A guide to writing rates, with tips and advice on how to price your freelance services
Writers are masters of words, weavers of stories and often incredible storytelling enthusiasts. When writing freelance and online, structure is their best friend, as they will need it to give consistency to an overall narrative or story.
It takes some serious expertise to be able to pull off something like that. And that is why the freelance writing market is so incredibly competitive, yet extremely profitable.
If you are looking to become a freelance writer, perhaps you’ll want to turn into one of those writers showcasing their six-figures monthly incomes on Medium. I praise the ambition. But to get to that point, you’ll have to start somewhere, won’t you? Here’s how much you should charge as a freelance writer.
How do I charge for a writing project?
It is worth mentioning straight away that writers will often be working within a series of different sectors at once. Some will be freelance journalists, others copywriters and marketers, and in all cases, you can expect to work across different niches with different clients. Though there are certain styles and languages to learn, a good writer will be a master of voice and someone able to adapt to different settings.
For this reason, it is quite challenging to state here a rule that will apply to any writer out there. However, there are some guidelines you can follow.
Some writers will charge by word. This is quite popular in the writing scene, though it isn’t always recommended. There are some topics which will require more research, hence more time to complete. You may sit at 90 words per minute and 2,000 per hour (like me), but that one specific article will take you 3/4 hours to do, just because the topic isn’t the easiest to tackle. For that reason, it can help to charge per word if blogging is generally what you do, but day/hourly rates are more recommended if you work across a range of different sectors.
Lastly, some writers do charge per project as well. Most of the times these are professionals approaching a client who will have a specific budget for their project, such as a game story, a series of dialogues or some marketing copy to write. It is rarer, and quite possibly trickier to calculate, but it can be done.
So in a nutshell:
- Writers generally work across a range of different sectors and niches
- Charging per word is quite popular, though it doesn’t always work in your favour
- Some projects will take more time before you even sit down to write a single word
- In those cases and if you mix-and-match, day rates or hourly rates are recommended
- Per-project rates will usually be based on client budget
- If not, these may be trickier to work out
Image credit: Rob McDonald
How do I calculate the costs of a writing project?
A writing project can take a variable amount of time depending on your usual creative output. If you write around 1,000 words per hour (which is the average for a prolific writer), you will have a consistent baseline to start charging straight away – but as mentioned, often things are more complicated than that.
If you are indeed charging per word, here’s a series of ranges that I found some time ago on LeaveWorkBehind, and I tweaked based on some research online. Please note that these apply mostly to bloggers and article writers:
- Entry Level writers may charge .03-.10 per word.
- Intermediate writers may charge .11-.25 per word.
- Experienced writers may charge .26-.50 per word.
- In Demand Experts will charge at least .50 per word and above, resulting in over $500/hour.
However, the above isn’t indicative of the entire industry. The most in-demand writers who write for established publications, such as Bloomberg and popular newspapers, may charge even up to $1/$2 per word. Do some quick math and you’ll realise that a long-form article of around 1,750 words can yield more than $3,000. You may convert these prices to GBP with relative ease, and in terms of per-word rates, you can even convert them 1:1.
But this is not all. As mentioned, while charging per word may help some, others will realise that tracking their time is way more effective in working out their rates. These are writers who write both simpler articles, quite comfortable to do at their per-word rate, and those who write chunkier pieces with in-depth research. These professionals tend to charge a day rate or an hourly rate.
For a day rate, the same formula that I placed in our first general article on freelance rates applies:
YOUR DESIRED ANNUAL SALARY + 30% / 220
That extra 30% is to account for taxes and additional costs, plus to ensure you can live comfortably off of your freelance projects. The 220 are the working days in a year – though you can adjust that to the amount of days you plan to work in your freelance business.
Please note that writers usually struggle to be 100% productive for 8 hours straight, and most freelancers in the craft will only work around 6 hours a day. That is more than enough to write one or two well-researched articles a day – though some writers have reported struggles to put over 3,000 words a day into writing. Words can be tiring.
Hourly rates are relatively easier, especially if you come from a professional writing background, or if you already charge a per-word rate. You can just refer to the day rate you were paid when working for an employer, or calculate your hourly rate from your per-word rate. This way, if a writer can crack around 2,000 words/hour, and takes into account a 0.13/word rate, their hourly rate will be around £300/$300.
