When you are creating a quote for a new client you need to know what you are going to charge. The most frequently asked question for freelance writers, especially newbies, is how much should I be charging?
I am a fan of charging what you think the project is worth to you. I came to this conclusion after reading a comment by Valerie Khoo from the Australian Writers’ Centre. She stated that you should charge your client what you would be happy to receive, otherwise you may become resentful and this can reflect in the quality of work that you produce.
How to charge
The first thing you will need to work out is HOW you will charge your client.
As in, will you base your quote on an hourly rate, fixed rate or a price per word?
Although charging by the hour seems to be the most common in freelance writing businesses, it has many drawbacks. Not least of all, if you are a fast writer then charging by the hour results in less earnings. Potential clients can also be scared away if you tell them you charge $200/hr. However, if you tell them that it is for the overall project then it doesn’t seem as intimidating.
Personally I avoid charging hourly for the most part. I am a work-at-home mum and I am often interrupted by the call of motherhood, chores, cooking, laundry or my husband! This can make it hard to keep track of time I have spent on a particular project.
Having said that, there are certain times I like to charge by the hour. For example, if the scope of the project is unclear and you are unsure of how much time and effort will be needed to complete the writing assignment.
The fixed fee approach is the rate model I prefer to use. It is simply a fee based on the whole project.
Ensuring you have a solid creative brief and understanding of the writing project is essential to charging an appropriate fixed rate. You don’t want to under-quote and find that you are short-changing yourself, just as you don’t want to over-quote.
I have some service “packages” that I have developed to help create a rates model for clients. For example, $400 a month will include a blog post a week with free creative commons images, 2 outbound links per blog and social media marketing.
If you have been browsing content mills or journalism jobs then you will have come across the practice of charging per word a lot. I avoid charging per word, as I find that a project’s word count is not an accurate indicator of the value of the project or the time and effort you will have to put into it.
However, it is a common rate model for journalists and some freelance writers. Many publications will quote a price per word when they are advertising for a writer.
If you choose to use this model for quotes, ensure that you do your calculations and are happy with the end result. You don’t want to charge $.02/per word and find at the end you have earned peanuts on a project that took you hours to write.
Whatever rate model you choose to use for your freelance writing business, it is a good idea to have a minimum hourly rate in mind that you are willing to work for.
That is not to say you have to charge hourly. It is just a handy number to have in mind when working out how much to charge. This is because every writing project obviously takes time and effort, and you can use this number to ensure you are charging adequate amounts to cover your expenses and earn money! As a general rule of thumb, the hourly rate should be at least double what your hourly income is (or was) in your other job.
What to charge:
So, hopefully you have now worked out which rate model you prefer to use. Next you need to work out how much you are going to charge in order to bring home the bacon!
After a lot of research, asking questions and searching other freelance writers websites I came to the conclusion that there doesn’t appear to be a standard pricing guide. Therefore, I decided to whole-heartedly take on Valerie Khoos’ advice and to charge what I am happy to receive.
There were a few things that I took into consideration, especially when I was first starting out.
Level of experience:
For a newbie freelancer (this was me not too long ago!), you may be tempted to quote very low in order to attract your first clients. I say: DON’T DO THIS!
Naturally, everyone has to start somewhere. However, you absolutely do not need to charge peanuts to kick-start your freelance writing career.
Elna Cain wrote a fantastic blog on what to charge freelance writing clients. She had some great suggestions as to a rough guide on how much to quote based on level of experience using a blog post as an example:
Beginner: $25 for 300-500 word blog. She says that it is high enough to ward away cheapskate clients who only pay $1-$5 for an article, but not so high you scare off small business clients.
Some experience: $50 for 500-750 words.
Highly experienced: what ever you feel like (within reason)!
If you are more experienced in certain areas, then market yourself as an “expert” in these and charge accordingly.
For areas that you may not be so comfortable, or that are more lucrative such as finance or business, you can charge more. The reason behind charging more for areas you may not have as much experience or knowledge on is that you will have to do more in depth research and planning, so therefore it will take you longer to produce an article then in an area you have sound knowledge of.
Type of Writing:
A technical article will require you to be familiar with the industry related jargon and can be more labour intensive. This is opposed to a blog post on something like clothing products. Your quote should reflect the difference in these types of writing style and the time and effort they require.
The Turnaround Time:
When you are creating a quote for your client it is important to know the time frame that they would like the finished product in. If they want a quick turnaround time, I often charge a little bit more (usually a preset percentage) as it creates stress and changes to my set schedule. Not to mention you may have to put off other work in order to get it down in time. I let my client know that this is the case, so that next time they may want to adjust their timeframe.
Putting It All Together
By now you have hopefully figured out how and what to charge your client. Some important tips to keep in mind when going forward are:
- Money is just a number.
- Once you have sent a quote, you are committed to that amount.
- Raise your rates around twice a year. As your experience and client list grows, this will ensure that you remain happy with what you are charging.
So now that you have figured out your rates, it is time to put all of that information together to form a quote for your client. My next post will deal with how to quote your potential client. Until then, I hope that this post has been helpful in giving you somewhere solid to start building your service rates upon.
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I would love to hear what you base your rates on. Let me know in the comments below!