Tips for Pricing Freelance Writing Jobs

Pricing freelance writing jobs
Pricing freelance writing jobs can make or break your business.
Image by: Drew Williams ~ Swagger magazine

Some people think length is the most important factor in pricing freelance writing jobs. While that’s certainly one thing to consider, it doesn’t dominate all else.

Calculate your time and effort

Some writing jobs are priced by the hour, but many are priced by the word, by the page or by the project.

Regardless of which method you use, your time should be factored in.

Time is not a renewable resource. Everyone has a limited amount, and no one can expand it.

So, you should be paid for using yours to provide services, because taking on a freelance job means you’re devoting your time to someone so he can use his time for something else.

There’s value in that.

So, calculate the total time it’ll take you to do a job when setting your rates. By “total” I’m saying to consider factors, including research, travel and attendance.

A project that requires you to drive across town and attend an event or conduct an interview should cost more than a blog post you bang out without leaving your office.

Calculate the costs

If there was a class called Contractor Pricing 101, I’m certain one of the first lessons would involve calculating project costs.

Freelancers absorb too many costs that should be passed along to their clients.

One reason is that freelancers have the tendency to overlook the connection between business expenses and their clients’ requests.

Say you have your car serviced. If the mechanic puts your vehicle on the diagnostic machine, although that equipment wasn’t purchased for especially for you, you’re charged for the use in addition to the repair.

Why? Because there’s a cost for having that equipment available.

If you’re a freelance journalist, it’s one thing to write a story about an incident. But if the newspaper wants photos, you may not buy a camera just to do that job, but you should be getting paid to use it on that job.

Then, there’s the software you use to edit the photos and the gas, tolls and parking you paid to visit the scene. Freelancers commonly treat these expenses like the cost of doing business.

They are, but they should be passed along to your clients. Don’t eat them. Factor them in, directly or indirectly, when pricing freelance writing jobs.

Consider the competition

Recently, I read advice from some freelancer telling his audience not to pay attention to what other folks are charging.

I’m not sure if he said that to meet his word count or what, but anyone who says you don’t need to be aware of your market is peddling stupidity.

Those kinds of isolationist ideas hurt freelancers in more ways than one.

No matter what industry you’re in, you need to survey the competition. And you should use that information when setting your rates.

That’s not to say you have to go along with the pack, but you do want to make sure you’re not underpricing or overpricing without realizing it.

And, finally when it comes to competition and setting rates, please understand this:

Underbidding and setting the lowest prices isn’t a strategy.  It’s a trick you play on yourself.

Unless you’re running a content mill— and perhaps even then– it’s foolish to set rock-bottom rates to attract as much work as possible.

There’s only so much work one freelancer can do, and if you’re investing all your time in low-paying jobs, you’re going to end up burnt out and broke.

See: Low-Paying Jobs, Should You Take Them?

Weigh availability

A lot of freelance writers are producing content on the basics of popular topics, such as health and beauty, fashion and personal finance. So, clients looking for page filler in those areas, can get it cheap and on their terms.

But the more in-depth clients want to get and the more obscure the topics they want to cover, the fewer writers they’ll have to choose from.

That increases your pricing power.

Furthermore, a lot of companies, especially small businesses, don’t know how to find, attract or select between freelancers. So, that’s also a limit on availability that you should to your advantage when pricing.

Consider turnaround times

A lot of freelancers are letting their clients slide by allowing them to request quick turnaround times but not charging for it.

Don’t get into that practice. It unduly empowers your clients. And it’s bad business.

First off, to be able to provide a high-quality product on short notice usually means one of two things needs to occur.

One: you have to take the initiative to keep your skills and knowledge sharp between jobs.

Two: you keep your skills and knowledge sharp by doing other work.

You can’t just crank out a strong article on demand if you’re not following that market or niche one way or another.

If you’re investing your own time to do so, you need to be paid for it.

And if you’re doing other work, quick turnaround times affect the service you provide to other clients. You need to be paid for that.

What type of service can you think of where you, as the customer, can call up and say I want XYZ done and I want it complete in 24 hours?

There are very few. And if you find one, let’s say a delivery service, you expect that rapid attention to your request to cost you more money.

Express service is more expensive. It’s just the way it goes.

Factor in your taxes

Taxes are so important and such a major pitfall for freelancers that the topic needs to be addressed separately.

Unless you’re going to keep your income low enough that you’re not liable or unless you have enough credits and deductions that you’re sure you’ll get a refund from federal, state and local governments, You MUST consider paying taxes when pricing freelance writing jobs.

If you don’t, there’s a risk your taxes won’t get paid.

You may think, ok I can write four $25 articles and get by on $100 a day.

Maybe you can.

But if you deducted taxes from that $500 a week, could you still make it?

Better yet, if you factored in taxes, would you even write $25 articles?

Don’t go low now and try to sort out your taxes later. Consider them up front.

Think about your goal amount

A lot of freelancers work toward making the most they can instead of working to reach a bar they’ve set.

From experience, let me tell you this is an awful way to operate.

It opens the door for you to accept whatever is offered when it’s offered. You’ll churn dollars and all the while you’ll be sitting on the cliff of financial disaster.

Every business needs to know how much money it requires to sustain itself and to turn a profit. Over time, the push for profit should grow.

So, you determine how much money you need to make, and from there, set a weekly, monthly or quarterly target. And that will guide you in setting freelance rates.

If you know you need to make $1000 a week, surely you aren’t going to quote jobs at $10 an hour, at least not too often, because you know writing 100 hours a week isn’t sustainable.

Is this pricing advice realistic?

Don’t get me wrong. You won’t always have the power to set the rates. But you do always have the choice to take a job.

When you’re aware of all the factors you have to consider, you’ll realize how absurd some offers actually are.

Pricing isn’t something you use only for quoting jobs. It’s also important when choosing what work you accept.

Also Read: Are You An Independent Contractor, What The IRS Says