top of page

How to Set Your Rates as a Freelance Writer

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Question: how much should you charge for your freelance services? Setting and sticking to your rate card as a freelancer is probably one of the biggest and most important challenges you’ll face. Let’s talk about it - here's how to set your rates as a freelance writer.

Tips for Calculating Your Rates

The simplest way to calculate your rate as a freelancer is by setting a target annual income then dividing that number by the total number of hours you intend to work over the course of your earning year.

So, if you want to generate (not bring home) $80,000 in the next 12 months…

Set a goal to earn more than your target income. The idea here is to aim higher than your actual goal so that if you fall short, you’re most likely to “fall short” by hitting your actual goal.

In this scenario: $80,000 + (80,000 x 20%) = $96,0000

Working 30 hours a week x 50 weeks a year =1500 work hours (because who wants to work over the holidays? Or on Fridays? Or Marvel movie release days?)

Your Rate per Hour: $96,000/1500= $64 per hour

That’s the simple calculation, but there are caveats to this answer that we’ll get into in this post

How Do You Set Your Target Income as a Freelancer?

Good question. The calculation is simple enough, right? The more important thing, I think is figuring out what our target annual income should be. One important thing too many new freelancers overlook is that freelancing is a business like any other.

Don't Forget to Factor In ALL Your Expenses as a Freelance Writer

You’ll incur business-related expenses like website hosting, software subscriptions, faster internet service, and a bookkeeping and invoicing subscription with a service like QuickBooks or WaveApps. These are expenses you’ll incur very early on in your business.

But remember, that’s in addition to your regular living expenses, which you’ll also need to earn enough money to cover. You’re well aware that it costs money to be a living, breathing, fully-functioning adult.

Here’s a breakdown of a few of the average monthly expenses for an American according to

  • Housing $1885

  • Transportation $913

  • Personal Insurance and Pensions $656

  • Health care $454

  • Groceries- $438

  • Utilities $366 (according to Rocket HQ)

Added together, even the most basic living expenses can easily exceed $5,500 per month. That's 33% more than it was when I originally published this article a few years ago using 2020 calculations. Life be lifin'. And we haven’t even factored in the regular expenses that go with working, like:

  • Life Insurance

  • Disability Insurance- 2%-4% of monthly income

  • FICA- 15.3% of what you earn

  • Retirement savings >5% of income

  • Savings >10% of monthly income

Head spinning yet? I’m done with the numbers, but my point is that the income you generate as a freelancer should be able to cover most of these expenses and still leave enough wiggle room for a little fun.

So, while on the surface it may seem like $25/hour is a solid hourly rate (about $50K a year, if you work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year), you have to remember that you’re your own employer, which means the stuff that employers normally helped you with like life insurance, health insurance, FICA, and retirement saving are now solely your responsibility – you foot those costs alone.

If you’re working with an hourly rate of $25/hour, which many new freelancers charge, you will have to sacrifice some things. And probably, you’ll have to let go of important things like life insurance and disability insurance just to cover your cost of living, business expenses, and taxes.

Other Ways to Determine How to Set Your Rates as a Freelance Writer

#1 Research Market Rates for Your Services

In a pure, practical sense, it will be much easier to figure out your rates if you have a reference point, and the market is a good one (meaning it's holding steady or growing, but never EVER shrinking). Knowing how other freelancers in the market are pricing their services - who have comparable costs of living - is a good starting point.

You can check job boards on Upwork, Pro Blogger, and Creative & Cultivate to get a better idea of what clients are willing to pay for different content-related and digital marketing jobs.

Another source I would recommend is the Bureau of Labor statistics. Here, you’ll find updated statistics of the average pay for different professions, households, genders, etc.

#2 Scope of Work

Scope of work refers to the amount of your expertise that will be needed to complete a project for a client. Let me give you an example…

During my first few years as a freelance writer, I never thought about how much time and effort it would take to get a job done. I charged the same hourly rate whether I was writing an article about a topic I knew inside and out, or overseeing a brand launch.

