Freelance Writing Rates: 5 Resources for Figuring Out How Much to Charge

Freelance writing rates
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Building your business as a freelance writer often means offering an array of services. Even within a niche like copywriting, for example, you could provide various services, writing About pages, sales pages, product descriptions, even Kickstarter copy.

The problem is, it’s often difficult to figure out how much to charge for different services. How do you know what rate to set for something like writing a wedding toast, crafting an online dating profile or writing a press release for a corporate client?

While you’ll find a lot of differing opinions on how to set your rates, it’s also helpful to compare your planned rates to those of other writers. Knowing what other people charge helps you determine whether you’re on the right track and prevents you from undervaluing your skills.

Researching pay rates can be tricky, but here’s a list of useful resources on rates for different writing gigs, projects and publications.

1. Writer’s Digest’s Writers’ Market

While online access to Writer’s Market will set you back $39.99 a year and the book version is $23 on Amazon, Writer’s Digest shares Lynn Wasnak’s “What Should I Charge?” chapter for free online. The chapter’s handy chart lists rates for 150+ writing gigs, including both per-hour and per-project options.

Where did this information come from? Wasnak compiled the chart from responses to a survey of 23 professional writing and editing organizations, such as American Independent Writers, National Writers Union and Writer’s Guild of America. The survey was conducted in 2010, so rates may have changed slightly since then, but they’re still a great starting point.

2. Editorial Freelancers Association’s Editorial Rates

EFA, a non-profit, volunteer-run organization, offers a membership directory, newsletter, job board and online education. Its members have also put together a list of rates for common writing- and editing-related tasks, such as PR writing, ghostwriting and fact-checking.

The chart includes per-hour, per-page and per-word pay ranges, along with an estimated pace to give writers an idea of how long a project may take. For example, translators usually manage between 300 and 500 words per hour. The rates were last updated in 2012, and as the EFA notes, they “should only be used as a rough guideline.”

3. Scratch Magazine’s Who Pays Writers

Looking for an idea of potential payment before you pitch a magazine or online publication?

Created by writer and Scratch cofounder Manjula Martin, Who Pays Writers is an incredible repository of information about which publications pay writers, how much they pay, and for what kind of work. Anyone can submit a rate, and it’s completely anonymous.

You’ll likely find conflicting reports of different rates for the same publications; as Martin notes, different writers command different rates based on their levels of experience, relationship with the editor, background and qualifications, etc. Many entries include whether the writer had a contact at the outlet or it was a cold pitch.

4. Write Jobs

While Write Jobs is a job board, reviewing its postings can help you establish whether your planned rate is too low, too high or somewhere in the middle. Look for the “With Pay Rates” option in the top menu bar to see only jobs that include pay, then scroll down to review the options.

Many of the freelance writing jobs are from anonymous companies or Craigslist, so take the rates here with a grain of salt; they’re likely toward the lower end of the spectrum. Definitely don’t price your services lower than these rates, and don’t be afraid to aim higher.

5. Your favorite search engine

Am I recommending you simply ask Google, “How much should I charge to write [insert project here]”? Yes!

Many writers and editors share their rates upfront on their websites; James Chartrand suggests this is one mark of an experienced writer. Not only does this help master writers find their ideal clients — clients who know what they’re getting into and won’t try to negotiate the writer down — but it helps newbies figure out what to charge.

For example, say you want to start helping authors create and polish query letters to submit to agents. Google serves up several results, including starting rates of $120 to write a query letter, or $25, $30 or $39.99 to critique one.

This method is a bit more labor-intensive than the others, but it often yields good results. Try wording your search query a bit differently each time, and including words like “rate,” “charge” and “cost.”

The bottom line

Researching what other people charge doesn’t tell you exactly how to price your services — you’ll also have to consider your experience, qualifications and financial situation.

However, it’s a good first step in the process of setting your rates. Knowing what other writers are earning for similar work also helps you identify what sets them apart — a certain skill or certification? A few guest posts on major blogs in your niche? — and include those elements in your business strategy.

And then, once you’ve gained that experience or earned that recommendation, you can again turn to these resources for information to help you raise your rates.

What’s your favorite source for freelance writing rate information?

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Heather van der Hoop is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and was previously assistant editor of The Write Life. Outside of work, she can usually be found playing Jeopardy!, reading about the latest scientific advances and climbing rocks, mountains, and trees.... .

Heather van der Hoop | @heathervdh

Heather van der Hoop
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Comments

  1. Great article! I always wondered what International Living pays for the articles I get from them in my email. Because of your link to Scratch magazine, now I know. Thank you for this one Heather.

  2. It never occurred to me to offer to write a wedding toast! I find Writers Digest always has the most “optimistic” rates of what some people could make, on a Tuesday, when the sun is shining, in Berlin. But it’s a good guide and a solid reference point when a client bursts a blood vessel, “What? I was thinking more like…” Happy New Year, Heather! May we all thrive and prosper in 2015.

    • A wedding toast might not be a common writing assignment, but you’d be surprised how many people need help figuring out how to tell their stories (or maybe which ones not to tell)!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Best of luck negotiating clients closer to those optimistic rates!

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  3. David Russell says:

    Heather,
    Spending this afternoon inspiring my efforts through classics and newer posts at TWL. Thanks for the reference to the Editorial Freelancers Association and Write Jobs.
    My goal this year is to find some local opportunities in either assisting a nonprofit, or perhaps home improvement pieces for a circular. I currently write on a content mill but have seemed to find my niche with these types of assignments or short bios about someone else!
    Kind regards to you and readers!

  4. This info is right on point. Valuable to writers of every variety and working in any niche. My opinion on the posted rate vs. dynamic rate is to always stay as flexible and adaptable as possible. While it may seem like a good idea to state your hourly or per word rate right out front, it can leave you in a bind when a client requires additional, unexpected services that you never planned for when determining what you need to earn to meet your financial goals. Many times the client sees the posted rate and assumes that it covers everything under the sun. Hey, whatever floats your freelance boat, just my two cents. Oh, this calculator will help you determine what you need to charge to meet a certain annual income. Works great! http://allindiewriters.com/freelance-hourly-rate-calculator/

  5. Thank you so much for posting this! I’m only new to the world of freelance writing and it’s a whole new ballgame for me. I appreciate all the free advice wonderful minds such as yourself put out.

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  1. […] don’t know what to charge – The Write Life has a handy guide to freelance writing rates, or check out Tom Ewer’s complete guide to setting and negotiating freelance writing […]

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