Rates: What Do I Charge?
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.