Confessing my rates

By Katharine Swan On Wednesday, July 25, 2007 At 9:36 AM

Some of you may remember me declining to share my rates a little while back. Well, today Deb started a discussion on her blog about what rates we consider fair for web writing, and I just couldn't resist.

Here's the rundown. I judge my rates by an estimate of how long I think it'll take to write, as I've mentioned before. I find that a lot of web writing is pretty easy to write, compared to more intensive articles such as newspaper interviews and magazine features. That means, in other words, that while I would expect a higher rate from magazines, I'm okay with writing a content article for a little less.

In other words, a newspaper I used to freelance for paid me $50 per article, but what that works out to be per hour is much less than the web articles I write for $50 each. Needless to say, I don't write for that paper anymore.

I started noticing early this year that there was a lot of disparity between my hourly wages. For some jobs, I was having problems hitting $15 an hour, while others paid me $30 or more an hour. During the months since then, I have been trying to decrease the number of jobs paying the lower amounts, while increasing the number of jobs on the higher end of the spectrum. I'm trying to get to a point where I don't have anything that pays below $20 an hour, preferably nothing that pays below $25 either. I'd like the majority of my jobs to pay in the $30-$40 per hour range, and several of my best regular jobs are already there.

Does this mean it's harder to find work? Of course. (Note: I actually haven't had to look hard to find work recently, as I've gotten to a point where most of it is from returning clients or referrals.) However, it also means that I have to find less work to make the same amount of money -- a good thing, because as I've noted before, it can be difficult to get eight hours of billable time in every day. There are too many other things -- monitoring emails, marketing, blogging -- that require my attention as well.

There is one exception, though. (I guess there always is -- the trick is limiting that exception so that all of your clients don't become "exceptions.") I have one client that still pays me $15 per 500-600 word article -- low compared to my other gigs these days. I intend to let this slide for a few reasons:

1) I have been writing for them regularly for a year and a half now, and sometimes that kind of regularity is just as valuable as a higher wage.

2) The articles don't really take that long to do. Some months (they assign monthly batches) I can get my hourly up to my preferred rate, $30 per hour, or at least close to it. That makes up for the months where my hourly hovers around $15 per hour. (It's never less than that, thankfully.)

3) I happen to really, really like the people I work for.

Of course, if my absolute lowest-paying gig pays me $15-$30 an hour, you can probably understand why I rail against gigs that offer $1-$2 per article. Some people claim you have to do things like that to start out, but I don't agree -- I started out making $15 per article, and with the exception of Associated Content (who I stopped submitting exclusive articles to when I realized $4 was the most I'd get), $5 for a short blog post is the lowest I've ever gone.

So now the cat is out of the bag, and you know about what I make -- most days. (Hey, we all have our bad days!) You also know now that I have good reason to be pissed when I am offered $1 per article. I know that there are many writers that make far more than I am -- traditional copywriters typically charge $1 or more per word. However, I also know that I am doing a far sight better than many other writers. I hope that if you are in this latter group, you will be suitably inspired by the "raise" I have successfully given myself to try for one of your own.

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Blogger Irreverent Freelancer Says:  

I've noticed that I'm spending a lot less time looking for work (and working fewer hours per day) too. It's summer; I need a bit of a slower pace. So far it doesn't seem to be hurting my income much, if at all. We might be on to something. ;o)

 
 
Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  

Unfortunately, my pace actually has picked up a bit -- or at least, the demands on my time have. I made the mistake of agreeing to do a job again this summer that I swore (after last summer) I wouldn't do again, because it's just not worth it. Hopefully a little "fool me twice" will stick in my head a bit better for when the client comes sniffing around again next year...

 
 
Anonymous alicia Says:  

Katharine, someone could have told me I wrote this post myself and I would have believed them. It sounds so much like me.

I think all that matters is that each freelancer can justify - in an honest way, and not in a self-deceiving way - that his or her rates are working for him or her. If we're not starving, if we're reaching the goals we've set for ourselves, and if we feel our talent is being monetarily recognized, then we're good to go.

(P.S. I have absolutely no idea if I used "monetarily" correctly just now, but I'm still sleepy and don't feel like looking it up, haha.)

 
 
Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  

That's a compliment, Alicia. Thank you!

As you noted, what's important is that the freelancer is honest with themselves. As much as I think a freelancer's rates are a personal decision based on individual needs, it still makes me gag a bit when I hear a writer -- particularly an American writer, as we all know our living expenses are higher here -- talking about how $1 an article works just fine for him/her.

 

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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