Setting freelance writing rates

I thought I’d throw this out there since I’m constantly surprised by the breadth of expertise and good advice to be found on QT3.

I’ve had a colleague approach me about doing a freelance writing assignment for his company. This isn’t game/product reviews, it’s more like technical writing for the business section of their website. He approached me because he likes my style (they want to straddle the informative/entertaining line) and knows I can write quickly (they’re on a tight timeline). I’d like to take the assignment because it sounds fun and I like money.

My questions is: what resources are available to help me set a freelance rate? Anyone have personal experience with this?

I spent some time with Google this afternoon and I’ve seen the figure $.50 to $1 per word a few places. $1 a words strikes me as kind of high, but this is work that will require research and organization, not just sitting at a keyboard and typing what comes to mind. I’m also pretty sure I want to pitch a per word or hourly rate instead of a per project flat rate. The project isn’t particularly well defined so I don’t want to risk getting stuck with a flat rate on a something that puffs up to a 50,000 word monstrosity. I’m also thinking of negotiating a kill fee up front, but I’m not sure what’s standard practice there.

Any thoughts or advice?

When I hire contract/freelancers for web copy, I typcially pay anywhere from $40-$60 per hour. For new people coming in, it’s closer to $40… once they’ve been in the system and understand our style, tools & organization they can earn more. Anything over $60/hour is a tough sell, as I can get other talent elsewhere.

For frame of reference, I work in the dot-com division of a major retailer with a creative staff of about 35-40 people. Not highly creative stuff – mostly informational or promotional.

Hope that helps!

I’ve done a little ad copy work and while the rates don’t tend to be as good as they are for big-brand magazines, $1 a word isn’t over the top, especially considering good marketing copy should be snappy and to-the-point.

So I’d say get an estimate of the word count, pitch them at $1.50 per word, then be willing to step down to $1 as long as they accept your 30% kill fee clause.

All pending on your need to score this particular gig, of course. I’ve also had good luck – as risky as it is – just walking into a project in good faith and hoping that they’ll understand when I tell them I need more money to continue.

Good grief, is that the going rate? Need any help?


My thoughts exactly. I charge in that region for full-on design and development. If you are paying that for prose copy, what are you paying your web monkeys? :)

You’re waaaaay undercharging. Competent freelancers 'round here (SW Michigan) can get $75-85/hour for graphic design and development, agencies will hit you for $100-150/hour. Uh, not sure about copywriting rates, though, sorry.

I am in a rural region of New Mexico dominated by old industries (oil, dairy, ranching). I’m reasonable sure $60 is fairly standard for such markets, but I haven’t upped rates since forever, so maybe it’s time to.

Rob, how do you get into that field? I’m looking to do some freelance work myself to earn some extra money. Or would I need to consider it a full time job?

I wrote a long post, and have deleted it, because it wasn’t helpful. On reflection, I think if you’re going to bother, get your ducks in a row: standards-compliant HTML and CSS; the DOM and how to mess with it using JavaScript; PHP or a similar interpreted language, MySQL (use it at the command line too) and Flash. Learn them well enough to be confident of replicating pretty much anything a customer sees on another site and covets. Make sure you have strong graphic design skills. Rounded corners and myriad are good until 2007 :-)

Unless you are full timing somewhere, many clients will just want a website with this, that and the other features, and don’t know the difference between a designer, a developer, and so on. It might be that the most important thing is to be friendly, persuasive, honest and well-groomed before all things. You can outsource that flash menu on scriptlancer or whatever, but you can’t hire someone to smell nice for you. :)

Run away from ill-defined projects. Clear, measureable requirements are a must, as is a definitive timeframe for deliverables.

Well, no.

It annoys the living hell out of me to hire people at those rates. If I was able to hire someone as a full time employee, they would be 2-3 pay grades below me. As a contractor, they make significantly more that I do. I’m the fucking boss! I realize there’s a trade off (benefits, stability, etc) but damn. I should hire myself as a contractor.

But those benefits really rack up. The freelancer gets $60 an hour. The employee gets $25 – but your firm has to pay tax, insurance, dental, give them an office, pay for their equipment, and goodness knows what else (cellphone stipend, 401k matching, pension plan…) I’m sure it’s not even close, but all that stuff is just more bureacracy for the folks in admin, right? Surely it’s better to just throw money at someone, get copy back by deadline, go to bed.

They sure do. The employer also makes out pretty well. There’s comparitively little risk involved the investment of a contractor. They are treated as short-term throw away employees.

Hopefully this isn’t taking the thread too far off-track, but for those contemplating moving into the freelance/contractor space, what do you guys do for healthcare assuming you don’t share a spouse’s package? (I’m in California).

Before I was employed, I bought my own through or some similar site. Basic coverage was around $40/mo.