When I first started out in this business, I didn’t think that much about freelance writing rates or how much to charge for web content writing.
I just wanted to get work and get paid, so I’d take anything I thought I could.
I remember landing a gig with good old Demand Media back in the content mill days and I think I was getting $25 per 500-word article.
I thought I hit the jackpot!
I thought, if I could write and submit one article in 30 minutes, I’d be making $50 an hour.
This was amazing to me when I thought about it in theory, but realistically, it didn’t work out as well as I had thought.
Why It’s So Confusing to Figure Out How Much to Charge for Web Content Writing
If you’re as confused as ever about how much to charge for web content writing, don’t worry, because you’re definitely not the only one.
I’ve been doing this for almost a decade and I still find it confusing sometimes.
It’s extra confusing as a beginner, but you may not be fully aware why.
Let’s discuss some of the biggest contributors to this confusion.
There are tons of low-value writers on freelance marketplaces.
Freelancer marketplaces like Upwork and Elance are where the cheapest writers thrive.
Many of these writers can set their rates extremely low because they live in parts of the world where the cost of living is quite low (and as expected, many don’t speak English as their first language).
Makes sense, right?
I mean, if you can crank out loads of mediocre articles for $10 to $15, have no problem getting clients for that kind of work, and be able to afford all your lifestyle amenities, then why not take advantage of it?
A lot of beginner freelance writers turn to these platforms, see how low the competition has set their rates, and then assume that they should follow suit by doing the same so they have a shot at getting hired.
But if you live in a wealthier part of the world like the US, Canada, the UK, or Australia where the cost of living is a lot higher, then running your freelancing business and competing against all the cheap writers on those platforms just isn’t sustainable over the long run.
Freelance marketplaces can be useful for getting some initial experience if you’re a total newbie, but beyond that, they’re not going to help you make a living from your writing.
There’s no market rate for written content.
Some writers charge as little as $0.2 to $0.5 a word.
Elite writers can get paid between $1 to $3 to word (or alternatively just a nice flat fee that translates to around that amount).
In other words, there’s an enormous range between the cheapest writer rates and the most expensive writer rates.
Most writers who take their businesses seriously typically assume they should set their rate somewhere in the middle — maybe somewhere between $0.10 and $0.50 a word — but even that’s considered a significant range.
After all, there’s a big difference between charging $50 versus $250 per 500-word article.
Charge lower and you might have an easier time getting gigs, but you might not get the client of your dreams and you’ll probably end up working more.
Charge higher and you might maximize your hourly rate, however there’s always a risk of scaring away clients who aren’t convinced that it’s worth paying that much for content.
There are lots of factors that can influence your rate.
Every writing project different.
This is one of the main reasons why the most experienced writers don’t publish their rates on their writer websites.
The more details they can get about the project and the client, the more they can tailor their pricing and maximize their hourly rate.
Here are some of the most obvious contributing factors that can drastically influence how to set your web content writing rate:
- The niche you’re writing for (including industry, content format, and client type)
- The length and scope of the project
- Your current level of knowledge/experience
- Your current online reputation (including portfolio samples)
- Any credentials you may have
- How fast you can type/write/work
- How much research you have to do
- Add-on work like outline creation, interviewing, image sourcing, formatting, publishing, social media
- Revisions (editing and proofreading)
- How much time you intend spending writing versus doing everything else (marketing, administrative tasks, etc.)
And the list goes on.
There’s a lot that goes into a writing project.
Luckily, as you gain more experience, you learn how to price your projects more effectively.
You’re confusing it with a real job.
Now I want to really hone in on that last bullet point mentioned above.
How much time you intend to spending writing vs doing everything else has a very important impact on your rates.
A lot of new freelancers mistakenly charge with the idea in mind that their hourly rate should be right on par with a typical job.
While someone with a regular job might be thrilled to be paid $30 for an hour, it’s not the same for freelancers.
Freelancers have to charge more to account for all the time they’re working, but not actually writing.
For instance, let’s say that you agree to write a 500-word article for $50 and you finish it in an hour.
Now let’s say that you spend another five hours of your day pitching, answering emails, having a Skype meeting, reaching out to new connections on LinkedIn, and updating your portfolio.
You didn’t make $50 an hour for a whole day of work — you made $50 for one hour and nothing else for the rest of the day.
If you were an employee with a real job, you’d be paid $50 an hour for those five extra hours of work, but you’re not — you’re a freelancer.
It’s normal to have an imbalance in the beginning when you’re just starting out, but as you build your business and become more experienced, you should be working toward setting your rates so that they cover all the business-related tasks that you inevitably must do.
The Reality of Figuring Out How Much to Charge for Web Content Writing
You probably want me to throw out a number to consider as your starting point and then tell you how to go from there, right?
I wish I could, but unfortunately it’s not that simple.
I can, however, give you some extremely general guidelines to give you some ideas about how to go about setting your own rates.
We’re specifically talking about how to charge for web content writing in this post, so I’m going to focus on three of the most common types of web content: blog posts, website pages, and email series messages.
- An average 500-word website page, such as an About Us page, should take about two to three hours to write up.
- An average email series message should take about one to two hours to write up.
