I’m in the freelance writing game. Other writers occasionally ask me what I charge clients. What follows is my method. It may not be the best possible solution, but it works for me.
1. Figure out how much you want to make per year. Be realistic.
2. Working backwards from your yearly rate, figure out how much you should charge per hour. So, if you want to make $100,000 a year, divide that by 50 work weeks per year ($2,000 a week), and divide that number by five work days ($400 per day) and divide that number by work hours per day. You’ll be tempted to go with eight hours here, but it’s very, very hard to work–actually, work, with no phone calls, errands or Facebook–for eight hours a day. So let’s make it six. That comes to $66 an hour. If you work six hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year (two weeks for vacation) at $66 an hour, you will make $100,000.
3. That $66/hour should represent your average. It’s OK to take on some projects that pay less as long as you have other projects that pay more.
4. Track all of your hours each month on an Excel spreadsheet. This way you can see which clients pay above your rate and which pay less. If you don’t like a client, and it’s paying you less, look for a new client. If you have a client that pays you more, then I advise you to constantly over-deliver.
5. Avoid being paid by the word if you can. As I’ve stated before, it’s a ridiculous payment scheme.
What I prefer doing—and some publications are open to this—is simply quoting a rate. I calculate how many hours the story will take and multiply that number times my hourly fee. This is what other professionals do. They give an estimate and a rate. As far as I know, freelance writers are the only professionals who charge for their services so arbitrarily. It’s like paying a carpenter by the nail.
If you have another method, I’d like to hear about it, and I bet a lot of other writers would, too.
Photo by Philip Taylor