How much should I charge for my writing?
September 1, 2011 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Freelance Writing Filter: I've been out of the freelance writing market for about three years. I want to go back. I just got an offer to write some online content, and I need to know how much to charge based on a range provided by the company.

The last freelance writing I did was for a content mill that paid $10-$15 per 400-word article. That was all I could find in the recession, and it demoralized me -- and made me broke -- to the point where I jumped careers. I'm now in a low-paying day job and want to go back to freelance writing, at least on a part-time basis.

Out of the blue, an online editor contacted me to write about my present industry, probably based on my LinkedIn profile. Checking their site, their rates look extraordinarily generous -- $42-$85 per hour for web content.

They gave me a suggested word count range that would take me anywhere from three to ten hours to complete, depending on how many words the articles end up being and how long it takes to research and fact-check. Should I estimate the upper end or average it out to about seven hours?

I also don't want to price myself out, nor do I want to lowball my rates. My experience level would be mid-career, but as I mentioned, I have taken three years off. However, my deliverables are excellent. The samples they provided me with have been mediocre at best. I can do better.

I currently make $9/hr at my day job, so even the low rate of $42/hr sounds like untold wealth at the moment. The highest hourly rate I made for freelancing in the past was $40. But if I can command more, I want to.

Please give me your suggestions, Hive Mind. I need to put in a bid today.
posted by xenophile to Work & Money (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some things that I would consider if I were in your shoes (I am a freelancer and have been doing this for 2.5 years, but I’m also learning the ropes as I go along):

• Ask them how they typically review and the overall process. Some clients can chew up all the time with meetings and requesting lots of revisions that were never on the original outline or directions, in which case you will spend many more hours than anticipated (so if they are unknown, I would add hours to your estimate) ---but I would ask how many revisions they typically ask for, how many people review it, will you be following an outline or “writing on topic X” etc.

• Have you asked them how they typically pay? Do you need to first put in a bid? OR is it hourly? I have/had quite a few clients that did pay hourly, if they do this you may want totake this option so you don’t eat all your time doing things that were not predicted

• If you feel the hourly rate or number of hours that it would take you is really high, you can start at the lower end (hourly) but raise your rates if they start flooding you with work or you get lots of work from other clients

• Also, if these people found you for a project I would look up similar companies using LinkedIn, your library, googling, and approach those places for similar types of work. As soon as you complete your project, update your LinkedIn profile and make it obvious that you do the described type of freelance work with a specialty Most of my work comes through LinkedIn, so make it easy for other clients to find you
posted by Wolfster at 6:56 AM on September 1, 2011

It depends on the market you're in and, to a lesser extent, the market(s) your clients are in. I do a bit of freelance writing on the side and I typically charge $40/hour. I've never had a client or potential client claim the price is too high or try to negotiate with me. I almost wonder if this means that I should raise my rates.

But, I'm in Canada and typically write for Canadian clients. In particular, I live in Alberta, which has not been hit nearly as hard by the recession as most areas of North America.
posted by asnider at 7:15 AM on September 1, 2011

Definitely factor in the research time, but also consider the fact that you'll get faster at the research if this project is ongoing. For example, I write green living and sustainability articles. At first I had to track down all the facts and figures about various environmental issues by poring through the sites. Now, I've written enough articles that I either have the information stored in my head or I know where to find it quickly. I've cut my research time in half while still delivering high-quality articles.

Also, set up Google news alerts for your industry/area of expertise. If you have a smartphone, you can read these articles when you have a few minutes throughout the day. I find this allows me to stay current and minimizes research time on projects.

I think that $40 or more per hour is perfectly reasonable. Don't sell yourself short.
posted by Ostara at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

$40/hr sounds pretty good. For higher rates, you have to consider what your value-add is. If it's web-copy, can you optimize the copy for search? Can you provide a list of researched keywords for different pages on the site? Can you optimize each page as a landing page?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:25 AM on September 1, 2011

The market hasn't changed much since you left. If anything it's gotten worse, with the "race to the bottom" effect provided by sites like Add to that the fact that you've been out of the game for a few years... if I were in your shoes, I would bid $50/hour (and then accept any counter-offer).

That's low enough that they're likely to snap it up. And it's not so high that it would make them think twice about issuing a counter-offer.
posted by ErikaB at 10:39 AM on September 1, 2011

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