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How Much Should You Charge For Freelance Writing Jobs?
The Impetus for This Article
“Bill, I love your tips and advice for writers. Have you written anything about how freelancers should go about pricing their work? I don't recall seeing anything but maybe I missed it. If so, could you point me to it? That's the thing I seem to struggle with the most. If not, maybe that's an idea for a future article. Thanks!”
So asked Deb Neyens, a friend of mine on HubPages. Deb asked and I now respond.
When I started my freelance gig a little over two years ago, this was one of the first questions I had to answer. It is a confusing world out there for someone just starting out as a freelance writer. There are endless possibilities and opportunities, but there are also countless freelance writers competing for the same gigs. How does one know what to charge for one’s services?
Hopefully this article will help you all avoid the mistakes I made early on. I began my career with the trial and error method of pricing. In other words, I made mistakes and then learned by them. I over-charged on some bids and lost them; I under-charged on other bids and ended up working for practically nothing. Sound familiar to any of you?
Today I am a bit wiser and I only accept jobs that pay me what I believe my talents are worth.
Remember that we are dealing with the law of supply and demand. In certain areas of freelance writing, there is a glut of supply (writers) and that drives the price down. In other areas, the supply is not as large, and that allows for higher pricing.
As a freelance writer, you are in control of your pricing and only you know what you feel your time is worth. I have reached a point in my career where I can pick and choose which jobs I want. I refuse to work for pennies, and I refuse to take on some jobs that require more time than I am willing to invest. Only you can answer what you are willing to work for, but perhaps I can give you a few guidelines to follow.
First a word about content mills, and then we will move on to some better-paying jobs.
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The Ungodly Content Mill
According to Wikipedia, a content mill (farm) is:
“In the context of the World Wide Web, a content farm (or content mill) is a company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines. Their main goal is to generate advertising revenue through attracting reader page views as first exposed in the context of social spam.”
In other words, the main goal is to attract viewers to the articles using keywords and SEO techniques. Does that sound familiar, HubPages writers?
Some of these content mills, like Demand Media and Associated Content, generate over one million articles per year using articles written by freelance writers such as you. The pay can be ridiculously low. I know of some freelancers who are paid $2 for a 500 word article. Quite frankly I would rather pull my fingernails out with pliers than work for such a low pay scale, but I also understand that there are those out there who do not have the freedom that I have.
There are alternatives. I subscribe to several sites that simply post job notices from employers looking for freelance work. You can find some of them here. There is no bidding per se. You simply send in the materials they ask for, like samples of your work or in some cases a resume, and then they decide whether you are a good match for them. They all post their pay scale and you can pick and choose which jobs to apply for. I also regularly check Craigslist for their writing jobs.
The SEO work that I do is not for content farms. I apply only for individual companies looking for help with their websites or blogs. I will not work for less than $10 for 400 words, something I can do three of in an hour….thus….$30 per hour.
I currently do writing for two real estate companies (local), one restaurant, four salvage yards and one gaming company. I limit myself to twenty articles per week, so you can do the math. There is more work out there but I choose to spend my afternoons working on my platform and career.
Enough about content mills. Let’s talk about other opportunities out there and what the industry standard is for pay.
Around the Block and up Your Alley
The following rates were generated from a survey of many of the leading freelance organizations in the United States. They should be considered only a guideline.
Rate range for freelance writing job
Per Hour Rate
Per Assignment Rate
Per Word Rate
$35 to $150 per hour
$150 to $9,000 per
$.25 to $3 per word
$25 to $150 per hour
$25 to $350 per item
$30 to $180 per hour
$125 to $1,500 per project
$.40 to $2 per word
$35 to $170 per hour
$2,700 to $10,000 per
$20 to $100 per hour
$1,200 to $7,900 per
$.01 to $2 per word
$35 to $125 per hour
$5,500 to $47,000 per
$10 to $100 per
Blog or Website Articles
$2 to $30 per
$.01 to $1 per word
And the list goes on and on and on.
As you can see, there is a rather wide range in fees charged. Generally speaking, that wide range can be attributed to skill level and experience. A professional speech writer can obviously charge more than a novice. A freelance writer with experience can charge more than someone just starting out.
The bottom line on pricing is this: you, as a freelancer, are the CEO of your corporation. You must determine what you are willing to work for and then you must set your rate and run with it. What is your time worth? What are your skills worth? I recently did an editing job for a friend of mine, the second editing job I have done. I do not consider myself experienced, and he is a friend, so I charged considerably less than the going rate. In the end, he was very happy with the job I did for him, and I gained more experience to add to my resume (and also made a few hundred dollars).
Some Final Thoughts
If everything I have written so far sounds a bit nebulous well, that’s because it is. Content mills and the recent flood of freelance writers have made pricing a bit of a crap shoot for many. You really don’t know what you can get for a job until you try, right? I would strongly suggest that you do not undervalue yourselves. Your time is worth something, as is your talent. Do not sell either of those things low. You are a professional and as such you should be compensated as a professional.
How do you get these jobs other than the sites I mentioned? Get out there and establish your platform and your business. Get business cards printed up. Contact local businesses. Network, network and then network some more. Remember that I started from nothing, and I do mean nothing. I had a computer and I had determination. Two years later I call my shots and I have an established business. It can happen to you as well but it takes some good old-fashioned elbow grease.
Good luck to all of you! If I can be of any assistance, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer any questions you might have….free of charge. J
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)