Put The Right Price Tag On Your Talent

It’s always a little daunting when new clients ask you what you charge.

Many writers like to stick with a consistent hourly rate or word rate, but after the lean times of the past few years, some are afraid to be too rigid, for fear of pricing themselves out of needed gigs.

One solution, before giving a quote, is to check in with a few trusted writing buddies to see what rates they’re charging for freelance writing. This can be helpful if you’re branching out into a new kind of work–say, from magazine editing to book editing–or if you’re tiptoeing into serving a new industry, like the nonprofit sector.

But if you don’t feel comfortable talking money with friends, there are a couple of good resources I know. I joined the American Society of Journalists and Authors a few years back, and I’ve found their Paycheck Reports helpful in negotiating. Thanks to information I got from them, I more than covered the cost of my membership for many years to come.

It’s worth noting that in today’s market, evaluating projects based on profitability, rather than word rate, is very important. You may get paid $2.50 a word for an article — but actually lose money on the job because the article is being edited by a group of editors who all disagree on the focus and send you a list of 30 queries, some of which make no sense. At the same time, it’s possible to turn a nice profit on a blog post for which the pay is 30 cents a word or 50 cents a word, if the editor is well-focused. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the range of rates that a client pays and then to try to negotiate one at the higher end of the range.

I also came across the results of a valuable survey by the Editorial Freelancers Association that mirrored what I’m seeing and hearing in the marketplace.

For instance, it says that writers should expect to be paid between 50 cents and $2 a word, that project managers should be paid $40 to $90 an hour, and that proofreaders should be paid $30-$35 an hour.

The rates for writing and line editing seemed slightly low for markets like New York, where I would add about 25%, but given that this is a national group, that’s not surprising. (We should all thank this group for making this useful information available to the writing community for free! Here’s an e-mail where you can do so: office@the-efa.org).

Have you found good sources of information on what to charge for your work? We’d love to hear about them.

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