How to Charge What You’re Worth

How to Charge What You're Worth

Set your rates for what you’re worth. That’s a phrase running around the Internet these days – and it’s one that I don’t necessarily agree with.

What to charge for writing is a challenging topic of discussion. Writers have plenty of difficulty deciding how much to charge for their work. There are thousands of writers that work for $5 an hour or even less. There are writers that cost hundreds of dollars. Lacking standardization, rates for writers run from one extreme to the other and anywhere in between.

When we quote on jobs and submit proposals, we hear comments about our rates all the time. “Wow – you’re cheaper than I expected!” or “That’s way more than I wanted to pay.” We also often hear people say, “You should charge more for the quality of work you offer.”

Should we?

Rates are a game of Russian roulette. You could charge what you feel you’re worth and end up with no work at all. You could charge a lower rate and feel like you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Charge what you’re worth, they say – but what is a writer worth?

That’s a loaded question.

What’s the Market Like?

One of the problems with charging what you feel you’re worth is that you may pick a rate that doesn’t reflect what everyone else is charging. Your rate might be $100 per hour, but if everyone else is charging $50 for the same work, your rate isn’t reflecting actual market value and you won’t get much work. It’s a question of charge more and work less or charge less and work more – which is best?

What’s the Economy of Location?

In a virtual world, there are no barriers. And yet, mention your rates to different clients in different countries, and you’ll have different reactions. The economy of Canada is different from that of the U.S and that of Australia and that of India and that of Great Britain. A dollar is just a concept with no equal value across the virtual world – despite the fact that we’d like to believe everyone is on an equal playing field.

What’s Your Self-Worth?

Another problem is your ego. You may inflate your rate, believing you’re some king of content because you have high self-esteem (or because you’re a lofty, arrogant writer). You might have low self-esteem and misjudge your worth. It’s extremely difficult to have an objective view when the matter is personal and you have to judge yourself.

What’s your Skill Level?

One issue that goes hand-in-hand with attaching a price tag to your self-worth is accurately pricing yourself based on your skills. Many people believe they’re better at a task than they really are. Many others believe they’re not very good at something even if people constantly praise the work or generate serious results from their words.

What’s Your Financial Need?

Deciding how much money you need to come in factors into the equation. You may know that you’re worth more than you charge, but you need a steady, guaranteed income.

Some writers price themselves lower than their worth to ensure they continue to get jobs so they can support their families. Other writers have less need to depend on that income and can afford to be choosy. They’re often the ones that push the “charge what you’re worth” concept, too.

What’s Everyone Else Thinking?

The worst part of setting rates based on what you’re worth is that you’re basically telling everyone else how you value yourself. Clients, network contact and other writers judge people based on rates all the time. That’s a terrible way to judge a person’s worth. “Only $30 an hour? Wow – she must not value herself much.” There’s the other extreme, too. “$250 for that? Who does he think he is?!”

So what’s your take on it? How do you feel when someone tells you to charge what you’re worth? Are you wondering about your rates? Do you examine them all the time? Do you feel that your service’s dollar value is equal to your value as a person?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. This is the most valuable article on the tricky rates issue that I’ve seen online!

    I’d also add that it can be great to ask your clients what they think too. (Don’t say “am I too expensive?” Say “are my rates about right or too low?” instead.) I’ve found such feedback very useful, especially when dealing with jobs overseas.

    When I first started out years ago, I confess that I got friends to pose as potential clients to find out what my competitors were charging! It’s a questionable tactic, but it really helped me find the right price point to start out with.

    Nick Cernis’s last blog post..Productivity is Dead! Long Live Living!

  2. Thanks James – this is quite timely for me as I’m just entering this world of online business (stay tuned, it will be more than a blog… 🙂 ) and I’ve been spending a bit of time thinking about rates.

    I have been reading through Christine O’Kelly’s e-book (at for any here who haven’t seen it, it is very good – thanks Christine!) and she has a section on this.

    She mentions a 3x factor for freelance rates vs. what you were paid in a traditional job. Now of course this depends on what you are doing, and should be tempered with everything mentioned above – especially the “economy of location” you mention above. If you live in a cheaper place, and still give good work… 🙂

    My first experience with this was a few years back. I was working on a project to refurbish one of the nuke plants here in Canada (Pickering) and I saw a rate sheet that listed the different engineer grades / rates vs. the rate my company was charging the utility.

