Freelance Rates – Part 1: Determining Your Worth as a Freelancer

Series: Freelance Rates
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

“Freelance editing rates” is consistently the most popular search term that leads people to my blog. Because of that interest, several months ago, I conducted and publised the results of a freelance rates survey.  Freelance rates are the source of continuing debate, and the results of the survey showed rates ranging from less than $5 per hour to $150 per hour.

You want to earn what you’re worth, but you want to be competitive and not lose jobs because your price is too high. So, how do you decide what to charge? In this series, I will cover your worth as a writer, hourly vs project fees, and calculating your fees.

To begin, you will want to gain an understanding of your worth as a writer or editor.

  • Consider your experience level. If you are just beginning as a writer or editor, you can’t expect to make as much as someone who has been working in the field for twenty years. You can charge more if you are exceptionally knowledgeable about a subject or have additional skills that the client needs.
  • Consider the going rate for the work. The Editorial Freelancers Association publishes a chart of typical editing fees. This will give you a typical range; for example, the range for basic copyediting is $25 to $40 per hour. You probably want to be at the lower end of the range if you’re a beginner and the higher end of the range if you have more experience.
  • Consider your market. If you choose to write in certain markets, you can expect very low pay. If you write for magazines and many other publishers, you often don’t have much say in what you are paid. If you are in a specialized market, you can earn much higher rates.
  • Consider the value of the work to your client. Most of us tend to think in terms of what it takes to do the job, but our clients look at the value to them. One business client tells me often that she doesn’t mind paying my rate because she saves money by hiring me—even though she pays me several times what she pays her employees, they would spend all day doing what I do in an hour or two and the end product would not be as good.
  • Consider your costs of doing business and your income needs. Freelancers often make the mistake of charging the same hourly rate they earned as an employee. However, as a freelancer, you have business expenses that an employee doesn’t have, and you can bill for only a fraction of the total number of hours that you work.

In the Volume X, Issue 47 (October 5, 2009) issue of his newsletter, Jim Blasingame, the Small Business Advocate, gave this advice to entrepreneurs selling professional services:

You should think of your hourly rate like renting a car at a rate of $60 a day. That works out to $1,800 a month for a car that you could finance for $350 a month. But you understand that you’re paying a premium because you have a temporary transportation need, the rental company delivers the product and service just in time and you give it back whenever your need has been fulfilled, without further obligation. No muss, no fuss, almost exactly like when a client “rents” your professional services.

As a professional for rent, the services you provide and the resource that you are to clients means they don’t have to adopt you like an employee. They can rent you and send you on your way until they need your “product” again.

Here are other resources that you may find helpful in determining your worth as a freelancer:

In the next installment, we’ll discuss hourly rates versus project fees. Then in the final installment, we’ll go into more detail on setting prices.

I look forward to your comments on determining your worth as a writer as well as any questions you have about setting freelance rates.

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