Lori Widmer at Words on the Page has declared today, May 15, as Writer’s Worth Day. Lori is on a mission to educate writers that they deserve to be paid a reasonable rate for their work.
I know my readers are interested in this subject. Every time I check my stats, How Much Will It Cost? Average Freelance Editing Rates is second only to the home page in number of visits on this blog. The most popular search term readers use to find me through search engines is freelance editing rates.
Beginning writers often think they have to charge very low rates to get business. They discover that low prices may bring projects, but not the projects they want. Instead of enjoying their work and making a fair profit, they find themselves doing work they don’t like, dealing with difficult clients, and never making enough money.
I owned businesses for many years before becoming a freelancer, and I learned that customers who want low prices are usually the most difficult people to work with and the most likely to pay late or not at all. In my interior landscape business, a business owner called me to order a few plants. She asked me to give her discount price to care for the plants since we maintained the plants in the office building. I thought it made sense—my technician was right outside her door every week watering plants in the corridor. It wouldn’t take but a few minutes to step inside her office and tend to the handful of plants she ordered.
That woman and her five plants turned out to take more time and energy than many clients with dozens of plants spread out over a whole floor. She screamed at the technician because one of her plants had a few yellow leaves, even though we explained that it was normal for plants to lose a few leaves each week. She called to complain that the technician was late, even though we made no commitment of when we would be there except during business hours on a specific day. She was always late paying the few dollars we charged her each month. Finally, I wrote her a letter saying that we obviously were not able to meet her needs, and we wanted her to find someone more appropriate for her needs. I refunded every penny she had paid me, including the cost of the plants, and told her to keep the plants. It was well worth a few hundred dollars to avoid the aggravation.
That lesson from another business taught me to charge a fair price for my work when I started freelancing. If you’re new to freelancing and haven’t been in business before, you may be tempted to write a custom sample or take on a project at very low rates to get experience. Imagine the woman described above as your writing client. Instead of screaming about a few yellow leaves, she’ll be screaming about a word or comma she doesn’t like. Instead of calling your boss to complain that you’re late, she’ll be harassing you about a deadline. Instead of being late paying me the few dollars she owed me, she’ll delay paying you the few pennies you agreed to.
You can build a portfolio and experience without subjecting yourself to that. Write articles for your own blog or Web site. Donate your services to a nonprofit organization you support—just ask for a byline. Submit to an article database that others recommend as a marketing tool.
But don’t give your work away to a client who should be paying for your talent and skill. Maybe you don’t have enough experience to charge $75 or $100 or more an hour, but you don’t have to accept less than minimum wage.
You can find examples of typical rates and information on how to determine your prices in the following articles:
Editorial Freelancers Association
How Much Should a Freelancer Charge?
How Much Will It Cost? Average Freelance Editing Rates
How to Set Your Freelance Writing Rates
National Writers Union Survey of Freelance and Contract Writer Rates
Professional Fee Guidelines for Canadian Writers
Putting a Price on Your Capabilities
What are your prices for writing and editing services … and how much value do you give?