Freelance pricing is one of the most common topics that freelancers like to discuss.
There’s a reason freelancers like to discuss pricing. We talk about it because most of us struggle to set our price.
In this post I share seven truths about pricing that I’ve learned over the years. I also list seven recent articles on pricing. At the end of this post, share your own tips on how you price your freelance writing projects.
Over the years, I’ve made my share of pricing mistakes. You might say I’ve learned about pricing the hard way.
There’s a lot of different ways to figure pricing. Every freelance writer seems to have their own method. Naturally, your fee needs to cover your work and personal expenses. Beyond that, pricing gets tricky.
I’ve learned that I do a better job of pricing a project if I keep the truths listed in this post in mind. When I forget these truths, I usually regret it.
These are the pricing truths that work for me. While I hope that these truths help you too, the important thing is that you find a good rate for you.
Truth #1: Name a Range at First
Not everyone agrees with this approach, but it works for me.
A few prospects will contact you with just the barest details about their project. They want a number and won’t provide more details until they get it. They are trying to find out if they can afford you.
This might seem like a bad thing, but really it’s a good thing. It keeps you from wasting your time with a prospect that can’t afford you.
Before I learned this truth I spent hours creating work agreements for prospects who had no intention of paying my rate.
I handle requests for a price by giving them a rate range that looks something like this:
My fee for a project such as you describe ranges from $XXX.00 to $XXX.00. There are extra charges if the project requires an interview, is a rush job, or requires an extensive amount of research.
You can adjust that phrase to meet your own needs.
After providing a price range I explain that the next step is to create a work agreement. The work agreement describes their project and lists my terms. I won’t start a project until we both agree.
Tip: I use QuoteRoller to create work agreements and proposals.
Truth #2: Ask Questions
About half of those who contact me disappear when I quote a price range. They simply stop answering emails.
That’s okay. That often means the so-called prospect wanted a writer who will work for pennies. I’m an excellent writer, but I’m not willing to work at a less than professional rate. And I don’t give my work away for free.
The prospects who aren’t fazed by the range you quote are truly your prospects. You can now work with them to get a more detailed scope of the project requirements.
Asking questions also gives you an idea of how easy a client will be to work with.
If they answer questions quickly, they’ll probably do the same as a client. If they answer slowly, that may be how they’ll respond to you when they’re a client.
Which brings me to truth number three.
Truth #3. Many Prospects Have No Idea
Your prospects probably don’t understand a typical writing process. Unless they’ve been a writer, they don’t know what you need or how long a project should take.
Also, quite a few of them have no idea what they should pay for your services.
For these prospects, be willing to answer questions. And be ready to justify your price by providing more details about what you do. You may need to reset their unrealistic expectations.
Truth #4: Have a Minimum Price Too
Should you take every project that comes your way, no matter how small?
What about when an existing client asks you to do a “little” task for them? Should you take it on even if you don’t regularly do that type of work?
The answer is…it depends. Sometimes I take on a “little” project to preserve my relationship with a client.
If you decide to tackle a little project, remember that “little” jobs still have overhead. Tasks like billing, file management, and accounting can add up.
In my experience “little” jobs often turn out to be not-so-little once you get started. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a minimum price for your services, no matter how small.
Truth #5. Don’t Let Them Pressure You
Prospect pressure to reduce prices is one reason many writers get paid less than they are worth.
We writers put a lot of effort into a writing project even before the work starts. We need to get enough information to quote a realistic price and deadline.
If you’ve just spent hours on a project proposal, it’s easy to become emotionally invested in it. You don’t want all that time and effort to go to waste. But it may be better to back out before the project starts than to cave in to pricing pressure.
When a prospect asks you to negotiate on your price, take a hard look at what they are asking for. Is it reasonable, or will their requested discount take you below your comfort level?
Don’t listen if the prospect tells you that your rate is above market rate. They’re probably wrong. I’ve had prospective clients tell me ridiculous rates they claim to be the going rate for writers.
Stand firm and make sure that you earn a professional fee for your work.
Truth #6: Keep Records
You can’t earn a professional fee unless you understand how much effort it takes. Knowing the scope of the project helps, but if you don’t know how long the project tasks take, you’ll still under charge.
My quotes are based on historical data. For every project, I keep a record of how long it takes me to:
- Write the first draft
- Review and edit
Any time spent related to the project gets tracked.
Once you start keeping records, you’ll be surprised at how long your projects really take. You may find that the blog post you thought you could write in an hour actually took three hours to complete.
Truth #7: Your Rate May Still Be Too Low
It’s a sad fact. Many (maybe even most) writers sell themselves short.
No estimating system is perfect. And there are many variables between projects. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you still ask for too little.
Still, your freelance writing income should improve over time if you learn what you can about pricing. Try some of the pricing techniques in this post and in other articles.
Learn More with These 7 Resources
I’ve noticed a lot of new posts and articles on the topic of freelance rates in the past few months. Here are some of the best. While I may not agree with every single point made, they are worth a read.
Learn more about freelance pricing by reading:
- Freelance Rates: Guide to Hourly Versus Project Pricing from Julia Melymbrose on EnvatoTuts+. This article lists five types of pricing and discusses the pros and cons of each.
- How to set your rates as a freelance writer from Liam Veitch on Freelancers Union. This post provides some helpful tips including ideas on negotiation and competitor pricing.
- Help! I’m underpricing my freelance rates from Jake Poinier on Dr. Freelance. This post is in the format of an advice column. It provides some specific details about a pricing situation and the author’s answer to the question.
- 9 Things Freelancers Should Do To Get Higher Rates from Laura Vanderkam on FastCompany.com. When you’re ready to raise your rates, this article gives you some specific ways to do it.
- Calculate Your Ideal Freelance Writing Rates (and Give Yourself a Raise). From Jennifer Mattern on All Indie Writers. This post explains how to calculate your ideal income using the freelance rate calculator on the site.
- Going Rate? Fair Rate? What’s Freelance Writing Pay Really All About? From Anne Wayman on About Freelance Writing. This post talks about comparing your rates to other people’s rates and why it may not be such a good idea. It also links to many helpful resources.
- Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates: 4 Steps to Help You Get Paid What You’re Worth. From Sharon Hurley Hall on The Write Life. This post provides four helpful steps to help you raise your rates.
What struggles have you faced when deciding how to charge for your writing? How have you overcome those struggles?
Share your thoughts and tips in the comments.