How Much Should I Charge as a Freelance Writer?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions from writers, especially those entering the market and trying to establish a clientelle. Although the question is very common, it's surprisingly difficult to get a straight answer as there is no single pricing structure that freelance writers adhere to. There are, however, a few things you can do and think about that will help you make your own decisions on what rates you want to charge and how much money you might want to make from your writing.

What writing market are you operating in?

There are numerous writing markets that a freelance writer can gear up to service including such diverse areas as magazines, website content publishers and sales copywriting. Each of these areas has its own marketplace and corresponding expectations on price. For example, traditional printed publications such as the magazines you see on the shelves in shops will generally pay well for the written content they use - sometimes hundreds of dollars for a good quality article or feature. Contrast this with the web content writing market and you'll soon see that significant differences in pricing are evident. Web page content can change hands for as little as a few dollars for several hundred words.

In the web content market though, despite the lower prices, the amount of content being purchased daily is staggering, giving you much more chance of making sales than you would have in selling to traditional publications. The number of outlets for your writing is also much bigger with a every subject under the sun catered for and marketable.

Who is your competition and what are they charging?

Take a long hard look at where you are trying to compete. Some market areas are not price driven, again, like traditional print publications. The pricing is generally set by the publishers for such media and so competition is less of an issue.

If, however, you're competing on freelance websites, you'll find that the market is very price sensitive. The internet opens up the geographical market, forcing western-based writers, for example, to compete with writers based in Asia and the Indian subcontinent or China. This drives the market price down and on these websites you'll generally find that decisions are either wholly price-based or at least very price sensitive.

Are you being unrealistic about your earning potential?

One of the most fundamental mistakes you can make in pricing yourself, is to base your pricing wholly and solely on your need to cover your own costs without asking yourself whether you're being realistic in your expectations. When trying to price your own work for the first time, it's very tempting to try and apply an hourly rate to your working time that will see you recover the costs of living and give you a profit. While this is a legitimate pricing and costbase calculation method, it doesn't take into account the market environment you will have to compete in, in terms of market rate and value of the writing you will be asked to undertake.

You need to remember that not every hour you work will be billable and not every piece of work you produce can be billed at the same rate. If this sounds complex then that's because it is. One of the hardest things a freelance writer can do is find the balance between the volumes of low and high value work required to make ends meet. This is usually because the high value work can be hard to come by and as a freelancer starting out, you will need to build a portfolio of quality clients looking for quality, and therefore well-paying, written work.

When setting your rate for any job, you will inevitably have to consider what is being charged by your competitors in the same market. Don't think you always have to undercut everyone else though. Be sure in yourself where the value in your service lies before you decide what you will ask for your work. Remember, you do still need to make a living and you're not in the business of buying work. If you can articulate to yourself why you should charge the rate you feel is appropriate, then you can probably justify it to your customer. It could be that your writing is of particularly high quality or of a particular style. It could be that the level of research you undertake is more than most and your customers can be sure of writing that is reliably sourced, thoroughly checked or just that little bit more in-depth than most. Whatever it is that sets you apart, that's what you can use to help you set your rate and determine where you sit in the great freelance writing market.