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writing ratesToday’s guest post comes from a return contributor and focuses on how a writer can determine their fees and when to raise rates. Check out Tom Senkus’ earlier guest post on the Pitfalls of Personal Blogging.

Setting Your Rates as a Writer By Tom Senkus

Published writers can tell you about their mistakes: slaving over nonsensical editorial changes without compensation, not requiring a deposit, stuck check-chasing from unsavoury clients. Is it worth it? Or, a better question: How much are you worth? MY STORY As a writer, I started earnestly in college for The Stony Brook Press. While this was a tremendous opportunity, it was unpaid. When bills began to pile up, I made the decision to stop cranking out satirical articles and move into paid territory. I began a blog, which paid its own fringe benefits, but ultimately was unpaid beyond sympathetic PayPal donations and adclicks. This led me to “content mills.” Many of these websites offer quick assignments for writers at laughable rates: After a few days of this, I realized I was worth more than $.05 for a summary! I kept some of the articles, using those clips to find better online writing work. Now, I create test questions for a GRE/GMAT-prep company, which satiates my creative impulses while leaving time for writing articles like these. And it doesn’t pay half-bad, either. UNDERCHARGING How do you know when you are undercharging? If you don’t have any writing samples, then consider your first work as an unpaid internship. Writing for free can lead to other possibilities. If you can’t find some long-term benefit to a project, then working for free may be a waste of time. Note: If there’s no budget, there may be no logical “end” to your work. When you begin charging for your work, start by negotiating a probationary period for initial assignments. Then set down a solid rate for the remaining work. Finally, agree to a finite revision period, avoiding an endless period of editing. Estimating your time is essential for accurate budgeting. If you feel that an assignment requires more work than initially surmised, you can realistically show how long the project will take to complete. If the client is unwilling to accommodate your estimations, it is better to seek better opportunities. SETTING RATES If you can say “yes” to any of the following, you may be undercharging:

  • Is your client eager to send too much work?
  • More work per day/week than you can reasonably handle?
  • Despite working full-time, you feel short-changed?

This blog post is, in itself, a great example: Write Naked pays guest bloggers $50 for a 450-650-word article. That’s $0.07-$0.11 per word. Considering it took me two hours to create and revise, the pay rate is $25/hr. That’s higher than minimum wage! WHEN TO RAISE RATES When should you raise your rates? Consider the following:

  • Time yourself by how quickly you can write—not WPM, but quality, publishable content. Be reasonable about your abilities. If you know that you can write 10 extraordinary blogs weekly, set your weekly rate: Is $500 enough for a week? $2000/month? $24,000 a year?
  • Consider research time. Some projects may require more interviews or fact-checking than actual writing.
  • If the assignments need to be rushed, you should be charging a premium for expedited services.

The more accurately you can foresee these issues, the closer you’ll be to your ideal rate. For experienced writers, a fixed rate from the outset should be your modus operandi. Factor in periodic pay raises (quarterly, biannual) for greater transparency with your clients and external factors, such as inflation. Established businesses realize that shoddy writing causes more headaches in the future. If you adequately state your worth in a proposal, the proper work will come to you. tom senkus writerTom Senkus was a Portland, Oregon-based writer from 2004 – 2009. Since then, he’s taken on busking around the US, UK and Europe in search of bridging the gap between “work and hobby” with his band, The East Cackalacky Ascetic Marching Death Band. His latest book is The Guide to Busking.