Setting your rates as a freelance writer can be daunting, especially for beginners. And it’s easy to understand why! There are many different factors that can influence your rates, and it can be tough to know what you’re worth. But it’s important that you’re not undervaluing your work.
In this guide, I’ll go through the different things to consider when setting your freelance writing rates. I’ll cover the different pricing methods (like per word vs hourly rates), and the factors you should take into account. But let’s start by giving a brief overview of some average freelance writing rates.
Note: This article was updated in November 2023 to add more useful information and some up to date average rates
Average Freelance Writing Rates
The average rate a freelance writer can expect to earn fluctuates a lot. And it varies depending on lots of different factors, with two big ones being the niche and the experience level of the writer.
So, in this section, I’ll just provide a range of rates charged by freelance writers in various industries. This will hopefully point you in the right direction of what to charge yourself, and the earning potential of freelance writing as a career.
Average Freelance Writer Rates Per Word
I’ll talk more about the different ways to charge for your freelance writing services in the next section. But it’s worth being aware of the average you can expect to earn. I encourage beginners to check out freelance writing job boards when they’re first looking for clients, so let’s take a look at the average rates you might find on these websites.
It’s currently November in 2023 as I’m updating this post, and I’m looking at the job listings on the first page of ProBlogger (the ones that provide a rate anyway, which is fewer than half). The per-word rates range from $0.015 (abysmal!) to $0.10 (better). But the average is closer to 5 cents per word.
That should give you an idea of what to expect as a beginner, as that’s generally the target audience of these job boards. But once you have some experience under your belt, or if you have expertise in a given niche, the average rate can go beyond $0.20 per word, or $200 per 1,000 word article.
These rates are typically offered by clients you’ll find elsewhere, either through your own outreach campaigns or by referrals. Or by applying for roles directly on the client’s website, or through top-end freelance marketplaces. As a counterexample, ClearVoice found that 25% of the freelance writers they surveyed charged between $0.76 and $1 per word (but that was back in 2018!).
Note: Charging $1 per word or more is possible as a freelance writer, but if you’re reading this article, you’re likely not quite at that stage yet. Writers charging this kind of money have lots of experience and usually plenty of expertise in a given industry. If you are at this stage, that’s amazing!
Average Freelance Writing Rates Per Project
Per word is definitely a common way to charge for freelance writing, especially for beginners. But Peak Freelance surveyed 200+ freelancers and found that charging per project was the most common method.
They arrived at an average rate of between $250 and $399 for 1,500 word blog posts, but the numbers were around double that for whitepapers. This should illustrate how important the type of writing is to how much you can charge as a freelance writer (more on that later).
What About Per Hour?
It’s unlikely that you’ll charge per hour as a freelance writer, as per word or per project is simply far more common. Writing involves lots of different tasks, from the actual writing of course to the research and editing phases. You might also be adding your own images. This all adds up.
Trying to account for this time (i.e. tracking it) is one complication. But I think it’s also the wrong way to go about it as for most pieces the value is not in the time spent but in the content you create. Some projects might take 5 hours to put together while others might take 1. But if they are both equally valuable to the client, you shouldn’t lose out as a result of doing it faster!
Plus, charging per hour often leads to freelancers dragging things out (to make more money) or clients demanding you get the work done fast (so they can pay you less). Both typically lead to low-quality work and a poor experience, which clearly are not good things.
Charging per hour is sometimes common on freelance marketplaces like Upwork. Where you’re marketing your services is an aspect of setting your freelance writing rates that I’ll discuss later. You can find out more about the different options in my guide to charging per hour or per project.
How Should You Charge For Freelance Writing?
There are a few different ways you can charge for your freelance writing services. The most common are per word, per project, and per hour, but you may also charge a retainer fee, or using some form of performance-based pricing.
But I’ll stick with the first three for now. Let’s consider the pros and cons of each.
Charging Per Word As A Freelance Writer
|Clients know exactly what they are paying for each word, making it easy to estimate costs
|Not always practical for very short or very long projects
|Easier to adjust rates based on the complexity or niche of the content
|May inadvertently encourage a focus on word count over content quality
|Straightforward for both the writer and the client to understand and calculate
|Earnings can fluctuate significantly based on project scope and length
I’ve discussed the fact that charging per word is quite common for beginner freelance writers already. But it can make for a practical way to charge as well. It allows clients to easily understand the costs of their projects, and you can easily adjust it.
If it’s a more complex piece, you can charge more per word. For less extensive pieces, you can get away with charging less. It’s therefore a very simple way to charge.
However, it can lead to you chasing higher word counts or focusing a bit less on quality than you should. It’s also not always practical for very short pieces where you might be providing lots of expertise and value, or for very long pieces, where the per word rate just isn’t the best way to do it.
It’s an ideal charging method for things like blog posts, but for social media posts or high-value copy that involves a lot more than just the words on the page, per project might be a better choice.
Charging Per Project As A Freelance Writer
|Clients know the total cost upfront, simplifying budgeting
|Potential for projects to expand beyond initial expectations without extra compensation
|Encourages delivering quality work rather than meeting a word count
|Misjudging the project’s scope can lead to underpayment for the work
|Allows for customized pricing based on project complexity and requirements
|Some projects may require more effort than others for similar pay
Charging per project covers a lot of bases. You can change the project fee depending on how long you think it will take, its complexity, and factor in things like research and image creation (if relevant). It allows you to focus on the quality, and it keeps things simple as both you and the client know what to expect from the start.
