We've talked about setting freelance writing rates and figuring out when you need to charge more. But the amount you charge isn't the only potential problem with your freelance writing rates. Your rate structure can be equally problematic. For example, are you charging per word when you should be charging per article? Are published hourly rates turning off prospects and sending them to the competition?
Let's look at three signs it's time to rethink your rate structure for your freelance writing services.
1. Prospects Aren't Biting
If you aren't contacted by many prospects even though your site and rate chart get adequate traffic, something's wrong. Your first thought might be that your rates are too high and that you need to lower them. But that isn't always the case. You have to remember that rates are somewhat open to interpretation. How you want to charge clients is irrelevant. How they expect to be charged is what really matters.
Let's say you offer blogging services. You list your rates as $75 per hour, and you can typically write a blog post in your specialty area in one hour. Your competition generally quotes per post (let's say $100 per post for this example). The client is willing to pay that $100 per post.
Your rates are actually lower than the competition, but the prospect never contacts you. It has nothing to do with your fees being too high and everything to do with how they interpret your rate structure. For example, they might have a set word count in their head which they (wrongly) assume will take you two to three hours to research and write.
You don't make it clear how long a post takes, how many words per post your rate covers, etc. That's because you think you have a more adaptable rate structure to account for things like research time and different lengths.
Clients just want to know what they're going to be billed. Your rate doesn't tell them that without them making an extra effort to contact you for a quote (many won't). Your competition does. They charge more. They get the gig. Yay for them! Sucks to be you.
It's time to rethink how you advertise your blogging rates. The wrong rate structure will turn off prospects before you ever get the chance to talk to them.
2. You're Frequently Asked to Explain Your Fees
Here's another sign you're using the wrong rate structure for the type of freelance writing services you provide. You shouldn't have to constantly explain how your rate structure works. If you're asked to on a frequent basis, it might be time to try something else.
For example, let's say you're trying to transition from magazine writing to business writing. You're used to charging per word -- a rate structure magazine editors are accustomed to working with. So you advertise per word rates for your business writing services. Commercial clients are much less familiar with this rate structure, so you're asked to explain or justify your per word rates.
Your rate structure shouldn't cause confusion. You should adapt to the norms of your specialty area. If clients are comparing writers based on per project rates and quotes, you should provide rates in the same structure. If you write features where per word rates are the norm then you should quote in that fashion. If you specialize in some area where hourly quotes are typical (I've yet to find a good example of this in freelance writing), then stick to that. You'll spend less time explaining your fees and more time on actual billable hours.
3. Add-On Fees Have Become the Norm
Rate structures are about more than the way you charge. They also encompass what's included in those fees. You have a set service level covered by your advertised rates. Let's say that includes a draft and one round of edits. Anything beyond that incurs extra fees.
When you review recent orders you find that 65% of clients end up paying add-on fees because they request a second round of edits (minor changes to the first round of edits you completed). That's a sign something is wrong with your current rate structure. It says the current package you offer isn't adequate for the market you're targeting. Your true base service isn't actually what you advertise. This can alienate clients -- not something you want to do.
In this case your best bet is to rethink your packages and rates. If you insist on keeping the current package, perhaps advertise a second package that includes extra editing time (or more interviews, or whatever clients regularly request). No one likes being charged "extra" fees for something that seems like a basic project necessity.
At the same time, you should absolutely charge more when clients increase the scope of a project. The idea is to do so using a rate structure that gives clients flexibility without feeling like they're being nickel and dimed to death every time they hire you.
Have you changed your freelance writing rate structures recently? In what ways did you change them and why? I'm about to revert my rate structures for a few services back to my old model. Why? I noticed that prospects were dwindling for those specific services since the previous change. Originally I assumed it was because rates went up. But so did other rates, and those services continue to attract new prospects on a regular basis. I had to rethink my rate strategy. Do you?