Freelance writing is one of the most practical and realistic ways to make money without relying on a traditional job. The demand for capable writers is high, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon considering the vast amount of content published online every day.
One of the biggest hurdles when getting started as a freelance writer is knowing how much to charge. It’s a complicated topic, but this article will show you how to set your rates for maximum income.
Here’s an overview of the key takeaways that we’ll cover in more detail throughout the article.
- Freelance writing rates vary widely. Clients have access to writers of all skill levels from around the world, which means freelance writing services are available at virtually every price point.
- Rates are not always linked to skill and experience. While factors like topic area expertise and experience can positively impact your earning potential, many freelance writers earn premium rates as beginners, while many experienced writers bring in less than they could. To ensure you’re getting an optimal rate, you need to have a well-thought-out pricing strategy.
- Time tracking is a key aspect of a good pricing strategy. You need to have a solid understanding of how fast you can work — including the research, outlining and writing.
- There are three different pricing models: per word, per hour and per project. They all have pros and cons, and choosing the right one depends on your skill, experience and goals.
- Data on freelance writing rates is unreliable. Sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rely largely on data from traditional sources, such as print media, that do not accurately reflect the broader freelance marketplace.
Although rates vary from one freelancer to another and from one project to the next, we know you’re looking for more specific guidance. Here are some per-project rates for five of the most common project types based on the data cited throughout this article, as well as our team’s experience both working as and hiring freelance writers.
We’re defining the three categories of writers as follows:
- Beginner: You’ve got writing skills but you’re new to freelance writing with less than a year of experience and fewer than 10 bylines or projects in your portfolio.
- Intermediate: You have 1-3 years of consistent experience as a freelance writer and you have 10 or more bylines or projects in your portfolio to demonstrate your quality of work.
- Expert: You’ve been working as a freelance writer for 3+ years, have extensive knowledge in your subject area, are recognized within your niche or industry, and have a strong track record with a portfolio that proves your expertise.
|$50 – $100
|$150 – $500
|$100 – $250
|$300 – $1,000
|$250 – $600
|$100 – $300
|$500 – $1,500
|$250 – $500
|$1,000 – $3,000
|$600 – $2,000
|$300 – $1,000+
|$1,500 – $3,000+
|$500 – $1,000+
|$3,000 – $5,000+
|$2,000 – $4,000+
Standard Freelance Writing Rates
There is some existing data that’s been used to determine how much freelance writers make, such as this study by the Editorial Freelancers Association and this study by freelance writer Ashley R. Cummings.
While the insights provided by these studies are helpful, we don’t believe the results are representative of the freelance writing landscape as a whole. These studies rely on self-reported data, and the people who participated are mostly established professionals with significant experience. As a new freelancer writer, this information is only moderately helpful.
For example, Cummings’ study suggests that the average project price for a blog post is $550. But the survey data comes from “successful freelance writers,” which indicates that beginners are not represented in the sample.
The study conducted by EFA found the median hourly rate for writers to be $41 to $70, depending on the type of project. Those numbers may be accurate for established pros, but not for beginners.
When you’re just getting started and gaining experience, you can’t expect to charge the same rates as professionals who are well established in their careers.
According to data from Upwork, most freelance writers charge somewhere between $15 and $40 per hour on the site.
This is some of the most helpful data available for newbies because freelancers of all skill levels and experience use Upwork. As the data indicates, there are plenty of freelancers charging more or less than the listed range, but they’re the outliers. Charging rates somewhere in this range will put you in line with the majority of freelance writers.
The truth about freelance writing rates is that they vary wildly. Clients looking for freelance writers can find options in almost any price range imaginable.
In some cases, the variance in price is understandable. For example, a freelancer living in San Francisco is likely to charge more than a freelancer living in the Philippines due to cost of living differences. However, even aside from these factors, the rates of freelance writers can vary significantly from one to the next.
In some cases, the quality of work or the level of experience/expertise accounts for the difference in price, but that’s not always the case either. Price isn’t always indicative of the quality of work.
We’ll take a look at reasons why rates vary, a general range of standard rates, and what you need to consider when setting your own rates.
Here are a few important points to keep in mind:
- Comparing rates for traditional media (like newspapers and magazines) and new media (like blogs and online publications) is difficult. They operate on totally different business models.
