How do I set my rate as a freelance writer?
I don’t like vagueries. I like to give hard answers. This can be difficult to do with rate because there are so many variables. Still, I find the reason most people don’t want to give hard numbers is that they don’t want to be wrong.
I have no problem being wrong.
Is the graph below, showing rate frequency for writers, 100% perfect? Almost certainly not. But it gives us a very strong approximation. And perfect doesn’t matter because we’re only looking for a starting place. The whole reason we want to see averages is that we don’t want to be way out of line with other industry professionals (at least until we’re in demand enough to start charging whatever we want). And a strong approximation serves that purpose splendidly.
A couple of things to consider:
- I’m only taking full-time freelancers based in the US into consideration. This significantly raises averages because it reduces the number of amateur and ‘Upwork-level’ freelancers in the mix.
- This is based on project frequency averages, not freelancer medians. This means that freelancers that work more will be more heavily weighted.
- While I consulted data on the subject, I also relied on my own experience.
- I’ve worked with many writers over the years, evaluated thousands of candidates, and hired a good few so I have a strong familiarity with the industry.
- Some clients, especially those looking for content, pay by the word, but having everything based on time will give us a better point for comparison.
Content Writers most commonly earn ~$400 per day.
Copywriters most commonly earn ~$400-600 per day.
For starters, let’s take a look at the red line. As I’ve said before, as freelancers with a job-skill, we never want to accept less than $30/hr, even if we’re just starting out. Are other freelancers going to? Of course they are. Let them take all of the worst clients, we don’t want to get caught in a race to the bottom.
Next, let’s take a look at the difference between copywriter (eg. ad copy, website copy, PPC copy) and content writer (eg. articles, social media). The averages end up somewhat similar but the full picture shows that copywriters earn better wages significantly more frequently than content writers. While the demand for content writers is higher the supply is much higher. In addition, clients value copy much more highly than content and it has a much bigger effect on their ROI, so they’re more willing to pay for quality.
Finally, let’s look at the rate frequencies and what they mean. Writing is a competitive field. What’s more, writing is something that has virtually no barrier to entry and just about everyone thinks they can do- even though they’re almost always wrong. This leads to a high level of low-cost and ultra-low-cost writers, especially among content writers. But serious, dedicated writers, including content writers, can earn a good living if they don’t try to compete with these low-cost writers on price. It may take some time to build up to the right jobs, but content writers can earn $400-500/day without being outside the norm. Copywriters frequently earn ~$400-600/day and many earn significantly more; $125/hr would not be considered exorbitant for an experienced copywriter working on a project for a major client and higher wages are not beyond consideration.
- Most freelancers, especially new ones, are too cheap.
- Price is only one potential competitive advantage you can have over your competition and it’s (pretty much) the only one that can affect your livelihood. This means that it’s probably the very last way you should try to provide more value than other freelancers in your lane.
- If a client can’t afford you, it doesn’t automatically mean your services are worth less than you’re charging. It’s more likely that this is just not the right kind of client for you.
If you’d like more information about rate you can check out my comprehensive freelance course, where I talk more about how different clients think about rate, mistakes to avoid, and how to defend your rate if a potential client raises an objection.