Becoming a WAH Freelance Writer: Part 5 – How Much Should I Charge?

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As a would-be WAH writer, is there anything more intimidating than telling a client what you expect to be paid? If you’re ever going to get paid for writing, you’re going to have to talk about money. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be something you enjoy.

Even now, with an established rate and a variety of monthly plans that I feel really comfortable with, talking to a client about money gives me a lump in my throat. But, unless you want the bills to pile up, you have to do it.

In my last post I talked about the two methods you can use to bill your clients, and the pros and cons of each. If you missed it, you can find that post here.

The fear of rejection

Sharing your rates with a client is scary because you are opening yourself to the scrutiny and the judgment of your client. It’s a nightmare!

Fortunately, most of your fear isn’t based in reality. It’s based on the irrational and emotional side of your brain. You’re afraid that your client will point out all the shortcomings you already see in yourself. Inevitably, you believe, someone will see you for who you fear really are: a faker who can’t cut it. I can imagine it now.

You’re sitting at your computer, exchanging emails with a potential client. The assignment is right up your alley. The guidelines are clear. And then, the question…

“How much are your rates?”

Sweaty-palmed, you type out your response. Nervous and vulnerable, you hit send. A few painful and anxiety-ridden moments later, you receive a reply. You quickly open it and read the response.

“Are you crazy? You want me to pay you THAT much? No way. You don’t have any experience! You probably aren’t even that good! You stink, I’m leaving, and I’m telling all my influential internet friends that you stink.”

Their real response

Luckily, when a client doesn’t like your rate, they will rarely – if ever – make you feel bad about it. In fact, they’re much more likely to say nothing at all. Most clients that believe that my rate is too high never tell me. They just disappear and I never hear from them again!

Other clients will respectfully inform me that my rates are more than they have budgeted for a particular project or they’ll try and talk me into a compromise. When you realize that your potential clients aren’t looking to shame you, things become so much easier. Without the fear of getting berated, you can feel free to set your rates where they belong.

But where do they belong?

Charge what you’re worth

If the biggest fear of a freelance writer is getting shut down and left without pay, then the second biggest fear is working too hard for too little pay. You need to charge you’re worth.

When you stop working in a traditional workplace, you may be giving up other benefits as well. You’re not going to get paid vacations or sick days. You might be giving up health insurance and employer match on your retirement savings. That means you’ll need to earn more money than you were earning at your last job.

If you’re undercutting yourself, then you’re probably missing out more than you think.

Finding out what you’re worth

The only way to find out what you’re worth is to start charging different amounts. After all,the rule of thumb is obvious: if clients are paying your rate, then you’re worth it to them. When they stop, you’re not. That’s why I’m a huge advocate of “climbing the ladder.”

If you were to search the internet for guidance on what to charge, you would find the same advice posted again and again: charge more. Well, that’s advice I took to heart, and I advise you to do the same.

Climbing the ladder is easy. You start with a rate that you know you can earn. When I first started, mine was $10/hour. I had been earning more than that as a bank teller, so it seemed like a safe bet for me. And I was right. I picked up my first job pretty quickly.

So, the next job I bid on, I told the client that my rate was $12. After I’d been hired a few times at $12/hour, I moved up to $15. Since then, I’ve raised it up to nearly $25. Soon, I’ll be pushing it up again. I’ve seen writers successfully landing jobs with rates as high as $100/hour, so I don’t think I’ll be jumping of the ladder any time soon. That is, at least not as long as clients keep paying the new rates.

So you want specifics?

If that’s not enough for you, and you want specific numbers, then here they are.

  • For absolute beginners with no clips and no relevant experience, start as low as $0.01/word or $5.00/hour, but don’t do it for long. Once you have 2-5 samples, increase the rate.
  • For writers who have a few samples or relevant experience in the field you want to write in, start no lower than $0.03/word or $12/hour.
  • For writers with a dozen samples or who are experts in their field, start no lower than $0.05/word or $15/hour.

Don’t get content at these pay rates either. Don’t accept more than a few jobs in a row without at least trying to earn a higher rate. If you stop increasing, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Finally, one last note. Not every client is going to pay your rate, no matter what it is. The goal isn’t go land every job you bid on. Rather, it is to get enough work to allow you to prosper. If you find yourself in a position where most of your bids are accepted, then you’re offering your clients too good of a price and you’re missing out on money.

If they all say yes, you’re not charging enough.

 

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Daniel Taylor

Daniel is a freelance writer working out of his home in Secane, Pennsylvania. He likes eating cheesesteaks, listening to the blues, and reading great non-fiction. You can email him with questions or moral dilemmas at daniel@danieltaylorwrites.com

3 thoughts on “Becoming a WAH Freelance Writer: Part 5 – How Much Should I Charge?

  • August 24, 2015 at 12:11 am
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    Excellent article. I totally agree with raising your prices until you hit the plateau or the sweet spot for your pricing. I think that many customers equate low prices with low-quality and will pay more to ensure higher quality.

  • August 21, 2015 at 11:14 am
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    It’s great to see a blog post on this topic that includes hard numbers on possible pay rates, as so many articles avoid being direct and open. I tend to charge by the project because I think I write more slowly than others, unless I am really familiar with the topic.

  • June 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm
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    I agree with working up the ladder, but I totally disagree with what the bottom rung is. If you can write coherently in English, there is no need to start at a measly penny per word. If you need samples (and you do), then start a blog. Point would-be clients there to see your writing style.

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