Setting Freelance Rates: How to Value Your Worth as a Freelance Writer

Oct 30, 2017

Post updated: December 4, 2020

Let’s talk about money. More specifically, let’s talk about the process of setting freelance rates.

Groan, right? It’s a sore spot for many freelancers—mostly because it’s undeniably tough. Aim too high, and you’re worried that you’ll send prospective clients running for the hills. But, quote too low, and you feel like you’re leaving money on the table.

Knowing just what price to spit out when a client asks that dreaded, “So… what are your rates?” question inspires plenty of second-guessing and sweaty palms.

And, the worst part? It’s an issue that’s hard to get advice on. Money is still a pretty taboo topic for most people—which means you usually don’t get a direct answer to a question like, “What would you quote for this project?”

Instead, you’re met with vague advice like, “Charge your worth!” or “Know your value!”

Well today, my friends, we’re going to go beyond the generalities and talk about this. Here’s my very best advice when it comes to setting your own freelance writing rates.

Setting Freelance Rates: 4 Key Steps

1. Work Backwards

Let’s first touch on a trap I see way too many freelancers fall victim to. When asked about their fees, they sit there slack-jawed for a minute and then pull a price out of the air. They land on something that “sounds good” for that prospective client.

Here’s the thing: That’s not a smart strategy.

Why? Well, not only does that willy-nilly approach hold you back from ever coming up with an actual fee structure that you can lean on for each and every project, but it can also limit you from reaching your income goals. When you fire off individual prices without an overarching strategy in place, it’s hard to know how those different pieces fit into your overall freelance business.

This is why a better strategy is to set an income goal for yourself—whether it’s a goal for each month or even the entire year.

When setting your #freelance rates, start with an income goal. Click To Tweet

When you have your objective in mind, you can better figure out how much you should be charging (within reason, of course)—rather than just relying on what sounds good in the heat of the moment.

We’ll look at a simple example to add some clarity here. I’ve set a hypothetical income goal for myself—in the month of December, I’d like to earn $3,000 freelancing.

I already have three client projects in the hopper for that month. Two of those clients want four blog posts for the month each, at a cost of $200 per blog post. The other client has a larger project (a thoroughly-researched ebook) that they’re paying me $1,000 for.

Let’s crunch those numbers:

2 clients X 4 blog posts each = 8 blog posts

8 blog posts X $200 = $1,600

$1,600 for those blog posts + $1,000 for the ebook = $2,600

So, I’m at $2,600 so far for the month—meaning I’m still $400 off from my income goal.

When another potential client asks me how much I’d charge per blog post? I know that I can stick with my $200 rate and mention that I’d need at least two assignments for the month in order to honor that price. With that in mind, I’d meet my income goal exactly!

See how this helps you to better keep your finger on the pulse of your business overall? Start with your goals, rather than pulling random prices out of thin air. It’s not a foolproof strategy and you’ll need to do some adjusting. But, it gives you a way more strategic spot to start from.

setting freelance rates

2. Do Your Research

Some of you might’ve taken one look at that $200 blog post price and thought, “That’s it?! That’s a really cheap project—that’s way less than I charge!” And others? You might’ve rested your eyes on those digits and thought, “$200?! I can only dream of the day I charge that much for a single blog post!”

That’s the thing with freelancing—there’s no black and white formula that will guarantee that your own rate is the widely-accepted standard. It’s really all a crapshoot and prices run the gamut from freelancer to freelancer.

However, it can still be helpful to do your research to get a better handle on what might be considered a more reasonable and realistic price for your project.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Ask other freelancers. While there are some who are tight-lipped about their own rate structures, there are plenty of others who are more than willing to share!

  • Turn to online forums. Similarly, it can be worth some clever internet searching (particularly on forums like Reddit, Quora, etc.) to get a better feel for what other freelancers are charging.

  • Look at WhoPays Writers. If you aren’t already aware of WhoPaysWriters, it’s a great resource—particularly if you’re trying to land larger publications. It’s a community platform that shares how much freelancers have been paid for certain assignments. Even if you aren’t pitching any of those outlets, perusing the site is still a great way to get an understanding of some standard rates.

  • Check out the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). Similarly, the EFA has a helpful rate sheet that lists the median rate for a bunch of different types of writing.

  • Search for company clues. If you’re in talks with a client who routinely works with freelancers, see if you can find submission guidelines or anything similar to get some insight into what they normally pay. Nothing says you have to quote that price, but it can be helpful to see if you’re way higher or lower than that listed rate.

3. Remember Other Factors

While research can be helpful, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t always make up the entire story. There are other factors you should consider before landing on your own rate.

For example, maybe that freelance writer on Reddit is able to charge $850 nfor a 500-word article—but she’s also been a freelancer for 25 years and has numerous bylines in big-name publications. Much like with a traditional career, she’s able to justify a much higher rate than someone who’s just starting out.

Other things—like the scope of the actual assignment or the size, budget, and reputation of the company—should also come into play when landing on a price quote. A well-established corporation, for example, will have a much higher budget for freelancers than a scrappy startup.

So, remember not to take all of your research as gospel truth. There are other factors you should weigh before settling on a rate that makes the most sense for you.

setting freelance rates

4. Have Confidence

Are you ready for a bit of a reality check? Ultimately, quoting your freelance rates involves a lot of trial and error. There will be times when clients walk away because your price was too high, just like there will be times when you realize you could’ve asked for far more.

That’s okay. It happens to all of us. And it doesn’t necessarily mean your rate was wrong. Instead, take it as evidence that the client just wasn’t a good match for you.

I’ll admit that even after freelancing for all this time, I still get a little clammy when it comes time for me to quote another price. That’s normal too.

Go through the steps above to arm yourself with as much information as possible and then take a deep breath and have some confidence. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some—that’s just the nature of the beast.

Over to You

I wish I could tell you that there’s some sort of tried and true formula that will help you land on a freelance rate that will appease every client everywhere. But, that’s not the way things work.

The important thing is to find something that works for you, and the steps above steps will help you with that.

Your rate might be higher or lower than what another freelancer would charge, but in the end, that really doesn’t matter. It’s all about what pushes you and your business closer to your goals!

Want to read some more money-related posts? Check these out:

Your First Freelance Writing Paycheck: What Happens Now?

Can You Really Make a Living as a Freelance Writer?

How to Increase Your Freelance Income (Without Landing New Clients)