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How to Create a Rate Card for Freelance Writing

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Most freelance writers don't have a rate card. In fact, I didn't have one for the first several years that I was writing. And the reason for that is because trying to create a rate card for freelance writing can be complicated and hard to manage:

  • What if we want to give a personalized quote to a client?
  • How can a single rate card account for so many variables?
  • What if I don't want to pigeon-hole myself into certain rates?
  • What if I want to raise my rates later?
  • What if the client wants to pay per word but my rate card is per hour?

There's a reason, after all, why most freelance writers don't usually advertise their rates: we want the freedom to be able to adjust, tweak, and change our rates on a case-by-case basis that takes many of these questions into consideration.

However, as much as clients love personalized quotes for their projects, they also rely on consistent pricing that isn't just thrown together at random: that you started with a solid foundation. Because personalized or not, clients also want to know that what you're charging them isn't too far out of the ballpark of what you would charge someone else. If two clients approached me to write their book for them, and I quoted one at $10,000 and the other at $38,000, that's a huge discrepancy that, without a solid foundation, better have more than just “oh I'm more experienced now” to back it up.

This is especially important for your long-term clients or any clients who might want to return to you in the future. If a client hires you to write copy for a landing page and you charge $500, but then six months later when they try to hire you again to write copy for another landing page… if that second page is going to cost $1050, there needs to be some solid explanation for the difference.

Thankfully, the explosive growth of the Digital Age has made creating, maintaining, and even sharing a rate card for copywriters, ghostwriters, and content writers easier than ever.

By going digital with your rate card, you can easily update it whenever necessary without having to reprint hundreds of copies or chase after misplaced papers. Plus, it adds that modern flair that proves you're keeping up with the trends in this ever-evolving freelance landscape.

Imagine walking into an upscale boutique only to find clothes scattered randomly on the floor with no price tags in sight. How would you know if that stunning blazer is within your budget or worth haggling over? Similarly, without a well-structured rate card, freelance writers risk confusing potential clients or even undervaluing their own skills.

A well-structured rate card provides clarity and transparency regarding the services offered by freelancers along with their corresponding prices. It eliminates any ambiguity surrounding rates by clearly defining factors such as word count ranges or complexity levels.

Moreover, an organized rate card showcases professionalism and expertise while establishing trust with potential clients. When clients see that you have taken the time to structure your rates clearly and precisely, they will be more inclined to view you as a reliable and credible freelance writer.

This instills confidence in their decision to hire you, knowing that they are getting a fair deal for high-quality content. So, whether you're a seasoned wordsmith or just dipping your toes into the freelance writing world, having a well-structured digital rate card is not just an option; it's an indispensable tool that can catapult your career to new heights.

When you Create a Rate Card for Freelance Writing, you Create Stability

Not just for clients, but for yourself as well.

Even if you want to create a unique proposal for every client or prospect, having that rate card will help give you that foundation to start from. Additionally, it can serve as a template for when you want to branch out into a new service or when someone approaches you to ask about a particular project you have no direct experience with.

We've all done it. We've all had a client or a friend or a colleague come up to us and ask us something along the lines of “hey, how much would you charge for…” and the project they mentioned is nothing like we've ever worked on before. So we try with all our might to come up with a fair and reasonable rate without making them wait forever for an answer.

Except that “fair and reasonable” rate almost always short-changes us in the end.

As a freelance writer, it's essential to understand the value of your work and how much you deserve to be compensated for your services. This is where having a freelance writing rate card comes in handy. A freelance writing rate card is a document that outlines the rates you charge for your writing services.

It includes information such as your hourly or project-based rates, any additional fees, and the types of projects you are willing to work on. Essentially, it's a pricing guide that helps you communicate transparently with clients about how much they should expect to pay for your services.

Having a rate card is crucial because it allows you to set clear expectations with clients from the start. When negotiating contracts or proposals with potential clients, having predefined rates can help weed out those who cannot afford or don't value your services.

It also helps establish trust between you and your client by letting them know how much they can expect to pay upfront without any surprises along the way. But beyond just communicating prices, having a rate card also reinforces the value of your work as a writer.

As freelancers, we can sometimes feel undervalued or underpaid for our time and effort. A rate card reminds us that our skills are worth something and helps us negotiate fair compensation for our expertise.

