“How much should I charge as a freelance writer?”
This is one question that bothers many freelance writers, and you just can’t seem to find an answer to it anywhere.
Stop Pitching Clients’ student, Clement Lim recently asked me 4 questions aimed at finding a real answer to this question, and I have decided to publish my answers here so that Writers in Charge readers can benefit.
Here are the questions Clement asked, as well as my answers to them:
Does writing for big blogs / big clients raise your fee level? “Now I’ve written for Entrepreneur I can charge $X”
Being featured/published in reputable publications greatly increases your perceived expertise/value, which leads to an increase in demand for your services; the law of demand and supply kicks in, and more demand and increasingly low supply leads to higher prices.
This is especially practical for freelance writers, because there’s only one YOU; all things being equal, and as long as your marketing is in place, demand for your services will eventually, significantly, outgrow your supply. At this point, you raise your prices.
I’ve heard of writers charging as much as $500 – $1,000 for an article, or even earning up to $400 per hour. It’s ultimately all about their perceived value and demand for their services.
For example, here’s a writer who was paid $20,000 to write a “long” advertorial.
Or do you decide based on the turnover of the client? “I’ll charge $X for fortune 500 but $Y for smaller businesses.”
This also depends.
Personally, I use the “size” of a client as a factor when charging them; I usually charge bigger clients more and smaller clients less, often depending on their budget; I ALWAYS try to get my clients’ budget first.
That said, irrespective of the size of the client, there’s a limit to how much I can lower my prices; often, this limit is $200 per article.
There are a lot of reasons why I charge bigger companies more:
1. Charging bigger companies too low could lead to them not taking you seriously, as a result going with someone else.
If someone says they’ll do an article for you for $3 or $5, you most likely automatically assume they won’t give it their best. Same goes for companies expecting to pay you $1,000 per article, because it is the norm with them, only to be quoted $50 or $100 per article. Most likely, they’ll think “this guy isn’t offering the quality we need right now.”
2. Bigger companies will derive more value from your articles; they also have a bigger budget and are willing to pay more.
3. Even more importantly, most freelance writers will put in more effort when working for, say, a fortune 500 client compared to a small business.
Going for one flat rate for all clients doesn’t account for factors such as that, if you are charging per article and not per hour.
Do you charge low and plan to up your rates later?
Yes, I believe charging low and gradually increasing your rates is the natural way to go about it.
That said, low doesn’t mean peanuts or demeaning pay; I’m not talking $3 per article low, I’m talking $50, $100 per article low. That IS low.
If you’re struggling to get clients, you don’t want to scare them all away by quoting astronomically high rates. At the same time, there should be a limit to how low you can charge.
Once you decide you won’t go low beyond a certain price, you can make it your “low” and gradually increase it from there.
For me, what really happened was that I started charging clients around $30 – $50, or sometimes $80, per article, mostly depending on what the client was willing to pay me, then I read articles by other freelance writers, aka Carol Tice, Linda Formichelli, etc. about how that price range is low, so I decided not to charge below $100.
New clients were reaching out to me, several times a week, through my blog, and they had no problem paying my new rate.
I soon started asking clients to pay half my fees upfront, and some were overly eager to pay, indicating they knew they were getting a bargain.
I slowly increased to $150, and then $200 per article; clients still paid. So I decided to stay at a fixed rate of $.20 per word, which is around $200 per 1,000 words article.
Now, when clients reach out to me, I consider several factors; including how complicated their work is, what niche they are in, what other benefits I will be getting from my work with them and what I think of the benefit at that moment – links, byline, prestige etc. – as well as how big they are and how big their budget is; I always ask clients about their budget.
I also consider how much work they have for me; I’m more likely to charge a client with a lot of consistent, guaranteed, work less; I can go slightly lower than my rates in cases like this. First, there’s more guaranteed work and income; second, the more I write about the clients’ niche, the easier it becomes for me because I eventually become familiar with the niche, making my work much easy.
This means I don’t charge all my clients the same rate; it is often around $.20 – $.50 or more based on a lot of factors.
That said, I believe I need to clarify that I easily type more than 90 words per minutes at my best; averagely, I type around 70 – 80 words per minute. This is very fast for a writer, and a factor very few writers consider; it really boosts my hourly rate, and I believe this should be the benchmark for projects you work on.
At the end of the day, if you get paid $400 for an article that took you 20 hours to complete, including research you did, that’s $20 per hour which is totally not worth it.
If you can’t go below $80 per hour, and an article will take you 3 – 4 hours to complete, including research, you shouldn’t charge less than $200 for it at the lowest.
Do you pitch high, drive away many prospects, and work for the ones who are prepared to pay?
I get pretty much all my clients coming directly to me; I don’t have experience from an angle of pitching clients directly, which is something I plan to experiment with soon so I can better connect with my readers who want to choose this approach, so that probably is an advantage.
There’s a huge difference, an advantage, when clients reach out to you directly; you didn’t pitch them, and you aren’t competing with or being compared to other writers who could charge lower.
With that clarified, I rarely think about clients who can’t afford my rates; I don’t even know my closure rate. I’ve been contacted by hundreds of clients through my blogs in the past few years, but I’ve only worked with around 80 clients at most.
So, those who can’t afford my rates aren’t my target clients; I exclude them and focus on those who are prepared to pay.
So yes, it’s about having a lot of clients coming in and then filtering those who cannot pay your rates; those who can’t pay your rates aren’t your clients in the first place. They don’t matter to you.
A Key Note on Value
A key reason why I don’t put much emphasis on the “value” of my article, and instead let the law of demand and supply control how I charge, is because value is subjective.
A masterpiece penned by you, published on a small blog somewhere, hidden, would probably make your clients zilch; the very same masterpiece, published on a giant blog and promoted extensively to the massive email list of a Fortune 500 company could make them millions. In this case, even if you were to charge the Fortune 500 company $5,000 for the article, you’re still getting pennies.
That said, it is incredibly difficult to determine the value of the articles you’re writing for clients; if they don’t use it, or if they use it in the wrong place, they make nothing. Does that make your article worthless, and so you shouldn’t be paid as a result? No. In the right place, it could make them a million dollars.
So, it’s your job to write, and let demand and supply increase your rates while it is your clients’ job to maximize the value of everything you write for them.
Ultimately, when money is concerned, a lot of things don’t make sense.
Why is a boxer being paid millions of dollars while surgeons, doctors and lawyers only get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars? Why do entertainers and sportsmen/sportswomen get paid millions while teachers at best get paid tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars? It’s about demand and supply.
At the end of the day, not all boxers make millions; same goes for sportsmen. However, the champion boxer, footballer, athlete who millions are desperately clamoring for can easily command millions basically due to the law of demand and supply in play; the more people are interested in a personalty, the more they get paid.
Freelance writers should take advantage of this principle, whether you’re pitching clients directly or clients are reaching out to you. If you can get several people at once to be interested in your services, and there’s only so much time to serve them all, then by all means charge more. Keep increasing your rates again and again and again until no one is willing to pay you; and I bet that won’t happen.
If a writer can be paid $20,000 to write an advertorial, then even $500 an article is peanuts!