How Much Should I Charge for Freelance Work?

the bookish brand with rachel werner

A complex question — and hands-down the one I have been asked most often as a teaching artist so far. Do know that any answer myself or any other creative professional will provide is highly subjective. Thus, the following are three approaches to estimating, as well as negotiating, pay rates as a writer-for-hire.

Target Monthly Income
Calculate how much money you made in the first quarter of 2024 (January, February, and March. Then add those together. Use this number as your revenue year to date (RYTD) so far. Now it’s time for more math:

  1. Jan + Feb + March = RYTD
  2. Divide RYTD by three. 
  3. RYTD/3 = Average monthly revenue (AMR)
  4. Now multiply that number by 12. 
  5. AMR x 12 = Projected Revenue (for 2024)

Once you have figured out the projected revenue (PR), this number can be used in several ways. For example, if you are a freelancer who provides ghostwriting, copywriting or editing services, think about how many clients you ideally would like to have for the remainder of this year. Divide that number by the PR you calculated. Use that number to approximate how much to charge each client for the rest of this year; how many clients you need to have to meet a specific monthly income goal; or to decide how much to increase your rates by if you want to significantly increase your PR.

Hourly Fees
This is probably one of the most contentious pay models you will come across. But it is actually the one I have been using for the majority of my professional writing career. What I like about having a set hourly fee is that it is straight-forward, plus easy for all parties involved to understand “the numbers.” When I am working on content creation for clients, I currently charge (on average) $100/hr. And I am fully transparent with every single one that this is on the “higher side” of the spectrum. There are certainly other writers they could work with that would cost less — and most likely, still do a decent job on whatever project a brand/org/publisher/solo client is considering hiring me for. However, my reputation speaks for itself. 99% of my copywriting and content development has come via “word of mouth” recommendations. I do very little to promote my services or to solicit more work of this nature. Basically, I charge what I charge because my time is the most valuable commodity I have in terms of my professional life. Also, because I know I’m worth it. 

Plus, this pay structure allows me to minimize (or avoid altogether being) asked to have impromptu meetings — or tasks suddenly being added to my plate that were not initially discussed or agreed upon. Similar to many attorneys, I bill for every email and phone call, in addition to handling any side projects that suddenly get shuffled my way mid-contract.

Pre-set Package(s)
If you’re thinking of “scaling your freelance biz” at some point by eventually hiring a team and/or expanding the services you offer to include photography, videography, social media content, graphic design etc., this option may give you the greatest flexibility in the clients you work with and for how long. In addition, if you only have “one offer” available, your focus and energy in terms of building your writing business (or side gig) is streamlined. This can make future scalability easier too.

One final ‘insider tip’ is to be aware of how you are feeling holistically when reviewing contracts and/or sorting out when to schedule the next round of negotiation meetings. It’s wise to avoid winding up in a situation where you will need to decide whether or not to accept the proposed terms and conditions when you are hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired. In other words, take these physical and physiological symptoms as a cue to H.A.L.T, reflect and reset before signing on the dotted line.