*How much do (should) freelance writers
*How much do (should) freelance writers charge?*
Getting to grips with #writing for the web presents those new to copywriting with a huge learning curve.
The rules seem to change daily, everyone’s offering good advice (whether you ask for it or not) and none of the jobs on the global freelance sites seem to match the topics you know about.
In addition, clients hardly ever want to pay more than…
[A Copywriter’s Toolbox] How much does a freelance writer charge for quality copy?
My first answer to the oft-asked question “How much do you charge as a
freelance writer?” is always: not enough. That’s subjective to your
standpoint, of course.
However, one look at the EFA Table of Editorial Rates is often enough to
convince a client that I’m not over-charging them.
The problem is, every market has its parameters: the maximum it, or a
client’s budget, will bear. Likewise its troughs, low points when you
should walk away. Or should you?
That’s we’re going to look at, today. Are there times when you should take
a job, even if the rate falls below a perceived “minimum wage” that you,
the industry or acceptable society has set?
Writing as a pastime is not the same as freelance writing full time
Whilst we dream of being the next Stephen King or JK Rowling, the truth is
we have to be sensible about the rate we charge.
Okay. Let’s disappoint the aspiring freelance writer yet further. Their
rate, at least as a fledgling writer without portfolio and few contacts, is
rarely up to them at all.
Many would-be writers happen upon the craft not in a moment of divine
vocation, but as a way to make a little extra whilst holding down a full
time job. Or when they’re between jobs and every little extra helps.
When copywriting isn’t the sole financier of your standard of living, it
can lead to rosy-coloured-glass syndrome.
As a bit of pocket money, you perhaps don’t mind earning less than your
employed hourly rate. But, Be Warned!
That mindset can cast a hue over what your writing’s worth, at least
compared to the perceived value a full time writer places on their copy.
If you’re earning a full time wage, winning a job on a freelance site (or
getting a recommendation by your aunt to write a piece in the parish
newsletter) is all well and good.
There’s often plenty of time to complete the task. The pay isn’t always
great so clients don’t (always) harass you for the finished product. And
when payday comes, your fees get added to the holiday fund or put
towards ‘that treat’. Everyone’s a winner.
The game-changer is when you begin writing in a professional capacity. It’s
your only income and your clients have deadlines.
The upping in tempo, the pressure of the deadline and the realisation that
you’ve got to write otherwise there’s no Becks in the fridge this summer
drains the pinkiness from those glasses.
With the rose-frosted hue melted, you see the world of freelance writing in
its own garish, naked light for the first time.
Look away now if you’re easily frightened.
Global freelance sites are tremendously good value - for the client
There’s no subtle way of pointing it:
Unless you get lucky, you must build up a
happy clients) before commanding a liveable
the global freelance sites are where you’re hoping to earn your living. .
Fortunate may be shining upon you and your client finds you in the right
place at the right time. I put myself in this category, although my good
lady insists I positioned myself to be so fortuitous.
Alternatively, you may have graduated with a degree that opens doors. This
could be to an established magazine, journal or other recognised publishing
It’s usual for blue chip companies to demand at least some letters after
the names of their authors. Not debtors, as is the case with some lower end
The truth, though, for most writers is that they have to bid on jobs as a
freelancer to secure their first projects.
If you can land plumb on your feet at a magazine, you may command the
princely sum of £5.00/100 words. The higher-end the publication, the better
prospects you have of pushing that to £10.00 or £12.50/100 words.
As a fledgling freelancer, that’s living in the lap of luxury. Now compare
that to the cut-throat global freelancing sites where you’re up against
freelancers from countries whose cost of living is only fractions of that
in the UK.
Sit down and grab something stiff to drink if you’ve not yet seen the
delights on offer on global freelance sites like oDesk, freelancer.com,
People Per Hour, Fiverr and Elance.
Many clients - the freelancers’ paymaster - have a set prices for the jobs
they offer. Whilst this is not globally the case, jobs regularly appear on
digital freelance sites at a rate of $1 or $2 per 500 words.
It’s worth pointing out that the majority of such global sites operate with
the US dollar as their one and only currency. Take away the agency’s fees
and the forex rate and you’re taking even less home.
So, yes, you’ve read that correctly: $0.40/100 words is often the going
rate. And that’s before deductions.
Use your proposal - add value to up your rate
So, let’s break down what it takes to create a semantically sound article
in today’s world of search. And remember, we’re talking about writing for
clients who you may want to come back and order from you again. The
easiest, most cost-effective way to grow your business is from your
existing customer base, right? Darn tootin’!
