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Stick to Your Rates

Mar 3, 2021
(updated: Dec 5, 2022)
Max 5 min read

There are many layers of a successful freelancing business, whether it is a side hustle or your full-time gig. When it comes to this work and the common questions that come along with it, pay rates are high on the list of priorities. Because of this, there are always ample questions floating around on the internet and within community forums. How can I determine what is fair? Am I charging too much? What if a client asks me to alter my rate? 

These are questions I found myself Googling furiously when I first began freelancing, aiming to ensure that I was asking for fair rates. I’d be lying if I said I never struggled with rate decisions from fear of asking for too much. Undoubtedly, this is an internal conflict we have all had at different points. A large contributing factor to this feeling is imposter syndrome. This syndrome is a common occurrence of self-doubt that leads an individual to question their own ability or position. This can lead us to question if we are asking for too much, or why anyone would be willing to pay us when someone else is asking for less. It’s true, there will always be a freelancer asking for less. 

Just as true? There is also someone asking for more. And, no one should have to feel shame about asking what they feel work, time, and expertise is worth.

Determining your rate

The big initial question: how can I even determine how much to charge? There are some general questions that can be helpful in determining what you should set as your rate, depending on the type of project you are working on. For writers and editors, determine if per word or per piece makes more sense. Depending upon the scope, per hour might work as well. For other mediums, such as photography or videography, per hour may be best, or it could be per project depending on the scope and details. 

An example: for sensitivity reading, I charge per hour. Some folks charge per word, but because this is not a typical line editing gig and takes not only time but emotional energy, it makes the most sense for me to charge per hour. For a proofreading project, I charge per word due to the detailed nature of the work. 

A great resource for determining average rates for writing, editing, and project management is the Editorial Freelancer’s Association. Keep in mind that these are median rates, so if your rates are a bit lower or a bit higher, that’s okay! Be sure to factor in your experience and your education — otherwise, chances are you may not be asking for enough. 

Consult your friends & colleagues

Because my area of work is communications — most specifically writing and editing — I consulted some of my seasoned writing friends to weigh in on the topic of starting rates. Being in the community with several other folks who are in the same line of work has been a huge help to talk through any questions or roadblocks that may come up. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to ensure our services are promoted and paid adequately! 

Stick to your guns

There are always going to be situations where you are asked to budge on your rates. Do not let anyone shame you! 

If we are being honest, there may be times where you decide that you feel comfortable taking less than you normally would. There have been occasions for me that an assignment was really exciting, and because of my connection to the piece I opted to work a bit less. This is not a regular practice of mine, nor did I feel pressured to accept the lower rate — it is my work and expertise that is being utilized, and I have the right to accept or decline a rate. 

At the same time, you may be in a place within your work where you are more comfortable taking smaller, lower paying jobs as a way to supplement your additional income. I have seen many arguments where folks are shamed for both offering and accepting rates that are deemed lower than acceptable. While there is a general range of rates that are considered average for different industries, the point to come back to is that all of this is up to you. Push for what you are worth and take on what feels good to you.  

Exposure does not pay your bills

In this same vein, do not ever feel obligated to do work for free. Many of us have been approached to barter our services in exchange for exposure. In my humble opinion, if you operate a platform with a substantial amount of traffic and pull, you can afford to pay folks for their work. 

There are situations where a project may be new and limited on funds but has a great mission, or potentially fulfills a cause that is close to your heart. For some that are starting out and aiming to build up their portfolios, pro-bono work may be worth it. There is no harm in this, but this is completely up to you — push back against clients who attempt to shame you for expecting to be paid for your services. 

An important note: 

Count all of your working time as billable hours. This includes phone or video calls, checking your emails, and any edits that are required. It is very common for clients to assume that regular check-ins are included within a contract and unless you have opted to explicitly state that — it is not! Your time is valuable, and you should be paid accordingly. 

The bottom line: 

Regardless of your area of expertise, freelancing is hard work! Those outside of this field don’t realize all the moving pieces that make freelance and contract work move smoothly, let alone the time and effort it takes to consistently crank out quality content. There are resources available for you to decide the details of what your rates should be, and you can always consult colleagues and seasoned professionals for their opinions on how your education and experience can weigh into your rates. 

Once you have settled on price points that feel good to you, stand strong in your decision and do not let anyone bully or push you to shift! Your time and effort are valuable, and no one can do the work that you do the way that you do it. And to make sure that you have the most professional invoice to submit with that rate, check out Indy's invoicing tool.

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