    (Note – never leave anything on the printer at work, especially with Brett around, I can speed read upside down.)

    Anyway – my company was charging the client over four times my salary for the work I was doing!

    That hurt… and probably, if I think back, was the seed of my desire to work for “me”. It still burns me that I was putting so much money in someone else’s pocket.

    Anyway – thanks again James – you got me thinking… 😉

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  3. @ Brett – Yeah that probably sunk your stomach some when you saw that. Someone once told me a long time ago, which has stuck with me, was one of the worst things you can do to hinder creating yourself wealth was to work a normal job. You spend hours and hours working for a paycheck while the “Entrepreneur’s” pocket’s get bigger and bigger.

    @ Nick – There’s nothing wrong with checking out what your competition is doing. In fact, it is somewhat a necessity. I offer web hosting and I’d be lying if I said I never emailed another hosting company requesting more information about their services. This happens in business all the time. Some, however, are hardcore which I think stinks.

    That was also a good point about getting feedback. When setting up my latest business I first used niche forums to provide me some feedback. One person one day mentioned they thought my price was a little high – then everyone followed in, so I listened.

    @ James – Price point. Yes, one of the most important things you need to consider. What do you think your product or service is worth and what do you think your customer is willing to pay for it?

    We need to always keep a watchful eye on our price point and like you said, there are many factors to consider – such as the economy. Also though, we have to consider how “wealthy” our target customers are. I’d imagine for freelance writing that number could vary from broke to rich. But if you’re targeting new and first time business owners, you can probably bet they are looking for “deals.”

    John Hoff’s last blog post..The Art of Persuasion (Part 3 of 3): 7 Tips To Sharpening Your Persuasive Skills

  4. The best route to success in my book is to do what you love, Brett.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..The Art of Persuasion (Part 3 of 3): 7 Tips To Sharpening Your Persuasive Skills

  5. @ John – that was initially the biggest issue I had with it. Since that time, I have seen people come into my company to provide consulting work (at $100-150 per hour) who don’t actually seem to provide any more value than I do – more often than not, we have to train these people to understand the workflow.

    But obviously, someone at my company thinks these guys are worth it! And, good on them for positioning themselves as experts.

    The other, more important thing though, is that I am doing work that doesn’t largely interest me. I love to write, and that is pretty much what I do at work. Trust me, though, no one would want to read what I write every day at work. No matter how good you are, I don’t think you can make nuclear emergency procedures (or whatever) sound interesting… 😉

    Now, I have two choices:

    1. Complain about the “injustice” of it, like some of my co-workers, or
    2. Do something about it.

    I choose #2. Life is too short to complain.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  6. Michael Martine, Blog Consultant says:

    This is always such a thorny issue. I’ve tried to set my pricing based on what clients get from me, which is more than they can get from most people doing what I do. Because of that, and because also people assign value based on price, my prices are not the cheapest. But because the market does have a certain range for things like web design and blog consulting, I need to stay within that range or I would get very little business.

    There are very few people calling themselves blog consultants or blog designers, so the ones that are stand out and get plenty of business. I must have nailed mine just right, I think. Nobody says I’m too cheap or too expensive and so far I am constantly getting new work.

    When we talk about rates, let’s remember that competing on price is a race to the bottom, so don’t compete on price. Otherwise you’ll be working in a sweatshop of your own creation. If you begin discussions with a client and all they care about is price, they will be hell to deal with. Let them torture somebody else.

    Also, it has to be apparent and obvious to potential clients that the value they will get matches your rates. What you do with your blog or site is probably the biggest influence on that at first. Afterwards, behaving professionally will reinforce that your higher-than-average rates are worth it.

    Michael Martine, Blog Consultant’s last blog post..Guest Post on Liz Strauss? Successful Blog

  7. I think that there’s an argument to say that doing work you dearly love whilst paying your bills and changing people’s lives is more than most will ever achieve. It’s certainly what I’m aiming for; if I get my rate right it’s just a bonus!

