Five Freelance Writing Rates Mistakes That You Don’t Want To Make
One of the biggest sources of traffic I get for this blog is searches that are involved with how much money you should charge as a freelance writer. Freelance writing rates are, to me at least, a straightforward thing. However, many people seem to overcomplicate the issue and get confused when it comes to setting their own freelance writing rates.
For the curious, I’ve written a couple of articles about freelance writing rates before;
But I’m going to talk in a bit more depth about some of the big mistakes that people make, and how it affects them negatively. I have made a few of these mistakes in the past, so I’m not lecturing from a pulpit on these issues.
1. They Don’t Make Their Freelance Writing Rates Explicitly Clear From The Beginning
This is true of many freelancers, and not just freelance writers.
When it comes to being self-employed, especially if you are newly self-employed, there is a tendency to assume people will be reasonable. There is a tendency to assume that you might have unspoken, or unwritten agreements. This is especially true if you are talking about your first few clients or if you are doing work for family or friends.
You cannot make this mistake. You have to set a rate and you have to stick to your rate.
If you do not do this, then you are going to get in trouble sooner or later.
Fun fact: my first ever freelance client (not for freelance writing, but long before that,) told me that I could do a project for him based on one of these unwritten agreements. I did hundreds of pounds worth of work for him, and spent probably a month working on his project. He turned up one day and offered me twenty pounds or nothing for the work I’d done. This should not be your fate.
2. Don’t Work By The Hour
It is very easy to set a flat rate and by-the-hour price for your service. However, this temptation to do something easy is a bad idea.
The reason for that is that, as a writer, you are not doing a simple job that can be measured in terms of hourly productivity. When it comes to ideas for sales copy or even fiction, there are going to be a lot of ideas that come to you whilst you are not sat at a computer. They might come to you when you are cooking food, going for a walk, or sat on the toilet. This is a part of the creative process, as your brain is constantly going to consider different options even when you are not working.
It is almost impossible to explain this to a client, however. If you are paid by the hour, then they will expect an itemised account of your existence sooner or later.
It’s only a matter of time before they start questioning your existence as well. It’s very discouraging to be told that you should be doing your current work in half the time.
By not charging by the hour, you are going to avoid this problem entirely.
3. No Charging By The Word
Many freelance writing rates are constructed with a by-the-word pricing structure in mind. It might be one dollar per word, or it might be 0.01 of a dollar per word.
Whatever the rate is, it’s a bad way to go about writing professionally.
The reason is that, like with the point above, you are going to encounter clients who want to save money by having shorter pieces of work, and you are going to have clients who think the opposite way-they want a long piece of work, regardless of the quality.
That’s where you fall into the trap of padding out your work and making it less effective.
As a copywriter, fiction writer or any other professional writer, your work will inevitably and inescapably be judged by the quality, not quantity when it reaches the end user.
You do not want to justify your word count, you do not want to have to extend or limit your work if you don’t have to. It is better to tell a client that you will write as many words as needed, and then leave it at that.
4. Don’t Charge Enough
Writers are a low self-esteem bunch of professionals. There are many writers who believe that the fact that they are writing at all is great, and if they get paid even a little amount they should be considering themselves lucky.
This is the wrong approach to life entirely as a writer.
Writing is a tangible service that improves the economy. Whether you are selling books which people enjoy reading, or you are a content writer, you will be putting profit into someone’s hands. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be hired.
This means that your writing is worth something. Do not be like the countless other writers who allow themselves to be undercharged and undervalued.
Set the price that you can charge and that you can live company with charging. If you don’t do this, then eventually you will have to stop writing, which would be a great shame because it doesn’t have to be that way.
5. Being Generally Vague During The Sale
This is almost a continuation of the first point I made, but it’s slightly different.
There are lots of self-employed people, not just writers, who lose the majority of their potential customers due to being vague about their pricing.
Understand, when someone hires a company or individual, they have a need that needs filling. They are going to have insecurities about that need, and by extension about the cost.
This means that buying a service or product from anyone is a testing time.
To succeed as a freelancer or business you need to be trustworthy and likeable. If you don’t do these things, then you are not going to get the sale.
When you are vague about your rates, you will lose customers quicker than you can imagine. They will automatically assume you are trying to extract more money than you should. This is something you can avoid by being up front.
A lot of freelance writers are worried about their freelance writing rates. They think that people will say that they are overcharging and that they’ll then go elsewhere. I say that you should let them. Set your rate, and if the person decides it’s too much for them, then move onto the next customer. Allow them to move onto the next writer.
Be straightforward and honest in your approach, and know a lot more people are going to accept your rates than you think.
Pricing freelance writer rates is not the most complicated thing in the world. For many it’s a form of procrastination, because they think with perfect pricing, they’ll get limitless customers.
Needless to say, it doesn’t work like this. Sadly, you need to set a price, stick with the price and do the work.
If your pricing structure does work, then you can always optimise it later. But for the meantime, set your price, make sure it doesn’t fall into any of these mistakes, and stick with it. You’ll be surprised what you learn.