How much should freelance writers charge per word? Most beginner freelance writers have no idea. In fact, some freelance writers don’t know they should be charging per word in the first place.
This became evident when I first started hiring freelance bloggers to work with me. Quotes came in from one rupee (about $0.02) to one dollar per word. That’s when I realized it was important to help the community out by publishing industry payment standards.
I’ll start by ruling out the extremes for freelance bloggers: you shouldn’t be working for any less than $0.02 per word, but nor can you reasonably hope to work for anything close to a dollar per word.
So, where on earth should you be in-between those numbers?
An Introduction to Freelance Writing Fees
Firstly, keep in mind that the advice in this article is targeted for freelance bloggers. Industry standard rates vary for different types of writing and editing services, such as technical writing or commercial campaigns. With that in mind, let’s have a look at how to structure your overall freelance writing fees for blogging.
You’ve decided it’s time to become a freelance writer. Now, in general, you have three options for pricing your freelance blogging services. These are:
- Recommended: Per word
- Per hour
- Per project
One major mistake many beginning freelance writers make is to think they should charge per hour or set up to handle payments per project. While this is possible to work with if a client specifically requests it, you should always estimate your overall fees by calculating rates per word first.
However, when you’re first getting started, it’s far easier to keep it simple and only charge per word. This gives you the control to determine your own hourly rate by:
In other words, you’ll be able to produce better work in a shorter amount of time as you become more experienced. Charging per hour or per project may end up robbing you of your hard earned money!
Average Freelance Writing Rates Per Word
In our experience, there’s a broad range: between $0.03 and $0.30 per word. To help you visualize, here is a loose estimation of how this might break down into different ranges. Keep in mind this is not a strict set of rules, but general guidelines to help you make an educated decision when setting your own prices.
Freelance Writing Rates 2017
Estimated blogging standards for freelance writer rates per word in 2017
|Level||Fee Per Word||Est. Per Hour (500 Words)|
|In Demand Expert||.21-.30||$105-$150|
When I started as a freelance blogger in 2011 (writing for what is now the WPMU DEV blog), I was paid $20 per hour. Based on the speed at which I worked (which seems to be pretty fast by most people’s standards), I was earning about $0.03 per word at best. But that was fine, because I was just getting established, my skills weren’t top notch, and I had a lot to learn.
The most I have ever charged a client is $0.30, although that’s far higher than my average (which I’m afraid I will not reveal!).
Could you charge more than that? I reckon you could, for more technical, in-depth topics. But the way I have succeeded as a freelance writing is in blogging on topics that:
- I know a lot about, and
- don’t require an insane amount of research/work to write about.
With this approach, a seemingly low rate per word can actually result in excellent hourly rates.
Here is a a concrete example: As an intermediate blogger charging $.08 per word, you would get $80 for a 1,000 word article. If you outline, write, and edit it in two hours or less (which is quite reasonable!), this means you’ll earn at least $40 per hour. Not too shabby!
How To Set Your Own Freelance Writing Rates and Find Clients
By now, you’re familiar with freelance writer pricing works and appropriate per word fees.
It’s time to actually set your own rates and find clients happy to pay them! Being armed with the right knowledge and resources makes this process a lot smoother than playing a lot of guessing games.
1. Choose a Reasonable Rate for Your Experience
Aside from your own experience as a writer and how in-demand your niche is, you can reverse engineer your goal per-word rate using this formula:
- First, establish your minimum monthly income goal. For example, let’s say $2,000.
- Then, establish how many hours you’re willing to write in a week. Let’s say 5 hours per week / 20 hours per month.
- Divide the income goal number by the hours. In this case, $2,000 divided by 20 is $100.
- Find the per word fee in the table above which matches this hourly rate. In our example, this would be .20 per word.
This is your target rate! If it is close to your current experience level, that’s great. If not, you may need to set it as something to work towards. Choose the closest level possible and start from there to build your experience, client base, and create a demand for your work. If you are already an expert in a difficult field, such as medicine or science, you may have an easier time charing more early on even as a novice writer.
Remember, that range of $0.03 to $0.30 should pocket you something between $15 and $150 per hour. Not too shabby by most people’s standards. If you’re earning less than $15 for a client (you are tracking your effective hourly rate, no?), you should probably raise your rate.
You may be wondering about job opportunities – do they match the range I prescribe?
2. Find Clients Happy to Pay Reasonable Rates
Now that you’ve established your goal rates and what is appropriate for your current level of education and skill level, you need to find clients happy to pay in your price range. That begs the question, is this even possible?
The best clients usually come from relationship building. However, while this is the best long-term plan for sourcing great clients, it is hard to get off the ground this way when you’re just getting started. This is where job boards and forums come in. These are great resources if you are new(ish) to the world of freelance blogging.
But seriously, is it possible to earn good rates as a beginner before figuring out how to make direct pitches? If we take the listings we feature on Paid to Blog Jobs (although I don’t have the averages to hand) opportunities are generally available between $0.03 and $0.10 per word. You’ll have none lower than $0.03 as a general rule, but you will get some over $0.10 (although they tend to be outliers). Of course, every job board will vary in the quality of listings it provides.
- For top dollar, pitch ideal clients directly – and eventually earn referrals from existing clients.
- If you’re just getting started, try job boards to pick up your first gigs.
With this information, you are now much more equipped to enter the world of freelance writing and find success. The road is not always easy, but it is definitely worthwhile if you want to leave your regular job behind.
