3 Ways to Price Your Work for Your Freelance Writing Business
The following excerpt is from Shelby Larson’s book Moonlighting on the Internet. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes
Shelby Larson presents the most reliable and proven ways you can create an extra paycheck for the short term and establish a continual revenue stream for the long term with your own website. In this edited excerpt, Larson offers tips on how to price your freelance writing projects.
How do you price your services so you’re earning a fair wage? This is one of the biggest questions that people beginning work as a freelance writer have. The truth is that as a freelancer, you can charge whatever you want. The trick is to set a price that makes sense for you and your client and the market. When you research the topic, you’ll find the pricing scale is all over the place. There are people charging way too much and getting those rates because they’ve built their business up to do so. An even bigger pain point is the plethora of writers charging far below what they should, which tanks the market value for the rest of the crowd.
There are three main ways that freelance writers charge for their services: per word, per page, and per project. All forms are acceptable. Let’s go through them briefly and I’ll give you some points to keep in mind when choosing a pricing method.
1. Per word.
If you’re going to charge per word, it’s very important that you set an approximate word-count range with your client and stick to it. For instance, if you’re charging 3 cents per word, and your client ordered a short report, you need to have a standard range in mind and clear it with them before you start the project. Never set an exact word count in advance because you want the piece to be authentic and write what it takes to make a superior product.
It’s safe to assume (without crazy formatting) that one page of content could be about 400 words. So if you’re considering a report to be seven to ten pages at 3 cents per word, that would be $84 to $120. It’s very, very important to manage your client’s expectations upfront and make sure they sign off on the potential costs.
2. Per page.
Similarly, if you decide to charge per page, you need to get a page range approved by your client in advance. So, for instance, if you’re charging $15 per page, a seven- to ten-page report would cost your client $105 to $150.
The only complication with charging per page is that you run the risk of a client getting frustrated that formatting techniques spread the writing out over way more pages than necessary due to images, spacing, etc.
For example, if we stick to the assumption that an average word count per page is 400 words, if you charge $15 per page, that’s 3.7 cents per word. Let’s round that up to 4 cents per word. So if you charge them for 10 pages and they do the math and realize there’s an average of 300 words per page, they may find they’re being charged 5 cents per word and may feel you intentionally inflated the page count to up your pay.
3. Per project.
When you charge per project, you determine a flat fee for a project regardless of length. The advantage of this method is that you can figure out how much you’d like to get paid for standard projects and not have to be limited by word count, etc. The danger is that if the project ends up being way more in-depth than you anticipated, then you won’t get compensated for it. You need to accurately figure out how much time and work it will take on your part and price it in a way that makes sense for you and your client.
While there’s merit in all three methods, I suggest a hybrid approach that combines all three. I pretty much never charge per page. I think it’s too much of a variable. Instead, I generally charge one of two different ways. Especially in the beginning, I charged per word and added a per-project flat fee in a way that made sense. So, sticking with the example of the report, let’s say it ends up being a 10-page, 4,000-word report. If I want to get paid 5 cents per word, I would handle the situation like this: The difference between 3 cents per word and 5 cents per word is $80. I would charge 3 cents per word, but every report would also have a $100 research and editing fee. I would leverage this in two ways. First, I would let them know that in order to produce the best possible product, you need to be able to research the topic properly. You’re able to keep your per-word count lower because you charge this fee to cover your time researching. Also, you’re saving them money by not charging your per-hour rate (which is high because your time is your most valuable commodity). Instead, you just charge a flat fee and don’t bill any additional fees to the client for research.
Second, let the client know that once they approve the report, it will get edited by a professional editor. So they really are getting a completed document when you’re done, and part of that $100 fee is to pay for the editor.
Now that I’ve been in the writing world for a very long time, I tend to primarily charge per project for anything shorter than an ebook. I do this because at this point, I know how long things take me to write, and I know how much research time is going to be needed. So with the example I just listed above, I would simply charge $200 and list all the benefits they’re getting with me. It’s very important either way to clearly define what they’ll be receiving from you. On my freelancing website, I would list the different types of writing I did with the different price points.
Always display your rates and cost structure clearly on your website. This is very important if you want to be taken seriously as a professional freelance writer. Remember, this isn’t limited only to how much you charge but also what your refund policy is and how you handle revision requests, etc. I personally offer a 100 percent money-back guarantee if my clients aren’t satisfied with my work. I’ll be honest: I’ve had to make good on this guarantee a few times over the course of my career. The truth is, you’ll encounter clients who will never be happy no matter what you do or how good you do it. In my opinion, it’s better to take the hit and let those clients go. That being said, assuming that you’re good at your job and fair in business, just having a guarantee like this will help you close way more clients than you’ll ever have to refund.