- An average 500-word blog post should take about one to two hours to write up.
Note that all of the above are considered “average,” meaning there should be no need for extensive research, interviewing, technical stuff, or add-on work (like image sourcing).
These estimated timeframes also don’t include the emails and/or meetings you have with client about the project, any outlines you need to create, or any revisions you might need to make.
In the freelancing world, a general rule is to never make less than $50 an hour.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this stated online.
If there’s any rate that all freelancers seem to agree on, its the $50-an-hour minimum rule.
Of course, higher is preferred.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for beginners to be making as much as $60 to $100 an hour.
So, for an average 500-word website page, you probably need to charge a minimum of $150 plus more for all the extra stuff to be hitting your minimum of $50 an hour.
For an email series message or a 500-word blog post, you’d have to charge at least $50 to $100 plus more.
Remember that these are just extremely general guidelines for average web content types.
Something as simple as the type of client could mean the difference between charging hundreds more, or hundreds less.
(Hint: You can charge more from bigger, more reputable clients.)
How to Calculate Your Rate for An Average Freelance Writing Project
Before I show you how to do the calculation to determine your own rate, you need to know the three different ways you can go about pricing a project:
- Per word
- Per hour
- Per project
Charging Per Word
This is a pretty standard way for freelance writers to charge, and it’s favourited by many.
It’s very popular for blog content.
The great thing about charging per word is that you get to make more money if you can write faster and work more efficiently.
Charging Per Hour
Many freelancers frown upon charging by the hour, myself included, but it can definitely work for some.
The most obvious downside is that whether you work faster or slower, you still make the same hourly rate.
Charging Per Project
This is preferred for big projects that are lengthy, require lots of extra work other than writing, and are typically completed over a longer period of time.
By pricing per project, you can work every component of the project into your price and avoid any extra, surprise charges for the client later on.
How Should You Charge?
I recommend charging per word for simple/straightforward projects.
You can also charge by batches of words as long as it comes out to a good per-word rate — like $100 for 500 to 750 words, $150 for 750 to 1,000 words, and $200 for 1,000 to 1,250 words.
The benefit of charging by batches of words is that you get to earn a little more per word if the word count is on the lower end ($0.20 per word for a 500-word article versus $0.13 per 750-word article).
It all comes down to personal preference and how you work best.
Eventually, as you move into bigger and lengthier projects with lots of extra work in addition to writing, you might want to look into charging per project.
Now let’s take a look at a standard example calculation for how to charge for web content writing.
There are a few variables you need to estimate to be able to do this:
- The annual salary you’d like to make
- How much time you’ll take off per year
- How many hours per week you’ll spend writing
- How many words you can write in an hour
Note: Four hours of writing per day might not sound like a lot, but for a beginner, it actually is a lot.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely be spending another four hours (or more) marketing your services, creating quotes, sending/answering emails, bookkeeping, talking to clients on the phone, creating/sending invoices, and performing other necessary administrative tasks.
I’m going to use an example to determine an appropriate per-word rate, which you can use yourself by plugging in your own numbers.
Let’s say, as a beginner, you’re aiming to make $65,000 this year — a nice starting salary.
You plan on taking two weeks vacation, so you’ll work 50 weeks out of the year.
You also plan on spending four hours a day, five days a week actually writing — so that’s 20 hours per week.
And finally, let’s say you can write and edit a 400-word article in an hour.
$65,000 divided by 50 working weeks is $1,300 that you need to make per week.
$1,300 divided by 20 hours per week is $65 that you need to make per hour.
$65 divided by 400 words you can write per hour comes to about $0.16.
Your starting rate would be $0.16 per word.
Want to do this calculation for yourself with your own numbers?
I’ve created a calculator for you below, so you can try out different numbers to see how they change.
Just enter your numbers in the given fields and the final three fields will show what you need to earn per week, what you need to earn per hour, and what you need to charge per word.
Extra Things to Consider When Calculating Your Rate
I know that your above calculation can look pretty good if you put all your ideal numbers in and came out with a reasonable rate, but truth be told, it can still be off.
Real life can’t always be worked into an equation.
To get as accurate as possible, you should try to account for all those extra unplanned but necessary things that can affect how much time you need to spend writing and how much you need to charge.
Some of these things might include:
- Sick days (for yourself and for your kids if you have them)
- Long weekends you want to take
- Weekly errands that cut into working time
- Extra expenses (personal expenses like vacations, professional expenses like software)
- Education (reading, taking online courses)
You can’t make an exact estimate for these types of things, but you can certainly ballpark them.
Lastly, you need to be prepared to raise your rates periodically.
Raising your rates is key to growing your business successfully and eventually earning a really good living from it.
It also reminds your clients that your value is increasing over time.
I plan to do a whole other blog post specifically on this topic because I know that many freelancers are terrified of scaring their clients away by announcing higher rates.
Another benefit of charging per word over per hour is that it’s easier to keep clients happy.
A client probably isn’t going to protest a $0.02 per-word increase compared to a $15 per-hour increase, even if it works out to be around the same amount.
But that’s for another blog post.
What other tips do you have for figuring out how to charge for web content writing?
Leave a comment to let me know!