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How to Say What Your Freelance Hourly Rate Is In Email (With Email Samples)

Aug 8, 2023
(updated: Aug 3, 2023)
Max 5 min read

For freelance writers, there's no greater feeling than pitching your portfolio to a site or an editor and getting a positive response immediately. Well, at least until you get to that dreaded question, "What's your rate?" When you first start, it's hard to know what to charge for your time. Freelance writing rates vary dramatically based on your unique niche, your skill level, the demand for your work, the industry you're pitching to, and a host of other factors. Many freelance writers charge per word or per project, which makes answering the question even harder.

If you charge more than the other freelance writers the company has worked with, you risk losing out on valuable business. Charge too little, and you could spend months on projects that simply don't cover the rent. Don't worry - there's a solution. In this article, we'll give you a few ways to confidently communicate your freelance writing rates to prospective clients!

Why Does Having a Freelance Hourly Writing Rate Matter?

One of the reasons you started working as a freelance writer was to have more freedom and control over your time and your earnings. As such, freelance content writers can charge per project, per word, or per hour. So why does having an hourly rate matter? Do you need one at all?

There are a few reasons why you should set an hourly rate upfront:

1. Fair compensation

Setting an appropriate hourly rate ensures that you are fairly compensated for your time, effort, and skills. Yes, you can charge a per-word rate, but some projects will inevitably be a lot more complex and require a lot more of your time than others. After all, writing is just the end result. You also spend time researching, editing, cross-checking, and implementing feedback - which is not covered by your word count.

2. Profitability

An optimal hourly rate ensures that freelance writers can cover their expenses, taxes, and other business costs while still making a profit. It can also help you estimate the cost of a project for yourself and your clients.

3. Flexibility

Hourly rates provide flexibility for both freelance writers and their clients. As a freelancer writer, the hourly model allows you to charge for the actual time spent on a project, and clients pay only for the work done. With hourly rates, freelance writers can adjust their pricing based on the complexity of the project and the skills required.

4. Staying competitive

Hourly rates help freelancers stay competitive in the market. Knowing what the average freelance writing rate in their industry is allows freelance writers to set rates that are attractive to clients while still providing value.

5. Time management

Charging an hourly rate really incentivizes efficient time management. As a freelance writer, you'll learn to write more productively and avoid time wastage, which has great benefits for you - and your clients.

6. Incremental billing

This is a big one! Hourly rates allow freelancers to bill incrementally based on the work they've completed. This can help with cash flow management. Clients will be happy, too, because they can see progress being made.

How to Set Your Freelance Writing Rate

Before you can tell clients what your freelance writing rate is, you have to do a little math. Setting freelancer rates is an important decision that requires a delicate balance. You need to really understand your value, your target clients, and the competitive market you're operating in. You can always change and adapt your rate between jobs, but it's much harder to negotiate an increased rate once you've worked with a client for a long time.

Here's how to set your hourly rate:

1. Start with the basic questions

Ask yourself these questions to define your pricing strategy:

  • How much money do you need to support your lifestyle? That includes covering your rent, utilities, phone, and other living expenses.
  • How much would you like to earn every month? You probably have a figure in mind. Work backward. Decide how many hours you're willing to work every month, and calculate what you'll need to charge every hour to hit your goal.
  • What would you make as a full-time employee? Use Glassdoor or ZipRecruiter to do research.
  • What are your expenses as a freelancer? You might not have very many expenses, but you need to figure out how much you're spending on software, utilities, phone calls, marketing, and other costs to stay profitable.
  • Are your skills in demand? Niche writers can charge a lot more for their freelance writing services than generalists. Do you have a qualification or special skill that gives you a competitive advantage? Do you use SEO tools that boost your SERP results? The more value you add, the more money you can charge.

If you've just started out and don't have a massive portfolio, you will probably need to charge a lower freelance writing rate to get your foot in the door. Once you have a few clients and have been in the freelance writing business for a while, you can up your rate considerably. If you bring specialized skills to the table, you can charge a lot more. Find a good niche that is in high demand to earn top dollar.

