“I don’t want pricing to scare folks away in case I need to pick up business quickly, or it’s a company I really believe in and would be willing to do work for at a discount. I’d rather folks reach out so I can screen and potentially have the conversation.”
The state of freelance writing in 2022
To understand how many freelancers arose through a pandemic, 16% of freelancers started less than a year ago as of November 2021. Some 19% reported freelancing for between one and two years. Though the majority of freelancers (65%) have been writing professionally for between two and 10 years.
The next income level was $31K and $50K, with 18% of freelance writers claiming that was their annual freelance income for 2020. When you combine the percentages of these two groups, almost three quarters of freelance writers make less than $50K per year.
It’s probably no surprise that people bringing in larger incomes have been in business for longer. If we look at those who’ve been freelance writing for less than a year, the vast majority (91%) earn less than $30K.
To reach the six-figure salaries, it seems you need to have been working on your business and growing it for at least a couple of years. Of those earning over $100K, all have been freelance writing for at least two years, with 65% writing for more than six years.
How much should freelance writers charge?
As noted earlier, the majority of freelancers earn less than $50K, with a small percentage of writers making over $100K per year. Because of this, we wanted to know what price writers charge for different services.
The average freelance writer charges $250-399 for a blog post
Blog posts are one of the most popular freelance writing services, with the vast majority (98%) offering it to clients. A brand’s desire for regular content and a strong presence in the search engine results page means they tap into freelance writing talent to produce blog content.
How much you charge per blog post impacts your overall earnings. Of writers that break the six-figure yearly income mark, half charge at least 800,000 per blog post. A quarter demands more than 800,500 for a single article.
The average freelance writer charges $500-999 for a whitepaper
The average freelance writer charges $99-$249 for an email
The average freelance writer charges 16-20% extra for ghostwriting
Interestingly, just 36% of those writers charge an additional fee if their name is scrapped from the published piece. Of those who do charge extra, almost half whack on at least a 16% premium to their ghostwriting project rate.
What’s a Fair Freelance Writer Rate? The Short Answer
Even after winnowing out rates so low as to not be reasonable, the range I provided is still vast. Some freelance writers are charging more than five times as much as others. How is that fair and reasonable? How do you decide which end of that range you should be on, whether hiring a writer or working as one?
This is the biggest reason behind the differences in pricing between freelance writers. But it’s more complicated than more experience = higher rates. A number of different types of experience come into play here:
Many new freelancers don’t have a good grasp on what’s normal for freelance writers to charge. And those job ads with low rates I mentioned earlier cause a lot of confusion. On day one of launching a freelance business, a lot of writers vastly undercharge. And that’s especially a risk for those new to the professional world. Someone who recently finished school will have a limited knowledge of professional norms in general, including around rates.
That’s where you get the super low rates, but what about the rates on the low end of the fair range? That’s from people still working to grow their skills, gain writing samples that prove their abilities, and build up awareness of their freelance business. The people charging $30 an hour or $.20 a word now will gain the experience they need to—little by little—join the ranks of the writers on the higher end of the range.
Many freelance writers specialize in a specific type of work. In my case, I focus on content marketing writing, specifically blog posts and longform content marketing assets like guides and ebooks. Others build up specific experience in email marketing, website copywriting, or landing pages, to name a few examples. When someone spends years on a specific type of writing, they tend to get pretty good at it. And they gain successful examples of that specific type of work, which makes them a more attractive choice for clients needing that type of writing. All of that translates to higher rates.
The same thing goes for industry experience. When a writer dives deep into learning a specific industry and audience, especially one that’s complicated like B2B (business-to-business) technology or health care, they become more valuable to clients in that space. When a business hires a specialist in the field, you don’t have to worry about training them in the basics. And you’re less likely to receive content from them that reveals a misunderstanding of what your business does and who you’re talking to. That’s all worth more money.
When you hear “experience,” you probably think first about time—the years spent doing something. That matters. But writers that charge on the high end of the range can usually also reveal evidence of results they’ve helped clients achieve. Whether that’s landing pages that drove sales, blog posts that reached the top spot on Google, or emails that get impressive open rates. Writers that can prove their work contributes to results will charge accordingly.
2. Attention to Detail
Someone getting paid a small amount per piece has an incentive to get it done fast. For $25 blog posts to add up to a living wage (at least in the U.S.), you have to crank out a lot of them. Trying to rush skilled work leads to sloppy results. It just does.
People trying to build a business off of low rates end up cutting corners. They skip proofreading, or they don’t bother with research and let errors in. Whatever they do to achieve speed leaves clients with writing that can’t stand on its own—at least not if your brand cares about maintaining a reputation for quality. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of businesses trying to save money via cheap writing that receive work they can’t use at all, or that has to be extensively re-written to become usable.
For the kind of attention to detail that produces work you don’t have to spend your valuable time editing and can use as is, choosing a writer that charges enough to give the project the time it deserves matters.
3. Type of Writing
This is part of what makes it so hard to generalize about rates. The time and skills involved in writing an entire website can’t be easily compared to what it takes to write a sales email. And since most freelance writers charge using project rates (another tidbit via Ashley’s report), that makes side-by-side comparisons of what’s normal difficult.
4. Complexity of Subject
If your business is in a technical or complicated industry, then finding a writer that either already knows it well or will be able to do the research required to learn it is harder. That means the ones that do are worth more. Topics like health care, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), medical devices, finance, and manufacturing are harder for freelance writers to learn and write about than, say, travel or video games. Businesses in specialized, complex industries should be prepared to pay writers more.
How Much Should You Pay for Freelance Writing?
If your budget is tight and you’re leaning toward the lower end of that range, then expect to hire someone that’s relatively new and inexperienced. That’s not a bad thing, everyone has to start somewhere. Just be prepared to spend a little more time working with them to help them learn. You may have to provide more specific instructions, do more edits, and allow them more time to research and get the work done.
If you don’t want to do that much work, but you’re still not quite sure about the high end of that range, then you’re looking for someone that does have experience, but is somewhere in the middle of their career. Maybe they’ve been working as a freelance writer for a couple of years, so they know the basics, but still have a lot to learn (although don’t we all). Or maybe they’re branching into a new type of writing they have less experience with and are willing to charge less to get their foot in the door and gain a new writing sample.
Writing is hard work and worth paying a fair rate for, but what “fair” looks like in your case will depend on your particular needs. Figure out where you fall on this spectrum, and price out your budget for a freelance writer accordingly.