Overall, creating and maintaining a freelance writing rate card is an essential part of running a successful freelance business. In the following sections of this article, we'll explore what factors to consider when setting rates and provide tips on how to negotiate with potential clients effectively.

Factors to Consider When Setting Your Rates

Experience and Expertise Level

When setting your freelance writing rates, the first factor you should consider is your experience and expertise level. If you're just starting out as a freelance writer, your rates might be lower than someone who has been in the industry for years. However, don't undervalue your skills just because you're new to the game.

Take into account any relevant education or training you have that sets you apart from other writers. If you've been writing for a while and have established yourself as an expert in a certain niche or type of content, it's important to charge accordingly.

Clients are willing to pay more for writers who have a proven track record of success in their field. Don't be afraid to raise your rates as you gain more experience and expertise.

Type of Content

The type of content you're writing also plays a role in determining your freelance writing rates. For example, blog posts might be less expensive than white papers or case studies because they typically require less research and editing time.

On the other hand, if you're writing technical content or highly specialized topics that require extensive research and attention to detail, it's reasonable to charge more. Additionally, if clients are requesting specific types of content that are outside of your wheelhouse or require more effort than usual on your part, it's okay to adjust your rates accordingly.

Word Count or Project Length

Another factor that can impact your freelance writing rates is the length of the project or word count required. Shorter projects may not pay as much as longer ones simply because there's less work involved. However, if a client needs a quick turnaround time on a shorter project with specific requirements, they may be willing to pay more for expedited service.

For longer projects with higher word counts (e.g. eBooks, technical manuals), it's important to charge a flat rate that reflects the time and effort required to complete the project. Be sure to factor in the research and editing time required when setting your rates for longer projects.

Research and Editing Time Required

Research and editing time should be taken into account when setting your freelance writing rates. Some clients may require more extensive research than others, which can add up in terms of hours spent. Additionally, if you're expected to provide additional services like proofreading or fact-checking, it's fair to charge a higher rate.

Be sure to communicate with clients about their expectations upfront so there are no surprises later on. This will help ensure that you're fairly compensated for the time and effort required for each project you take on as a freelance writer.

Learning to create a rate card for freelance writing can solve that.

Different pricing models for freelance writers

Freelance writers have various pricing models at their disposal when determining how to charge for their services. Two common approaches include hourly rates and project-based rates.

Hourly rates involve charging clients based on the number of hours spent working on their project. This model works well when projects vary widely in terms of complexity or when it's challenging to predict how long they will take to complete accurately.

In contrast, project-based rates involve agreeing on a set fee for an entire project regardless of the time invested. This approach can be beneficial if you are confident about accurately estimating the time required for each specific type of project.

It allows clients to know the total cost upfront, which can be advantageous for budgeting purposes. Furthermore, another pricing consideration is determining whether to charge based on value or per-word.

Value-based pricing focuses on the overall value your content brings to the client's business or organization. It takes into account factors like impact, reach, and potential revenue generation.

On the other hand, per-word pricing sets a fixed rate for each word written. This method is commonly used in content writing where word count serves as a tangible metric for compensation.


Want a head start on your rate card? You can go ahead and grab a copy of mine (the same one you see in the screenshots in this post) for just $2.99:

Freelance Writing Rate Card Spreadsheet Mockup Ad

Grab the Freelance Writing Rate Card Template

You're a talented freelance writer looking to streamline your business operations and maximize your earnings, right?

Then you need this editable template designed to help you create a professional rate card that accurately reflects the value of your writing services.

Buy Now: $2.99

Considerations for Designing an Effective Digital Rate Card Layout

Choosing the right format for your rate card

When it comes to formatting your digital rate card, there are a few options to consider. One popular choice is using spreadsheet-based rate cards, such as Excel or Google Sheets.

These platforms offer a structured layout that allows you to easily organize and update your rates. They provide flexibility in terms of adding formulas for calculations and sorting data.

Another option is utilizing graphic design tools like Canva, which offer visually appealing templates that can help make your rate card stand out. With Canva, you can easily customize the design elements to match your branding.

Essential elements to include in your digital rate card

To ensure clarity and professionalism, there are essential elements that should be included in your digital rate card. First and foremost, make sure to include your contact information at the top of the document so potential clients can easily reach you.

Additionally, it's important to showcase your branding details such as logo or company name for brand recognition purposes. Next, provide clear descriptions of the services you offer.