For a start, someone offering to pay $2/500 words doesn’t even understand
thehat will help
Google rank a web page. You know when we said walk away? This is the bottom
of the trough.
A unique, quality, 700-word article can take up to an hour alone to:
absorb the raw data;
re-draft the piece in your head;
extract the bullet points you’ll use as headers;
re-write and repurpose the content into a legible article that adds value;
let it rest before you go back to edit it.
If you’re anything like me, the editing process will involve data
extraction. If you’re hoping to rank a client’s content, why wouldn’t you
be interested in seeing your assignment through the eyes of a search
engine? Yes, it adds time, thus cost.
But you want to be paid more. The client wants great value. Explain your
process to them in your proposal, justify your rate and you see if they
don’t snap your hand off!
Hang on; I feel an incoming soapbox moment: too many websites that talk
about copy and blogging are telling people to write for the click-thru.
Make your headline emotive.
I just want to temper that - not pish it! altogether. If you’re writing for
the social click-thru then, yes, you do want your headline to stand out
from the crowd. But what about SERPs ?
Think about this for a minute. When you search Google, the main traffic
source for any quality website, what type of headlines do you see? Do you
see headlines that tug at your heart strings? Or do you see headlines that
answer your question?
I’ll leave that thought with you, the next time you’re beating yourself
about a headline. If you want the social click-thru, make your headline
dramatic. If you’re good enough to write for organic search, write a
headline that both describes your article succinctly and the question
you’re looking to answer.
[gets down off soapbox]
Should I accept low-paying jobs?
You can see in an instant that the life of a freelance writer begins far
from the six- and seven-figure sums that best-sellers command for one small
book. Or even renowned copywriters themselves earn in a year. But that
doesn’t mean you won’t or can’t get there.
There will be contracts on freelance sites that are worth doing. Some of
the more technical writing projects, niche markets, white and academic
papers and articles for professional services can offer the aforementioned
magazine rates and more.
The harsh reality is that without a portfolio to back up your job proposal,
you’ll be lucky to even get a response from the client.
You have to decide whether to accept a few lower paying jobs to lay the
platform from which you launch your career. If you do, don’t make a habit
of it. Explain up front why you’re offering to complete their project at
such a competitive rate. Otherwise, they’ll expect that rate forever.
Or, you could sit there twiddling your thumbs waiting for the higher paying
jobs to come. Target your proposals to each of the higher paying jobs and
hope they’re willing to take a chance.
There is no right or wrong answer. Some people will harangue me for that,
but they’ve just forgot what it’s like to be sat there waiting for
responses with no ‘credits’ left to bid on more jobs.
What to do next
My advice to anyone looking to start a career in freelance writing is get
some experience before ditching the day job. But try to charge the rate
you’d expect if you writing was your only source of income!
uncertain future for man
If that snippet of genius has come too late and you’re sat there waiting
for responses from clients, get writing. Today.
Start your own blog. Start timing your words/per hour output. Not just
writing, but editing it, too.
Step out of your comfort zone. Not every project will be on a topic in
which you’re authoritative. Or even familiar. However, do write down those
subjects in which you are savvy. By knowing and practising them, you can
tailor your job search and subsequent proposals to match your specialities.
In a semantic world, with authority counting for so much, “Write what you
know” can’t be overstated enough.
But also, be prepared. It can be demeaning, working ten, twelve hours a day
for little more than a take-away meal and a six-pack if that’s the way you
go. But boy, you’ll have earned it, if that’s what you choose to spend your
Your reputation will grow. You will become faster and more adept at
creating and editing articles. That lifestyle you always hoped writing
could deliver is achievable and worth the sacrifice at the outset.
But you have to start. Somewhere. Every journey begins with a single step.
Just decide if it’s a small step you want to take or stride out like John
Once you get to the professional stage, the whole thing flips. Rather than
clients tell you what they’re willing to pay, you can choose the
best-paying jobs or tell the client what you’re willing to work for.
It’s not easy. It does require talent, doggedness and a very thick skin.
But learning perseverance, adopting a willingness to learn and practising
consistency will get you there.
As the Internet becomes more dependent on quality content, the need for
capable writers is only going to increase. So I ask you this: “How much can
freelance writers earn?”
The answer is very much down to your attitude. Good luck.
image credits, all from freedigitalphotos[dot]net:
> “Pink Sunglasses” by Teeratas,
> “Shocked Emotiguy” by farconville
> “Future Unknown Represents Unclear Uncertainty And Man” by Stuart Miles