Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Setting Rates You Can Live With

It's a classic struggle – how should you set the rates for your freelance writing services? If you are just getting started as a freelance writer, trying to figure out what to charge can become a real pain. You worry about overcharging and having prospects pass you over for writers charging more modest prices. But at the same time, you're counting on freelance writing to pay the bills. This is no time to throw caution to the wind and start pulling rates out of a hat.

Research, research, research
If you start networking with other writers on forums, egroups and other social networking groups, you will begin to see a wide range of what writers are charging for their services. Many writers don't feel all that comfortable discussing their rates. In my case, some of the services I provide clients depend on a variety of factors. Will I need to develop the project from scratch, or is the research involved minimal? I charge a flat rate for some services, but for others it's just not that easy to determine without discussing the project indepth first.

Bidding sites versus getting clients on your own
I'm not going to get into a huge discussion about whether or not freelance writers should utilize bidding sites or not. Some writers swear these sites provide them with a steady income, while other writers seem to have more luck seeking out clients on their own. Personally I fall into the second category, but regardless of which method you prefer to build your business, you have to insist on getting fair rates for your services.

How do you know what to charge?
When I first started working as a freelance writer, I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to charge for projects. Most of the time I priced my services too low considering the work involved. I quickly realized I needed some help in this area. Two things helped me: I joined a freelance writer's Yahoo egroup, and I used the rate sheet that comes in each issue of Writer's Market as a pricing guide. The thing I like about the rate sheet is it gives you a clear point of reference for setting low, average and high rates for specific writing projects. If I come across a project not listed in Writer's Market, I consult with my egroup for feedback. We are dedicated to keeping one another from winding up as "starving artists."

Should you raise your rates?
I participated in a teleseminar a month ago that discussed setting rates as a small business. The speaker advised that businesses initiate regular rate increases to keep up with economic changes. A lot of freelance writers hesitate to raise their rates, fearing that they might price themselves out of work. This is an issue every small business must deal with at some point. But first you have to know what you need in terms of monthly (and yearly) income to survive.

This requires you to list your expenses and start crunching some numbers. List your expenses. The totaled amount is what you need to make to get there. This is an important part of establishing rates that will help you reach your monthly financial goal. Target the right market that is willing pay for your skills, and keep marketing your services. The more you work as a writer, the easier it will get to set rates both you and your clients can live with.


Lindsay said...

I think it's pretty common for people to price themselves way too low when they're starting out. I remember designing a whole website for a guy for $100 when I was in school. Eep.

One thing for anyone who is self-employed to remember is that you're paying more for taxes and you have to pay for your own health/dental insurance etc, so you really do need to price your rates accordingly.

Avid Writer said...

Hi lindsay,

Those are VERY good points - when you set your rates, you MUST consider all of the things you are now financially responsible for providing. That's what put things into perspective for me!

Valencia said...

The pricing sheet listed in Writer's Market is an excellent resource. I used to submit low quotes. But I took a chance and quoted a client triple my usual rate. He accepted, and that was the turning point for me...I gave myself a pay raise.

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