Monday, August 2, 2010

What Should My Freelance Hourly Rate Be? It's an Art Form by Stephen J Madison

One of the biggest freelance writing questions people have is "What should my hourly rate be?"

When formulating your freelance rates, there are many things to keep in mind. First and foremost, who are you freelancing for? If it's a large company, they're likely used to paying freelancers a solid hourly rate. Also, if it's an ad agency you are giving your freelance rate to, remember to do your research first. Check out their client list, do they have a handsome client roster? One filled with well-paying clients? Also, look at their portfolio. Do they appreciate good creative? If the answer to those two questions is "yes," then they likely will pay a premium for good talent.

If the answer is "no" you might be wise to either steer clear or feel out your potential client to get a sense of what they're comfortable paying. If it's worth it to you, by all means take it.

But let's assume, the potential client is able to pay a reasonable amount. How should you formulate your rates to get their business?

Over my career I've toyed with various methods. I've charged sky high rates ($100+/hour) and rock bottom rates ($25-$35/hour). Here's what I've found:

1. Sky high freelance rates only work if you find a client with deep pockets. And even then, they're likely unwilling to pay that for someone they've never worked with. You might snag a project or two with this strategy (which will pay nicely), but consistent workflow will be diminished.

2. Rock bottom rates are tricky. On one hand, you may attract some thrifty clients, which you can make a modest sum off of. But most clients, especially those clients who have an appreciation for solid work and, in turn, also have the quantity of projects you want, will be turned off by such a low figure. It's the old idea of "You get what you pay for." "$25-$35/hour = below average work" in the minds of your target.

My advice? Find a place in the middle. Choose a number that most places can afford, but also a number that won't raise red flags. $75/hour has been a number that has worked well for me. It still denotes quality, but is also low enough to encourage repeat business, which is the key to being a successful freelancer.

Of course, if you're getting rebuffed with $75, by all means, try a lower number and see what works. Freelance writing doesn't have set rules, so experiment, see what works and what doesn't. And if you feel you need to discount your rate to get your foot in the door, do it. Just make sure it's worth it.

Stephen J. Madison has been a highly successful freelance copywriter and consultant for over 10 years. You can find more helpful advice on his website