Talking about money, especially how much a person gets paid, has long been a cultural taboo. In the employment world and freelance world alike, this has led to chronic underpayment because, at one point, so many people don't realize they're undercharging. Freelance writers are no exception, but it turns out that being hush-hush on how much writers make ends up hurting the industry and those who benefit from it. Let's put an end to that today by digging into freelance rates for writing work and how much writers should charge per article.
First Things First: Charge Per Project, Not Per Hour
Before we dig into some numbers, let's talk about how freelance writers should charge for their work. The biggest question freelance writers have when coming into the business is whether they should be paid per word, per project, or per hour. With few exceptions, always charge clients based on per-project or per-word rates, not per hour. Use this as a general guideline for your freelance writing business:
- Let's say a client asks you to do two articles, and you provide an hourly rate for the task. Let's say your hourly rate is $25, and each article is about 750 words. Your pay will be $25. Now, let's say you charge per word for this writing task. If your rate is $0.05 per word, you can earn $75 for the two articles.
- Proofreading is a time-consuming task, and we recommend charging clients per page or per hour for these types of projects. Per page rates work well for business writing like white papers and proofreading academic work, while per hour rates work well for magazine articles and blog posts. The average hourly wage for these services will depend on your experience and how much a client is willing to pay, and can range from $10 per hour all the way up to $100 per hour.
- Writing an 'easy' article, on the other hand, can take as little as two hours if you jump right into it, or a few days, depending on the job. If you spend more than half of that time doing research, a client may feel like you're trying to cheat him/her on a job and payment terms may break down. Charging per word in these instances works best for everyone.
Charging per word benefits both you and the client. For one, clients care about their completed project, not how long it takes you to do research and write an article. Sometimes, it's difficult to tell how many hours it will take to write an article. Charging per project makes it easier for them to know what they'll get and for what price from day one, and there won't be any surprises when an invoice for hourly rates comes in.
Per-project rates benefit writers too. As freelance writers gain writing experience, most writers learn how to complete projects faster. Your writing work shouldn't cost less as you learn to do it more efficiently.
How Much Should Freelance Writers Charge Per Article?
So, the nitty-gritty: how much should you earn for your work? First of all, don't compare freelance income to an employed writer's salary. Freelancers aren't just writing, we're running a freelance writing business, so it makes sense to value that added responsibility.
Remember that freelance writers also have more expenses, including paying about twice as much in taxes. All this means a freelance writer's income should be significantly higher than a writer with traditional employment, although it can take time to build up to it.
The fact is that there's a massive range of prices freelance writers charge. You'll regularly see freelance writing rates ranging anywhere from $.05 to $1 per word or more. A good rule of thumb for a new writer is to start around that lower end, perhaps $.06-$.08 per word, and gradually move up from there as you improve your freelance writing skills.
Keep in mind that some writers translate their per-word rate into a per-article rate. For instance, you might want to make $.10 per word, so you price a 1000-word article at $100, even if the exact word count ends up anywhere between 950 to 1050 words. (Always try to stay within the agreed word count for each article. Some clients may not be willing to pay extra if you write more words) Regardless of how you price projects, always be clear about the per-project rate and payment terms from day one. Life is easier for freelancers and clients alike when everyone's on the same page rather than waiting and bickering about prices when the invoice arrives.
Factors That Affect Your Freelance Writing Rates
Within that huge range of prices above, how do you know where you should land? Take these many factors into account when setting your freelance writing rates:
Type of Work
Most types of freelancing allow writers to set or negotiate their rates, but not all do. There are also content mills: businesses that hire freelancers to write high volumes of content. Usually, it's a white label situation: the company has many clients, and they farm out the content creation to freelance writers. These are almost always ghostwriting jobs, and most times, there's no room for writers to grow.
Content mills and other high-volume arrangements often have set prices they'll pay. Usually, content mills pay freelancers less, and the rates tend to be low: as low as $.02-$.03 per word. Writing for content mills means you have no control over how much you get paid per article, and the amount of words you write per day determines your pay.
Many writers advise against working for content mills altogether, but truth be told, there are pros and cons. Sure, they're not high-paying clients, but when you're working for that low pay, you train yourself to work quickly so the pay isn't so low for your time. These gigs also offer steady work and can help you kick off your freelance writing business. All told, I wouldn't keep them around long-term, but they can help while starting your career.
