.:The Internet Home Business Magazine for Moms & Dads:.

Pricing Your Freelance Services


The issue of what to charge your future clients for your freelance services is one of the most important things you will tackle as you begin (or move along) your business. It is also one of the trickiest. Without a set of universal parameters to turn to, you are pretty much sailing alone in a sea of dollars and cents.  Because our business revolves around writing, we’ll use that as an example, but much of what follows can be applied to other freelancing endeavors, too.

We have discovered that there are two approaches that you can take to your pricing: 1) you can price your services at a rate reasonable for you to make a living, or 2) you can price your services at a rate intended to get you clients. This is not to say that the two are mutually exclusive; on the contrary, many freelance writers make a perfectly viable living. However, if you are just starting out, you may find that getting paid what you are really worth is harder than it should be.

In journalistic freelance writing—that is, writing for print magazines and newspapers—the client will almost always determine your rate of pay. It is more than likely that you will not be asked to come up with a “bid,” instead being offered a dollar amount for your  proposed article. It is then up to you to decide whether or not to accept. This is good news for anyone worrying over their pricing, and as the industry standard places the lowest range of pay at $0.09/word (going up past $4.00 for the very exclusive magazines), the pay can be very good. However, getting your foot in the door of this type of freelance writing does require more time and effort, plus you do not get paid for all the proposals and query letters you write and send out.

In business and web freelance writing, which is what Lorna and I are primarily focused on, the pricing is much harder. If we want to follow the first path, charging a reasonable rate to make a living, our research has shown us that the average price on the market is $25-$40 per hour. Like journalistic writing, this rate of pay has to include all of the time you spend on your “own work.” Making proposals, researching clients, creating invoices, maintaining correspondence, and other activities are, essentially, unpaid.

Our research has also indicated that a number of freelance writers ask potential clients to outline the work they need, at which time they come up with a proposed flat fee for the completion of the work. This allows them the flexibility to incorporate the time it takes for all the side tasks of running a freelance writing business into their rate. At the same time, this approach can put some potential clients off, as the total rate (even though it may be similar to the $25-$40 per hour rate) may look high to someone seeing it for the first time—high enough to send them elsewhere.

This brings us to one of the biggest challenges in your pricing. There are literally thousands of available writers out there. We all have our reasons for wanting to work from home, but the fact of the matter is, those reasons are pretty universal. The appeals of being your own boss, doing what you love, and being available for your family are the same for everyone. The market is virtually flooded with available writers, most of whom will be able to undercut the most reasonable of your bids.

If you use a freelance writing site to find your work (such as http://www.guru.com), you are literally pitted against hundreds of other writers, each of you placing a bid to get the employer to pick you for their proposed work. No matter how qualified and talented you may be, the employers at these sites are looking at their bottom line; if you aren’t able to do the work within their budget, they will be able to find someone who does. Unfortunately, this heavy competition often reduces your rates to as low as $0.01/word.

I don’t mean to be bleak. To date, Lorna and I have received most of our work from this type of site, and not all of our work is grossly under-priced. And when we are under-priced, we have the potential to recover once we get the clients’ attention. For example, I have been writing for over a month now for a vendor website. They send me occasional short writing projects and I complete them for a fairly low rate. They are familiar with my work, happy with the relationship we have established, and comfortable with our payment routine. A few days ago, they asked me for a quote on writing a press release for them, and I was able to considerably increase my rate.

As we continue to build our client list, we feel that things are only going to look better for us. We can slowly but surely increase our rates to existing clients. We are building up a portfolio to show future clients. We are putting a little money in our pockets. Although I am often frustrated by the feeling that I am not being appreciated or valued for what I’m worth, things can really only get better.

There are many freelance writers who would berate us for this approach. By offering our rates so low, we are driving down the prices for writers everywhere. By undervaluing our work, we are alienating clients who may not take us seriously as a business. All of this is true, and I don’t have an excuse for it. Lorna and I can only hope that as we are able to complete and launch our website, as our portfolio grows more distinguished, and as our marketing materials get pulled together, that we can finally enter that category of writers who are reasonably able to make a living by their work.

Popularity: 24% [?]

Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Netvouz
  • DZone
  • ThisNext
  • MisterWong
  • Wists
add to sk*rt

If you liked this article, please...

Subscribe Via Email Subscribe Via RSS Add to Technorati

Or read these related articles...

  • Freelance Inspiration
  • The Productive Freelancer
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Guru.com
  • The Value of Bartering Your Freelance Services

  • Discussion

    What do you think? Leave a comment. Alternatively, write a post on your own weblog; this blog accepts trackbacks [trackback url].
    Comment Policy


    On September 30th, 2007 at 11:27 pm, Joe Cheray said:

    So what recommendations would you give to a freelance designer? I am in the process of building a digital design business and I am not sure what to charge and if I should charge a set fee per item or if I should charge an hourly fee per job, or if I should do a combination of both.

    On October 2nd, 2007 at 5:26 am, Lorna Doone Brewer said:

    Joe - What kind of design are you talking about? I’m not an expert or anything, but I could maybe rustle up some resources for you.

    On October 2nd, 2007 at 8:34 pm, Lorna Doone Brewer said:

    Joe – I thought this article from Freelance UK might be helpful in determining your rates. It looks pretty thorough. I’m still learning how to set prices for writing, so design is a bit beyond my scope of knowledge at the moment. Maybe once you’ve figured it out, you can what you’ve learned with us.

    Mentions on other sites...

    1. Freelance Inspiration | Freelance Parent on September 29th, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Leave a Reply

    If you liked this article, take more To Go...


    Subscribe to Daily Posts Via Email
    Sign Up for the Weekly Email Newsletter
    We'll never sell or rent your info. Period.
    Subscribe Via an RSS Reader