2. Set your annual salary goal

Decide early on whether freelancing will be your sole income or supplemental, then calculate the hourly rate needed to achieve your desired yearly income. There's a simple formula you can use:

Hourly Rate = (Desired Yearly Income) / (Number of Billable Hours)

Typically, freelancers have 60% billable hours and 40% non-billable hours. To find the number of billable hours, use the formula:

Number of Billable Hours = (Total Work Hours) x (Percentage of Billable Hours)

For example, assuming a standard 40-hour workweek:

Number of Billable Hours = 40 hours/week x 48 working weeks (after accounting for vacations and absences) x 60% (percentage of billable hours)

Number of Billable Hours = 40 x 48 x 0.6 = 1,152 billable hours

Now that we have the number of billable hours, use it to calculate the hourly rate. Let's say you would like to earn $60,000 during your first year as a freelance writer.

Hourly Rate = Desired Yearly Income / Number of Billable Hours

Hourly Rate = $60,000 / 1,152 billable hours

Hourly Rate ≈ $52.08

So, to achieve a yearly income of $60,000, you would need to charge an hourly rate of approximately $52.08 for your billable hours. Keep in mind that this rate doesn't include non-billable hours, so you may need to adjust your rate accordingly to cover overall working time.

3. Charge the market rate

Sometimes it's easiest to charge market-related freelance writing rates. The best way to find out what other freelance writers charge is to ask them! Join a freelance writing community, like the ones you'll find on Indy or Reddit, and ask writers what they would charge based on your skills and considerations. Bear in mind that freelance writers in some locations or niches might charge a lot more or less than you for a number of reasons, so don't get discouraged if they suggest a lower hourly rate than you were hoping for. Take a look at LinkedIn or recruitment sites for job postings as well. You'll not only find freelance writing jobs; you'll get great insight into freelance writer rates.

4. Consider the big picture

Remember that you have to take the big picture into account. Some projects are a lot more complex than others. Writing weekly blog posts for a pet website about caring for cats and dogs probably means doing a little desktop research from reputable sources; writing a whitepaper about a new cybersecurity solution that's about the hit the market will require in-depth interviews, more academic research, more editing, and more time.

You should also consider your own appetite for work. If you quit your day job to spend more time with your family or your hobby, you probably don't want to work the same amount of corporate hours as you did before. Adjust your rate according to the lifestyle you need to support and the lifestyle you want to lead.

Is It Better to Have Hourly Pricing or Pricing Per Project?

Considering everything we've covered so far, should freelance writers always use an hourly writing rate when they pitch? Having an hourly freelance writing rate won't always be the best solution. It depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the work, the scope of the project, the client's preferences, and the freelancer's business model. Remember, each pricing model has its own pros and cons you have to consider. Let's take a look:

The pros and cons of charging hourly freelance writing rates

We've already covered a few of the benefits of billing hourly as a freelance writer, but there are a few more to consider:

  • Flexibility: Hourly pricing offers flexibility, especially for projects with uncertain or variable scope. Clients pay only for the actual time spent on the project, and freelancer writers can adjust the scope and billing accordingly.
  • Transparency: Hourly rates provide transparency to clients, as they can see how the charges are calculated based on the time invested. This can build trust and enhance communication between the freelance writer and the client.
  • Accurate Billing: For projects where the scope may evolve over time, hourly pricing ensures that clients are charged for the actual work done, preventing undercharging or overcharging.

However, that's not always the case for some clients. Some of the disadvantages of hourly billing include:

  • Uncertainty for Clients: Some clients may be uncomfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing the total cost upfront, especially for larger projects or when they have limited budgets.
  • Inefficiency Concerns: Clients may worry that hourly pricing could incentivize freelancers to work slowly to increase their billing hours.