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Clients expect to get what they pay for, so more experienced writers can charge more per project because they generally produce higher-quality work. For this reason, most freelance writers start at the low end of the pricing spectrum, and as their years of experience increase, they raise their prices.
This isn't a factor for ghostwriting, but for freelance writing jobs that have your name attached, sometimes that name carries clout. If you were running a site, would you prefer an article from someone without name recognition or someone with an established brand that readers will seek out, recognize, and respect? For work with a byline, raise your price per article as your personal brand grows.
Pay rates vary by industry and niche because some niches require more specialized background knowledge. You'll find higher-paying clients when writing for tech, healthcare, and the financial sector. These clients are paying more because they aren't just hiring any writer; they're hiring a freelance writer who can speak knowledgeably about the topic. Marketing-related content, such as copywriting, press releases, pay-per-click ads, and email writing generally pays more than SEO articles and blog writing.
Type of Content
This blog is focused mostly on articles or blog posts, but most writers offer many types of content. Your prices should change based on that content. For instance, blog posts and articles come together quickly, so those per-word rates I mentioned above are appropriate. Social media captions, though, require fewer words but are more carefully worded, so the per-word rate should be higher. Anything technical should pay more because you'll have to do more research.
Research and Other Work Needed
Writing work doesn't just involve writing. Most articles require some amount of research, while some also require meetings, collaborations with other freelancers, and more. You deserve to be paid for all that time. Consider all the time and work involved along with the word count while pricing a project.
With freelancing, steady work is like gold. Spending time finding new clients costs you time and money. That's why some writers offer packages that include savings for larger volumes of work–for example, batch rates, which mean less per word, but a steady paying job.
In doing this, though, be careful not to short-change yourself. Having consistent work is great for a writer, but not if you've offered such a discount that the time you're investing in a project isn't worth it. You are running a freelance business, not a charity.
How to increase earnings as a freelance writer
- Raise your rates- You are in charge of how much your clients pay you. Raising your writing rates is the most obvious way to get more money when freelance writing, but there is a right and a wrong way to go about seeking higher pay. The worst thing you can do as a writer is suddenly demand more money from your clients. It will come off as distasteful, and some clients might stop working with you altogether. Instead, give your client enough notice and raise your per article or hourly rate by a percentage. If you're charging $50 for a 1000-word article, don't expect to get $150 on your first release. Instead, raise your rates in 10%-20% intervals. If you do great work, it should be no big deal for your clients to pay you more.
- Think bigger- Thanks to the internet, a freelance writer can be based on one side of the world and write for a company in a country he/she has never been to. Your writing business is not limited based on geography, and you can find an online writing job fairly easily. This can mean higher pay and ongoing work without ever having to set foot in a client's office.
- Learn a new skill- The more value writers can add to a client's business, the more writers make. Learn in-demand skills like SEO Optimization, social media marketing, WordPress optimization, topic pitching, etc., that pay bank! This way, you'll be a one-stop-shop, and a client can hire you for ongoing work outside of content writing.
- Market yourself- Spend time marketing yourself to clients and big publications that may need a freelance writer to pick up some of the slack. Send pitches to new companies and start-ups that will need a writer to handle everything from press releases to web content writing.
- Use freelancer platforms- A great way to find a constant stream of freelance writing work is to join popular freelancing platforms like Upwork, Indeed, Guru, Who Pays Writers, etc. Here you can sift through different online writing gigs and find paid writing jobs to help grow your business.
- Push for credited work- Most freelance writers work on ghostwriting projects, meaning they never get credit. The problem with this is that your name doesn't get out there, and you don't get a chance to build a brand as a credible freelance writer. Where possible, ask your client for a chance to be credited on the blog. The next time you apply for a writing job, you'll have a better chance of landing it because of this. You can also negotiate more pay.
- Start your own blog- If your client won't give you credit, write your own blog outside of work hours. Choose an in-demand niche, or something you are knowledgeable about, and just start writing. Send the latest posts from your personal blog to your clients to show how well you write, and your ability to optimize your content on whichever hosting platform you use.
Choosing Your Freelance Earnings
Choosing our own income is both the best and worst part of freelancing. It offers great freedom and income potential, but most of us don't start out knowing the going rate clients pay freelance writers. Ultimately, it's a matter of reading up on the variables and price ranges, and above all, knowing your worth. And if those clients aren't paying, we have advice on how to handle that too. Now make that money!