Good Starting Rates for Freelance Writing/Editing?

13 replies
Hello everyone,

I have been freelancing for some time now via job sites like Fiverr and Upwork, where of course you hardly ever get paid what you are worth. (Someone wanted me to write a 50,000 word novel...for $5, of which the sellers get only $4 due to Fiverr fees).

I was talking with someone about how I freelance on a discussion board, and they wound up sending me a private message saying, "What are your rates? Maybe I could throw some work your way."

The thing is, I have no idea what to charge as a beginner! He said he had some editing work for me, plus he knows people who need help writing stories (they have plot ideas but don't know how to write them...so they may need an outline, or someone to ghostwrite the whole thing). Then there are people who need content on website, so 500-1000 word articles.

I found some rates on a website, but they are for once you have proven you are worth that much. Below are the rates I found. (There is nothing for outlines, but I was thinking a flat $25 for that.)

Maybe undercut each one by $10. In the case of ones that list cents, maybe go 10 cents lower? I am not sure what would be asking too much as a beginner. That is why I came here to ask for advice.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!



Editing, basic copyediting: $30-40/hr

Editing, heavy copyediting: $4050/hr

Editing, website copyediting: $40-50/hr


PROOFREADING: $30-35/hr


Writing, fiction: $40-50/hr or 20-25/wd

Writing, ghostwriting: $50-60/hr or 26-50/wd


Writing, nonspecified: $40-100/hr or 20-$2/wd
#freelance #good #rates #starting #writing or editing
  • Profile picture of the author gingerninjas
    Set your hourly rate across the board, if you have 7 different prices it's going to be a challenge to manage.

    Also, you may want to quote based on the project as a whole, rather than hourly. I find this to be an easier way.

    Your rates seem really reasonable and I would say that your writing (non-specified) rate is the only one that could be problematic.

    I would suggest not offering content by the word, that is something that I often find devalues the offering somewhat, however it is a personal preference.

    Do ensure you provide examples of your work and references/testimonials as this will help promote your success and also the quality of your work.
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    • Profile picture of the author WCman1976
      Originally Posted by gingerninjas View Post

      Set your hourly rate across the board, if you have 7 different prices it's going to be a challenge to manage.

      Also, you may want to quote based on the project as a whole, rather than hourly. I find this to be an easier way.

      Your rates seem really reasonable and I would say that your writing (non-specified) rate is the only one that could be problematic.

      I would suggest not offering content by the word, that is something that I often find devalues the offering somewhat, however it is a personal preference.

      Do ensure you provide examples of your work and references/testimonials as this will help promote your success and also the quality of your work.
      These were not my rates. I found them when I typed in "freelancing rates" into Google.

      What makes you say "writing non-specified" is problematic?
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    • Profile picture of the author WCman1976
      Originally Posted by gingerninjas View Post

      Set your hourly rate across the board, if you have 7 different prices it's going to be a challenge to manage.

      Also, you may want to quote based on the project as a whole, rather than hourly. I find this to be an easier way.

      Your rates seem really reasonable and I would say that your writing (non-specified) rate is the only one that could be problematic.

      I would suggest not offering content by the word, that is something that I often find devalues the offering somewhat, however it is a personal preference.

      Do ensure you provide examples of your work and references/testimonials as this will help promote your success and also the quality of your work.
      How does offering content by the word cheapen it? I am just curious because there are many magazines out there that publish articles or fiction and say that they pay 3 cents per word (as an example).
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  • Profile picture of the author MarketMeh
    Hey there!

    I totally understand your situation as I was once a beginner on the Freelance marketplace myself. I also sympathize with your situation exactly because Writing and Editing are probably the most underpaid professions you can find (unless you are a well-known editor or writer).

    My point is: where there is a will, there is a way. What do I mean by that?

    Well, I mean if you really want to find gigs that pay you decent rates, you need to up your game. I know this sounds like an old cliche, but I will assume that you have been doing this a looong time, so I do not have to start from scratch.

    What do I mean by upping your game? Well, let's see:

    Here are a few set of rules/guidelines that will get you started:

    Rule #1: I assume that throughout your years of freelance editing and writing, you have accumulated a large set of articles and other written manuscripts that you could potentially showcase to your future employers on your portfolio.

    Yes.Having a decent portfolio is a must as employers DO check them whenever they consider someone for a role.

    Trust me: you will always have naysayers who think portfolios (especially for writing/editing that tends to be less visual compared to design portfolios) are a thing of the past, but DON'T listen to them.

