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
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?