Image credit: Christian Tunstall
Per-project rates can be trickier, but it can be done. According to a user over on r/freelanceWriters, the simplest way would be to take the total number of words you plan to create for the project, then multiply it by your per-word rate to get a baseline. You can then add 20-30% to account for project management, revisions and client conversations, and there you have it: a per-project rate which can work for all your needs.
If you are a professional creative writer or a copywriter, things can get a bit more complicated. Especially for commercial projects, you’ll have to take into consideration the Time and Usage of your work. If your client plans to use your work for years to come, price goes up. If the usage is international rather than local, or if it ranges across different media (for example on an integrated global campaign on TV, web, OOH and radio), price goes up. If the deadline is quite short, price goes up – and sometimes even doubles.
So in a nutshell:
- Bloggers may charge from 0.3/word (entry level) to at least .30/word (in-demand professional) and sometimes even double or triple that amount
- Hourly rates can be calculated using your per-word rate or your former employer salaries as baselines
- Day rates can be calculated by adding 30% to your desired annual salary and dividing it all by your desired working days in a year
- Project-based rates can be:
- Dependent on client budget
- Calculated starting from your per-word rate, then adding 20-30% for project management fees
- Copywriters and creative writers will have to consider:
- Time to complete the project
- Usage (international, national, which channel etc.)
Common mistakes when pricing writing services and work
Like many other freelance professionals, starting writers will often make the mistake of undervaluing their skills and undercharging their clients. I remember when I was asked to do some screenwriting consultancy for $25 – for the entire project. At the time I knew nothing of the freelance industry and mistakenly accepted the rate, until I realised that too much time was needed for such meagre pay, and I let the client go.
Your time is precious and valuable, and if you are serious about the freelance business, you should never be paid less than what you are worth – not even for portfolio projects. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer make starting professionals believe that it is okay for clients to offer such small budgets for their projects, but in fact, it is the opposite. It hurts the industry to accept those conditions, and it hurts you to keep undercharging despite what you are worth.
With time, you will gain confidence in your writing skills and you will start realising that there are professionals out there who are just as skilled as you (sometimes less), who get paid much more than what you are currently charging.
The only solution to this issue is research. Research your rates, research other people’s rates, and connect with fellow freelancers who will be more than happy to assist you in the process.
Examples of writing prices
As mentioned, writing services will be required for a range of different projects, but here’s a rough baseline for you to start calculating your rates:
- The LeaveWorkBehind example for bloggers:
- Entry Level writers may charge .03-.10 per word, resulting in up to $100/hour.
- Intermediate writers may charge .11-.25 per word, resulting in up to $250/hour.
- Experienced writers may charge .26-.50 per word, resulting in up to $500/hour.
- In Demand Experts will charge at least .50 per word and above, resulting in at least $500/hour and sometimes double or triple that amount.
- Experts with around 10 years of experience may charge $1+ per word.
- Junior Copywriters may charge around £250 per day
- Senior Copywriters commonly charge £800-£2,000+ per day
- Freelance game writers:
- Beginner game writers can charge around $25/hour
- Experienced game writers will charge at least double that, with the top tier sitting at around $120/hour.
- However, longer, larger projects are hard to predict on a strict timeline and will require a day rate or a project-based fee instead.
- Screenwriters are among the most expensive of the bunch, with $2,500-$3,000 being the norm for feature-length screenplays, and experienced professionals charging way more than that.
Image credit: Something Big
There’s a range of useful resources for freelance writers who are just starting out. There are way too many platforms out there offering jobs, and of course Creativepool is one of the best ;) we have studiogigs for certified freelancers and full-time or part-time jobs for our regular members too.
Here are some other links and resources for you:
- On Reddit, r/freelanceWriters is an excellent community for all the masters of the craft out there.
- US-based freelancers can refer to the Writers’ Guild of America (East and West) to gain some support and resources.
- UK-based freelancers will have the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, offering resources for all members and starting freelancers.
Both the associations above are known for protecting the rights of writers across the world, and so a membership with them is much recommended. The Writers’ Guild of America is especially well-known for the 2007-2008 strike, which saw 12,000 screenwriters protest for fairer prices when working with larger film studios.
I hope this guide was useful and will get you on the right track to start charging for your projects straight away. Feel free to share your own experience with freelance writing rates in the comments section and let us know if there’s anything we missed!