Freelance Pricing: How To Set My Fees As A Beginner Freelancer?

With no ‘industry standards’ per se, setting your fees as a freelancer is a tricky job. But, certain factors help determine your freelance rates and set them right. Read on…

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“How do I set my prices as a freelancer?” — Every freelancer is searching for this (Google told me so!). And how can we be not? There is no one-price-fits-all. There isn’t any standard according to which we set our writing charges. It can be anything!

From USD 0.1 per word to USD 30 per hour or USD 500 per article — even the pricing models vary. There’s is just soooooo much information available online. Which way to go? 🤔

With no fixed price or pricing standards in the industry, setting your fees is a tricky job. Well, it is a bad thing for some (who do not know how to set prices), and great for most (who knows how this works!).

Here are some essential questions answered about pricing — based on my experience with the clients and as a freelance copywriter and content writer. Read on…

[1] How to determine my freelance writing charges?

Research is your best friend here. Search the net. Talk to people.

Ask your network about tentative charges that they’re charging for said service. I understand that no one can tell you an exact fixed rate. Nevertheless, ask for a ballpoint figure.

Also, in most of the cases, they’d answer: “It depends”. Well, yeah, but on what? 🤨 These —

  1. What’s the niche? (Tech or non-tech)
  2. Your expertise/know-how in that particular niche?
  3. Your experience writing in that particular niche?
  4. Your overall experience as a writer?
  5. Who has been your clientele?
  6. Do you have a strong portfolio and testimonials to back your claims?
  7. Have you worked with companies in a similar niche and delivered quantifiable results for them?
  8. The number of words? (only in case of blogs)
  9. Long-term association or one-time gig?
  10. The time involved? Is it urgent?

And the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:
Whether you want to do it or not?

[2] Should I be charging the same for all my freelance projects?

There isn’t one-size-fits-all when it comes to pricing. How can it be? The effort is different. The project is different. The approach is different. The requirements are different.

So, there‘s no one price for them all. And yeah, it depends! Here’s what to do:

  • Weigh in the above-mentioned factors.
  • Discuss the requirements with your clients — gauge what is required, and what services you can provide for them. Look for detailed answers that help you understand their requirements, and also their company.
    (That being said, don’t just switch on the interrogator mode with endless questions, be practical in what you ask.)
  • Check the clients’ background and their company (whether it is an established company or start-up).
  • Ask about the budget range that they are willing to invest (do this preferably in the discovery call!).

Then, analyse everything and quote accordingly. Also, remember:

Whether you’re quoting for the first time or fiftieth, charge what feels right, and quote what you’re confident charging. If you’re asking 10k for a service, say it with confidence.

No price works if you are not confident while quoting your charges.

[3] Should I charge a price per word (PPW), price per hour (PPH), or price per project (PPP)?

These are the most popular models of freelance pricing by which you can set your charges. Starting with the easiest:

Price Per Word (PPW)

As the eponymous name, you charge per word. While this is good to start with and good for content writing projects, the problem with the PPW model is:

❌ It does not justify copywriting projects.
For example: When you write an email copy, your word count may only be180 words, but that email is capable of bringing 18 customers for your prospect. And definitely, those 180 words are worth a lot more than the PPW fees. You lose money there.

❌ It is [very] open-ended.
The client does not have an estimate of the amount they’d be giving for the project, because hey, the final price would be calculated at the end.

❌ It is prone to dishonesty.
Like it or not, not every person is honest in here. And that’s the harsh truth. With PPW, writers can write the same thing over and over again by rephrasing it and charging more because of a higher word count. The real value is lost here, and quality goes down.

Price Per Hour (PPH)

Hourly pricing is really popular in the world. And there are 2 ways in which you can calculate it:

  1. Start by having an estimated fee for the project based on your PPW model. Apply this formula:
    (Total fee ÷ Hours takes to complete the project) = Hourly Price
    Ex: 5000÷5 = 1000 / per hour
  2. Some websites make you calculate your PPH based on what you want to earn monthly/annually and the number of days & hours you work.

But again, per hour pricing (PPH) has similar limitations, like the price per word (PPW) model. Along with that, consider these point too:

❌ Experience? Eh, no.
If you calculate by method 2, how do you reflect your experience in that pricing? Because that calculation gives a flat per hour charge that you should take to meet your target earnings based on your yearly goal. But, be real! You cannot be charging the same amount in month 1 and month 9.

❌ You aren’t productive every working hour.
Some days, you can dash out a 1000-word article in 2 hours. Other times, it may take 12 hours to do the same job. Clearly, you cannot charge for 12 hours (too much; because you were unmotivated and slow). And you cannot charge for 2 hours (too less; because you were active and fast!)

❌ PPH thinks you’re a robot!
No, seriously! It does not account for emergencies, holidays, and days when you have to take a voluntary off. Do not work for 3 working days in a month, and your per-hour pricing gets wobbly.

So, the solution?