    I’m not sure that anyone truly earns what they’re ‘worth’. The sum of human experience and the way we interact with clients is often better measured in smiles than cold hard coinage. I value the people I work with who make me smile and pass on their knowledge above all. Who can put a price on laughter and knowledge?

    @Brett – absolutely! Money doesn’t buy happiness. From the experience of someone who’s had some lovely windfalls and been flat-broke, it simply buys more choices — often tough ones!

    Nick Cernis’s last blog post..Productivity is Dead! Long Live Living!

  8. John – absolutely beautiful.

    You summed up my business plan in one sentence.

    Do what you love. The money will follow.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  9. A thought provoking post as usual, James. I often wonder about this question. There are times when I know I’ve quoted too low because of the indecent speed with which people accept . At other times I know that no matter how experienced I am, I won’t get the rate that I want if other people are charging less. When setting rates I also consider how much I can afford to do the job for and what other benefits it might bring. Sometimes a high profile job that pays less is worth it. I took a job recently that paid less than usual, but I’ve had two referrals from the client already, so it was worth it.

    Sharon Hurley Hall’s last blog post..Men With Pens Review

  10. @ Sharon – I’m glad to have your input here. There has been a lot of discussion about charging what we’re worth, and I’m not sure I agree with much of what’s being said. Do you pass up opportunity because of money? Should you hold out for more? Will it hurt you? Will it benefit you? I think there are too many questions and factors for people to consistently take the high road.

    @ Brett – You bring up another interesting situation. If you’re an employee, should you know what a client pays your employer? And if you do, isn’t that a sign of trust? And what factors into that rate difference between your pay and the client’s cost? I’m not sure it’s so clear as to say, “What?! They’re paying four times more than what I’m paid! Why aren’t I getting a piece of that pie!” Tough topic, certainly.

    @ John – To me, it rarely matters how wealthy my clients are. I set a price that I feel is fair for me without gouging a more wealthy client. Why should they pay more because they have more disposable income? And likewise, why should someone pay less because they don’t have that leeway of a bigger budget?

    @ Nick – That’s a good trick – you’re actually asking the client to evaluate what he or she thinks of the market value rate and lowering the personal perception of cost involved.

  11. @ James – it certainly is a complicated question to answer. I am pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to see that information! Obviously there would be overhead associated with company benefits and so forth.

    The more I thought about it, though, it wasn’t about the money – the company pays me well and is fair, and they are entitled to make money.

    No, it was more than that. I would rather do something I love. And if the money turned out to be better, a bonus.

    But, like the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  12. Michael Martine, Blog Consultant says:

    @ James – The most expensive version of anything never lacks for sales. There is always a market for the extreme high end. The cheapest of anything can easily go out of business when somebody else does it cheaper.

    That doesn’t mean being the most expensive is the answer. That’s also not all there is to it. The perceived value has to match the expense. That is where many freelancers fail: perceived value. It’s classic sales. If you can’t overcome objections, you haven’t built up the value enough in the prospect’s mind. Perceived value is backed by real deliverables, of course. Your clients have to feel you are worth it and you absolutely must deliver on that. People love to feel justified that spending money is the right thing to do.

  13. Excellent article, James. Yes it does boil down to how much you value yourself, but you might be surprised to find out why some people value themselves lower.

    I’ve always had the same problem while consulting/ technical writing, not just with blogging. I always got talked down. When I consulted as a hybrid coder/ tech writer for a very large company, my own “headhunter” forced me to take less, giving me all kinds of excuses. I said I didn’t like it, but my type of programming isn’t in much demand in Canada. The alternative was to be out of work for months. Then I find out that EVERY single tech writer hired on contract at this company was earning more than I was, even with far less experience than I had (which includes being a proj. mgmt assistant at a division of another large company.). And these people couldn’t even code.

    When I worked on contract at a large company in Atlanta, a kid with less skills and experience than I, hired for the same contract work but was making $25/hr more than me. (And that’s when US$1 = Cdn$1.50.) At the same time, I can’t complain because at least in the U.S., they valued my skills. I worked some overtime and was making Cdn$16-20K/month there. I’ve never come even close to half that in Canada.

    On the flip side, I have been without work too many times, for too long. I haven’t had a computer-related contract since 2001. So I gave that career up, but this rate problem persists online. As a consultant, it was always feast or famine for me, and it seems to be the same for blogging.