Break down each service into separate sections with concise explanations so clients understand what they can expect from each offering. For instance, if you specialize in blog post writing, copywriting, editing and proofreading, or social media content creation – give a brief overview of what makes each service unique.

The pricing structure is another critical component of your digital rate card. Consider defining different criteria for pricing such as word count ranges or complexity levels.

This will help clients gauge the corresponding costs based on their specific requirements. You may also want to include options for additional services or add-ons that clients can choose from if they require extra assistance.

Incorporating flexibility in your digital rate card

It's essential to incorporate flexibility into your digital rate card by providing options for negotiation or custom packages. Not every client will have the same needs or budgets, so being open to customization can help you attract a wider range of clients.

Consider including a section where you outline different pricing options or provide space for clients to discuss their specific requirements and negotiate a tailored package. By offering this flexibility, you demonstrate your willingness to work with clients on an individual basis, enhancing your chances of securing more projects.

Choosing the Right Tool for Creating Your Rate Card

Thanks to the internet, there's no shortage of tools that you can use to create a digital rate card for your writing business.

  1. Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets: I don't think I've ever met a spreadsheet that I didn't love. Spreadsheet tools are versatile and widely used for creating rate cards, and these two are so similar that it means your rate card will be virtually universal—just about anyone in the world will be able to open and read it no matter what they use. And because spreadsheets are so easy to use, can type in your pricing information, create tables, and format the document as needed. And if you're sharing the spreadsheet, you can organize and lock certain cells to protect your formulas and help clients understand your rates.
  2. Canva: Of course, Canva offers templates for various business documents, including rate cards. It's user-friendly and allows you to create visually appealing designs with ease. But the best feature in Canva is the fact that you can create a presentation around your rate card, allowing you to walk your potential client through the rate card to find the important information they're after.
  3. Visme: Visme offers a range of templates for creating visual content, including rate cards. It's suitable for both beginners and those with design experience. But the really cool thing about Visme is that if you share your rate card with anyone, it actually comes with analytics, meaning you can analyze your rate card's effectiveness on your clients and continually improve it to make it more compelling and effective.

Although each of these tools are wonderful, my own rate card is built using Google Sheets, which I find to be perfect for my always-on-the-go needs. It's easy to access, update, and share no matter where I am or what device I'm using.

Step-by-Step Guide for Building Your Own Rate Card in Google Sheets

Step One: Figure out Your Base Rate

Other than a few surveys here or there, there really is no formalized industry standard that will tell you how much to charge for your freelance writing services. Instead, we are told to “charge what you're worth” or something along those lines.

Of course, when you're setting your freelance writing rates, there are all sorts of things to consider:

  • type of writing involved
  • goal of the project (revenue-generating or some other goal?)
  • time needed to complete the project
  • living and work expenses
  • overhead and salary
  • topic knowledge / niche
  • research involved
  • accompanying assets, such as graphics
  • byline included?
  • publication or ownership rights included?

The list goes on and on.

Figure out what you want your base rate to be: this will be your target revenue goal for the year:

From there, determine how many hours per week you plan on working and how many weeks off per year you want to be able to take (whether you want to use those weeks off as vacation or stored up for sick time or unforeseen issues that might pop up is fine. I usually plan for two weeks off per year and then split up the days as needed around special occasions).

From here, you can figure out what your target weekly revenue rate should be and what your target hourly rate should be.

Don't worry, I'm not telling you to charge by the hour, although you could if you wanted to. But these figures will be important later when you're trying to set up your rates for specific services.

Step Two: Figure out Which Services You Want to Offer

As a freelance writer, you get to pick and choose what type of services you want to offer your clients:

  • blog writing
  • SEO writing
  • copywriting
  • book writing
  • product descriptions
  • social media content writing
  • video script writing
  • movie novelizations (one of my favorite projects ever)
  • ghostwriting
  • editing
  • formatting
  • do you want to include graphics with your blog posts?
  • do you want to include social media headlines with your blog posts?

This list will not be set in stone. Chances are it's going to change quite a bit over the years. For example, I started as a web developer who moved over into content writing before moving into book writing. So my rate card still has prices on it for areas related to web development, just not as many related services as I used to list (and the ones that are there I no longer publicly advertise).

