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Kim Wilson
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Hamilton, NJ 08610

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Freelance Rates: What Do I Charge?
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications and Associates

"What do I charge?" is a question commercial freelance writers frequently ask themselves when setting fees for their services. It's a question that often creates confusion and frustration — and there's no answer to. For this reason, freelance writers usually have no idea what to charge for their services. In fact, we often under price our services, resulting in pay that is far below than what we ought to be getting paid.

The field of commercial freelance writing contains a lot of mixed theories as to what we ought to be charging, since there are neither fixed guidelines, restrictions nor standards to setting fees. We have only scattered pieces of information that hints about what we should be charging. Because of the freedom in setting your own fees, it's common to hear about one freelance writer getting paid $850 to write a brochure, and another freelancer getting paid $400 to write a similar brochure. Why does one freelancer get paid higher than the other?

There can be an assortment of factors involved such as:

• Level of experience. A freelancer who has more experience, obviously, is in the position to charge more. A beginner might not have the clout or the samples to command higher pay or to attract the type of clients that would pay the big bucks.

• Type of industry. Corporations pay writers higher than most other industries. The difference in pay between writing a brochure for a corporation and a small business can be the difference of hundreds of dollars.

• What others are charging; i.e. your competition. Understanding what businesses are willing to pay you and what others are charging can help you price your services competitively.

• Financial need. Of course, if you're desperate to get work, you may be persuaded to decrease your fees in order to secure a project. On the other hand, if you're turning clients away due to an overabundance of work, you'll be inclined to charge much higher for your time.

• Type of work involved. Not every project or assignment is the same. Using the example of the brochure, one freelancer may have been required to do additional research or was required to attend more meetings (which means more billable hours and, therefore, higher pay), while the other freelancer may have had the information already at hand to write the brochure in less time.

• Type of economic conditions. Economic conditions can affect what businesses are willing to pay you and how much work is available in your area.

What Others Are Charging -- The Big Secret
Pssstt! Come here. I want to tell you a secret. Joseph Kessler, a commercial freelance writer, charges $50 an hour for his time. That's the big secret. Interesting, huh? No, not really. When I first began freelance writing for businesses, I had observed that most writers were silent as to what they charged for their time, since there was barely any information to gather on commercial freelance writing rates. I never knew why — and I'm not too sure I know now. But there is no big secret as to what others are charging.

I think writers keep silent about their rates because they're not sure whether they're charging appropriately for their time. They don't want to serve as a bad example. Initially, I had wanted to provide specific examples of what other commercial freelance writers have charged their clients on specific, detailed projects and assignments; unfortunately, I cannot do so otherwise I violate their privacy as to what they charge and who their clients are.

Fortunately, I can provide you with the next best thing: how to gather information on current fees — usually an estimate or an average as to what others are charging — and some sources where you can peruse through to glean information from.

Here are the most common resources to obtain information on setting your fees:

• Your experience. I listed this source first because your experience will provide you with the most accurate information on setting your own fees. As you begin to gain experience, you will begin to shed some light on what clients are willing to pay writers, what other freelancers are charging, and what you should be charging.

• Other writers. Your friendly neighborhood writer may be courteous enough to lend you advice on what to charge on a specific project. I also recommend that you join a local or national writer's association so that you have connections with professional members who have experience and can lend you advice. The other alternative is to look at the web sites of commercial freelance writers where you'll be able to find out, in most cases, how much they charge for specific projects and assignments.

•Ask for promotional material, including a fee structure. Ask local writers to mail you their promo packages, and make sure you ask if they can include their fee structures. This information will help increase your awareness about what your competition is charging, what you ought to be charging, and lend some professional advice on how you can develop your own fee structure. Some writers may be too suspicious to disclose their information to you (because you are the competition), but state that you are a beginning freelancer who is gathering information to get started. Once a local writer mails you this information, call him up and thank him — or better yet, mail him a thank you note and enclose your business card if you have one at the time.

• Get insight first. A client will usually ask you "How much do you charge?" before he commits himself to your services. If you're still unsure as to what you should charge for your time, reverse the question on him. Ask the client, "What is your budget for this project?" not "What are you willing to pay?" The client will give you an estimate of the budget, which will allow you to determine how much you can charge per hour or per project rate.

• Books. A current edition of Writer's Market published by F&W Publications provides a handful of pages on what commercial freelance writers should be charging for certain assignments and projects. Also the Guide to Freelance Rates and Standard Practice published by the National Writer's Union provides some information on commercial freelance writing fees. One book I highly recommend is Robert W. Bly's, Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $85,000 A Year, which includes freelance rates.

• Newsletters or publications. I haven't been able to find any external periodicals that provide current fees for commercial freelance writers. If you known of any, please let me know.

Brian Konradt is the owner and operator of FreelanceWriting.Com (http://www.freelancewriting.com), a web site dedicated to help writers master the business and creative sides of freelance writing. Mr. Konradt is also the principal of BSK Communications & Associates, a communications/publishing business in New Jersey, which he established in 1992.










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