I remember once taking a job to write a vegan keto ebook from a client who found me on a gig platform for writers called Constant Content. I finished the job, got great reviews then immediately applied for another gig writing an ebook on the keto diet (back in 2017 when keto was RAGING).

That ebook led to a project management gig for a client who was trying to launch and monetize a website on the ketogenic diet. Managing a project of that scope meant conducting keyword research, hiring and paying writers, creating marketing assets, building the website, building the membership community for the site, handling the social media and a bunch of other little things that needed to get done.

I figured it would require X amount of hours per month of my time, and created a proposal for the project, which was close to $30K, an amount that would scare away any randos who weren’t legitimate companies looking to hire a freelance writer.

Imagine my elation when he sent over the first payment which was more than $7,000. Not a bad payment for a work-at-home job, right? Man, I just knew I was big time. I had arrived! 🥳🥳🥳

I was a stay-at-home mom to a newborn, and self-taught digital marketer CRUSHING IT as a freelance writer.

I took the money, hired a graphic designer to handle the marketing assets and a social media person to jumpstart the social media growth. I knew both contractors really well, so I put them on retainer and paid them upfront.

Can you guess what happened? Yeah. Neither of them ever delivered the stuff they were paid upfront to deliver. Which meant it fell on me to either do the work myself or pay to find other providers.

Here’s what I discovered with that project: after I paid the writers, designers, website fixers (I built the site myself but still had some technical issues to fix), social media manager, I was actually only earning about $1,000 a month for a project that was literally taking ALL of my time.

Now, it’s not that big a deal to underbid a project. Everybody does at one time or another, but the scope of the work – the amount of my time and expertise needed to do the job – put me in a position where I wasn’t making enough money to bring in another expert who could help me out. Neither did I have enough time left in the day to supplement my income of $1,000 (which was gross, not net) with other jobs.

And that’s my story about why scope of work matters. (I also have a story about keeping up with the DOT’s plans for road work when you own a brick-and-mortar that needs foot traffic, but that’s a sad story for another time.)

The larger the scope of a project, the more of your expertise a client will require to complete it successfully.

Your expertise is valuable. And you should expect to charge a premium when your clients need you to use it.

If you have any doubt about this, binge watch YouTube videos from Alex and Leila Hormozi. They'll straighten you right out.

#3 The Type Of Work It Is

There's no one shoe that fits all in freelancing. Every project is different, coming with unique requirements compared to the previous or the next. In freelance writing, for example, you’ll find that the hourly rate charged for blog posts won’t be the same as the rate you charge for writing the copy on landing pages, or email-marketing copy.

When writing an article for a small publication, expecting anything from $300 to $1500 per post is reasonable. For such projects, you can set your hourly rate with these estimations in mind.

But journalistic articles can get you thousands of dollars per article. And they will typically require a different type of skillset outside of your typical research abilities. You'll need people skills, persuasive skills, curiosity, critical thinking skills... which equates to more of your expertise.

#4 Your Skillset

As Jim Rohn used to say about careers and earning money, "It’s a ladder!" Each year, you should be sharpening your skillset AND your experience enough to warrant you raising your fees.

And with AI in the mix now, no writer can afford to be the type of "marketer" who writes by reading 3 articles from your competitors and regurgitating their articles in your own words. AI can do that for brands in less than 30 seconds for $20 a month, not $500 an article.

So, you have to be getting exponentially better and better at the craft of writing, but mor importantly at the discipline of thinking through the information you learn and being able to apply what you learn to help readers take actionable steps to do more things better and faster.

In the words of Chukwudi Iwuji's spot-on portrayal of the High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3:

"A populous unable to think what has not otherwise been thought will die on the vine." - The High Evolutionary

The point is...

If you can assess the market from day to day and add skills that will help you better serve your clients, you’ll be able to increase your hourly rate, and brands and publishers will gladly pay it.


Setting your rate card for your freelance business is a pretty big deal. You have to make sure that your hourly rates as a freelancer are competitive without forcing you to work at a rate that won’t allow you to properly manage your finances.

My best advice is to set a financial goal then go about equipping yourself to be able to command those kinds of rates.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


  • White Facebook Icon
  • White YouTube Icon
bottom of page