    But the worst part? When web publishers you know offer you less than a 1/3 of the rate they’re offering others. If you don’t know they’re paying more, what do you do? Accept the work and hope they’ll pay more eventually, or turn it down and miss an opportunity.

    raj’s last blog post..Seth Godin Gets it Wrong. There’s Still Lots of Time

  14. @ Raj – Your experience is interesting. I find that the only people who tend to respect our rates and skills up front without haggling are those in Canada and Australia. The UK isn’t so bad… Americans always look to get a deal, it seems. That’s okay, negotiation is part of business, but it does tell me quite a bit at the perception of value based on cultural differences.

    I think you can’t beat yourself up about undercutting yourself when a buyer would pay more. I think you have to find a rate you feel comfortable with – even IF you could’ve gotten more money. Perhaps I tend to look at quality of the working relationship over the quantity of money I’ll receive, and I think I have a different perception than many writers.

    Yes, I’d love to earn $200 an hour. I really would. I wouldn’t feel good about myself, though. Likewise, I wouldn’t want to earn $10 an hour. I can shovel horse shit at the stables for better wages than that.

    On the other hand, do I really want to shovel horse shit? Or work at McDonalds? Do I want to hold out for better rates and risk having to go work in exactly those jobs? But do I want the label of being an arTEESTe because I charge more so that I don’t have to go work at minimum wage? Hm, hm.

    Keep in mind, too – the average Canadian yearly salary is in the low 20 thousands. Most Canadians earn something around 18 k a year, I believe. We also have many social advantages that make living on that salary okay, too. (Maybe not for Toronto, though – what’s your rent like out there?) In Auz, the cost of living is extravagantly more. In the US, I believe it’s lower. (I have no idea, really.) I don’t think it’s feasible to find a standard across the board for an international market.

    @ Nick – Yes. You and I are on the exact same page.

    @ Michael – A race to compete against the lowest price is the worst to do, I agree. The question is, is a race to be the highest price any better?

  15. @ James & Nick – you guys definitely “get it”. The best engineering job I ever had was my first one.

    It was also the one that paid the least. But the relationships were what made it special. The clients, suppliers and co-workers.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  16. @ Michael – That, my friend, is the smartest thing I’ve heard in a while. (Why didn’t I think of it?) It also proves a point I made: that basing rates on your perceived self-worth isn’t the best course of action. That’s an emotional decision that has no place in business. Set your rates and then back them up. Don’t just give your own value a price tag just because.

  17. I try not to follow the rate argument very closely, because it usually downgrades into a cat-fight. And I don’t make a very good spectator. This is a loaded topic, for sure. My honest opinion on the great rate debate: everyone has to set his own standard. As with everything else in life, what works for me might not work for you.

    I charge what’s fair to both me and my clients. I blog for lawyers. They can afford me. My rate is high (compared to most bloggers I know). But because my clients can afford me, I have plenty of work. Does that mean someone who wants to blog for the start-up business next door should approach the owner with the same rate? Well, they could, but we all know they’d get scoffed at. As you said, you can set your rate as high as you want, but if no one will pay it you’ll be out of work. The trick to earning a higher rate is to find the people willing to pay it.

    I’m a firm believer in going out there and finding my own jobs. I don’t have the gigs I have because I sat back waiting for something good to show up on the job boards. A lot of writers I see arguing about the rate topic base everything on the jobs offered at craigslist and problogger. They think they could never earn more than $20 per blog post (or $10, or $5), because that’s the highest paying type of gig they’ve ever seen advertised. But if you go out there and pitch a few prospective clients, you might be surprised what they’d be willing to pay. There are many folks out there who don’t even know they need a blogger (or a website) until you tell them.

    Just my two (or three) cents.

    Amy Derby’s last blog post..I Pitch, I Score (And You Can Too)

  18. @ James: Money isn’t everything. I also agree with Amy. When clients approach me directly, I can have more of a dialogue, where I can show them exactly what value they are getting when they hire me. Jobs boards can be a lottery, but you don’t have to bid on anything you think is going to leave you out of pocket. Also, what looks like a good deal when things are slow may not be so great if you are busy, when you can afford to cherry pick.

