Why Freelance Writers Need to Make $100 an Hour

Carol Tice

I am on vacation. Please enjoy this classic post from my old caroltice.com blog.

Why freelance writers need to make $100 an hour. Makealivingwriting.com

Several writers have commented to me that they make $30-$40 an hour writing four articles an hour for content mills, and that they consider it a great pay rate.

But is it? What is a good rate to shoot for in freelance writing?

My answer, in case you couldn’t tell from the title of this piece, is $100 an hour. That should be your goal.

Let’s do the math to learn why it’s important that your hourly rate be so high.

If you work 35 hours a week, $30 an hour means you’d make $52,500 a year allowing for 2 weeks’ vacation. Sounds good on the face of it, right?

But at $100 an hour, you make $175,000 a year. Wow! Big difference, huh?

I sense that you’re freaking out. Think it’s impossible? Yesterday’s pay rate? Hardly. That’s my own rate goal for my business.

If you’re saying, “I don’t need to make $175,000 a year, so $30 an hour will be OK,” I’d like you to consider these three things:

Your expenses.Costs include paying your own health insurance, which is more costly every year. Paying state, local and federal taxes, and self-employment tax. Paying for equipment, marketing, Web-site development, advertising, heat, light, paper and other supplies. Making $40 an hour at a full-time job where they pay the benefits might pencil out – but the equation changes when you’re on your own. After expenses, that really doesn’t leave much net profit.

Unbillable hours. Then there’s the downtime. You wait for interview calls to start, bill accounts, market the business, tally up your monthly accounts, have a slow week where you aren’t fully booked, and on and on. Not every hour is a billable hour. Track your time for a month to get a sense of how many real, billable hours you’ve got – it’ll probably be eye-opening.

Work/life balance. Didn’t you start freelancing so you could spend more time with family? Many freelancers get into it for the “freedom,” but end up working 12-hour days to keep it going…not that freeing in my view. A lot of us with children find we’ve got only 30-32 real, available work hours in the week unless we want to stick our kids in many hours of child care.

Put these three factors together and you’ll quickly see why your average hourly rate needs to be high in order for you to earn a decent living.

Don’t know what your average hourly rate is now?

Track your billable hours for a month to get a sense of your current rate. Then, set a goal of improving your hourly rate in 2010. You won’t bill $100 an hour overnight if you’re at $20 an hour now. It’ll take time to gradually replace lower-paying accounts with higher ones – but it’ll be worth the effort.

There’s one final reason to aim high, for $100 an hour. We often don’t achieve our goals in life. Maybe one client’s at $100 an hour, but you have another situation where it works out to less, but there’s still a good reason to do the gig — a great editor connection you want to keep, for instance, or great exposure that helps your marketing. So when we shoot for $100, we may end up with $75 overall and still do quite well. Shoot for $30 and you may end up with not enough to buy groceries.

Whatever your rate now, make a plan to increase your hourly rate in the coming year – because better-paying gigs are what truly put the “free” in freelance.

Join my freelance writer community. Makealivingwriting.com

 

17 Comments

  1. I S M Habibullah

    I am astonished that a good amount of commenters feel that $5 – $10 per hour is a great thing in Freelance Writing market. But the truth is that the content mills and the sub contractor’s contract can’t pay more than that. And you will clearly see the difference between the quality of a real job and a “trying to be professional mock up” job.

    One real freelance writing opportunity will change your life. $40 – $50 per hour is the lowest possible rate when you get hired by real clients directly.

    I am on my journey for a couple of years now and will give further evidence as I explore the reality of the market.

  2. Holly

    I see what you are saying, aim high and don’t sell yourself short. But I think one also has to consider experience and qualifications which play into how much you are worth and therefore can charge. It’s not reasonable for someone just out of college to think they can charge $100/hour starting out.

    On the flip side, why would one top out at $100/hour? Shouldn’t one aim to give themselves a raise annually? Maybe that’s another post.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, I’m definitely not saying stop at $100! Just saying that’s a level I like to aim for when I take on new clients. Don’t always get there right off…but it’s a goal to shoot for.

      From there, if you’ve bid it properly on a per-project basis rather than an hourly basis, your hourly rate should go UP from there as you get to know the client’s work and become more efficient.

      To your question about experience levels, I’ve known brand-new freelancers to start asking for $50-60 an hour and not have any problem with that. You really don’t want to be below there much…you’re better off doing more marketing.

      I actually just had a Den member discussing a client she took for $10 an hour because they had steady work…now of course the client has turned out to be a pain, and she realizes it’s sucking up all her marketing time and paying too little.

  3. Guadalupe Gates

    It’s hard to come out every week with 35 ‘paid’ hours. You bring up a great point about the expenses of the self-employed. Freelancing certainly gives you a flexibility to make some pretty drastic decisions regarding how to achieve financial freedom and strike a work/life balance, which is one of the best things about it.

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