Setting, Increasing, and Sticking To Your Freelance Writing Rates

by Alicia Sparks on January 11, 2010

Do you need a witty caption? Really? I think it's pretty self-explanatory.

One of my goals for 2010 is to stop working so much on the weekends. I was fairly good about that during the first few years of my freelance writing career – when I did work on the weekends, it was generally because I either A) took a day off during the week, or B) just wanted to. Over the last year or so, though, life got in the way and I found myself working almost every weekend.

It stops in 2010.

However, before it stops (I’m such a junkie), I’ve decided to spend the first few weekends of 2010 doing some housekeeping – of the writing career variety – and this past weekend, my task was to tackle my freelance writing rates.

I knew I was going to have to do it sooner or later, and the beginning of the year seemed like a much better time than, say, mid-June. Plus, Deb Ng’s recent blog post about making a profit with your freelance writing business provides some solid information about setting and raising rates and proved to be just the kick in the tail I needed.

Setting Your Freelance Writing Rates

I’m not going to pretend I’m qualified enough to advise you on how to set your freelance writing rates. I’m not. When it comes to setting your writing and editing rates, you have to think about things like flat rates and hourly rates; how to use your hourly rates to come up with projects that require flat rates; your rates and how they line up with your expenses, your cost of living, and your profit goal; how your rates compare to the rates of others in your business; and how it all relates to the ever-tricky “How much are you worth?”

However, I’m not saying there aren’t veteran freelancers out there who are in a position to help you do this. There definitely are. If you’re just getting started and haven’t set your rates yet, or if you have but think it’s time to reevaluate them, check out these resources:

Increasing Your Freelance Writing Rates

How have your skills sharpened since you started freelance writing and editing? How has your cost of living and expenses increased? Do your current rates allow for the profit you want, or are you just making ends meet? Once you’ve brushed up on the rates you’ve been charging, it’s time to think about whether you need to increase those rates.

The thought of increasing rates usually brings about two reactions from freelancers: Excitement about potentially making more money, which is easily handled, and fear of losing clients, which is not-so-easily handled.

Deb Ng’s article I linked to above about making a profit with your freelance writing business is a good resource for those freelancers who wonder if it’s time for a rate increase but afraid of losing clients; so are financial writer Yolander Prinzel’s Associated Content article How to Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates for Existing Clients and Jennifer Mattern’s Raising Freelance Writing Rates: Demand Isn’t Enough.

Sticking To Your Freelance Writing Rates

You might think that sticking to your freelance writing rates is an easy thing to do. Admittedly, for many freelance writers and editors, it is. However, no matter how new or seasoned you are, situations arise when you might be tempted to lower your rates or offer a discount that’s not exactly conducive to your financial goals or representative of the quality and quantity of your services. A nonprofit or charity approaches you, your friend is starting her own business and needs some help, you’re in a bind and really want to land a gig you just read the advertisement for but don’t usually charge what the advertiser wants to pay – you know the situations.

While pro bono work or discounts can be good for your business (and morale), there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too, although there are times when accepting a figure less than what you normally charge is okay overall, constantly doing it doesn’t help you get to where you want to be financially.

Consider these tips to help you stick to your freelance writing rates as well as make adjustments when you see fit:

  • Put it in writing. Some freelance writers post their rates on their websites; some don’t. Regardless of where you write (or, type) them, make sure you have them somewhere so you can quickly refer to them when you’re replying to job advertisements or clients requesting rates. (Having your current rates in black and white right in front of you will also help you determine your rates for a project that might be new to you.)
  • Predetermine your discounts. While you’re “putting it in writing” is a good time to go ahead and figure out – and also put in writing – any discounts special to nonprofits and charities.
  • Consider offering packages. Some services lend themselves to being fit into packages. Blog posts and marketing articles, for example, are services you can group into packages and offer at prices slightly less than if the client ordered that many separately.

Do you have any other tips or resources to share for setting, increasing, and sticking to freelance writing rates?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

allena January 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hey- thanks for the link! Actually it didn’t link to my site, but that’s ok. People can use my comment to get to my site, where I stress that people figure out their minimum HOURLY and then use it to set PROJECT rates.

