Freelance writing rates can make the best of us feel like the lone fish in a sea of freelancers who know what they’re doing.
Before I figured out my freelance writing rates, I felt the same way. I was convinced I was the only one having so much trouble with setting my rates.
Every time I had to quote my rates, my internal dialogue went something like this:
Are my rates too low? Am I undercharging myself? Will this client be able to pay my rates? Oh god, what if the client tells me my rates are too high?
If you ask yourself any of these questions, you’re in the same boat as I was.
Depending on how long you’ve been freelancing and the kind of clients you’re attracting, it can take you anywhere from a few months to a few years to figure out your rates.
Since I’d rather you spend those months and years growing your freelance business, I’m sharing the five brutal truths I discovered about setting your freelance writing rates.
When it comes to freelance writing rates, there’s no such thing as “market” rates
I routinely get emails from subscribers telling me they can’t charge more even if they want to because the market rate for a 500 words post is $5.
Uhh … no, it’s not.
The market rate for a 500-word blog post is whatever amount you charge.
What we all tend to forget is that we’re part of the market too. So whether you charge $5, $50, or $500 – those are the market rates.
The next time a client tells you about market rates, pretend like you didn’t hear them. Instead, talk about the value you bring to the table. Tell them what your writing will help them achieve.
Will it get them better search engine rankings? Will it bring them more customers? Will it turn them into authority figures?
Go one step further and explain what achieving all those things mean for them and their business.
- Better search engine rankings = more website traffic.
- More customers = more money.
- Becoming an authority figure = interviews and speaking at conferences.
I haven’t come across a single client – even the tightfisted ones – who don’t want these things.
There is definitely such a thing as “low” rates
There may be no such thing as market rates, but there is definitely such a thing as “low” rates.
If you’re unhappy with your rates, if you’re resenting the work you’re doing, if you wish you could charge more, then your rates are low.
The figure doesn’t matter. Freelance writing rates are all about you. They’re about the value of your work and how you feel about the rates you’re charging for that value.
If you’re not asking for a figure that embarrasses you, you’re not asking for enough
If you’re an email subscriber of mine, you already know this bit of advice isn’t mine. Somebody had retweeted the tweet below and it made an impact on me.
The best negotiating tip I ever got: If you’re not asking for a figure that embarrasses you, you’re not asking for enough. #freelancing
— Mridu Khullar Relph (@mridukhullar) November 23, 2012
At first glance, there’s nothing profound about it. Aren’t we all uncomfortable asking for money?
The answer surprised me. I wasn’t embarrassed charging the amount I was charging at the time. In fact, a client was even surprised at how “reasonable” my rates were.
I didn’t think anything about my client’s reaction until I read this tweet. It made me realize I’d gotten comfortable with my rates. None of the prospective clients I was attracting questioned them.
How do you feel about your rates? Are you embarrassed telling your clients about them?
If you’re not, then it’s time to raise your rates and charge an amount you’re uncomfortable with.
Again, it doesn’t matter how much you charge. What’s important is how you feel about it.
If you’re charging $10, you may be uncomfortable asking for $25.
I was uncomfortable charging $300 when I’d previously been charging $100. But guess what? The first client I quoted the new price to didn’t even blink. And I got paid in advance.
It’s okay to charge low in the beginning – as long as the “beginning” has an expiry date
There’s no shame in charging low rates in the beginning.
I’m a big advocate of “you gotta do what you gotta do” school of thought. If that means writing $5 articles to get your foot in the door, then so be it.
Everyone has to start somewhere. I started at $5 per article. James Chartrand started at an even lower rate.
As long as you use these rates as a stepping stone, you’re on the right track. But charging low in the beginning needs to have an expiry date. You can’t charge the same low rates a year later. There has to be progress.
Three months is long enough time to get the experience and samples you need to charge more.
Of course, I’m not saying you jump from $10 to $100. But a jump to $25? Entirely possible.
It’s not about the money – it’s about you!
Have you noticed how when it comes to setting your freelance writing rates, it’s not about the money but ALL about you?
Freelance rates are subjective – to your experience, your confidence, and a bunch of other things unique to your business.
Don’t waste your time comparing your rates to other freelancers. Focus on yourself. Ask yourself tough questions like:
- How long have I been charging my current rates?
- When was the last time a client questioned my rates?
- What results have my clients gotten from my writing?
Once you have the answers, I can guarantee you won’t feel like you can’t raise your rates.
Take action (aka Just do it!)
Raise your rates today. Seriously. You don’t have to make it official by making an announcement or sending an email to your clients.
Wherever you record your current rates – be it a piece of paper or a Word document – increase them.
Raise your rates today even if it’s just by $5.
The next time a prospective client comes knocking on your door, send him your updated rate sheet and sit tight. And when the client accepts your new rates without a squeak, come back and tell me about it so we can celebrate.
Do this and it won’t be long before you’re one of the fishes who know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to freelance writing rates.