If you are entering the freelance world from a typical job, you may think of your pay as an hourly wage. Maybe, you are a salaried employee that earns so much per month or a salesperson that earns a percentage of each sale. Before reading further, I want you to take a deep breath and let go of all those ideas. You cannot survive in a freelance environment attaching your worth to a dollar per hour figure.
Even though I want you to clear your head of previously held ideas about pay rates, your prospective clients will still ask what your rates are. They will want to know how much you charge per word, page, or hour. And when they do, the best answer to their question is…
Yes, you read that right. Just don’t answer. And, when they press you for an answer, tell them you will have to crunch some numbers and get back with them.
How to Charge for Your Writing as a Freelancer
Here is how to crunch the numbers.
- How much do you want to make in a year? (If you’re not sure what’s customary, use this LinkedIn site for your area.)
- Divide that by 52. That is how much you need to make each week.
- How many hours per week do you want to work?
- Divide the answer to #2 by the answer to #3. The result is how much you need to make per hour.
Don’t tell anyone that number. It is your little secret. Here’s why.
When my husband gets work done on his car he shops around for a good price. When he finds a mechanic he likes that charges, say, $35/hour, he goes with him. I’ll call him Jake. So, Jake works on my husband’s beater for a year or so and then he gets a bill that looks a little high. He asks Jake, “What’s up? Last time you fixed my muffler it was only $100. This time it was $150.”
Jake says, “Costs have gone up. I had to raise my rates. I charge $50/hour now.”
Whoa, Jake! You just gave my hubby license to shop around again.
Now, as a freelancer, you don’t want your clients shopping around on you. You want them to stay thrilled with your work and not give how much it’s costing them another thought, right?
That is why you always price your work by the job. Let’s say Company X wants the copy on their website re-written. And you say, “Well, I charge $50/hour.” Then, they’re going to ask how many hours it’s going to take you. And you’re going to say something like, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 10, maybe 20.” Well Company X isn’t going to like that because they can’t budget “maybe 10, maybe 20.”
But, if in your head you did some calculations and looked over the job and felt confident you could do it in 15 hours, you say, “I can do that for [your answer to #4 x 15 hours + #4 again for your consultation +10% buffer].”
Do they love you? Great! Do they try to negotiate? Then that’s your opportunity to sell yourself. Tell them what they will get for their money. Do you promise three re-writes or write until they’re happy? Are you prompt? Do you have years of experience? Is this your niche?
You’re not going to just write web copy for Company X. You are going to help them stand out above their peers. You are going to make them shine. You are going to be a transformative force in their business. And for that, they will pay. (Or they should.)
New freelancers make the mistake of not diversifying their writing. Don’t stick to one type of writing. More money is to be made if you have more to offer your clients. Check out the post “How to Earn More Money with Your Writing.”