Alicia January 18, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hi Allena! I’m so sorry I left that link out! I had several links bookmarked for this post, and if I’m remembering correctly I found your “How Much Should I Charge?” through some means (another site, or some sort of search) that gave it a really messy URL – my plan was to find the direct link, and I clearly forgot to do that, haha. Problem fixed, and thanks for letting me know! ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. You should probably expect another link today or tomorrow – I’m writing about writing contests and spent a lot of time on several of your pages this weekend, haha.

Deb Ng January 23, 2010 at 6:52 am

Hi Alicia,

This is an excellent compilation, sure to help any freelancer who is confused about what to charge. I’m actually writing a blog post today about some extra things to consider when setting rates since many writers are now expected to promote blog posts using social media, link to other articles and blog posts and add SEO.

I really need to stop here more often, I love what you’ve done with the place.

Alicia January 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

Thanks Deb! It’s a work in progress, but I couldn’t stand leaving the site stagnant anymore. It feels so good to have an “online home” again, and not just a portfolio.

I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that post. I haven’t yet had to promote any blog posts or articles using social media, but I have had experience with the linking and submitting marketing articles to article directories for a few clients <- another biggie to consider when setting rates - so time consuming!

Anne Wayman January 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for the links to my site and the outstanding info complete with other helpful links.

My hunch is we all need to repeat this info over and over again.

Good job ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anne Wayman August 9, 2010 at 11:11 am

Your readers might also like Fear of Money and Success In Freelance Writers – http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com/2009/01/freelance-writers-and-the-fear-of-money-and-success/

Welder work ยท November 4, 2010 at 9:32 am

i’m quite good in witing but i have not yet signed up on a writing contest .

Leslie vanWinkle January 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

This is a great site, very helpful and thanks to Anne Wayman for that great link about underearning. It is embarassing how badly I undercharge. I seem to be a magnet for clients skilled in negotiating me into bids that end up costing me money! What? Do I have “sucker” branded on my forehead? Seeing how others are dealing with rates is very helpful. Thanks.

Mark April 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

As I’m considering doing some freelance writing, this post is very helpful.

I’ve just published two books of original poetry, and my first novel is due out in a couple of week, but now I’m wonderin about how to get start in writing poetry for other people.

I know that I’d be the sort of person that would be hopeless at negotiating, and sticking to rates, so the pointers you provide should prove very helpful.

Alicia April 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm

@ Leslie – I’m glad it could help! Now that we’re further into 2011, have there been any changes for you?

Alicia April 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm

@ Mark – Hi Mark. The first pointer I have is to be conscious of your negative self talk. You can be GREAT at negotiating! Just set aside some time to:

– research some info about rates as they relate to poetry
– the poetry market itself (for example, you might look into greeting cards, song-writing, etc. – as well as some common rates among those jobs)
– compare everything you learn with what you know about yourself (your skills, your feelings on hourly vs. flat rate, etc.).

Go into negotiating with the KNOWLEDGE that you are a professional and the prices you’re quoting are what your services are worth. Period. ๐Ÿ™‚

& let us know how it goes!

Mark April 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Alicia,

Thanks for the additional suggestions.

I hear what you say about negotiating, but I still think my wife would be better at that side of things. ๐Ÿ™‚

Alicia April 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm

@ Mark – HA! Maybe so ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stacy April 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Hi Alicia,

Thanks for this piece. I have often wondered if what I charge for writing (and in some instances proofreading) is over or under the ‘going’ rate. I will definitely check out all those links that you’ve provided. I also find those final three tips very helpful.

Altha Wittich May 2, 2011 at 12:59 am

Thanks for contributing so much with this great content.

green living May 14, 2011 at 6:03 am

“How much are you worth?”

That is a big help. For anyone doing outsourcing or freelance writing

Sam Orchard May 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm

As a web designer/developer, I sometimes have problems with under quoting or under valuing the service I provide. I think it’s one of those things that goes away with experience.

David June 18, 2011 at 8:59 am

This is a great article and the Hourly Rate Calculator really made me think about my “worth”. I have definitely undercharged in the past. I’m bookmarking this site for future tips. Thanks

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