- In almost all cases, you’ll earn more money freelancing for new media clients than traditional media outlets.
- The exception to this rule is top-tier writers publishing in elite outlets, who can command as much as $1 per word or more.
Unless you’re one of those top-tier writers, you’re probably better off targeting online publications. Although the information in this article will be relevant for freelance writers of all types, it’s written mostly with new media (like blogs) in mind.
Why Freelance Writing Rates Vary
Now that we’ve established the fact that freelance writing rates are all over the place, let’s take a look at the causes of these huge fluctuations.
Reason 1: Because Different Clients Get Different Value Out of the Work You Produce
Clients aren’t necessarily looking at your rate and evaluating whether it’s fair for the work you provide. Instead, they’re more focused on the value your work brings to their business.
The value for the client varies drastically from one client to the next, even if we’re talking about two different clients in the same niche and with similar projects.
For example, an online publication that generates millions of dollars per year may be willing to pay you $500 to write an article, because they’ll easily generate a profit as a result of your work. But a smaller publication may only be willing to pay $200 for the same article, because they don’t have enough traffic — and thus won’t be able to generate enough revenue — to justify paying more.
The work is the same, but the two clients get different values from that work.
Reason #2. Because Clients Don’t Know How Much They Should Pay
The lack of any real standard in the industry leads to confusion and inconsistent rates. If you think it’s difficult to determine how much you should charge, clients likely feel the same way about knowing how much to pay.
Beyond this, think about the type of client you’ll be working with. A website or blog owner may not have any prior experience in publishing. They may not even have a friend or family member who gets paid to write. So they often don’t know how much writers make or how much outlets pay for content.
This can result in a willingness to pay rates that are both well below and well above average.
You’ll see this in practice every day on freelance marketplaces like Upwork, where some writers get paid five cents per word while others command 40 or 50 cents per word — way more than many professional journalists and authors make.
Related reading: How to apply for freelance writing jobs on Upwork.
Reason #3. Because Clients’ Businesses are at all Stages of Growth and Development
In general, newer and smaller businesses aren’t able or willing to pay rates as high as larger, well-established businesses. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but smaller businesses tend to hire lower-priced freelance writers because they’re more price-sensitive.
Most freelance writers (especially when they’re starting out) work with clients at all stages of business development — from brand new bloggers who have yet to make a penny from their website to major corporations who are outsourcing projects. There is no synergy between what these two entities are willing to pay for your work.
How Much You Should Charge (and Why You Shouldn’t List Your Rates)
One of the questions you may have is, “Should I list my rates on my website?” We don’t recommend listing prices or rates publicly because there are many factors that should be considered, and charging the same rates to every client and for every project is not ideal.
If you bill the same rate for each project, you’ll wind up overcharging or undercharging very frequently. Instead, we recommend pricing your work based on the needs of the specific project (this is true whether you’re charging per project or per word). Additionally, listing your rates publicly could discourage some clients from reaching out to you, and you may never get a chance to sell them on why they should hire you.
Consider the following questions when setting your freelance writing rates for a specific project:
- Are you getting a byline? Ghostwritten projects (published under someone else’s name) generally come at higher rates. But when you’re getting a byline, the article helps to increase your name recognition; it may lead to more work, and you can include the work in your portfolio. If you’re not getting those benefits, you may want to charge more.
- Are there indirect benefits to working on the project? If the project would be helpful for you in some way, like building your authority in a niche that you want to specialize in, you may be willing to charge a lower rate.
- How much research will be involved? Unless you’re charging per hour, you must consider the amount of research needed to write the article. You might be able to write a typical 1,000-word article in two hours, but a more complicated article might involve another two hours of research. This needs to be considered in your pricing.
- Are there any additional requirements from the client? If you’re writing for blogs or online publications, the requirements will vary by client. One client may ask for the article in Word or Google Docs format. Another client may require you to enter the article into WordPress, format it, include links, include images and more. These types of requirements will add significant time to the project.
- What are the potential complications? Some clients are easier to work for than others. Do you see any potential problems that would slow your work down or cause frustrations?
- What can the client afford to pay? Bigger companies tend to have bigger budgets than small businesses or startups. Think about your client and what they’re likely to be able to afford. If you’re working for a big client, don’t be afraid to increase your rates a bit as the rates you charge small businesses may be well below what they’re willing to pay.
