I am on vacation. Please enjoy this classic post from my old caroltice.com blog.
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 couldnâ€™t tell from the title of this piece, is $100 an hour. That should be your goal.
Letâ€™s do the math to learn why itâ€™s important that your hourly rate be so high.
If you work 35 hours a week, $30 an hour means youâ€™d make $52,500 a year allowing for 2 weeksâ€™ 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 youâ€™re freaking out. Think itâ€™s impossible? Yesterdayâ€™s pay rate? Hardly. Thatâ€™s my own rate goal for my business.
If youâ€™re saying, â€œI donâ€™t need to make $175,000 a year, so $30 an hour will be OK,â€ Iâ€™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 â€“ but the equation changes when youâ€™re on your own. After expenses, that really doesnâ€™t leave much net profit.
Unbillable hours. Then thereâ€™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 arenâ€™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 youâ€™ve got â€“ itâ€™ll probably be eye-opening.
Work/life balance. Didnâ€™t you start freelancing so you could spend more time with family? Many freelancers get into it for the â€œfreedom,â€ but end up working 12-hour days to keep it goingâ€¦not that freeing in my view. A lot of us with children find weâ€™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 youâ€™ll quickly see why your average hourly rate needs to be high in order for you to earn a decent living.
Donâ€™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 wonâ€™t bill $100 an hour overnight if youâ€™re at $20 an hour now. Itâ€™ll take time to gradually replace lower-paying accounts with higher ones â€“ but itâ€™ll be worth the effort.
Thereâ€™s one final reason to aim high, for $100 an hour. We often donâ€™t achieve our goals in life. Maybe one clientâ€™s at $100 an hour, but you have another situation where it works out to less, but thereâ€™s still a good reason to do the gig â€” 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 â€“ because better-paying gigs are what truly put the â€œfreeâ€ in freelance.