I’ll finish with one final piece of advice: don’t get too misty-eyed at the thought of earning $0.10, $0.15, or even more per word. Is it possible to earn that much? Absolutely. Is it a challenging journey? Yep. Do I encourage you to go for it? Absolutely – but be realistic about the time and effort it will take to get to the ‘top’.
That aside, the good news is that $0.05 to $0.10 per word equates to very a healthy hourly rate, on which one can live very comfortably – especially if you work on your speed and efficiency.
Let’s review the takeaways on how (and how much) freelance writers charge, one more time:
- It is important to charge per word so you have more control over your effective hourly rates.
- Freelance writing rates range from .03-.30, or an estimated $15-$150 per hour.
- Once you’ve found an appropriate rate for your work, you can start pitching new clients either directly or through job boards.
Care to share your thoughts on freelance blogging rates? Let us know what you think below!
Image Credit: blondinrikard
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on May 18th, 2015 by Leaving Work Behind founder Tom Ewer, and has since been revamped and partially rewritten for comprehensiveness by the Leaving Work Behind editorial team.
Filed Under: FreelancingTagged With: Freelance Blogging, Paid Blogging
Illustrator: Kalin Nachev
In a comment to one of last week’s posts, Jeannie asked several questions that I thought might be of interest to many followers of this blog:
1. I’ve been asked to ghostwrite a memoir. How much can I reasonably ask to be paid?
2. Can I expect royalties if the book is made into a movie (the author is already in talks with a producer)
3. Would you advise me to engage an entertainment lawyer?
4. Do you have any suggestions for getting an agent?
Here are my answers (please note: I have updated and revised my answers as of 2014 to reflect the current market):
1. Ghostwriting fees vary widely. Let’ s assume you are a beginner at ghostwriting. Ghostwriting fees in the range of $12,000 – $15,000 are usually the low end for a book of 200-300 pages. A much shorter book (let’s say 80-100 pages) might only be $8,000 – $12,000. There are folks out there who charge even less, but they generally don’t have much experience, and their products are unlikely to be of traditional publishing quality. For a book of 250-300 pages, an experienced book author, book editor or ghostwriter would commonly charge $25,000 – $30,000and up.
If you are writing a book of traditional publishing quality and it will be 200 pages or more, a starting place might be around $15,000 (again, if you are a beginner, there is little or no research involved and you will get most of the information through interviews with the author). However, if you have already written books, I would suggest something more like $25,000 – $30,000. And if you are very experienced as an author or editor, you might consider something more like $30,000 – $40,000 for a book in the 200-300 page range.
If you will be doing extensive research, you can increase your fees to reflect research time. If you already have publishing credits to your name, you should also charge more. Experienced ghostwriters tend to charge between $20,000 – $60,000 and even more.
You may want to negotiate a modest royalty and see where it goes. I wouldn’t make it a deal breaker, but it’s worth pursuing as a possibility. Another negotiating point is whether your name is on the cover as a co-author or “as told to.” Depending on your goals, this may be worthwhile for you. In addition, you want to ask the author whether they are comfortable giving you credit as either writer or editor. If not, will they allow you to mention the project at all to prospective clients? If not, this can be a negative for you when you are trying to land the next project.
Yes, I recommend hiring an intellectual property attorney. Do be careful. Try to find a person through personal referrals–someone who’s used this lawyer specifically for a ghostwriting contract. If you can’t find that, ask the lawyer for references who’ve used him or her for ghostwriting contracts.
I once hired a lawyer for a ghostwriting contract and the client ran out of money. The lawyer had not even written in anything about late fees, let alone anticipated the situation. Instead he told me, “If you need a lawyer to collect, just let me know.” I think he should have said, “I’m sorry I did a terrible job for you and didn’t deliver what you paid me for!”
The lawyer was my friend’s husband and I learned my lesson–don’t hire a friend unless you know they have experience in the exact area you are looking for and you know they are excellent at what they do.
If the client is asking you to help find an agent and publisher, you will need to write a book proposal. I highly recommend Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal. Both agents and publishers love proposals written in Michael’s format–it’s thorough and marketing-oriented. A typical ghostwriting fee for a book proposal is $10,000 – $18,000, which includes sample chapters and chapter outlines or summaries, in addition to all the marketing-oriented information specific to a book proposal. However, if you are new to this, I would recommend a lower fee or hire an experienced book proposal coach or editor to help you fine tune the proposal.
It’s always great if you can meet agents in person and pitch a book, though a good query letter can do the job as well. Two of my favorite places to meet agents are Harvard Medical School’s CME Publishing Course in March and the International Women Writers Guild’s (IWWG) Meet the Agents during their BIg Apple Conference every April and October. IWWG also has regional workshops that may have agents present.
Have you thought of ghostwriting? Wondering how to break in? Tomorrow, I plan to follow up Jeannie’s questions with a few more ideas for anyone contemplating a ghostwriting project or career as a ghostwriter.
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Filed Under: Author's Platform, Book Proposals, Getting Published, Ghostwriting, How to Get Published, More..., Writing, Writing Blocks, Writing Challenges, Writing FeesTagged With: entertainment lawyer, ghostwriter, Ghostwriting, ghostwriting advice, ghostwriting contract, ghostwriting fees, ghostwriting project, ghostwriting research, ghostwriting royalty, Harvard Medical School, International Women Writers Guild, IWWG, meet agents, Meet the Agents, write a book proposal« Previous PostThe Squirtgun Approach to MotivationNext postMore Ghostwriting Advice: 10 Things You Need to Know »