How to Confidently Set and Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates

How to Confidently Set and Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates

You fought the battle to work for yourself and won — yes! But when you turn around, you find yourself still in the trenches. Because whether you work for someone else or you work for yourself, you still need to get paid.

But why is it so hard to get started? Why do you find yourself letting the client set the rate or giving into negotiations and settling for whatever they’ll pay?

There’s just something about setting your freelance rate and eventually raising your freelance rate that leaves you feeling like you’re in over your head. I know, I’ve been there. But the good news is that you don’t have to stay there for long.

Setting your freelance rate for the first time

Pricing is hard, whether you’re negotiating a salary or deciding what to charge new clients. But there are two numbers you need to know that will help you set your freelance rate for the first time. Brace yourself, there’s a little math involved:

Figure out your bottom line

While you never want to price yourself based on how low you can go, you do need to know your bottom line. What is truly the lowest you can go and stay in business? Start with two important numbers: the minimum you need to bring in to keep freelancing each month, and the billable hours you’ll work each day.

Let’s say you’re married, have the luxury of an employed spouse, and the minimum amount you can bring in each month while staying solvent is $2,300 (including taxes, expenses, healthcare, business apps, etc.). After hours invested in marketing, invoicing and other unpaid time investments, you expect to work five hours per day on billable projects, five days per week, giving you a total of 100 billable hours per month.

Divide the second number by the first number (the amount you need divided by the number of billable hours per month you would like to work). This is your ideal hourly rate, the minimum that you should propose as you share your rates with clients.

In this example, the writer would need to make $23 per hour to be able to work that schedule. If that’s not accurate or doable for your experience or your industry, you’ll need to adjust your numbers by planning to work more each day or more days per week.

Figure out what you’re worth

The second piece of this puzzle is the market you’re looking to break into. How much value do you bring to the table? What is the range your clients budget for the work? You might find that certain industries earmark a lot more of their budgets for writing than others, and those are the ones you want to zero in on.

Figure out how much your services are worth by researching your niche among writers who publish their rates. Do your research on popular blogs and freelance writer websites, and map out the territory with their hard-won information. Rate your experience and talents against theirs, compare with your bottom line, and price accordingly.

Other great resources include the Editorial Freelancers Association’s list of rates for various writing-related projects, the Professional Writers Association of Canada’s post What to Pay a Writer and the NJ Creatives Network’s post How Much Should I Charge?.

Increasing your freelance rate

One of the many reasons so many writers flock to freelancing is the idea of giving yourself a raise when you deserve one. But if you were careful as an employee, it’s time to be extra careful as a freelancer. Every move you make and every word you say reflects directly on your business and your brand — including the rate you can command. Choose to act genuinely, generously and professionally with the following two moves:

Give truthful, timely notice to avoid surprise rate hikes

When it’s time to increase your rates, price-gouging and ransom aren’t the way to do business. Whether you’re worth the cost or not, suddenly dropping a larger rate on your next project or (heaven forbid!) surprising a client in an invoice won’t work out for you in the long run.

Take your time and give notice — which not only saves your relationship with the client, but earns you respect. Announce price increases at least two months in advance to allow your clients to budget for them. If you’re in a particularly strict industry, you may even accommodate a longer wait (for clients that get budgets approved quarterly or yearly, for example).

And when you do it, don’t use weak language. Clients see right through whimsical statements like I’m sorry, but… and If it’s all right, I’ll… Simply state the facts: you’re more experienced, you’re working harder and faster, and you’re getting more attention from prospective clients. If none of these statements are true, you shouldn’t be raising your rates. (Click to tweet this idea.)

Be generous to clients you enjoy working with

Show your clients you enjoy working with them (because that’s why you’re still working with them, right?) by being generous when you raise your rates. No, that doesn’t mean you charge less. It means you give them a special coupon or a one-time deal to show them you appreciate their time (think Book before the end of the quarter and receive 20% off the entire project-type offers).

Because here’s the real secret to setting your rates and raising them as your business grows: when someone aims to hire a freelancer, they’ll know what they want when they see it — the right experience for the niche, the right working relationship for the company, and the attention to detail and deadlines that will keep them in business. If you mesh with a client over these three details, they’ll be more than willing to pay you.