The pros and cons of fixed pricing

Fixed or per-project pricing is common in the freelance writing industry as well, and it has a few pros and cons you have to consider. Let's start with the advantages:

  • Clear Budgeting: Fixed pricing allows clients to know the total cost of the project upfront, making it easier for them to budget and plan. Most clients have a fixed amount or budget in mind anyway; presenting them with a number upfront simplifies their decision on whether they should hire you or not.
  • Incentive for Efficiency: Fixed pricing can be a great incentive to complete the project efficiently and within the agreed scope to maximize hourly earnings.
  • Simplified Contracts: Project-based pricing can lead to more straightforward and concise contracts and reduces the need for detailed hourly tracking and admin.

Like with hourly freelance writing rates, there are disadvantages you have to take into account:

  • Risk of Scope Creep: If the project scope isn't clearly defined, clients may request additional work beyond the initial agreement without additional compensation.
  • Complexity in Change Requests: Any changes to the project scope may require negotiations on the new pricing, which can be time-consuming.

There's no right or wrong option. As you progress in your career as a freelance writer, you'll quickly find out which model works for you. In some cases, you may even want to use a combination of both pricing models. You can charge smaller, well-defined tasks at your hourly freelance writing rate and provide a quote for bigger projects.

When to Communicate Your Hourly Freelance Writing Rates

As a freelancer, it's essential to communicate your hourly rate to clients at the right time to set clear expectations and avoid misunderstandings. Here are some appropriate moments to discuss your hourly rate with clients:

Initial inquiry or proposal stage

When a potential client first reaches out to discuss a project or requests a proposal, it's a suitable time to mention your hourly rate. Provide a brief overview of your services and pricing structure in your response to give the client an idea of what to expect.

During the project discussion

As the project details are being discussed and clarified, bring up your hourly rate to provide a transparent understanding of how you charge for your services. This ensures that the client is aware of the financial aspects before committing to the project.

When asked directly

If the client specifically asks about your hourly rate, respond promptly with the information. Be open to discussing how your rate reflects the value you bring to the project.

Before entering a contract

It's essential to finalize the pricing details, including your hourly rate, before signing any formal contract or agreement. This ensures that both parties are on the same page regarding the financial terms.

After scope changes

If there are changes in the project scope or additional tasks requested by the client during the project, communicate any adjustments to your hourly rate as needed. Be transparent about how the changes may affect the overall cost.

Regularly review and update

If you work with long-term clients or on retainer arrangements, consider discussing your hourly rate periodically to account for changes in your skills, experience, or market conditions.

Remember to communicate your hourly rate clearly and professionally. Be prepared to explain how your rate reflects the value and expertise you bring to the table. Above all, know your worth! Discussing money is never easy, but it's easier than struggling financially because you've been undercharged.

How to Communicate Your Hourly Rate (With Examples)

Now that you know more about establishing your rate and when to communicate, you're ready to send emails. Here are a few examples that can serve as inspiration based on the six scenarios above:

Scenario 1: Initial inquiry or proposal stage

Subject: Re: Project Inquiry - Hourly Rate and Pricing Details

Dear [Client's Name],

Thank you for considering my freelance services for your [project name]. I'm excited about the opportunity to work with you on this project.

In response to your inquiry, my current hourly rate for [service type] is $50. This rate is based on my expertise in [relevant skills] and my commitment to delivering high-quality results.

I've attached a proposal that outlines the scope of work and estimated hours required to complete the project. Please feel free to review the proposal, and if you have any questions or need further clarification, I'm here to assist.

Looking forward to discussing the project details further and working together to achieve your goals.

Best regards, [Your Name] [Your Freelance Business Name] [Contact Information]

Scenario 2: During the project discussion

Subject: Re: [Project Name] - Hourly Rate and Billing Details

Dear [Client's Name],

Thank you for the productive discussion we had regarding your [project name]. I'm thrilled about the potential of working together on this exciting project.

