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Freelance Writers: 6 Things You Must Know Before You Pitch Your First Client
Written by William Ballard, Freelance Writer and Author
One of the hardest things about freelance writing is deciding what to charge for your services. Most newbies have a tendency to rate themselves below the industry average in the hope of scoring their first few writing gigs. Unfortunately, the rate you give yourself as a newbie will also determine how you value your work, whether it be subconsciously or consciously.
While there are some clients who simply hire the cheapest rate (bidder), many more are willing to pay a fair price for the value of your work. But first, you need to figure out what a “fair price” means to you.
1) Determine Your Expenses (Personal and Business)
Write down all your expenses for an average month, including housing, transportation, and utilities. Add your budget for groceries, entertainment, and miscellaneous items. This should give you an idea of the minimum income you need to get by. Add another 25 percent for taxes, which you will have to pay either quarterly or annually. You won’t have taxes deducted directly from your paychecks, so remember to set that money aside.
2) Determine Job Time
Determine how long it takes you to complete a job. Clock yourself to figure out your page per hour pace.
If you don’t have much experience, this can also be a great time to take on some "pro bono" projects. Offer to do work for free in exchange for portfolio space and a customer testimonial. You’ll get practice and begin building your professional reputation.
3) Research the Going Rates for Your Writing Services
The Writer’s Market is an excellent resource to help you in this area. No freelance writer should be without this resource. It is the freelance writer's key to success. Resources like this provide average rates for freelance writing professionals; depending on where you live and your level of experience, your rates might be higher or lower. Some resources may also give you per page or per project rates (e.g. a minimum of $5000 for ghostwriting a novel, according to about.com).
4) Utilize the Power of a Calculator
Get out your calculator and run some numbers. If you know your average writing pace, you can calculate an hourly rate based on the minimum amount of money you need each month. Divide your monthly expenses by four (that gives you an amount for one week), and then divide that number by the number of hours you can realistically work in a week.
Many freelance writers find that they end up working more hours than they would at a full-time job simply because they do not know how to determine their writing pace effectively. Remember to take into account the time it takes to search for jobs, email clients, or perform other administrative tasks. You won’t be directly compensated for this time, especially if you work fixed-price writing gigs.
If just thinking about math gives you a headache, you can also use a salary calculator like the simple interface at yourrate.co. However, if something like doing math causes you discomfort, then maybe this is not the line of work for you.
5) Defining What Your Worth
Whether you use the back of an envelope or an online calculator, you’ll now have your minimum hourly rate. Compare it to the suggested rates from point three. Is your number much lower? Then you need to raise your rates! If your rate is higher than the industry average, you should make sure you’re being realistic about the number of hours you can work, your writing pace, and your monthly expenses.
Saying this does not mean that you may not be worth the rate that you have written down, but you must know from within yourself how much quality writing you can get done in a certain time, and how much that effort is worth. If you don't think your effort is worth much neither will your prospecting clients. You have to first believe in your own value and worth before you can begin trying to "sell" that value to future clients.
6) Now Your Ready for Your First Client
Once you’ve figured out a reasonable rate that’s both competitive and able to cover your expenses, you’ll be ready to take on clients. You may feel embarrassed about asking a stranger for what seems like a lot of money, but if you’re dealing with professionals, they’ll understand that your expertise is valuable and well worth the price you offer. While it may be tempting to offer bargain basement prices in attempt to score your first clients, in doing so, you only sell yourself short.
Okay, how do you set your rates? How do you feel about what you’re charging right now? Let’s talk about it in comments.
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About the Author
William Ballard is the author of, "8 Tips to Freelance Writing Success (Article Writing Series)" and "3 Steps to Blogging Success: Discovering Your Passion, Finding Your Audience, and Developing an Income Stream (Article Series)".
He has been writing professionally for over 10+ years and has much experience within the industry, both in publishing and in freelance writing. He has successfully self-published over 10 books and eBooks. Visit his Amazon Author Page to see list of his most recent projects.