Price Per Project (PPP)

Personally, PPP is the go-to choice for me. But it takes a certain amount of experience. And a lot of trial-and-error and understanding of the businesses:

  • your client’s business: you cannot be charging exorbitant amounts; they also need to see their finances!
  • your business (as a freelancer): you cannot be undercharging or taking whatever that comes or agreeing to abysmal rates; you’ve got a business to run too :)

So essentially, PPP is all about 2 things:

  1. Finding the perfect balanced sweet spot — a fee that’s agreeable to both.
  2. Experiments — because to find that balance, you have to quote something. That can be either too high, or too low.

I recommend:

As a beginner, you won’t have much idea about how much time it would take you to write or how to do project-based pricing.

So, start with the price per word (PPW) model. Do some projects, note down the time you take to complete them (including research, editing, revisions). Then, as you gain some experience, move to charge a price per hour (PPH) or price per project (PPP).

[4] Why PPW or PPH is a bad choice for the long term?

When people say: “We offer per-word pricing”, I go like:

“Are you kidding me? Do you charge per line of the code, or do you charge for the whole program? Do you show one dance step or do the complete performance? Does the chef charge according to the cooking time of a dish?”

We all know the answer, right? We don’t do that!!! It is always a complete thing. So, why per word? Why per hour? STOP charging that way, people — if you are thinking long-term.

Honestly, the end result is all that the client cares for. They don’t wanna know the hours you took, or the words you have written. Take 1 hour, or 20. Write 500 words, or 1500.

What matters is:

  • Deliver the work on time.
  • Deliver good quality work that gives them results!

Your writing should give your clients what they’ve paid you for, i.e. VALUE. As a freelancer —

Shift focus… away from the time you have worked or the words you’ve written to the value that you’ve delivered!

The time you’ve invested in the project should reflect in each word that you’ve written. That’s value. Aim for PPP, pricing that’s justifiable for both you and your client.

[5] So, what do I do now? How do I find that Price-per-project “balance”?

Simple answer: TRIAL AND ERROR!

You have to get on the battlefield to really know which strategy to use, and whether it’s smart to attack or defend. And you learn by practice. By experimenting.

Read up. Research the ongoing rates. Talk to fellow freelancers (if they are comfortable sharing their pricing strategy). Most would suggest — “price according to the value you deliver” (like me!). Because that’s the BESSSTTTT way.

Try out your pricing. The prospects would give feedback — whether it is too high, or not. See your conversion rate. And decide whether you need to adjust your pricing.

A general rule of thumb: if you’re closing 80–90% of your prospects at the current price, you’re charging way too low. If you’re closing just 5–10% of your prospects, you’re charging way too high (based on the present scenario).

Be in the middle ground (40–60%). Also, initially, keep increasing your charges as you gain experience & expertise (preferably, every 6 months initially and annually after that).

Remember: Freelancing is a service-based industry. So, no rate is too high. You just need to show that the price you’re charging is worth the value you’re providing — and you’ve a strong portfolio & clientele to back up that claim!

[6] How [the hell] do I set my value-based pricing?

Haha! I know you’d have the exact same question (in the exact same words). Everyone is chattering about value, value, value. No one tells how to do it.

So, a client approached you, saying they need a 1000-word blog. Enquired about what you charge et. al. Now, here’s the catch… You DO NOT give your prices right away. How can you? You don’t know anything about their company!

First, understand their requirements. Ask relevant questions about their business:

  • why do they require content?
  • what’s the intent of their content?
  • who is their target audience?
  • whether it is a long-term association (retainer) or one-time gig?
  • what do they want to achieve from this content?
  • and… the budget that they have in mind for the project.

Get an idea about how much they’re willing to spend. 9 out of 10 times they’d ask you back about your prices. Study marketing to know how to get them to speak about their budget.

Then, while giving your proposal, explain EVERYTHING that you’d be providing them — word count, revisions, delivery timeframe, graphics, promotion, etc. Back it up with previous work you’ve done. And then, in the end, quote the fee.

[7] “The pay is not up to what I’d expect. I don’t want to take up a project. But, I got bills to pay. What to do?”

I know this question would arise so many times, and it’d also make you take up projects that may be paying peanuts. So,

ASK THIS QUESTION TO YOURSELF: Would you be better doing that project (whatever the pay is), or would you rather not do that and invest the same time in searching for a better client?

You’d have your answer.

[8] What matters the most while setting pricing?

Only 3 things:

  • the service you offer,
  • the quality you give, and
  • the value you provide.

Above all:

How confident you are in selling your service.

[9] Anything else I should know about pricing?

Yes. Understand this thing.

You can even charge USD 1 per word, or even 10k for a single article. But—

This does not happen from the beginning of your career. Or even overnight. The fee is commensurate with the experience. So, it’s fine if you start with USD 0.05 PPW or 1k for an article.

Just know that:

  • Don’t be stuck with it for too long.
  • Keep working on projects that add weightage to your portfolio.
  • Build on your expertise. Upskill and keep learning.
  • Focus on inbound lead generation and on growing your personal brand.
  • Experiment.

Wanna know more about building a personal brand? Check this out.

Follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. Or shoot me a mail at hello@simrandoshi.in if you have any questions!

Copywriter | Content Writer | Kung Fu Panda Enthusiast 🐼