    My suggestion:
    • Have 2-3 of your best works so far in hand at all times. (both from editing and writing)
    • Don't ever publish full articles and stuff...have excerpts instead.
    • Try to make it visual if you can (have some stock photos to go with your portfolio items once in a while)
    • Try to post items that are actually yours (lot of freelancers steal other writers' works, so they can get gigs coming their way, but they are doomed as it can easily backfire when they are put to the test)

    Rule #2: Have your own rates set in stone well before you start bidding/pitching for projects.

    Why?

    Because if you keep changing your rates all the time, it instills distrust in your employers.

    E.g: On your profile, you have a rate of 20 USD/ hour, but in your bids, you have just placed a bid of 200 USD on a job that would only take 2-3 hours for you to complete. You can see how this could so easily turn into an embarrassment.

    A freelancer trades time for money; An Entrepreneur invests time for money. That is an important distinction to make.
    My suggestion:
    • Always have your own rates that you are comfortable working in. Never go down just because the employer threatens/forces you into it.
    • Don't ever bother about industry rates and things like that. Set your own prices because if you don't, you will burn out soon. After all, you got your own bills to pay as well, right?
    • Sometimes employers tend to pay a little bit more for quality work, so don't worry about being a little expensive. Higher price often indicates premium service.

    Rule #3: Hold several irons in the fire at once, but make sure that one iron always burns lighter than the rest.

    As I can see, you are already doing this (on Fiverr -which I do not recommend, on Upwork - is great but never worked for me) but the more platforms you are available at, the more work and exposure you can get. - this is what I mean by keeping several irons in the fire.

    But, on the other side of the coin, you need to have one platform that you always pay extra-extra attention to. For me it was Freelancer dot com, but most people will say that it is impossible to gain traction there due to low quality bids and employees all around. Yes, I know that it has been going downhill for the past year or so, but I cannot deny the fact that I have been living off this platform for years, so it is, in fact, possible to find work on freelancer. You just have to do it smart.

    1. Yes, there is a lot of competition
    2. Yes, you have to actively keep looking for jobs
    3. Yes, you may have to go way down when you are a beginner

    BUT, if you go through the inconvenient initial steps, you can end up being a premium writer who no longer has to beg for jobs, but more like employers come begging you (on premium rates, of course) to undertake their job.

    I know that it sounds too fancy to be true, but I can only speak (in this case, write) from experience.

    These things are just from the top of my head, and I am sorry if I was babbling a little back there. There is just so much to tell that I might end up starting a blog myself where I can put these out there for people like you to find.

    I hope I could somewhat help.

    Cheers,

    MM
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  • Profile picture of the author Wordsmith11
    Many writers dream about having the freedom to be their own boss, set their own schedule, and make a living doing what they love.

    But when it comes to getting the work done and to find the correct clients many people don't do that correctly and hence they can't bring themselves to do it.
    For instance if you need to learn a new skill, you will backout, example your client needs WordPress knowledge and you don't have that you won't put in the extra amount of work for it.

    If a editor tells them they need to improve their article and it lacks finesse , they resent and back out.

    That's when a writer realises that it's not a piece of cake, free lance writing is hard and tough.
    You have to be extremely disciplined in order to make your way through, you not only have to look for new clients time and again but also have to deal with rejection of your work and a lot of times you will have to write again and then rewrite to make sure the demands of your client are met.

    A lot of things play an important role in deciding how much you can earn and charge, it indeed does take a long time to reach the level you desire.
    If you create a market for yourself and you are willing to write on topics which vast majority of people don't, you can charge higher money for it, if you write tough content you can make more money out of It.

    You also need to put in some money in marketing yourself correctly, you need to have a good profile through which people will contact you and reach out to you

    One thing to note is that Many writers prefer to kick back and enjoy life more now that they're out of the cubicle, rather than working hard for the money they wanted. They spend on vacations or prefer sitting and watching television all day long.
    One question you need to ask is that what is your earning goal?

    I have seen in my career that you can earn more than you can imagine if you put the hardwork at it. Your potential earning online isn't limited to what you used to make at the desk job, online you can make more money than you ever thought you could, your earning potential isn't limited to the 9-5 Job it's unlimited
    Hence set up the rates accordingly and then work towards those
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  • Profile picture of the author zdebx
    I'm not sure what the current rates are for writing/proofreading articles, but instead of charging per hour, I would charge per article or per project.

    This way you can adjust the pricing based on word count or the complexity of the topic and not have to worry about calculating hours, etc.
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  • Profile picture of the author Denis Orlov
    In fact, I partly agree with @zdebx about charging for projects. However, it should be adjusted to workhours. And it has to be adjusted. Otherwise, customer will find difference and will be suspicious.

    Regarding the prices, it is necessary to have your fixed pricelist.

