Freelance writing is a great way to grab some extra cash and spread backlinks to your own content, products, or blog posts. With some cultivation, you can turn freelance writing into a full-time, fully remote, choose-your-own-hours career! Let’s talk about how to get started from scratch.
Freelance writing is only one of my income streams, but it makes up about 20% of my income. I also don’t really do it for the money. Writing within my industry niche for other sites is a great opportunity to sow entries for my own content all over the internet. I can link my YouTube videos, drop buy links for my books when relevant, and link my related blog posts.
It’s of note that most sites won’t let you backlink anything that directly competes with their own Call-To-Action, content, or products, so keep that in mind.
I’ve offered freelance services for several years, including professional development, editing, and marketing, along with my writing, so a lot of these tips can work for any type of freelance service.
The first question most freelancers have before pursuing any new gig is: What do I charge? Let’s look at the factors that go into determining your freelancer rate.
Does freelance writing require an education?
While around 90% of freelance writers surveyed here have a college education, freelance writing does not require a certain level of education.
Some benefits of a college education are that you will have had practice with different types of writing, you may have specialized in a relevant field that qualifies you to write certain content, and it might look better on applications to some positions. Statistically, the higher educated you are, the higher you are paid.
That said, I was an academic tutor throughout college, and I can tell you: The majority of students complete their undergrad education still not knowing how to write well. A college degree guarantees nothing, when it really comes down to it. So if you don’t have a higher degree, don’t be discouraged!
What should I charge for freelance writing?
What you charge as a freelance writer depends on the content, your experience level, and the client. You have basically three payment structures to consider for freelance writing: per word, per project, and per hour. Let’s break those down.
Charging per word is often the standard for many types of freelance writing. Per word makes sense for things like blog posts, because blog posts typically range between 500 and 4,000 words. That’s a huge discrepancy, and you should absolutely get paid differently for each of those lengths. With per word, the longer the project, the more you are compensated.
Some companies may be hesitant to use this payment structure for inexperienced writers, because the writer may be tempted to fluff up the word count for a bigger paycheck, resulting in a worse piece.
Per word is beneficial for writers because it can guarantee that if the piece ends up longer than the client suggested, you’re still compensated appropriately. It can also make your fee look a little more reasonable, as opposed to seeing larger numbers with other payment structures.
Per word might be detrimental for writers because per word doesn’t account for research or revisions. The client pays for your first word count, then any edits you do afterward are free labor. Likewise, if a piece requires hours of research, you’re not being compensated for those hours, because it doesn’t result in an equal amount of words.
97% of freelance writers who charge per word are writing blog posts.
Charging per hour is often more favored for corporate work. Companies typically pay their regular employees by the hour, so it would make sense with their planning and accounting software to do the same with contracts and freelancers.
Per hour negates the “free research and revisions” problem of charging per word, but the downside is that it’s impossible not to get punished for efficiency with this method. The better you are at your job, the less you are paid for it.
Per project is actually the most popular way freelance writers prefer to be paid. Clients will know exactly what you cost, which can make it much easier to hire you. When it’s easy to hire you, you’ll get more jobs.
The downsides are that seeing the number in total, rather than hourly or per word, can seem much more expensive than the other two options (even if it’s cheaper).
You could also run into the problem of a project taking much longer than you thought it would. I suggest a clause in your contract that adds something about a limit for revisions or time spent on a project, where an extra fee will be incurred. This can protect you from being underpaid for too much work.
As you can see, each payment structure has its own benefits and drawbacks. No matter which you choose, let’s go over some tips for determining a rate that’s right for you.
How to determine your freelance writer rate
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for freelancer rates, but here are a few things to consider.
1. Research what other people are charging.
Anytime you’re confused and not sure how to do something, just look at other people offering similar services and see what they’re doing. Make sure you compare your experience level to theirs. For example, if you’re just starting out, you’re not going to charge the same price that someone with decades of experience is going to charge. But find the typical industry range, then decide where you fit on it.
Tip: Charge 10% more than the average you find. A lot of the time, writers avoid raising their rates, when they really should be. If you don’t get bites with this price, you can consider tweaking it, but you’ll probably be surprised how much you’re worth. The biggest enemy of a writer is undervaluing their work.
I changed my prices all the time when I was starting out. I was actually under-charging for what I was worth at the beginning, and I gradually raised my fee as I became more confident. Don’t expect your prices to dramatically fluctuate forever, but it is normal to try different things until you find your happy place.
Also keep in mind that your price should raise with your experience level and inflation.
3. Track the time you’re working on each job.
Even if you’re not charging hourly, you’ll want the information for your own frame of reference when setting prices. If you finish a particular type of job way quicker than you thought you would, maybe you could charge less. If it takes way longer, maybe you need to charge more.
Toggl is a great tool for tracking your projects.
I know that deciding what to charge for your services can be an overwhelming decision, but don’t panic! Just get some research together, choose the most effective pay structure for your situation, expect some experimentation and tweaking over time, and track your hours. You’ll figure it out!