Pay rates are a common topic of interest in any field, but especially in freelance writing. Different outlets pay different rates, different topics pay different rates, writers will get paid certain rates based on their experience etc. It gets pretty confusing sometimes figuring out what to charge or if the rate you are offered is acceptable. Despite my experience, I sometimes still question how much to charge as a freelance writer.
The rates out there range from ridiculously low to incredibly lucrative. In my own personal experience, I’ve written articles for as little as $25 for 1000 words. I’ve also written articles that are $1000 for 1000 words. Granted, both of those were at different times in my career and different types of articles, but it just goes to show how diverse pay can be in this industry.
Rates in the Industry
As I indicated above, there really is no industry standard for freelance writers. Which, to be honest, is a huge bummer. I wish people were more open about how much they get paid so we, as writers, could fight for better wages instead of scrounging the internet for ideas of how much to charge as a freelance writer.
The ‘gold standard’ right now is to get $1/word. If you land a job that pays that- amazing. The only problem? According to some of my more experienced friends, that $1/word has been the standard for more than 20 years. Depressing? Just a bit.
A 2019 study by Make a Living For Writing found that nearly 1/3 of writers make under $20USD per hour. Let’s be honest, that’s not ideal. Sure, it’s ok if you are just starting out, but you definitely need to aim to make higher. As stated above, I’ve definitely written for low wages before. However, I am currently at the point where I average about $250CAD/hour for my writing, sometimes more. Part of that is experience and part of that is niche, both of which I will discuss below.
Factors to Consider When Determining How Much to Charge as a Freelance Writer
When you ask yourself how much to charge as a freelance writer you need to consider several things.
The first thing that will determine how much you can get paid as a freelance writer is your experience. Do you have a portfolio already with lots of bylines under known websites and publications? Or are you just getting started? Obviously, those with more writing experience and a portfolio to show will be able to ask for higher rates.
Just because you start at a low introductory rate though, doesn’t mean you need to stay there. If you write regularly for the same publication or website, don’t be afraid to increase your rates after year.
Insider tip: As a freelance writer, I’ve really benefitted from having a blog as well. I was able to use it as my ‘portfolio’ at the start to showcase my writing style. Now I have an actual portfolio there as well. If you don’t have a blog yet, take a look at my post on how to start a blog.
What you are writing about often determines your pay rate. Some topics are incredibly popular and considered to be easier to write about. Therefore, it’s not hard to find someone to fit the project and publications don’t need to fork out a higher fee. In my personal experience, travel writing is like this. Sure, a couple of spots paid well but for the most part travel writing pay is quite low after all, almost anyone can write about travel these days. On the other hand, personal finance (the other topic I write about) is a much more niche topic. It’s harder to find experts and therefore the pay rates are significantly higher. I automatically know I will be paid more for these types of articles because it’s not a subject everyone is familiar with. Learn more about choosing a niche here.
Type of Project
What are you writing about? Is it a copywriting project? A personal piece? A research-heavy article? Do you need to interview anyone or get reach out for stats and documents? These are all factors to consider when figuring out how much to charge. Anything that requires more work and time should come with a higher price tag. For me, I have two clients that occasionally ask me to do more research-based pieces that involve getting quotes. When this happens, I up my rate by 25% for the additional work and time that requires.
Another factor that should determine how much you charge for freelance writing will be deadlines. How long do you have to write the article? The shorter the timeline, the more you charge.
For me, I have my regular rates for projects that give me at least a week. If the turnaround is in less than seven days, I add 25% to my rates. If it’s less than 3 days, then I consider that a rush rate and add an extra 50%.
It may seem like a lot to ask for, but I’ve never been told no.
While your time, skills, and experience all play a huge role when determining how much to charge for freelance writing, the client’s budget will always be the big determining factor. At the end of the day, they can either afford you or they can’t. Sometimes they can tell you what they are willing to pay and you can then determine if you want to take on the project or not. Other times they will ask for your rates and go from there. This can be a bit tricky; you don’t want to undersell yourself but you may not want to risk losing the opportunity either. Try to do some research and see if you find any information on rates they are willing to pay. You can also make the first move and ask what their budget for the project is. Keep in mind, bigger companies and websites have bigger budgets so you may need to be flexible. I have different rates that I charge depending on the size and popularity of the website/publication I write for.
PS: Check out this post where I share where you can find freelance jobs that pay well.
Charging by Word/Project/Hour
Another thing that makes it tricky trying to figure out how much to charge as a freelance writer is how you determine your rates. Will you charge by the word? By the project? Or by the hour.
Personally, I prefer to charge by word. These options are much more lucrative for me than charging by the hour because I’m a fast writer. I also believe that people should be paying me for my skill and experience, not just my time, which can sometimes be hard to build into a reasonable hourly rate. Plus, if I’m asked to make edits, it’s easy to track.
That being said, if the project you are working on is incredibly research-heavy then you may be more comfortable charging by hour or for the project rather than a per word rate since you will be expected to do a lot of reading not just writing.
So, How Do I Figure Out My Rates?
As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, figuring out how much to charge as a freelance writer is a bit of a gamble and a balancing act in terms of figuring out your worth versus the client’s budget.
Keep in mind that your rates can change and fluctuate. Yes, my average is $250CAD/ hour. But I don’t make that on every project. Sometimes I’m closer to $50 CAD/hour, sometimes I can make $500 CAD/hour. It depends on several variables like I listed above (as well as my motivation level at the time).
So do your research (this rate chart might help), determine a number(s) you are happy with and start from there. Just don’t forget that your rate should grow with your experience.
And one more thing, don’t let publications try to get you with a byline as a perk. The publication/website is lucky to have your byline on their content; you aren’t lucky to write for them. Remember that.