The freelancer’s guide to setting reasonable rates

Annie assumed that having a giant calculator meant she could charge more.

Annie assumed that if she had a giant calculator, she could charge more.

 

When I started out as a freelance writer, I searched endlessly online for an idea of what to charge. Some freelancers shared their rates on their websites, but they varied enormously and were usually just estimates.

In freelancing forums, the usual suggestion was to charge a rate that made the work worth your while.

For a newbie, I found it terribly frustrating. However, it was actually very sound advice.

A freelancer in one part of the world may be able to live lavishly on $5 an hour, while another writer needs to make $200 a day to meet their basic living expenses.

So it really doesn’t matter what your peers charge. What’s important it setting a rate that is realistic, reflects your experience and allows you to live off more than baked beans!

 

Top tips for setting freelance writing rates

Now that I’ve been doing the freelancing thing for a while, I thought I’d share with you my top tips for setting rates:

1. Use a freelance calculator: Aussie freelancer site Flying Solo has a handy hourly rate calculator. Simply plug in your expected expenses, billable hours and anticipated time off and it churns out a suggested per hour rate.

2. Set strict terms of payment: As a freelancer, your time is incredibly valuable. As well as writing time, you should also factor in the time you’ll spend researching the client’s business, competitors and market. You’ll also need to account for revisions you may need to make after the client has reviewed the copy. I offer two revisions, which I work  into my project fees.

3. Add a buffer: Whatever you decide to charge, always assume the project will take a little longer than expected. You may end up sending more emails, having longer Skype calls or writing extra copy. You might like to add an extra hour to account for these unexpected tasks.

4. Believe in your abilities: Many freelancers lack confidence in their skills and their value to clients. If you under-sell yourself, you’ll earn a reputation as a ‘cheap’ copywriter and reduce your earning potential. Set respectable rates and your business will benefit.

 

The bottom line

Setting your freelance rates can be trial and error. If you’re just starting out, you won’t be able to charge a top rate for your services. But over time, as you gain experience and build your portfolio, you can raise your rates.

Just remember to never sell yourself short. As the celebs say in those L’Oreal ads, ‘you’re worth it!’

 

How did you set rates for your business?

 

Kat Tate Kat Tate (22 Posts)

Kat is the founder of Sheelance.com and chief word nerd at Kat Tate Copywriting. She is happiest when crafting clear, compelling content for business websites, or writing about health and travel for magazines. Before jumping into freelancing full-time, Kat enjoyed a colourful career as a journalist, PR consultant, online editor and professional organiser.


Kat Tate

Kat Tate

Kat is the founder of Sheelance.com and chief word nerd at Kat Tate Copywriting. She is happiest when crafting clear, compelling content for business websites, or writing about health and travel for magazines. Before jumping into freelancing full-time, Kat enjoyed a colourful career as a journalist, PR consultant, online editor and professional organiser.

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  • http://twitter.com/TashWord Tash Hughes

    I think confidence plays a large part in what we charge, unfortunately! I remember seeing some new freelance writers set up a couple of years after I started – they started at a higher rate than I (with a lot of experience) was charging and produced an inferior result (I know because I edited some of their stuff for poor grammar!) It astounded me they’d charge so much – ok, they didn’t last long as the market came to see what I saw, but their confidence got them going well.
    The other side of the coin is what your market is willing to pay. I could say $500 an hour would suit me but if clients are only willing to pay $150 an hour top rate, I’m not gonig to get a lot of work. It’s the balancing act of what I want/need vs what I can reasonably expect to get that I think makes pricing a challenge for many freelances.

    • sheelance

      Yes, confidence is key!

  • Nicole Leedham

    I am slowly getting better at charging what I am worth, and not accepting PLJs (pissy little jobs!). I agree with Tash – it’s about what people are willing to pay – we just have to find the people willing to pay a decent amount for our time and expertise. And that’s not $10 an hour!

    • sheelance

      PLJs – love it! It is about what people are willing to pay, but I find you can educate and excite them so that they go from reluctant to ready.

  • Kris Emery

    Such a great topic that gets discussed regularly, but almost always fails to come to a conclusion. I love how you simplify it here, Kat, rather than what I’ve seen done many times, which is leaving it to the reader’s discretion! Since I’ve tightened up my payment terms and taken an up-front payment, my clients have been highly committed and bought into the work a lot more. Thanks for sharing your take.

    • sheelance

      Thanks Kris! It’s a hard one to discuss, truth be told. As my business grows, I find that clients are willing to pay my rates when I’m enthusiastic and passionate about my work. People do business with people they like (we all do!) so building rapport before talking pricing seems to work. Great to hear you’re seeing results from firming up your terms and taking a deposit.