    Sharon Hurley Hall’s last blog post..Men With Pens Review

  19. @ James – Re: changing your price point based on how rich your target market is

    I guess i see your point when it comes to doing what you do. I was thinking more along the lines of you need to price your products based on who your target customer is – like if you’re in a low income neighborhood and you own a restaurant. You wouldn’t charge the same for a burger as you would in upscale New York.

    Sorry, my thinking was along the lines of this topic but a little off. Can I use the fact that it was 5am when I read the post??? 😉

    John Hoff’s last blog post..The Art of Persuasion (Part 3 of 3): 7 Tips To Sharpening Your Persuasive Skills

  20. I’ve been on my own for just seven months now, but I’ve already learned that (a) some clients will always think you charge too much/they can get the same work for less money elsewhere, and (b) you can’t be afraid to lose a client who doesn’t want to pay you what you know a job is worth.

    Cindy Dashnaw’s last blog post..Postal Service hides brochure under self-congratulatory cover letter

  21. @ Cindy – Agreed. And I think you’ve made a clear distinction: what a job is worth There is a huge difference (in my mind) between what YOU are worth as a person and what a job is worth. I think this may be why I have trouble with the tossed-around advice of charging what you’re worth. It isn’t about you. It’s about the job. What do you think?

    @ Sharon – Yes. You leave yourself leeway and the ability to bargain and negotiate to meet your needs, not just the client’s.

    @ Amy – Good points there, too. There are some people that focus only on finding work in one location and in one way only. They see what others offer and feel they don’t have a choice. That sucks, to say the least.

  22. @James & Cindy: That is a very, very good point and an “ah-ha” moment for me. Being a naturally sensitive kinda guy, I think I used to get *my* self worth confused with the worth of the work.

    Excellent distinction.

  23. @James — Yes, it’s is about what the job is worth and not what YOU are worth. Not everyone sees it that way, though, so you have to develop a bit of a thick skin so you’ll be prepared for others’ reactions. I recently told a colleague what I was charging as a general rule, and he told me I was worth more than that. He made me question what I was doing, which was good to the point of making me check in with my plans, but not good in that he made me feel a bit … dumb, I guess. But I’ve bounced back.

    I do charge different rates for different clients. Some can afford a higher rate, and some jobs are easier (or more fun) to do.

    It’s definitely a learning process, and I’m still learning!

    Cindy Dashnaw’s last blog post..Postal Service hides brochure under self-congratulatory cover letter

  24. @ John – Yeah, it’s tough. You can and can’t do that in an international industry. Complex as hell.

    @ Cindy – And that’s *exactly* my complaint with this “charge what you’re worth” thing. It doesn’t make people THINK better. It makes them question themselves and it kicks their self-esteem. It’s flattering to be told, “Wow, not more than that? But you guys are great!” It’s terrible to be told, “You’re wrong. This is not right. I know better than you. I am better than you. Look, my rates are higher, which clearly shows that I am better than you. If you charged higher rates, you would be as good as me.”

    Um, no. No, no, no.

    What disappoints me the most is the peer-factor in our industry. Writers tend not to be the most gracious people when you toss money into the mix. They judge each other very much based on monetary price tag, and that’s so wrong I can’t begin to say why.

  25. Value. Money is an exchange for value. As such, it is more a matter of context and alchemy than any rate sheet can provide.
    As an artist this is one of the most difficult aspects of our work too. At the end of the day, it comes down to mutuality. Did each party get out of that exchange the value they went in for, the benefits, and the experience…that is what keeps your clients returning, no matter what the scale.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Organizing Monday

  26. Michael Martine, Blog Consultant says:

    I would like to speak to this notion that it’s not about you as a person, it’s about the job, that a client is paying for a job.

    Yes, and no.

    The client does see that they need a job done, no question. If that were all there was to it, it would be a simple matter of getting the lowest price. If it really was only about the job, you just turned yourself into a commodity. I can hire commodities at Elance or Rent-A-Coder (that’s not a joke, that’s a real site).

    The client wants a person they can trust, who is reliable, and who delivers. The client wants a person who will make life easier for them, not more difficult. In some cases, the client specifically wants the best or wants an industry leader. If a client says to you: “I hear you’re the go-to person for __________,” you know you’re doing it right.

