How Much Should I Charge for My Writing?

BY CHELSEA ENNEN • April 5, 2024

How Much Should I Charge for My Writing?

One of the most exciting things about transitioning to a freelance career is setting your own pay rates. 

Never again will you have to wait for an annual review to beg for a raise or settle for a paltry salary because of industry norms. Instead, freelancing empowers you to decide what you’ll charge for your services, thus enabling you to increase your income at will. 

At least that’s one way things could go. The flip side of this delicious power is that your potential clients have the opportunity to take or leave your rates. And especially with the growing popularity of programs like ChatGPT, companies are unfortunately all too happy to push writers toward charging very low rates in order to get any jobs at all.

Instead of working for pennies because you think it’s the only way to get work, you can strategize on how to charge an appropriate amount that will help stabilize your freelance writing career. 

Charging by the Word 

One way to structure your fees is to charge by the word. The logic here is pretty simple: if the piece of writing is longer, it will take you longer to write and should therefore cost more. 

Charging by the word can be a good method for pricing jobs such as writing blog posts and articles that don’t involve intensive research. Landing page copy for brands, emails, and ghostwriting might also fall under this category. Anything where the client is giving you all the information—such as the thesis for their argument, the products they want showcased, or the topic for their next blog—makes your job to simply do the writing itself. 

This works out well for short-form writing; if you truly only need to put in the writing work and nothing else, you can charge a smaller fee and give your client the budget to assign you a lot of those easy, cheaper gigs. But for long-form pieces, you can easily defend the higher price by the higher word count and therefore the higher labor demand. 

Charging by the Hour 

Why is it so important to make sure you only charge by the word when you don’t have to do any of the background research? Because research takes a ton of time! 

Say a client wants a blog post about the latest science behind the efficacy of the keto diet. You’ll need to find robust, respectable studies, and then you’ll have to read them. If you’re doing a good job as a journalist, you’ll also look for whether other scientists agree or disagree with those findings. Then there’s the question of how the more recent studies may differ from earlier studies, and so on and so on and so on. 

After all that reading, and maybe even interviewing researchers and doctors, maybe that blog post is only 1,500 words. But while your rate for 1,500 words may have been appropriate in a world where someone simply sent you all the research they wanted used, doing all the research yourself took hours of additional work, which isn’t reflected in that per word rate. 

Make sure you’re very clear with your clients about what they do or do not expect you to put into your work. If they want you to be doing your own research, it might be a better for you to charge for how many hours you’ve worked instead of how many words eventually make it onto the page. 

Charging by the Project 

Similar to charging by the hour is charging by the project. The idea is more or less the same: charging by the word may not accurately reflect all the work you’re putting into a project, and you want to ensure that you’re being paid for all of your labor. 

Charging by the project is often the more common way writers will structure their fees, especially if they’re freelancers as opposed to part-time workers. If your client wants you to be writing for them, say, twenty hours a week on a regular basis, then you’ll want to negotiate an appropriate hourly rate. But for the jobs where you’re a true contractor, you’ll probably charge by the project type instead. 

When creating categories of projects, remember to always think about how much time you’ll be spending. You might have one rate for an interview, which requires additional tasks such as setting up a phone call and transcribing quotes, and another for a simple blog post, even if the word count is the same length. 

This can also be a good approach for contractors who work on long-term projects. Think about ghostwriting an entire book—it’s more common to be paid a set sum of money instead of clocking in and out every time you sit down to work on it. 

Time is on Your Side 

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a theme here . . . time! In a traditional 9–5 job, you are paid either an hourly rate for each shift or an annual salary for a forty-hour workweek. As a freelancer, you need to make sure you replicate this system so you’re bringing in enough income relative to how much time you spend working. 

When you’re a freelance writer, you’ll likely be working a lot with nonwriters. (After all, if they could do the writing themselves, they wouldn’t need you!) That makes it your job to advocate for yourself and make it clear to your clients the kind of hard work that goes into creating those blogs, emails, and newsletters. Be clear about what you need to charge and why, and you’ll set yourself up for a positive relationship with your new clients. 

Chelsea Ennen is a writer living in Brooklyn with her husband and her dog. When not writing or reading, she is a fiber and textile artist who sews, knits, crochets, weaves, and spins.

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