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Reader Question: How Much Should Freelance Writers Charge?

Read Time: 3 min

When you're just getting started as a freelance writer, the issue of rates can be a tricky one. How much should you charge? Should you bill hourly, per word, per project, or under some other rate structure? Should rates vary depending on the type of project?

Today's reader question is along these lines. This new freelancer, who asked not to be named so we'll simply refer to her as "Jane," asked:

"I would like to know how much to charge for 2-300 word articles submitted for a custom online/print local AZ magazine. Each required a telephone interview as well.

Also, the charge for a 1000 word article with interview with a celebrity comedian.

I was given a byline for 2 of them.
I am to discuss with the publisher and just started freelancing."

How Much Should Freelance Writers Charge?

Unfortunately Jane's question doesn't come with a one-size-fits-all answer. No one can spit out a specific rate and tell you "this is what you should charge for that particular project." Instead, there are several things you need to consider. For example:

  1. Does the publication have a standard rate for new writers? This is common with magazines, and rates are sometimes laid out in their writers' guidelines. When you have an existing relationship with the client or you have a strong portfolio, you have a better chance of negotiating higher rates. But if you're new, you might be in a "take it or leave it" position with a magazine.
  2. If this magazine doesn't have standard rates, do you know how much similar publications are paying? This is a good opportunity to dig into guidelines for other regional magazines to see if there are any rate trends that might apply to the pieces you're taking on.
  3. How much do you need to make? Know your minimum hourly rate (use my freelance rate calculator to help you figure it out). Figure out if you're in a position to charge any kind of premium on top of that minimum. Then estimate how long each article will take. Once you have those numbers, you can figure out a project rate or even a per-word rate that's high enough to justify the time spent.
  4. I'm assuming not all pieces were bylined in this case given that Jane mentioned receiving bylines for two of them. So let's think about bylines.

    How important is a byline to you? You can, and should, charge more for ghostwritten work. The more important bylines are in marketing your services, the bigger the premium you'll want to charge for ghostwritten projects. But this also depends on your base rates.

    For example, if I would normally write a 1000 word post for around $600, I tack on 20% for ghostwriting, bringing the total to $720. But if your base rates are much lower -- let's say $60 to start with -- you might want to increase that percentage. At 20% you'd get $72 for ghostwriting, and an extra $12 probably won't be enough to account for the lack of a byline. But again, it depends how important bylines are to you. They're not terribly important to me because I don't have to rely on them for new gigs at this point.

    If you're just starting out, they might be vital. I know freelancers who double their usual rates when a piece is ghostwritten. And, of course, you can choose anything in between. Charge more. Just decide how much more sacrificing a byline is worth to you.

I know that's probably not the simple answer Jane was hoping for, but I hope this helps her come up with a pricing strategy that works not only for this client, but for her overall market and career goals as she moves forward.

Do you have a question you'd like to have answered on All Freelance Writing?

3 thoughts on “Reader Question: How Much Should Freelance Writers Charge?”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    You must have read my mind! Setting up a page for my rates is in my to do today. I just had one question: Is there a correlation between how much time you think you’ll spend on an article and how much you charge. Say you’re writing 2 1000 word articles. One will take a lot more time to write and research. Do you charge more for the one or not?

    Regards,

    Reply
    • Yes, and no.

      I have a set rate for different word count ranges. So anything in the 750-1000 word range might be the same price. That rate is set based on the average amount of time an article in that range takes me to write. So in some cases you make a little more per hour, and in some cases a little less. But in the end you hit whatever your target rate is for that kind of project (ideally somewhere above the minimum rate you’ve set).

      I do charge differently for feature articles as opposed to more typical blog content though (even if those feature articles are on published on blogs). That’s because features require more research time, interviews, etc. So if you take on different types of articles with drastically different time commitments, I’d suggest having a separate rate for each type of writing — blog posts, interviews, news features, detailed tutorials, or whatever you happen to take on.

      Another option is to have a rate range instead of a flat project rate, or a “starting at” rate. That lets you take advantage of the benefits of posting public rates while still giving you some flexibility.

      Reply

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