Diana Kelly Levey

How to Set Freelance Rates that Help You Meet Your Income Goals

A jar full of coins that says pay as you wish

January 4, 2021

As a long-time freelance writer, I always get asked about how to calculate rates and how to get clients to agree to your rates for every type of freelance project. But to be honest, setting your freelance rates isn’t so cut and dry, as there are tons of tiny factors to consider in each situation. In fact, even though I’ve been running a successful freelance writing business since 2006, I still occasionally bounce my rates off of a freelance writer friend to see what she thinks and whether the rate is too low or if she thinks the client will balk if they’re high freelance rates. (Wait, how much do magazine writers make?)

Instead of telling you an exact rate you should ask for a content marketing post or how much you should get paid for a freelance magazine article, I have advice that will help you set your own justifiable rate for any situation, including what rate to start at and the instances when you can charge a bit more. Follow these pointers, and you’ll be on your way to reaching any freelance income goal. (Related: 5 Tips for Setting Freelance Business Goals You’ll Actually Hit)

6 Factors to Consider When Setting Your Freelance Rates

1. Your current financial situation.

During the current economic situation caused by COVID-19, you might need to lower your rates for current freelance clients if they’re in a tight financial spot or take a lower freelance rate than usual for new freelance writing jobs in order to pay your bills and put food on the table. And while that temporary low freelance rate might work for right now, it’s important to remember that freelancing doesn’t pay off very quickly. Most clients won’t pay you immediately after you submit your assignment, so know that you might not get paid the low rate that you’re accepting right now for a month or two after you turn in the article. Put a plan in place to find higher-paying clients so you’ll be earning more money freelancing as soon as possible.

2. Your experience level.

Early on when you’re a beginner freelance writer and you’re light on experience, you might want to take a lower freelance assignment rate or take a lower hourly freelance rate to land an assignment at a coveted, well-known outlet in your niche. That clip will help you get more work in other places, which will then allow you to raise your rate in the future. (Beginners will also want to take note of these 100+ tips for success.) When you’ve been freelancing for a few years or, your experience level increases and your skills improve, you should be asking for a higher freelance rate and trying to earn more money freelancing by earning more money per hour. My clients are paying for the 20 years I’ve been working in the media industry and the skills I’ve learned during that time which helps me deliver the project or assignment they want on time, with clean copy.

3. If you’ll be getting a byline.

Getting your name stamped on an article not only feels amazing, but it also means you can easily add it to your portfolio and show it off to future potential clients. If you’re ghostwriting or writing for a content marketing client, however, you might not get a byline with the gig, making it a bit harder to use as a clip. That being said, you can consider charging a bit more for not having a byline. I charge more for ghostwriting assignments, particularly thought leadership articles, because I usually can’t use the clip to show other potential clients, and someone else is getting credit for my writing. I’m fine with that in a ghostwriting agreement, but it comes with a higher price tag. In general, I don’t get a byline for most of my content marketing articles, so I factor that into my rate in the beginning of negotiations. (Remember: Updating your portfolio is an important part of marketing your business.)

4. How much time and energy you’ll spend working on it.

This is probably the most weighty factor in your freelance rate decision, and every situation is different. If a client is asking for a 4,000-word article that requires three different interviews, sorting through scientific studies, and conducting SEO research, you should be asking for a higher rate than turning around a quick service piece that requires one interview or no interviews and fewer words.

If it’s a new client, expect to spend a bit more time nailing the brand’s voice, as well as setting up all the paperwork and invoicing. All of these components should be factored into your freelance pay rate. (BTW, here’s how many hours freelancers actually work.)

Check out this guide on what do freelancers charge?

5. How many other projects you’re working on.

Whenever I’m stacked with freelance assignments for other clients, I might raise my freelance rates if an editor asks me to work on an article for them. In those cases, I might have to sacrifice sleep or time with my family, so I feel like getting a bit more income is necessary to make the job worth it. If the editor knows I’m busy and still really wants me to work on it and I need to move around other parts of my freelance schedule so this project or assignment will happen, they might pay the higher rate. If they can’t afford the higher rate, they might tell me I have more time to work on the article or project and can turn it in when I’ve finished my other deadlines. (FYI, here’s how to write an article pitch.)

6. If it’s a rush job.

If I have a vacation planned for the upcoming week and a client asks me to turn in an article that same week, I feel comfortable charging a bit more to get the job done since I will have to sacrifice personal time outside of working hours to get the assignment done. But remember, negotiating is always a possibility. I might tell them my increased rates for a rush job and rates for a normal turn-around period, and if they don’t really need it ASAP, they might be willing to wait a few weeks.

I’ve made way too many pricing mistakes with freelance projects and assignments that probably cost me thousands over the years. Check out these 5 common freelance rate mistakes so you don’t repeat the errors I made.

How do you set your freelance rates and negotiate with clients? For more money-making tips, sign up for my online freelance writing courses.

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