You also don't have to go into detail about every variable – leave those for individual proposals. But a couple larger variables should definitely go into your rate card, such as if you're writing within your niche (and therefore are charging for expertise) or outside of your niche (and charging for research):

Step Three: Understand the Nuances of Your Services

Your ghostwriting rates for a blog will likely be very different from your ghostwriting rates for a book. There are just fundamental differences between writing a blog and writing a book, not the least of which is the fact that a book is divided into chapters and pages while a blog is divided into, well, easy-to-read headings.

Separate your services into different groups based on how they relate to each other.

Then, for each group make note of any standards that you can apply to every project (or at least most of your projects). For example:

Step Four: Put Together the Formulas for Each Service

Once you have all this information, you can start putting together your formulas:

This is where you're going to really dig into the details of your rates and services. And check your formulas against your base rate as defined earlier. For example, if someone wants to hire me for a line edit their 150 page book, and I know I can edit an average of 7 pages per hour, then as I check everything against my base target salary of $36 per hour, I know to start my quote at $771.43.

You can also break everything down further to get a per-page or a per-word rate for the same project (because some clients prefer a per-word rate while others prefer a per-page rate, but you still want to make sure you are getting paid for your time):

And the reason you want to group like-services together is because then you can account for the differences between them. For example, if I'm ghostwriting a book, I'm not so worried about SEO as I would be when ghostwriting a blog. Therefore, things like keyword research don't play a part in book writing or book planning services, but it is an important part of blog writing services:

Step Five: Keep your Rate Card Somewhere You Can Find it Easily

Although some businesses like to make their rate cards public, and I've even seen some freelancers publish their rate cards into a PDF sheet that they can hand out to prospects, I don't think you need to do that. Unless, of course, you want to publicly advertise your rates, just be ready to answer questions when someone asks you about why the rate you quoted them doesn't match the rate showing up on your site.

Instead of being publicly viewable, I prefer to keep my rate card stored off-site. That way I have it available whenever I need to reference it, but it's safely away from public view so I don't have to worry about prospects having a predetermined notion about my rates before speaking to me.


Want a head start on your rate card? You can go ahead and grab a copy of mine (the same one you see in the screenshots in this post) for just $2.99:

Freelance Writing Rate Card Spreadsheet Mockup Ad

Grab the Freelance Writing Rate Card Template

You're a talented freelance writer looking to streamline your business operations and maximize your earnings, right?

Then you need this editable template designed to help you create a professional rate card that accurately reflects the value of your writing services.

Buy Now: $2.99

Tips for Negotiating Rates with Clients

Value Your Work: Tips on Negotiating Rates Without Selling Yourself Short

One of the trickiest aspects of being a freelance writer is figuring out how much to charge for your services. Once you do have a rate card in place, the next challenge is negotiating rates with clients. The last thing you want is to undervalue your work or sell yourself short.

Here are some tips on how to negotiate rates without selling yourself short: Firstly, know your worth as a freelancer. Easier said than done, right?

Keep in mind that you are providing a valuable service that requires time, skill, and expertise. Be confident in what you offer and why it's worth paying for.

Secondly, research industry standards and local market rates. Knowing what other writers in your industry or area are charging can help you determine where to set your starting rate. But during this step, avoid asking a bunch of freelance writers how much they charge—they may not be charging what they're worth either and you're just going to end up with a wide range and no real help.

I love the Editorial Freelancer's Association for their rates chart. They survey thousands of freelance writers from all over and compile their rates into one chart that you can use as a reference as you start putting your own rates together.

And remember, you can be willing to negotiate but also be firm about the value of your work. Don't be afraid to push back if a potential client tries to lowball you or asks for additional work without additional compensation.

Losing Potential Clients: How to Handle Rate Negotiations Without Scaring Them Away

Negotiating rates with clients can be tricky because you don't want to scare them away by appearing too inflexible or unaccommodating. You also don't want them thinking they can take advantage of you by offering extremely low rates. Here are some tips on how to handle rate negotiations without losing potential clients:

  1. Stay professional and polite throughout the negotiation process. Being respectful of their needs and budget will go a long way towards building trust and rapport with potential clients.
  2. Focus on the value of what you're offering beyond just the price tag. Emphasize your experience, expertise, and any unique skills that make you stand out as a freelance writer.
  3. Try to find common ground. Be willing to compromise on certain aspects of the project or offer alternative pricing models (e.g. hourly vs project-based rates) that can work for both you and the client.