However, that last part can change, such as if the client starts adding more things on to the project after you start. This is known as scope creep, and charging per project can lead to you underestimating the value or requirements of the project as a whole.
Overall, charging per project is a pretty standard way of setting your freelance writing rates. Many clients will have a budget for their pieces, so this can make it easy to come to an agreement for the cost.
Charging Per Hour As A Freelance Writer
|Ensures payment for every hour worked, including research and revisions
|Clients may be wary of open-ended hourly billing without a clear cap
|You can adjust hours based on project needs and your personal schedule
|Working more efficiently can lead to getting paid less
|Beneficial for long-term or ongoing projects with variable scopes
|Requires meticulous tracking of hours, which can be cumbersome
Finally, charging per hour, while not all that common in the freelance writing industry, can be a useful way to ensure you get paid fairly for the hours you work. You can also factor everything into a project, and not worry about spending longer than expected on it if the scope changes.
However, clients are often wary of paying per hour as it’s easy for freelancers to drag things out to get more money. It also means you don’t get rewarded for working efficiently, as the less time you take (even if it’s high-quality work) the less you get paid. Plus, you need to track your time, which adds extra hassle.
I’d personally recommend charging per project or per word. But how do you actually set your freelance writing rates?
How To Set Your Freelance Writing Rates
Consider Your Niche & Type Of Writing
As a beginner, it’s tempting to say yes to every job that comes your way. But the more you specialize in a niche, the more you’ll be able to charge for your work.
The current highest paying freelancing writing jobs are usually in the finance, travel, and digital marketing niches. Within these, different types of writing have various earning potentials. So, it pays (literally!) to be strategic about what you specialize in.
Blogging, web content, SEO writing, and similar types of work usually pay the least, but they’re often more abundant and easier to apply for. Although writing for more popular blogs usually allows you to charge higher rates.
The highest paying freelance writing jobs are usually related to ghostwriting or marketing, such as copywriting, sales pages, press releases, advertisements, and email content. Copywriting pays well because you’re typically trying to sell something with your writing, which means it’s valuable to the client. You can learn more about this in our guide to becoming a freelance copywriter.
Choose A Rate Structure
As I’ve discussed at length above, you also need to think about your fee structure. It’s worth considering the type of writing you’re doing to decide the best way to charge for it. For example, for a shorter blog post that requires minimal research, it might make sense to charge by the word.
But for a whitepaper or technical piece of writing, you might prefer to charge per project. A lot of this will come down to the client’s preferences. But take this into account when considering your rates.
Other Things To Consider
It’s also important to consider the kind of project you’re doing and how long it’ll take to complete it. For example, there’s a big difference in terms of time and effort when it comes to ghostwriting an entire book versus writing a few 200-word social media posts!
Don’t forget that your fees also need to account for non-writing time. Most freelance writers also end up editing, revising, and researching, which are time-consuming. And time is money!
For example, if you charge $100 per article and you can write it in 2 hours, you’ll make $50 per hour. But you most likely also need another hour to conduct some research, which means you’re in fact earning closer to $30/hour. Add in some time for editing and perhaps publishing, and your hourly rate quickly decreases! Remember to factor these time costs into your rates.
Also consider your experience and expertise. Previous writing experience, a relevant degree or certification, or expert knowledge allows you to charge a higher rate for your work.
Another thing to account for is your growth as a freelance writer. As you work with more clients, you might start investing in courses or other resources that help you improve your skills. Your growth as a professional should also be a factor when setting your prices.
As you acquire new skills and develop your craft, it’s worth reviewing your rates every three months or so. This way, you can adjust them to reflect your ongoing learning and the additional benefits you can offer your clients. And of course your current living situation and freelance expenses,
What About Freelance Marketplaces?
It’s common for beginner freelance writers to join online freelancing platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer at the start of their careers. These websites are great for finding your first gigs and building your portfolio.
The number of clients searching for talent on these platforms is huge, so there are lots of opportunities. However, there’s also a lot of competition! So, if you’re starting out with limited experience, you might have to compromise on your rates to get your first few clients.
These platforms are great for beginners because they work as a middleman between clients and freelancers, providing security to both. Unfortunately, they also take a fee from your earnings. You therefore need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before committing to a freelancing platform.
The average freelance writer on Fiverr can expect to earn somewhere between $5-$20 per hour, depending on skill level, expertise, and the kind of writing they offer
Accepting that you might get more work by charging a suboptimal rate may be worth it at the start. However, you might need to move off the platform once your rates outgrow your potential market.
Online job boards are good alternatives to freelancing platforms. Sites like MediaBistro and ProBlogger often advertise better-paying jobs than those on sites like Fiverr and Upwork. Simply look through the listings to find opportunities that suit you and apply for them as you would a regular job.
How To Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates
As a beginner freelance writer, it’s normal to have a tough time deciding how much you should charge for your work. Initially, you may need to charge less, but as time goes on, you’ll know when to increase your prices.
Negotiating higher rates can be a daunting experience. But it’s something you’ll naturally become better prepared for over time. Keep racking up experience, learning new skills, and improving your writing and you’ll be able to charge higher rates in no time!
Raquel is a freelance writer with a knack for technology and a passion for science. She draws on her own years of freelance writing experience to craft articles for Freelance Ready on topics including freelancing on Fiverr and the popular blogging platform Medium.com. Learn more about Raquel here.
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