    I think it’s both: the client needs a job done at minimum, but what they want is to succeed. At the end of the day, what we’re all selling is the dream of sweet success.

  27. Great topic, James.

    I would like to also add that there’s a difference in whether one is doing freelance work full-time, or only part-time.

    We all have yearly expenses — rent/mortgage, food, transportation, insurance, etc.

    On top of that, maybe there are one or two “luxury” items we want — a new flat-screen TV, or a vacation, perhaps?

    Then there’s the emergency fund (the general advice is 6 months’ worth)

    How about a retirement fund? Or the college fund for our kids?

    Still with me?

    If we have a “day job”, some of these are covered for us — we’re subsidizing any freelance work that we charge “too little” for. So-called “weekend warriors” notoriously fall into this category.

    But if we’re a full-time freelancer, than we need to pay for all these expenses — not to also mention computer upgrades, office supplies, business licenses/taxes, marketing, etc. — from only the fees we charge, which presumably would have to be higher. Maybe much higher.

    One of the reasons many small businesses fail within the first 5 years is failure to realize we’re “running a business”.

    I’ve found that running the business consumes about 80% of my time — my creative work 20% (maybe less), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Knowing our market and what others charge is useful, but knowing how to run a own small business is just as important, if not more so.

    Over on — on the right hand column, a little ways down, is a very helpful “rates calculator” — I invite everyone to try it out. The results may be surprising.

    Nez’s last blog post..The Need to Belong

  28. @ Nez, all very good points. Perhaps a blend of baseline (a full-time job) and load-following (freelance) may work best for some people. I guess it depends on your risk tolerance.

    If this sounds a bit like a combination of power generation and finance, that’s because it is… 🙂

    Neither extreme is an optimal solution, perhaps. One thing that appeals to me about doing things myself (going freelance, as well as independent investing) is that I have a little more control (or the perception of it, anyway 😉 )

    Having seen what is going on so far with the pension fund in Canada, I have little faith that there will be any there for me, never mind my children!

    My best hope for them is to stay fit, so they can put me to work in a coal mine when my mind goes… and have the cheques sent to them 🙂

    PS – that rate calculator is really nice

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  29. The rate calculator is frightening, but in a good way (at least, that’s why I’m telling myself). I see that I need to sign up for a course on how to create a business plan. I’m a full-time freelance writer. It feels as though I’m on track to make about the same amount of money at year-end as I was making when I worked full-time for someone else. But “feels as though I’m on track” probably isn’t good enough! If I know what my goals are, setting rates and sticking to them might be easier.

    Cindy Dashnaw’s last blog post..Postal Service hides brochure under self-congratulatory cover letter

  30. Another thought provoking post James. The subject of money has raised some interesting discussions as of late and like you know, I’ve had my fair share of them too. It’s strange. Up until Skellie posted her article on the subject I never worried about my rates as much.

    When I initially set them I sussed out my competition and tried to fit in whilst delivering better content. That strategy seemed to have worked very well for 3 month. I never had to look for work since I got many referrals in that time.

    But when I read said post I got really angry as I felt extremely undervalued all of a sudden. This got me thinking about my rates and whether I was charging enough or not.

    In the end I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge the fact that comparing myself to others is like putting a string around my neck. ( I should have know better anyway!).

    Posts that state “you can earn this and that” or you should earn this and that are very dangerous for freelancers in my eyes. They take away our concentration on the job at hand (namely to write top content) and let us worry about our worth.

    When we start comparing ourselves to those who earn more than us, we often forget relationships that play a huge role in getting high paying jobs. This is dangerous and enough in some cases to send some freelancers into a downward spiral.

    I have done a lot of thinking and stewing over my own rates in the last couple of weeks and have come to the conclusion that it wasn’t necessary. Just keep going with what I have done so far and I will be fine.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Freelance Writing Blog Crawl – Round Two

  31. James, you raise some very poignant questions here. I find that there’s a huge benefit to charging per project as opposed to using an hourly rate. It allows me to assess the value of the project, the time and effort that will be involved, and yes, take into consideration what I think the client will pay or deem fair. A well-funded startup company in San Francisco is going to pay a lot more than a mom and pop operation out of Utah. It’s going to be harder and more time consuming to write a well-researched piece on ecology than to put together a how-to on WordPress customization (only because I already know a lot about WP customizing).