Regarding the financial aspects, I charge an hourly rate of $65 for my services. This rate encompasses my skills in [relevant expertise] and the level of dedication I put into each project.

As we finalize the project details, I'll ensure transparent time tracking and provide regular updates on the hours worked. This will allow both of us to have a clear understanding of the project's progress and costs.

If there are any specific aspects you'd like to address or additional questions you have, please let me know, and I'll be glad to assist.

Looking forward to a successful collaboration!

Best regards, [Your Name] [Your Freelance Business Name] [Contact Information]

Scenario 3: When asked directly

Subject: Re: Hourly Rate Inquiry - [Your Service]

Dear [Client's Name],

Thank you for your interest in my [service type]. I appreciate your direct inquiry about my hourly rate.

Currently, my hourly rate is $75. This rate reflects my extensive experience in [relevant skills] and the value I bring to each project.

I'm committed to delivering exceptional results and ensuring a positive client experience. If you have any further questions or need additional information, please feel free to ask.

I'm excited about the opportunity to work with you and contribute to your project's success.

Best regards, [Your Name] [Your Freelance Business Name] [Contact Information]

Scenario 4: Before entering a contract

Subject: Re: Contract Agreement - Hourly Rate Confirmation

Dear [Client's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. As we move forward with the [project name], I'd like to confirm the hourly rate we discussed for my services.

My hourly rate for this project will be $60. I believe this rate aligns with your budget and the value I can provide through my expertise in [relevant skills].

Before we proceed with the formal contract, I want to ensure that all the financial details meet your expectations. If you have any adjustments or further inquiries, please let me know, and I'll be happy to address them promptly.

Looking forward to a successful collaboration and delivering outstanding results for your project.

Best regards, [Your Name] [Your Freelance Business Name] [Contact Information]

Scenario 5: After scope changes

Subject: Re: [Project Name] - Hourly Rate Adjustment

Dear [Client's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to discuss a slight adjustment to the hourly rate for the [project name] due to some scope changes we discussed earlier.

Given the additional tasks and complexity involved, the revised hourly rate for the updated scope will be $70. I want to be transparent about the changes and ensure that the pricing remains fair and aligned with the project requirements.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this adjustment, please let me know, and I'll be happy to address them.

Thank you for your understanding, and I look forward to continuing our successful collaboration.

Best regards, [Your Name] [Your Freelance Business Name] [Contact Information]

Scenario 6: Regularly review and update

Subject: Re: Rate Adjustment for Ongoing Partnership

Dear [Client's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. As we continue our successful partnership on various projects, I wanted to discuss a rate adjustment to account for the changing market conditions and the increased value I can offer.

After careful consideration, my new hourly rate will be $80. This rate reflects my continued dedication to delivering exceptional results and maintaining the highest level of service.

I value our collaboration and want to ensure that my pricing remains competitive and transparent. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to reach out.

Thank you for your continued trust, and I'm looking forward to many more successful projects together.

Best regards, [Your Name] [Your Freelance Business Name] [Contact Information]

How Can Indy Help?

Stating your rate is just the first step - you have to get paid as well! Indy's online invoicing tool is a game-changer for freelancers seeking quick and hassle-free payments. With a user-friendly interface, you can create professional invoices in minutes, offering flexible payment options for your clients. 

Recurring invoices automate billing for retainer clients, and you can customize each invoice with your logo and brand colors. Automated payment reminders keep cash flowing smoothly while client feedback stays organized right on the invoices.

With Indy, you can manage the entire payment process from proposal right up until you get paid. 


Establishing and discussing your rates as a freelancer is never an easy process, but practice makes perfect. Use these templates and calculations to get started. Remember: a freelance writer adds a lot of value for clients, and you need to bill what you're really worth. Every proposal that gets accepted is a learning opportunity.

If you need more help or inspiration, visit Indy and take a look at the email templates and other resources available to freelance content writers. You can also join the Indy Community to learn from and collaborate with other writers and freelancers.

Get started today!

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