    BTW, I've tried to open URL in your signature and it does not load
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    • Profile picture of the author WCman1976
      Originally Posted by Denis Orlov View Post

      In fact, I partly agree with @zdebx about charging for projects. However, it should be adjusted to workhours. And it has to be adjusted. Otherwise, customer will find difference and will be suspicious.

      Regarding the prices, it is necessary to have your fixed pricelist.

      BTW, I've tried to open URL in your signature and it does not load
      I was working on that site in conjunction with a friend. He was the one in charge of the C-Panel and all that; I edited gigs and approved job postings. It got infected with some virus or another. He never fixed it. I did not realize it was in my signature until you said something. :-( Thank you.
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  • Profile picture of the author sweetcrabhoney18
    Charging per hour requires you to track the time you spend on each project. This means timers and screen shots. Have a per word minimum that is competitive to others. It should be more than 2.5 cents but not more than 10cent since you are just starting out.

    Quote per project based on your per word press. NEVER give the same price for the same project because each project is unique. Never try to over charge a buyer just because either.

    Be wise -- increase prices as you gain wisdom. Your prices after 13 months in the field shouldn't be the same as your prices now.

    Good luck honey!
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    keep moving forward

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    • Profile picture of the author WCman1976
      Originally Posted by sweetcrabhoney18 View Post

      Charging per hour requires you to track the time you spend on each project. This means timers and screen shots. Have a per word minimum that is competitive to others. It should be more than 2.5 cents but not more than 10cent since you are just starting out.

      Quote per project based on your per word press. NEVER give the same price for the same project because each project is unique. Never try to over charge a buyer just because either.

      Be wise -- increase prices as you gain wisdom. Your prices after 13 months in the field shouldn't be the same as your prices now.

      Good luck honey!
      Never been called "honey" on here before. Thank you...you are very sweet!

      Now on to my reply: UGH, one person says do hourly, other says do word count! The only time tracking and screen shot software I know of came courtesy of Upwork's downloadable desktop app, but you can use that ONLY for jobs you got via Upwork.

      I guess I would have to do a Google search for downloadable desktop time tracking apps, if I decide to go with hourly rates. It's a real toss-up though because depending on the project, it could take longer and therefore going by word count would screw me on pay.

      EXAMPLE: I have one client now who has me rewrite these pieces of flash fiction. 1600 words or so each time. I finish them in less than an hour.

      Another guy wanted me to edit/proofread a jiu jitsu book. The writing was painful. 1600 words probably took me over 2 hours because it needed so much adjusting.

      I guess there are pros and cons to either one. I just have to decide which one has more pros than cons in MY opinion.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Moffatt
    I'd suggest looking up "Value Based Selling".

    I was blessed to earn $7,500 on my very first copy gig ever. (A competitor emailed me and like my copy so much he asked me to write his too).

    To keep it in perspective, I also took on a $200 gig for my second paid sales piece
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  • Profile picture of the author BradVert2013
    I'll repeat what some other warriors have said: charge per project, not by the hour. Here's why.

    First, if you charge by the hour you'll need tracking software to track your time. Second (and most importantly), you'll get clients who will question why it took you x number of hours to write a 1,000 word article. Many clients don't understand that writing content is more than just typing words on a keyboard. There's also research involved, planning how to structure the article, thinking about it (yes, writers do a lot of thinking about what they write), etc.

    You can try to educate clients about all this, but it's more of a hassle than it's worth and many clients will still be suspicious that you're padding your hours. Same goes with charging per word.

    My basic rate, for a simple 500-word article/blog post is $50. It goes up from there based on the amount of research involved, complexity and length. This way the client knows the cost upfront so there are no surprises.

    Finally, don't be afraid to charge what you think you're worth. Too many writers charge peanuts because they're afraid to ask for more money. They see clients wanting a quality 1000-word article for $5 and assume that's the most anyone will pay. Not true!!! There are plenty of potential clients out there willing to pay top dollar for quality content.

    Hope this helps!
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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    I agee with BradVert2013 - clients typically don't realize how much work is involved in the whole process. Much better to charge by the project than trying to justify spending three hours writing a 500-word piece.

    If you want to avoid being surprised by the scope of a project, you could always quote a ball-park price range to the client but reserve the option to finalize the fee only when you see the extent of the project and can estimate how much work it would take.

    And when starting out as a freelancer, it's probably not wise to begin with a low rate in the hope of being able to raise your fees after becoming established. That sounds tempting, but in practice it's far harder than you'd think, and there's the risk of alienating some of your regular clients. Far better to start with a rate you're happy to work for and that reflects your worth. If necessary, offer discounts to new clients as an enticement - but establish your standard rate from the outset.
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