by Chris Bibey
There are many obstacles that new freelance writers run into. But when it comes down to it, none are bigger than trying to put together a pricing schedule or rate sheet. No matter what you call it, you need to know what prices you are going to charge potential clients. This can be a tricky proposition because charging too much will scare away potential buyers, but selling yourself short will result in leaving a lot of money on the table.
When I began my freelance writing career, I must admit that my pricing schedule was a bit out of kilter. I was spending so much time on other tasks that throughout my first month I never really had a solid pricing schedule in place. Instead, I did what I thought was right at the time. While this ended up working out in the end, looking back I can see that I lost several clients and that I probably worked for too little when I did not have to.
Here are three tips to follow when putting together a pricing schedule.
1. First and foremost, find out what other freelance writers are charging. You do not necessarily want to quote the same prices as them, but this is a great jumping off point. If at all possible, find out what other freelance writers with your experience are charging. After all, a newbie cannot usually get away with asking the same prices as seasoned veterans.
2. I always felt that it was a little better to place my rates just below the competition. This is not to say that I work for pennies, but in many cases a client will choose the lowest priced provider just because they can save money; even if it is only $20 or so. Remember, every client wants to feel like they are getting a good deal. If you have the work experience and samples to back yourself up, a client will almost always choose the lower price.
3. Keep in mind that your pricing schedule does not and will not stay the same. Take my sales letter rate for example. Much to my surprise, in my first year of freelance writing I wrote in upwards of 20 or so sales letters. My price for them at the time was $50 to $100 depending on the topic and length. As you probably know, there are some writers who charge more than $500 for a single sales letter. But since I was new to the industry, I felt that this was the best way to get my feet wet. Over time, this has changed quite a bit. Now, for a similar sales letter I would ask for a fee of $250 to $300. While this is still far from what some freelance writers ask, it is much more than my initial rate.
To expand on the points above, number one is very important. You want to know what other freelancers are charging so that you can get in the same ballpark without undercutting yourself.
In my early days, I found that there were two easy ways to gather information on rates from other writers.
- Take a few hours out of your day to scour the Internet for websites and blogs maintained by freelance writers. While some of them will not list rates online, many of them do. Bookmark all of the information that you find, and then use this to your advantage when putting together your pricing schedule.
- If you continually find writers who are not listing their prices, why not email them and ask? Personally, I never wanted to lead anybody on so I would send a sincere email explaining my situation. For me, this was much better than pretending that I wanted to hire the writer just so I could learn their rates. Believe it or not, most freelance writers are more than happy to share information on pricing and much more.
One of the most exciting parts of becoming a freelance writer is putting together a pricing schedule. After doing this for the first time, you will feel invigorated that there are so many opportunities waiting for you.
To help you come up with your own pricing schedule, I have included my schedule of estimated fees from my early days as a writer. This is what I used to send out to clients, and still use from time to time. You are welcome to use my price list as a template for your own pricing structure.