by James Chartrand
This is the third post in a series on increasing your rates and getting more money writing for a living. We’ve already discussed when you shouldn’t ask for a raise and how to find the confidence to ask for a raise. Today’s post covers figuring out what you should be paid for your work in the first place.
Feel free to ask your questions in the comment section, and we may cover the answer in an upcoming post.
The pay rate of writers is a hot topic. With the wide range of pay rates for various types of writing, no one can really figure out what they should be charging or what they should be paid for their words.
Sure, we can all cry for industry standards and level out the playing field so that both clients and writers know what the going rate should be. It’s not going to happen anytime soon, unfortunately.
There are way too many factors involve in different types of writing for people to set a standard rate. Both print and web content pay rates vary according to readership, subscription numbers, types of articles, the amount of research… the list goes on.
Toss in local economic factors and the jumble gets even messier. Live in California? Pay needs to be pretty good just to get by. Live in Siberia? Well, things are a little different over there.
We can look at going rates around the net to try and figure the problem out, but that’s not much help either. An article that pays $500 here might only bring $5 over there. Which is the right price? Both, really.
The only way to figure out what you should get paid for your work is to sit down and start thinking.
- What’s the typical minimum wage where you live? If it’s $8 an hour, then you certainly don’t want to be writing for less than that amount. Know your “no go” pay point and start from there.
- How fast can you work? If you can produce two pieces per hour, that helps you determine what kind of money you might make in a day.
- How many distractions do you have? You may be a fast writer, but if you can only work a couple of hours in a whole day, then you need higher pay to make ends meet.
- What are your personal expenses? Knowing what you have to pay each month for bills, rent, mortgages, utilities and credit cards helps you know what you need to bring in.
- What are other people paid? Visit sites like Payscale.com, writing associations or other credible sources to see what they suggest as going rates.
- What are other people really paid? Sites that suggest pay rates are great, but they’re often posting what people should be paid and not what they actually receive.
- What are your overhead costs? The answer, “Nothing,” is false. Writers have to pay for internet connections, PayPal fees, bank fees, daycare costs, insurance, and all sorts of things.
- What do you pay in taxes? So many people think about what goes in their pocket but forget what they’ll have to pay out in taxes. Factor tax payment projections into your rates and stay covered.
- What will you be left with? Decide what you’d like to be paid per hour (not per piece). Subtract all overhead costs and taxes. If you’re left with a dollar or two, your rates are too low.
Why did I mention that you shouldn’t base your rates per piece? People get a little stupid when money is involved. They believe $50 for 500 words sounds great, but then they forget that the level of quality may take them longer to write. It could be more advantageous to take a gig for two articles at $15 instead.
So let’s say you’ve figured out that you need at least $400 a week to make ends meet. You’ve decided that you can only work 20 hours peacefully each week. So you need a minimum of $20 an hour to reach your $400 goal.
You’ve also figured out that you can write 350 words in a half hour. Now you can tell your client that you want $30 per piece.
Do the math. You’ve not only met your monthly monetary goal in the number of hours you’ve chosen to work, but you’ve also made a $10 profit on each hour you work. That’s an extra $200 you can set aside every week.
Lean weeks? No work? Getting desperate? That’s okay. You know that you can drop down to $10 per piece and still meet your goals.
Now that’s smart business.
Do you have suggestions to add? Any tips to share with new writers? Share how you figured out the rate you wanted to be paid when you began writing in our comment section.