Diana Kelly Levey

Money Mistakes Freelancers Make When Pricing Their Work

Freelance writing rates

February 27, 2020

This blog post about pricing your work and making sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth as a freelancer is one of my most popular blogs on my site.

That’s because how much writers get paid per article, how much freelancers charge for a 500-word article, for a freelance project, and freelancers’ rates per word are, well, all over the map. In this freelance writing blog post, I’ll break down important factors to consider when you’re pricing your freelance work, and pricing mistakes freelancers can’t afford to make. (Wondering how much freelancers can earn daily? I’ve got that covered, too!

Learn more about how to get started freelance writing with my e-book 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers.

How Much to Charge for a Freelance Article?

• For one interview source when writing for an editorial brand, I aim to earn at least $0.75/word for a 500-word article rate, depending on the topic. That averages to at least $375 for an article. For content marketing clients, I’m in the $1/word range for freelance writing assignments.
• Hopefully, completing that articles takes me two hours to three hours or less, depending on how familiar I am with the topic, so my hourly rate seems like it is pretty good.
• Remember, that’s my gross rate. When I estimate that at least 25 percent needs to be put away for taxes, that article rate can drop down below $300 for a 500-word assignment.

If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer and using this time to build up experience and get clips so you can raise your rates later, you might need to settle for a lower rate in the beginning.

4 Common Rate Mistakes Freelancers Make When Pricing Their Work

  1. Not factoring time you already spent researching an idea before it was approved. (I’ll tell you how long I think freelancers should spend researching an article idea in this blog post.) If you’re sending a strong pitch, you’re probably spending at least 30 minutes researching and reading about the topic and considering sources. Estimate another 10 minutes or so trying to make sure the article wasn’t written by that publication already. Tack that on to the article writing time I stated above and you might be at three to four hours of work already.
  2. You’re not factoring in back-and-forth time for edits. Some editors say, “Thanks!” process your invoice, and then you don’t see the piece until it’s live. (Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it’s not if they’re a heavy-handed editor and misconstrued something you wrote with their edits.) Some editors will have a ton of edits and questions and you’ll need to go back to a source (or find new ones) to get a question answered. If the story is for a print magazine, it’s probably going through at least two (or three to five) rounds of edits, not to mention a fact checker and copyeditor. The more you have to keep reworking something you already turned in, the lower your hourly rate is. (This is why it’s helpful to learn how to write faster.)  I think of it like this–the more time I’m spending on a piece I already turned in, the less time I have to work on an article for another client or pitch ideas. (Here’s how to find editors to pitch your article ideas to.)
  3. You’re not factoring in time for transcribing. If you’re recording interviews over the phone and then transcribing them yourself later, it can take hours to type up those notes. Some editors want you to send over complete transcribed interview notes. It’s my personal preference to record an interview and just be “in the moment” in the conversation so I’m more in tune to an appropriate follow-up question. I’ll transcribe the interview later or send them out to a service that does it. (That’s one of my secrets of spending money efficiently so I can earn more money.) I tend to be a slow transcriber and a 15-minute interview can take me about 40 minutes to type up. Follow these 5 tips to make more money freelancing.
  4. You’re not factoring in the “onboarding” time. Some clients have a ton of paperwork for you to print out, review, sign, and scan back to them. This is usually a one-time hassle but it still takes about 15 minutes. (Here’s my number-one tip for procrastinating writers.)

Here’s How Long it Takes to Write a 500-Word Article

Here’s a sample of how long it might take me to write a one-interview, 500-word article based on light research, if I’m not very familiar with the subject, and if it’s a new editor I’m working with. Keep these elements in mind when factoring in your freelance rate. (So ask for more money!)

• Research the topic, read up about it, consider whom I’d interview. (30)
• Determine the best outlet for the article. Then, who to pitch at that outlet specifically. (15-25)
• Craft the perfect pitch email. (15-25) (Read freelance article pitches that worked.)
• Get the assignment accepted and conduct some back and forth emails with an editor on the assignment details: word count, rate, due date, making sure that who I planned to interview is the type of person they’d want me to interview. (15)
• Finding the right source, which may mean going through an association’s media relations department, contacting them, explaining who I am and who I want to speak to. (15-30)
• Securing the source’s email, introducing myself, emailing the details about the article and determining the best time to talk to them on the phone for about 15 minutes. (10)
• Review the assignment, write up questions for my source that pertain to the article (10-15)
• Do the interview with the expert and record it. (15-20)
• Transcribe the interview. (30-45)
• Write the article. Again, this is the time to review the assignment (did they want 5 tips or 10?), and make sure whatever you were instructed to include in the article is there. (60-90)
• Send article to the editor. (5)
• Get edits back from an editor or clarify their questions. I might need to go back to a study, reread it, and get a new stat, go through my interview notes, or provide something else. (20-30)
• Send the article back to the editor for final approval. (5)
• Create an invoice and send it to the appropriate contact. (5)
• Once the article is LIVE online, I’ll share it in my social media channels, email the source(s) with the link as well as my clients’ social media handles and mine. (10)
• This is a good time to reconnect with the editor and provide another article idea.
• Stalk mailbox or bank account for the next 30-45 days for your payment. If this takes longer, you might need to reach out to the editor, accounting department, or someone else at the company to make sure they have all of your paperwork and cut the check. (5-10)

On a conservative estimate of these timeframes, I’m up to about 270 minutes, about 4 hours and 30 minutes.

It’s funny, I estimated the writing process breakdown to be about two to three hours, but I wasn’t factoring in all the emails I send and those back and forth exchanges–they add up! Learn more about how many hours freelancers write each week.

With this breakdown, you can see that a $300 NET paid article that takes over four hours (including researching, writing, and back and forth time), putting me at $67/hour rate for all the work done when I’m accounting for the little things.

Rates differ a lot from client to client, and my rates change depending on the scope of the project, the type of work, and how busy I am. For my freelance writing business, rates are a fluid component, but it’s important to have a goal in mind of what you want your “hourly rate” to be when you’re pricing out article assignments.

If you’re interested in learning more about my freelance writing tips, enroll in my self-directed Freelance Writing Online Course!

What do you think about the breakdown of this process? Is it accurate for you?

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