    Flexible rates are the way to go in my opinion. The downside is that one day you’re earning $15 per hour. The upside is that the next day you could be bringing in $75 an hour.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..When Freedom Rang – A Story of Startup Failure

  32. @ Melissa and Monika – I’m glad both of you came over to chime in. I know that you have the same questions and concerns as I do, and I believe you also support many of the same values I do as well. Your thoughts are welcome.

    @ Melissa – Even a per project fee comes out to an hourly rate – divide the fee by the hours put in and voila. Flexibility does work to everyone’s advantage, I feel, and it doesn’t price tag your personal value.

    @ Monika – That’s what bothers me about people who talk about what people should make. We start to question ourselves in negative ways and our self-esteem takes a knock. I see it happen often and it bothers me, because your rate shouldn’t be a representation of your quality.

    @ Michael – Yes. I agree. But… have you ever tried to write for money and see if you’re still able to sell that success? You’re in a different niche, so you may have a different experience. It’s not always easy, depending on which area we work in.

    You have good points, though. Very good ones.

    @ Cindy – Ha! Writers tend to be the poorest people at business planning and accounting, so yes – go get that course… and you can come be our consultant 😉 I hear what you’re saying, though. Sometimes we feel like, “Hey, is this really better? Doesn’t feel like it…”

    @ Brett – Pension fund? I grew up fully believing that there would be no pension fund when I aged and that I’d better find something I can do until I died. Retirement fund? Um… does that even exist for Gen X and Yers?

    @ Nez – Yes. I wish more writers would realize that writing is a business in every sense. My government sure as hell thinks so… income tax. AUGH!

    @ Janice – Value of the job – not value of the person and therefore, charging what we’re worth as people makes no sense at all, don’t you think? But you said it. Artists have it tough.

    Except I’m not an artist 😉 I consider writing a trade.

  33. @ James – exactly, you and I “get it”. If only the new hires I see at work (thinking they can spend all that they make, and Father Canada will look after them, would get it).

    What you said above in response to Monika is on the mark.

    We all do world class work. We are all good people. That’s what matters.

    You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. 🙂

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  34. My feeling has always been to set the hourly rate high.. as long as I’m “in the ballpark” I don’t really care about the few who think I’m too high.

    I do want to be fair to my clients though, and sometimes things take longer than I think is reasonable. So if something should have been 4 hours and it takes me 6 because I’m tired or careless, I just charge the 4. Same hourly rate, just fibbing about the time. I do the same if it’s work that is foolishly easy and really not worth that rate.

    Tony Lawrence’s last blog post..Insulting Windows Admins? by Anthony Lawrence

  35. Michael Martine, Blog Consultant says:

    @ Monika – It’s interesting that you brought up location. The nature of my business means I’m dealing almost exclusively with people who don’t live where I do. I can live in Vermont but charge California rates. 🙂 Like I said, nobody has ever complained that I cost too much. One time a client said I was “very reasonable” and that’s when I raised my rates. I don’t want to reasonable–I want to be worth it.

  36. I’ve just read an interesting report on the Guardian’s site — it seems that there are other payment models emerging for web content writers.

    Gawker Media is reportedly using a performance-based payment system whereby writers get $7.50 per thousand pageviews (unconfirmed) that their article generates for the site owner. Personally, I hope it doesn’t become a trend!

    Read the article in full here.

    Nick Cernis’s last blog post..Productivity is Dead! Long Live Living!

  37. @ Melissa: I like what you said about flexible rates. All though it has been mentioned before, your mentioning it has stuck with me.

    @ James: yep, I’m with you on this one. Also what you mentioned about rates and quality is spot on. We mustn’t forget where we live as this plays a huge role on rates (like you mentioned in your post).

    Some of us work mainly with local clients where others have clients all around the world. In the end we have to set rates to stay competitive in the market and still pay our bills.

    @ Brett: you are one smart person (no wonder I like you!). You should see how many people perceive themselves as ueber cool here just because they drive a “holden commodore” or some other status car, despite the fact that they can’t afford it and it is paid by the bank.