If you raise your rate and they no longer want to work with you, you’re still in good shape; having a client drop you is not the worst thing the world.

The worst thing would be bending your needs (and rates) to the will of a client who doesn’t appreciate what you do or want to pay you for it. Avoid those kinds of clients by setting your freelance rate right the first time, and raising it confidently ever after.

How did you set your initial freelance rate? What strategies have you used to raise it?

Filed Under: Freelancing
The Creative Class

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  • Trump says:

    Really hard to get money on Freelance writing. I was also the member of it some times get more Money based on your Stuff but sometimes get less. any how thanks for this

  • arm dass says:

    Thanks for this great article before reading your article i thought freelancing is very hard for earning but finally i concluded that it is also a best opportunity in this digital era.Thanks once again

  • DURP says:

    I like the idea of raising writing rates. These are good ideas.

  • sharmishtha says:

    Great guidance sarah. Thanks.

  • New writer says:

    Thanks for a honest post, Sarah! This is really informative. I was wondering would it be possible to ask for a raise after my first article as I realised I’ve charged way too little (about 20 used) for a blog post (which actually requires extensive research and photo searching skills). Would a hike to 100 usd be too much?

    • That’s a big jump, so you’ll want to present it with reasoning to back up why they should pay the new rate. Plus, you’ll want to be ready to move on to another opportunity if they say no — but that frees up your time to write for better rates!

      You might also like this new post. Best of luck!

      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Sarah says:

    Great post, Sarah! I’ve been freelancing for the majority of the past 25 years, though I didn’t begin working with business clients until the past decade. I initially set my rate based on what writers with similar education, experience and industry knowledge were charging. I’ve raised my rate 15% over the past six years. The two guides (PWAC and How Much Should I Charge?) have been essential, too, for times I’ve been asked to quote on a new product type.

    I have two rates: writing and substantive editing. I also do book doctoring, which is a combination (rewriting a manuscript that’s already been drafted), and for that, I charge my (higher) writing rate.

    For me, flexibility (within reason) is important, too. An hourly rate that’s acceptable in Vancouver might be cheap for San Francisco, yet would be too steep for client’s budget in Memphis. In the long run, finding a good-fit client who pays fairly is more valuable than always getting paid my highest dollar amount.

    Also, I’m increasingly asked for flat-rate quotes. I calculate these based on estimated hours, then give the client a breakdown (how many hours each for research, interviews, draft, editing, revisions based on client feedback, etc). If I’m giving a discount, I explain how much they’re saving based on that. When I provide this kind of breakdown, the quotes are almost always accepted. But I learned this the hard way – when I don’t, clients just see a big number and balk.

    One last thought: I’d be hesitant to charge the minimum, because most of us – even top freelancers – have “famine” episodes, and it’s important to save for those. I’d recommend building emergency savings into one’s monthly budget prior to calculating “bottom line” rates.

    Again, great post – cheers!

    • Great points, Sarah! Having different rates for different types of work is important, and I like your suggestion of pursuing fair-paying clients that fit with your business rather than just the highest paycheck.

      Thanks for sharing your strategy for breaking down the project costs and elements when quoting flat rates!

      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Geller says:

    This is a very nice write-up, I have been mulling over how to progress in the Writing industry after opening my blog at – now I realize how to create a plan for my freelancing and this has given me a good rethink.

    actually my first job was very nice and I was given 1600USD monthly with only any amount of time I needed to complete 10 write-ups daily and extra time to fulfill other jobs. But then I lost it and have since been roving, looking to create a writing team and programming group too.

  • Alicia Rades says:

    I really like the idea of “Book before the end of the quarter and receive 20% off the entire project” instead of locking in rates for ongoing clients like I’ve heard others advise before.

  • These are great comments. I remember when I first started my business at home and talked to some mentors and other professionals. I found I was charging too little because I wasn’t taking into account some things that most of us don’t think about. It costs electricity to run the printer, the PC, the internet. I now run the heat or the AC during the day because I used to be out of the house for 10 or 11 hours each day. Don’t shortchange yourself when you’re calculating what it really costs to run a business from home or not.

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