Many questions plague new freelance writers. One of the most confusing is how to price your freelance content services. Pricing freelance writing varies from pricing by the word to the hour, the page, or the project.
“How much should I charge?“
While the obvious answer is to charge what your market will bear, when you‘re new to freelancing, it‘s hard to know what that number is. Two resources I‘ve found helpful in determining my prices are the US Department of Labor‘s Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) and Neil Tortorella‘s simple spreadsheet rate calculator (just $2.50 USD).
Use the OES link to learn what others in your field earn. The OES search options include national, state and metropolitan estimates as well as industry-specific wage estimates. Use the mean figure for your area of expertise as a starting point in determining your prices. The median wage is a good place to begin since it puts you in the middle of your market instead of either the bottom or the top.
Pricing by the Word
Some freelance copywriters price by the word, but I‘ve found that when doing so, your coverage of your clients‘ topics can be limited by word count. Additionally, when you‘re paid by the word, who pays for the research you do on each topic? Moreover, it's pretty hard to estimate how many words you will be contracted to write over the course of a year.
The Hourly Model
Calculating prices based on an hourly model is a good start. An hourly model for freelance pricing lets you determine what you need to succeed and helps you decide what you need to do to get there. It gives you the freedom you need to research and write the most compelling copy you can deliver. You also eliminate price haggling when you deliver 495 or 510 words of content instead of the ordered 500.
Download Tortorella‘s rate calculator to determine what hourly wage you need to have a satisfying freelance business! This nifty spreadsheet has all the bases covered. Start by multiplying the median hourly rate (that you found at the OES) by the number of hours you intend to work each week. Then, all you need do is fill in the blanks with your estimated expenses, days off (sick days and holidays), and the profit percentage you‘d like to see at the end of the year.
The spreadsheet does the rest and shows you how many billable hours you‘ll need to chalk up each week to meet your business goals. You‘ll not only know how many hours you‘ll need to work on freelance projects to earn your desired wage, but you‘ll also have written a draft of a budget for your business.
Charge by the Page
Although you can estimate the price of your pages by how many hours they will take to write, as you become more experienced, that time will shrink. Why would you charge less tomorrow for something you can deliver quicker than today?
Furthermore, charging only for writing a page doesn't take research and planning time into account. That's fine when your client provides the information you need, but often you will find that even the best information needs additions, some fact checking, and every web content design needs planning.
How long (word count) is a page on the web, anyway? It stands to reason that a page of 100 words will cost less than a page of 1000 words.How do you calculate a fair price per page without considering word count?
You don't. The industry standard for a page size is 350 words. Keeping that in mind, you can estimate page cost by full page, half page, quarter page, etc. If your client orders an article of 700 words, you simply break that page price into your price for two pages. Additionally you will be able to add a time estimate for research and planning into one price per page.
Put It All Into a Project
If you are contracted to write a single press release or article, you now have all the tools you need to quote a fair price to your potential client. However, more often you'll find that a client needs several pages of content for a website. Pricing freelance by the page lets you be specific to your client's requirements and the costs those requirements will incur.