    I wish we would give more credit on actual character and not the size of ones wallet.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Freelance Writing Blog Crawl – Round Two

  38. @ Monika – Maybe we can start the trend right here…

  39. @ Monika – (*blush* thanks) it must be the company I keep – the smart people I hang out with on these blogs (like you!), birds of a feather as they say…

    So many people consuming, and then showing it off. Six thousand square foot McMansions with a Lexus and a Bimmer in the triple car drive, no furniture inside, and a complimentary membership to alcoholics anonymous.

    Not my dream… give me a setting sun by the warm ocean any day

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  40. This is one of the things that’s prevented me from getting into Freelancing for some time. I used to do contract software development and I lacked the arrogance to really jack the rates up, so I felt that in writing I might be at a disadvantage. In addition, I think writers have even more competition at the low end of the rate scale than programmers, but that may just be based on some job boards I’ve been seeing lately.

    Either way it’s a question I’m still struggling with.

    John Lockwood’s last blog post..Selling Your Writing Online (Part II: The Right Way)

  41. @ Brett: LOL, thanks for the “smart compliment”. I know what you mean with empty houses. Seen plenty myself here in Oz. And then they have kids who can’t eat cause the fridge is empty. But I guess that’s a whole other subject and we don’t want to take away the concentration of this posts topic.

    @ John: if you mean job boards like Guru or Scriptlance, then I understand your worries. It is hard to compete with $4 for 400 word article rates.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Freelance Writing Blog Crawl – Round Two

  42. @ Monika, hey, no worries – actually, this little mini-dialog got me thinking, so I have taken my thoughts off-line, but I will return to it in a future blog post… it really got me thinking.

    That’s the beauty of these kinds of interactions. Together we are stronger.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..butterfly effect.

  43. Good one!

    Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood’s last blog post..Bad Attitudes Will Sink You in Hollywood: The Ingénue

  44. Oh man can I relate to this! Last week I had someone tell me that my rates were more than they could pay. This week I had 2 people tell me they expected my rates to be a lot more! One said “Are you kidding….” (I wasn’t sure where this was going next) “that’s all the job would cost?!?” I didn’t know whether to feel like an ass or if I had just sealed a new client for life.

    Christine OKelly’s last blog post..How I Sold Millions of Dollars of Intangible Products in a Highly Competitive Market

  45. @ Michael: I understand where you are coming from (at least I think I do). What I meant by location is this applies especially to Asian clients. Their lifestyle is a lot cheaper and when I give them my rates which are according to a decent hourly rate here In Australia, they normally run a mile and never come back.

    I have no problems with local clients and even those in the USA who value quality. I guess this is what I referred to.

    @ James: I think it has already started here. 😉

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Freelance Writing Blog Crawl – Round Two

  46. There’s no silver bullet to pricing. But I’ve found that keeping a “master fee schedule” — and making a habit of updating it continually as you get feedback from clients, prospects and collagues — is the best way to stay within range on most projects (not too low and not too high).

    Other strategies I use:

    1) Develop a niche and become the “go to” guy in that space. Price will be less of an issue.

    2) Control your expenses and make sure you have plenty of savings. Money in the bank does amazing things. You’ll be more careful about the work you take on and the fees you accept (there’s nothing worse than taking a rally bad job because you need it to pay the mortgage!).

    3) Always turn in outstanding work…and give clients excellent customer service. Your client will never let you go because you will become an integral part of their team. They will als refer you to other great clients who will rarely haggle with you over fees.

    4) Chill out! The bigger a deal you make out of fees and pricing as a deal killer, the more anxiety you’ll have when quoting. This will show in your voice and in your actions. So try to calm down. You’ll come across more confidently and you’ll get your fees more often. (#2 above also helps here).

  47. @ed- excellent strategies.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Topsy Turvy Tart

  48. Viktoria says:

    When you get too much work to handle, that’s when other factors become less relevant as it pertains to your rate. When I get three times more contracts than I can handle, it’s time for a raise. If I have so much work, it’s probably because I am doing something right, so I think that as long as my raise isn’t abusive, most of my clients will be willing to pay for my services.

    By the way, in my niche, there is a fairly big crowd complaining about an eternal dry spell that I somehow fail to see.


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