Saying No: When Negotiations Fail

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, negotiations with potential clients just don't work out. Whether it's a matter of budget constraints or simply not being the right fit for each other, it's important to know when to say no. Here are some tips on how to gracefully bow out of a rate negotiation that isn't going anywhere:

  1. Be honest and straightforward about your reasons for declining the offer. Avoid negative language or burning bridges – you never know when you might cross paths with this client again.
  2. Thank them for their time and consideration. Acknowledge any positives about their project or business that may have appealed to you in the first place.

Stay professional and respectful throughout the process. Remember that even if this particular negotiation didn't work out, there are always other potential clients out there who could be a better match for your services.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Setting Your Freelance Writing Rates

1. Underpricing Your Services: One of the most common mistakes that freelancers make when setting their rates is underpricing their services. I get it, you want to want to offer competitive rates, but you also need to ensure that you are charging enough to cover your expenses and make a decent living. To avoid this mistake, research industry rates for the type of content you offer and consider your experience level. You don't want to charge too little, but at the same time, you don't want to overcharge and lose potential clients. Be realistic about how much time it takes you to complete projects and factor in any additional expenses like software programs or equipment.

2. Not Factoring in Research and Editing Time: Another mistake that freelancers make when setting their rates is either underestimating or not factoring in research and editing time. These tasks can be just as time-consuming as writing itself, so it's important not to overlook them when setting your rates. Be honest and be as accurate as possible. When creating a rate card, be sure to include different levels of research or editing depending on the project's requirements. If you're not sure how long research will take, you can also consider charging an hourly rate until you're better able to do estimates.

3. Failing to Communicate Your Value Proposition: Another common mistake that freelancers make is failing to communicate their value proposition effectively. Clients are more willing to pay higher rates if they understand what makes your work special. When negotiating with clients, highlight your unique selling points like your experience level or niche expertise that sets you apart from other writers. If you can, provide samples of past work or testimonials from satisfied clients who have benefited from working with you.

The Importance of Having a Well-Thought-Out Rate Card as a Freelancer

Having a freelance writing rate card is crucial to your success as a freelancer. It allows you to communicate your value to potential clients and negotiate rates that are fair and reasonable for both parties. By taking the time to set your rates based on industry standards and your experience level, you can build a sustainable business and attract high-quality clients that value your skills.

Furthermore, having a well-thought-out rate card ensures that you are not undervaluing yourself or accepting projects that will not provide an adequate return on investment. Remember: your time is valuable and setting reasonable rates is key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different pricing models until you find one that works for you.

Remember that setting fair rates will attract quality clients who respect both your time and expertise. And lastly, don't forget about the importance of negotiating with clients.

Be confident in communicating your worth and always strive for mutually beneficial agreements. By following these tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can establish yourself as an expert freelance writer with fair compensation for quality work.

And that is all there is to creating a rate card for your freelance writing business.

Of course, yours doesn't have to be as involved as mine, it doesn't even have to be in a spreadsheet. Just be sure that whatever format you decide to use, you put together a list that contains as many variables as is necessary but still gives you the flexibility to tweak and adjust the pricing as you like.

FAQ About Freelancer Rates and Rate Cards

How much should you charge for a 500 word article?

Depending on the subject matter and the amount of time needed to research for the article, you can expect to be able to charge anywhere from $0.08 per word to $0.12 per word, possibly more. That's why it's important for you to be able to review all the details of a project before offering a quote.

How much do freelance writers get paid per word?

This is something that differs from writer to writer because of the many different types of freelance writers there are. You may charge less per word for long-term, consistent work, more per word for revenue-generating content, etc. Paper-per-word rates have a very wide range (anywhere from $0.04 to $2.00 per word).

How much should I charge for a 1000 word article?

This is going to depend on a lot of different factors including how much time you'll need to spend on research, the type of content you're writing, and the speed at which you can write it. On average, a1000-word article can go for anywhere from $80 – $500 and more.

What should I charge for writing services?

Other than a few surveys here or there, there really is no standard pricing structure for writing services because the industry is so diverse. Make sure you are charging enough to cover your expenses, your goals, and make it worth your time or you could face burnout.

Did you enjoy this article? Here are some more posts on freelance writing you may like:

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