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47 Things to Consider When Setting Freelance Rates

Are you confident that you set the right freelance writing rates? Are they really helping you reach all of your financial goals? Or did you find out through trial and error that there were some factors you forgot to consider?

Alicia Rades brought this topic up recently in one of the All Freelance Writing forums. She wanted to know how she can figure out what she should be making to reach her goals and meet her expenses.

"What types of expenses should I factor in? (I’ve been looking up info and have reviewed a few of Jenn’s articles, but I want to make sure I’m not missing anything.) Here’s what I have listed.

  • Monthly expenses (Internet, phone, rent, etc.)
  • Taxes
  • Retirement fund (I’m currently contributing 10% of every paycheck)
  • Business fund (I’m currently contributing 7 percent of each paycheck to my business fund)
  • Health insurance (I’m currently covered right now, but I’m considering this for later)
  • Extras (for savings and fun!)"

- Alicia Rades -- View the thread

Setting Freelance Writing Rates: What to Consider

Setting freelance writing rates isn't as simple as pulling a number out of thin air or charging what you believe your competitors are charging (similar writers can be competing in very different markets).

You have your own unique earnings needs and financial goals, and those have to be accounted for. Otherwise you could waste months to years targeting the wrong markets.

I gave Alicia some recommendations on all of the different expenses and goals she might want to take into consideration before changing her rates. These are the kinds of things you'll want to account for if you use my freelance rate calculator to help you crunch the numbers. I hope this list will help other freelancers in a similar situation.

Monthly personal expenses

  • rent/mortgage
  • utilities (electric, propane/gas, cable, home phone, cell phone, etc.)
  • monthly health insurance premiums
  • any regular medical costs like OTC allergy meds or co-pays on prescriptions
  • groceries
  • monthly “fun money” for eating out or going out with friends
  • car insurance if you pay monthly
  • car payments — now or ones you might start in the near future
  • gas
  • pet expenses
  • monthly website / service fees for memberships (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
  • Any other subscriptions you might have
  • monthly debt payments if you have them (if not, but you will soon — such as student loans — I’d account for them now; you can save the extra to put towards them later instead of raising rates to make up the difference when the time comes)
  • If you’re anything like me, a monthly book budget.  – Don’t restrict the “fun money” to just going out; make sure you account for things you might buy as a want rather than a need (books, games, blu-rays, etc.).

Other personal expenses (anything you pay less frequently)

  • insurance policies (car, home, renter’s; if not paid monthly)
  • any non-regular medical expenses that come out of pocket such as office visit co-pays — leave more than you think you’ll need in case you need to cover co-pays for surgery or other treatments
  • vacations
  • auto license renewals
  • car registrations
  • car maintenance and inspections
  • home maintenance
  • pet registrations
  • pet vet visits (check-ups, vaccinations, etc.)
  • yearly subscriptions (such as to magazines, websites, AAA, etc.)
  • yearly gifts (birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or upcoming special occasions such as a friend or family member's wedding)
  • your clothing budget
  • non-monthly salon expenses for routine hair cuts, dye jobs, or whatever you need
  • any charitable contributions you tend to make every year (or want to)
  • books and other expenses tied to your education

Personal Savings & Investments

  • retirement
  • education (for you or your children)
  • emergency fund (start by aiming for a minimum of three months’ expenses, but ideally keep at it until you have at least a years’ expenses covered, if not more)
  • routine personal savings (money you don’t plan to spend, but that you can use to earn a bit of interest, tap when you need a bit extra without hitting your emergency fund — this is the money you might use to save for a large purchase, a downpayment on a future home, etc.)
  • however much you’d like to have available for investments, if that’s of interest to you

Monthly Business Expenses

  • Web hosting (unless you pay for longer stretches at a time)
  • Office rent or related expenses if you don’t work from home exclusively
  • Business utilities (such as if you have a separate business cell phone or internet account)
  • Regular payments to contractors (subcontractors, designers, developers, marketing assistance, etc.)
  • Monthly business memberships or subscriptions
  • Any regular office supplies (printer toner, paper, pens, etc.)

Other Business Expenses

  • Yearly domain registrations
  • Dues for professional organizations
  • Non-monthly subscriptions or memberships
  • Your expected business taxes
  • Business travel (to visit prospects and clients, attend conferences or other networking events — travel plus admission costs)
  • Business attire, if necessary

Business Savings

  • Any routine savings you want as money to be left in the business for future growth or to cover unanticipated expenses

As thorough as this list might be, I'm sure there are plenty of things I'm missing. We all have unique considerations. Can you think of other expenses or savings goals that should be accounted for when setting freelance writing rates?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, NakedPR.com, and BizAmmo.com.

Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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