- Is it an ongoing project? This factor is often overlooked when freelance writing rates are discussed, but it’s something that should be considered. Recurring clients are ideal because you won’t need to dedicate time to look for more work. If a client approaches you about a one-off project, it makes sense to charge a higher rate than what you would charge for a comparable project with an ongoing client.
Charge What Clients Are Willing to Pay
As a freelancer, you’re able to make whatever your clients are willing to pay. If you set your rates based on the data above and you’ve got more clients than you can handle, raise your rates. Likewise, you may need to lower your rates if you’re not able to find clients who will pay what you’re asking.
Freelance Writing Pricing Models
There are a few different pricing models used by freelance writers (which is part of the reason why it’s challenging to compare prices and find a standard within the industry). You’ll have the option to choose the pricing model that works best for you, but you may have clients who prefer to use a different pricing model. If you want to work with those clients, you may need to adjust. As a result, it’s possible that you’ll use different pricing models with different clients.
Price Per Hour
Charging per hour is probably the simplest option for the freelance writer. You determine how much you want to make per hour and your rate is straightforward. (Don’t forget to account for your business expenses. What you charge a client per hour is not the equivalent to what you would be making as an employee with the same hourly rate.)
- Hourly pricing protects you from being underpaid. With the other pricing models, you may wind up being underpaid if a project takes longer than expected. But with hourly pricing, you’ll be compensated if a project requires more of your time.
- It provides you with clarity. You know exactly how much you’re making per hour, and you can calculate how much you’ll make per month or year based on the number of hours worked.
- It doesn’t require time to create proposals or estimates. When you start a project, you don’t need to try and guess how much time it will take you to complete.
- It’s hard for clients to know how much they’ll owe you. In most cases, the client will have no idea how long it will take you to complete a project.
- Hourly pricing can lead to unpleasant surprises for the client. If the project requires more hours than the client was expecting, they may be surprised to learn how much they owe you, and you may lose the client.
- High hourly rates may be a turn-off for clients. The client may feel like $100 per hour is too high for a freelance writer. But the same client may be happy to pay $500 for a project that takes you five hours of work. Seeing the price as an hourly rate can be more shocking to clients when the rate is higher than they would expect.
Price Per Word
Many freelance writers charge per written word. When you’re first getting started, it may take some time to get used to this because you may not have any idea how many words you can write per hour or per day. However, this is a common pricing model, especially with web-based content written for websites and blogs.
- Charging per word provides more clarity to clients than hourly rates. If the client wants a 2,000-word article, they know exactly how much they’ll owe you based on your rate per word.
- It rewards efficiency. If you’re a fast writer, you can earn more.
- It “hides” your hourly rate from clients. The client doesn’t know how long it takes you to complete a project, so you may be able to charge more than you would be able to charge with an hourly rate.
- Each project has different requirements. Some will require much more time for research, while other articles can be written with minimal research. If you’re charging the same rate per word, your earnings per hour of work can vary significantly from one project to the next.
- It can lead to bloat. Charging per word incentivizes you to write more words, which doesn’t always produce the best end result. Clients may provide caps or ranges to help control this.
Price Per Project
Another option is to charge a flat rate for the project. The client will be charged the flat rate regardless of how many hours it takes you to complete or the exact number of words written.
- Project-based pricing provides maximum clarity for clients. The client knows exactly what they’ll owe and what they’ll get. No surprises.
- Charging per project may allow you to earn more. The client doesn’t know how many hours you’ll work on a project, and the project price may sound much better to the client than the equivalent hourly rate.
- Efficiency is rewarded. If you work faster or more efficiently, you’ll make more per hour.
- It’s more flexible than charging per word. If a project needs extra research or has other requirements set by the client, you can easily account for these factors in your pricing.
- It’s the best way to scale your business. You can outsource parts of the project and allow yourself to take on more projects.
- Not all projects are the same. You could charge a flat rate of $250 per article, but the requirements and time commitments will vary from one article to the next. As a result, charging the same flat rate for every project rarely works.
- You’ll need to provide a quote for each project. Since each project is different, you’ll need to estimate the amount of time each project will take and provide the client with a price. This takes time away from your writing and you could dedicate a lot of time to people who never become clients.
