47 Things to Consider When Setting Freelance Writing Rates

on March 8, 2014 in Freelance Writing, Goals and Planning

47 Things to Consider When Setting Freelance Rates

Are you confident that you set the right freelance writing rates? Are they really helping you reach all of your financial goals? Or did you find out through trial and error that there were some factors you forgot to consider?

Alicia Rades brought this topic up recently in one of the All Indie Writers forums. She wanted to know how she can figure out what she should be making to reach her goals and meet her expenses.

"What types of expenses should I factor in? (I’ve been looking up info and have reviewed a few of Jenn’s articles, but I want to make sure I’m not missing anything.) Here’s what I have listed.

  • Monthly expenses (Internet, phone, rent, etc.)
  • Taxes
  • Retirement fund (I’m currently contributing 10% of every paycheck)
  • Business fund (I’m currently contributing 7 percent of each paycheck to my business fund)
  • Health insurance (I’m currently covered right now, but I’m considering this for later)
  • Extras (for savings and fun!)"

- Alicia Rades -- View the thread

Setting Freelance Writing Rates: What to Consider

Setting freelance writing rates isn't as simple as pulling a number out of thin air or charging what you believe your competitors are charging (similar writers can be competing in very different markets).

You have your own unique earnings needs and financial goals, and those have to be accounted for. Otherwise you could waste months to years targeting the wrong markets.

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I gave Alicia some recommendations on all of the different expenses and goals she might want to take into consideration before changing her rates. These are the kinds of things you'll want to account for if you use my freelance rate calculator to help you crunch the numbers. I hope this list will help other freelancers in a similar situation.

Monthly personal expenses

  • rent/mortgage
  • utilities (electric, propane/gas, cable, home phone, cell phone, etc.)
  • monthly health insurance premiums
  • any regular medical costs like OTC allergy meds or co-pays on prescriptions
  • groceries
  • monthly “fun money” for eating out or going out with friends
  • car insurance if you pay monthly
  • car payments — now or ones you might start in the near future
  • gas
  • pet expenses
  • monthly website / service fees for memberships (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
  • Any other subscriptions you might have
  • monthly debt payments if you have them (if not, but you will soon — such as student loans — I’d account for them now; you can save the extra to put towards them later instead of raising rates to make up the difference when the time comes)
  • If you’re anything like me, a monthly book budget.  – Don’t restrict the “fun money” to just going out; make sure you account for things you might buy as a want rather than a need (books, games, blu-rays, etc.).

Other personal expenses (anything you pay less frequently)

  • insurance policies (car, home, renter’s; if not paid monthly)
  • any non-regular medical expenses that come out of pocket such as office visit co-pays — leave more than you think you’ll need in case you need to cover co-pays for surgery or other treatments
  • vacations
  • auto license renewals
  • car registrations
  • car maintenance and inspections
  • home maintenance
  • pet registrations
  • pet vet visits (check-ups, vaccinations, etc.)
  • yearly subscriptions (such as to magazines, websites, AAA, etc.)
  • yearly gifts (birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or upcoming special occasions such as a friend or family member's wedding)
  • your clothing budget
  • non-monthly salon expenses for routine hair cuts, dye jobs, or whatever you need
  • any charitable contributions you tend to make every year (or want to)
  • books and other expenses tied to your education

Personal Savings & Investments

  • retirement
  • education (for you or your children)
  • emergency fund (start by aiming for a minimum of three months’ expenses, but ideally keep at it until you have at least a years’ expenses covered, if not more)
  • routine personal savings (money you don’t plan to spend, but that you can use to earn a bit of interest, tap when you need a bit extra without hitting your emergency fund — this is the money you might use to save for a large purchase, a downpayment on a future home, etc.)
  • however much you’d like to have available for investments, if that’s of interest to you

Monthly Business Expenses

  • Web hosting (unless you pay for longer stretches at a time)
  • Office rent or related expenses if you don’t work from home exclusively
  • Business utilities (such as if you have a separate business cell phone or internet account)
  • Regular payments to contractors (subcontractors, designers, developers, marketing assistance, etc.)
  • Monthly business memberships or subscriptions
  • Any regular office supplies (printer toner, paper, pens, etc.)

Other Business Expenses

  • Yearly domain registrations
  • Dues for professional organizations
  • Non-monthly subscriptions or memberships
  • Your expected business taxes
  • Business travel (to visit prospects and clients, attend conferences or other networking events — travel plus admission costs)
  • Business attire, if necessary

Business Savings

  • Any routine savings you want as money to be left in the business for future growth or to cover unanticipated expenses

As thorough as this list might be, I'm sure there are plenty of things I'm missing. We all have unique considerations. Can you think of other expenses or savings goals that should be accounted for when setting freelance writing rates?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers, NakedPR.com, BizAmmo.com, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. Alicia Rades March 9, 2014 Reply

    I love this incredibly thorough list! Thanks for sharing with everyone.

  2. Lulu Barnard March 9, 2014 Reply

    There is so much to consider and learn when starting out. I am currently working and have taken up some freelance writing jobs from Freelancer.com and Elance to see what it is like. I have done a months worth of work and only been paid for two jobs. Hence me searching for help on how to make this a reality. Thanks for the insight it really helps.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 9, 2014 Reply

      No problem Lulu. I’m happy to hear that it helped. 🙂 If you have any specific questions that you think I might be able to help you with, feel free to submit it through this Reader Q&A form. If it’s something I feel will help other readers too, I’ll publish your question and my response on the blog (you can either be featured or choose to remain anonymous). It’s an option for getting more customized feedback based on your own goals and specialty. And it’s free. 🙂

  3. Anne Wayman March 10, 2014 Reply

    Good list although I found the title somewhat intimidating…;)

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 10, 2014 Reply

      LOL Don’t say that. The goal is to help newer folks realize some of the things they need to consider before arbitrarily setting rates. If that’s intimidating to an experienced pro, I hate to think how scary it must sound to someone just getting started. 😉

  4. Caron Golden March 10, 2014 Reply

    Nice, but you’re missing one key component: making a profit! Is there any other trade or profession in which simply meeting expenses and saving a little is the goal when setting fees? I don’t think so.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 10, 2014 Reply

      I didn’t imply that in any way. This post was in direct response to a question from someone asking how they can make sure they charge enough to cover expenses, rather than operating the other way around (seeing how much they could earn and then trying to segment that into savings and expenses). The entire point of the post was to show how much freelance rates have to cover at a minimum (something many freelancers drastically underestimate).

      I’ve covered the issue of charging beyond minimum rates pretty extensively in the past and even provide tools to help writers figure out their base rates specifically so they know what to charge on top of that based on their credentials, the value they offer clients, and the competitive landscape of their specialty areas. So it’s not missing. It just wasn’t in the scope of this post which is about one very specific element of setting your rates. Along those lines, I actually referred a new blog for writers recently which is all about earning a profit through your freelance business. You should check it out — http://profitablefreelancer.com. It sounds like it might be something you’d like. 🙂

  5. Heather Severson April 5, 2014 Reply

    All good things to consider when calculating rates and fees. For a thorough workbook on how to come up with your final numbers, see The Mercenary Writer’s Guide to Setting Rates and Fees. http://www.mercenarywriter.net/products/

    If you are in the Tucson area on April 15th, check out the free workshop sponsored by the Editorial Freelancers Association. http://studiographia.net/sgevents.html

    Whatever you do, don’t sell yourself or the industry short. Stand up for fair pay for good writing.

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