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Should you charge an hourly rate as a freelance writer?

Every time I find a new potential client and start negotiating work that needs to be done, we always touch on the subject of how the work will be charged. Some people, on both the giving and the receiving end of the work, are fond of hourly rates. Others prefer a fixed price, charging per article submitted.

For some people, these things can define whether or not you’ll land a client or not. For those of you in a dilemma should a freelance writer charge an hourly or a fixed rate, this article is for you.

The Freelancer Perspective

From a freelance writer point of view, I’d say having an hourly rate is the better choice. That’s because:

  • You can better organize your workday
  • It’s easier to plan your earnings
  • You usually earn more

By planning upfront how much time you’ll allocate for a certain task, you can better organize your workday. For a freelance writer, who’s always on a short deadline, that can be a lifesaver. You can always fill your work hours properly, never have too much of wasted time, and can work less stressed, knowing exactly how much time it will take to get something done.

Also, by planning upfront how much time you’ll spend on certain projects, you can also plan your earnings. Invoices of freelance writers are usually all over the month. They’re scattered across different projects, and money usually flows in at different times. By keeping tabs on the amount of time spent on certain projects, you can get that peace of mind knowing, at least to some extent, how much money you will have earned in a week, or month.

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Productivity is key

Earning more through a fixed hourly rate is one up for debate. Some will say that you’ll actually earn more through a fixed hourly rate, if you work fast and efficiently. On the other hand, sometimes you get a lot of unbillable hours. You can waste a lot of time doing preparation work you can’t charge, which can set you back some.

There are a lot of freelancers out there who’ll say that charging per project works much, much better, and that case stands – to a certain extent. They’ll tell you it forces them to work faster, be more productive and can sometimes finish a highly-paid task fast, ending up with a huge hourly rate. True as that might be – working faster doesn’t necessarily mean working better. Sometimes you absolutely need to take your time to get to know the topic in-depth in order to provide quality. Otherwise, the content will just end up being shallow and soft, not really providing extra value to the client. And at the end of the day, the client is paying for that extra value.

The Client Perspective

From the client’s point of view, I believe they will (usually) want to go for the fixed price approach. That’s because:

  • It seems cheaper
  • They don’t have to worry about freelancers ‘stealing’ hours
  • They can plan their expenses better

Telling a client that an article costs $100, rather than “$25 per hour, so I might get it done in four or five hours” works much better for them, as they can plan their expenses with better precision. For someone trying to run a business, that’s crucial.

Also, if they’re hiring a freelancer, they can’t keep an eye out on the person to see if he/she is slacking or not. Sure, there are programs out there tracking the work of freelancers, but they don’t want to have to spend hours looking at screenshots of you working. The easier way for them is to just purchase a complete product from you, so keep that in mind.

Closing comments

Just because something’s easier to do, it doesn’t mean it’s better for business. Remember, you’re in the service business – you’re being paid to do a service (add extra value to the company though quality content), and the better the service – the easier it is to get extra work.

If your client would prefer paying per article, and I’ll take an educated guess and say most do – you should definitely go for that, because that’s also part of the service. However, you can tell the client it’s in their best interest to organize an hourly payment, for the sake of the work’s quality. It might cost them a little extra, but they can be sure you won’t rush to get the job done and will devote enough time to deliver the absolute best.

Image credit: Flickr / Tax Credits, Tiz

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