So, How Much Do I Charge for My Freelance Services?
One of the scariest things about venturing into freelancing is income fluctuating. The best thing about working full-time is the (presumably) reliable paychecks. For recently laid off journalists—or journalists who’ve been laid off multiple jobs—the idea of a stable job is becoming more of an ideal than reality.
If you’re new to freelancing by choice or circumstance, a confusing but important thing that you have to figure out right away is how much to charge. Charge too little and you’ll get bashed on social media by fellow freelancers and work on an endless hamster wheel. Charge too much and you’ll price yourself out of jobs and spend a lot of time vetting potential clients.
So, what exactly do you charge? Well, the short answer is… it depends. Here’s what to consider while setting your prices:
Estimate your living and operational expenses
How much do you need to pay your rent, utilities, phone bill, and other living expenses? Add this up and tack on extra funds for financial goals like paying down debt or saving for retirement. Then add more for your typical business expenses like transportation and internet. Keep in mind that’ll you need to set aside a portion of your earnings for quarterly taxes. Take this number, divide it by 12 to get your monthly income goal.
Consider project time and costs
If a project will take one month to complete and you’ll be paid $1,500 is it worth it? The answer to that depends on how much time and money you’ll spend to complete the project. If you need to buy additional equipment, travel more or take more time than usual to complete a project, factor that into the fee. Think about whether the fee amounts to a comfortable hourly rate, too. If your flat rate divided by estimated hours worked on the project is equivalent to less than or barely above minimum wage in your state, ask for a raise.
Find out what other freelancers are earning
$600 for a story sounds cool until you learn that another writer earned $1,500 for a story for the same publication, section and length. Use freelance rate databases like Contently and Who Pays Writers to determine who’s going to pay the most per story. For me, six figure freelancers have shown me that you can reach earnings goals via reporting and writing as well as content marketing.
Decide your fee structure
For articles, the fees will typically be flat fees or per word. In rarer cases for print articles, publications will pay per inch. Either way, build your reporting expenses into the fee in addition to the fee for the story. For content marketing deliverables, you can charge hourly, per deliverable or a flat rate per project. For tips on how to price services, you can use this Writer’s Market booklet, check out Contently’s freelance rates calculator as a guideline or ask around to find out what fellow freelancers are charging. For content marketing, it’s especially important to charge for value. If you can quantify how your efforts are improving operations or generating more leads, make sure use these results as justification for charging premium rates.
Consider your client’s budget.
The pricing for a small business or nonprofit will likely be much lower than that for a large charity or conglomerate. Do your research of the client’s number of employees or offices as well as revenue and price your services accordingly.
As a freelancer, you have more of a say about how much money you bring in. Embrace that. Have a minimum, but reach for the stars, too.
How do you determine what to charge? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.