How to calculate your freelance writer hourly rate

How to calculate freelance writer hourly rate

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a monthly salary.”

Nicolas Taleb

Being a freelance writer comes with many challenges. And, like any other job, one of the main concerns is no doubt the financial side of things. Sure, we write because it’s our passion, but there’s nothing wrong with getting paid for it in the process! Unlike typical nine-to-fivers, however, our salaries don’t pop automatically into the bank. In fact, freelance writer rates can be pretty complicated. This blog post explains how to calculate your freelance writer hourly rate, no matter how you charge.

If you charge per word

Whether you are a writer, translator or proofreader, charging per word probably makes the most sense for smaller projects. You may choose to Freelance writer hourly rate - charge per wordcharge a client per word for writing a short article, translating a speech or proofreading an assignment. This method of charging makes it easy to draw up quotations and quickly calculate what you will earn for the task. 

The pivotal decision, however, is deciding how much you should actually charge per word without overcharging the client while at the same time, making sure that you are paid what you deserve.

Let’s take an example. Say you are being asked to write a 1000 article, and decide you want to charge your client 5c per word. That means you know upfront that you will be earning €50 for this article. Now imagine that the article doesn’t involve much research, and you know for a fact that it will take you more or less an hour to complete. You are thus being paid €50/hr for a job that took you the absolute minimum amount of time and effort. Which might be fine for you, unless that same client assigns you an article of the same length, but requires hours and hours of research. How much will you charge now?

Charging a flat rate per word is very convenient. This is because you will know exactly how much you will be paid for every task you take on. One word of advice, though: don’t forget to calculate how much time you are likely to spend on the task, before calculating how much you want to be paid by the hour and then giving your client a quotation based around this calculation:

Desired rate per hour x Time taken / Number of words

If you charge per page

Charging per page makes more sense for longer projects. A proofreader asked to correct a 300-page novel, for example, will probably find it easier to charge per page rather than per word. Similarly, a ghostwriter may also choose to charge per page for a written book. Your rate per page will depend on the average length of each page – if this varies widely, it might also be wise to specify a limit (eg. €x.xx up to 500 words/page). You will also need to factor in the time it will take you to finish the whole thing, as it will probably span over a number of days or weeks depending on how long the task is, as well as your current workload. The following calculation will help you settle on a suitable rate per page:

Desired rate per hour x Time taken (approx.) / Number of pages

If you charge per project

Typically, the more experienced writers among us take on what can be seen as projects. These may range from running ad copywriting, to regularly published articles on magazines and other similar publications, to blog writing and creating SEO-optimized content for websites. Once again, you need to factor in the time the project will take you to complete, as well as the research and effort it will take you. Sometimes, a volume-based discount may be applicable. In this case, you will need to negotiate a contract.

Calculating your freelance writer hourly rate: A rule of thumb

We realise that all this may seem a tad confusing, so we have a little rule of thumb to help you out. And the first thing is to decide how much you want to earn per year. Once you know that, you can divide the amount by 12 to come out with a pseudo-monthly salary. Divide that by the 160-hour typical working month and walla – you have an hourly rate for all your toil. But that should only serve as a rough guide, as we’ve hinted to above.

Don’t forget your overheads

The absolutely last step to calculating your freelance writer hourly rate is considering your expenses. If you’re renting a co-working space or office, you should add that cost to your desired salary. The same goes for any other expenses you could run up, though, if you’re perfectly comfortable working from home, your expenses should be negligible.

Become a writer at Topcontent and you don’t need to calculate freelance writer hourly rates

If you’re a better writer than mathematician and these calculations have you breaking out a sweat – worry not! Our Topcontent writers can pick and choose the tasks they like from an open task board that also displays how much they will be paid for it. They can work as much or as little as they like – so they have ultimate control over their monthly salary. Sign up as a writer today if you’re interested in making the leap into a freelance career!

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About the author

Kylie Grech
Editorial Writer for TOPCONTENT.COM