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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.

How to Create a Rate Card for Freelance Writing blog title overlay

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.

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.

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

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:

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:

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.

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

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