• Finance

Are you undercharging? How to price your freelance writing gigs

"How much should I charge for my writing services?"

It is, by far, one of the questions that I hear the most often. As a freelancer, it's important to set your prices. But how you set them is up to you.

Should you charge by the word, page, project, hour or some hybrid rate of service?

This article will explore some popular pricing methods while also providing readers some ideas about how to determine what might work best for them.

By the Word

With software like Microsoft and the ability to do an accurate word count, charging by the word is pretty straightforward regardless of the size of the document.

However, there is a slight caveat that I learned along the way. If you charge by the word, you may want to think about word ranges, instead of an exact number. For example, if you have been asked to write a blog for a client and your fee is .10 a word, you don’t want to get to the 500th word and just stop. So, by pricing it out as a 500 to 600-word blog post, it gives you some cushion. Furthermore, the client will know that a blog post of that length will range from $50 to $60 depending on the final word count.

There is an elephant in the room when it comes to charging by the word and it’s one that I didn’t anticipate: Are articles words? I had a client who did not consider articles like a, an, and the words. So, I had to factor those out when I did the final invoicing. It was a fairly long project and going through and making sure that I did not include them was painstaking.[I suspect there is some software out there that can do this, but I was unaware of it].

My takeaway for anyone who opts to use this pricing method is to be clear about what constitutes a word as it relates to your pricing.

By the Hour

By the hour is still one of the more difficult pricing methods for me. I have worked on some projects enough that I know exactly how long it will take me; however, others are a guessing game. For example, if I'm writing an 800-word blog post about a topic that I'm familiar with and it does not require additional research, I know that I can write it in about an hour. If my hourly rate is $85.00 then I would charge a rate of $85.00 for that blog post.

However, if I've been commissioned to write a post about a topic that I'm unfamiliar with and it requires me to read additional articles in order to familiarize myself with the material then that same 800-word post may now take 3 hours to complete when I factor in the time that it takes to conduct research. In turn, if I charge by the hour, it will now cost my client $255.00 for my services. Some clients will understand this and others may find that price to be too lofty.

Another issue I’ve encountered is underestimating or overestimating how much time it’s going to take you from start to finish, which means that you may either undercharge or overcharge your clients. If you do opt to charge by the hour, be mindful that if it does take you longer than you initially told your client, then you will have to take the hit.

Conversely, if it takes you less time, are you willing to offer a refund?

For these reasons, honestly, I avoid charging by the hour.

By the Page

By the page is another method that you may want to consider. Before you start, I recommend that you first determine what constitutes a page: Is it double or single spaced? 12 or 14 pt. font? Does 3/4 of a page count? What about a quarter of a page? These may seem like inconsequential questions, but believe it or not, the inability to make this clear from the beginning can make a measurable difference in terms of your productivity and overall profitability.

The good news is that most clients have a sense of the total number of pages that they want you to write. Like writing by the word, I recommend that you do a page range +/- 5 to 10 pages depending on the project, so that you have some additional wiggle room if those extra pages help you to convey your ideas more effectively. Of all of the services that I offer, this one seems to work the best with ghostwriting.

By the Project

As I have matured as a freelance writer and gained more experience with some of the previously mentioned forms of pricing I've learned over the years that by the project is my favorite pricing method. Most of my clients already having a budget in mind. If I think the project amount is fair and reasonable, I will accept the pricing as is.

If, based on my prior knowledge, I anticipate that the client’s compensation for the project is unrealistic, I may re-negotiate—keep in mind that if you try this approach, you need to be in a position to explain why. In other instances, saying “no thank you” is also a viable option, especially if the client’s suggested compensation is not within your typical range and he/she is not in position to alter the amount.

What’s Best for You?

There is no ‘one size fits all’. I have tried all of these and it truly was trial and error that led me to gravitate towards by the page and by the project while avoiding by the hour.

The most important thing is that whether you use one pricing method or a combination, keep in mind that you want to be fairly compensated and transparent with your clients.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.