- It’s possible that you could undercharge. If you underestimate how much time you’ll need to spend on a project, you may wind up making less than you’d like per hour.
If you’re charging per word or per project, it’s helpful to still consider your hourly rate. For example, if you estimate a project will take five hours to complete and you want to earn $50 per hour, your price for the project should be at least $250.
You should also track the time you spend on each project so you can calculate how much you made per hour. This data will be helpful in the future as you determine rates.
Factors That Influence Freelance Writing Rates
Here are the biggest factors that determine the price you’re able to command. Potential clients will be evaluating you in these areas, so if you want to maximize your income, these are the things you can work on.
The work you’ve done in the past will be one of the biggest factors that determines not only what you should charge, but also what clients will be willing to pay. The more experience you have and the better experience you have, the more you’ll be able to command.
If your portfolio includes work for high-profile publications or clients, the perceived value of your work will be higher. Freelance writers just getting started will need to build up their portfolio. This is one of the biggest reasons why experienced freelance writers are able to charge considerably more than beginners.
Here are some tips for creating a great freelance portfolio.
Experience and Expertise In the Niche
Past work for clients in the same industry as your current or future clients will be especially valuable. You may have excellent experience for high-profile clients in your portfolio, but that experience may not be of much value to clients in a totally separate niche or industry. They may not recognize the names of major publications in other industries.
Experience With the Type of Writing Requested
There are many different types of writing and each one has its own unique characteristics. Your level of experience with the type of writing will influence how much you’re able to charge. For example, copywriting for sales letters and sales pages is a highly lucrative skill. A writer with two years of experience writing sales copy is likely to be able to charge more for sales copy projects than a writer who has four years of experience writing blog posts, but virtually no experience with sales copy.
Related reading: How to become a copywriter.
Specializations and Skills
Some freelance writers take a general approach and will write about any topic based on the needs of the client. Other freelancers take a more specialized approach and only pursue work within a specific industry or niche. Specialized writers are almost always able to charge more than general writers who cover anything.
New freelancers are often hesitant to choose a niche because they feel like they’ll be locked in. They worry that there isn’t enough work to earn a living writing in just one niche or industry. But look at it from a client’s perspective: if the client needs to hire a writer for a personal finance website, are they more likely to hire a freelancer who specializes in finance or a general freelancer who knows nothing more about personal finance than the average person? Specializing helps you land more clients and charge higher rates.
Certain skills and qualifications allow freelance writers to charge drastically higher rates. For example, a writer with tax expertise (like a CPA) might be able to demand exponentially more than another personal finance writer without the tax specialization. The same thing applies for medical professionals and other fields where a degree or certification carries a lot of weight in determining qualifications.
For example, freelancing writing can be one of the best side jobs for nurses, because their combination of knowledge and credentials can lead to well-above-average earnings.
Feedback, References and Social Proof
One of the best ways to justify higher rates is to have solid references or recommendations from past clients. If you have a track record of success and statements supporting that from your clients, others are more likely to hire you.
When it comes to social proof, it’s more about perceived expertise than actual expertise. If you have your own blog in the niche and people recognize you and your name, you may be able to charge more as a freelance writer. The higher rate isn’t necessarily justified by your experience or actual expertise, but more so because people view you as an expert.
Freelance Writing Rate FAQ
There’s no need to charge every client the same rate. While this may seem unfair at first, the truth is that no two projects are the same. If you charge every client the same rate, you may be significantly overcharging or undercharging certain clients based on the requirements of the project or the work involved.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much you can earn per hour. Projects that will take more of your time should cost more for the client. Even if you’re charging per word or per project, it’s helpful to estimate the number of hours you’ll need to dedicate to the project and base your price on what you want to earn per hour of work.
If the demand for your services at your current rates are too high to handle, it’s time to consider raising your rates. If you have to turn away clients because you don’t have time for their projects, it’s likely that you could charge more.
Summary: Setting the Right Freelance Writing Rate
While freelance writing rates vary significantly, it’s possible to determine your own rates by considering the factors covered here. Keep in mind that you can always adjust your rates based on the demand for your services and your ability to secure clients. There’s no reason to let indecision about rates prevent you from getting started. Start by charging what you’ve determined to be appropriate, and adjust it later if needed.