you have applied to has set the payment schedule in advance. If this is the case, evaluate what you would expect to charge for a certain piece of work, and gauge it against what is on offer.

If he is offering too low a fee, walk away or negotiate. Convince him of your worth, but remember, fees are based on a number of economic factors as well as what the client is looking to get in return.

If he offers too high a fee in your opinion, accept the job immediately!

Don’t Flinch

The important thing to remember when setting your fees is to never flinch. Don’t begin with fees that are too large, because raising them is an expected part of business, whereas lowering them is a sign of weakness and lack of confidence.

Always remember that you are the expert, and your expertise comes at a price. As with all businesses, you get what you pay for, and while smaller clients might be more cautious, you should never flinch from your charges once you have set them out. Confidence in your abilities gives clients confidence in you, and they will generally meet your fees.

The Gut Feeling Factor

All of the above is subject to scrutiny, debate, personal opinion, experience, self-confidence, and the Gut Feeling Factor.

By that I mean some things may alter your approach to setting fees on an individual basis.

For example, a client may present themselves with a poor project they would like you to work on, but with the promise of great work down the line. Or you may get a sense that a new client has connections it would be worth working with them. In both cases you may calculate your fee higher or lower, depending on what you feel is appropriate.

Things to consider if you get the Gut Feeling Factor are:

  • How much exposure to other potential markets can the client offer?
  • Is there potential for an on-gong relationship?
  • How do you feel about the contact you have had so far?
  • Do you think you will enjoy the work?
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8 Responses to “Setting Your Freelance Writing Fees”

  • marketeer

    Another thing to keep in mind is your location vs. your client’s location.

    As a freelancer, I was located in Florida and worked with clients in different parts of the country. My rate for local clients was based on $40-$60 per hour, while my rate for New Jersey and Washington D.C. clients was $60-$85–there was such a difference in the cost of living that my East Coast clients considered my rates a bargain, but they would not have been considered reasonable in my home state.

    I also charged a lower rate for non-profits.

  • Freelance Writer

    Also, if you know a freelancer who works for lower fees than you’re comfortable with, you can pass the work along to them. I do that fairly frequently.

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