Setting Rates

Perhaps one of the most contentious issues related to technical writing is how much freelancers should charge for their services. The amount you will be paid as a technical writer depends on a number of factors, such as the type of company you are working for, the complexity of the project, and your experience level. While beginners might only make around $13.00/hour, there are others who are pulling in upwards of $100/hour. Here are four tips that will help you set rates that are competitive with what other freelancers are charging and will also help you make a good living:

Tip #1: Figure out what you need to charge - When you start out, it is almost impossible to decide exactly how much you should charge. To determine a fair rate, you will have to monitor your time and productivity carefully over the first few months of your career. You should keep track of how many words you are able to write in an hour and a typical day, for example, and how many hours a day you usually devote to writing. A spreadsheet would be a useful tool for keeping track of this. Once you have a good idea of how long projects will take, you will be able to provide better quotes to prospective clients. If a client asks for a per-word rate, for example, you will already know that you typically write 1,000 words per day. If your goal is to earn $200 a day, you will need to earn 20 cents/word. If you're asked for an hourly rate and you know you usually work five hours a day, you'll need to earn $40/hour.

Tip #2: Treat requests for flat rates with caution - Most of your clients will probably pay you by the hour or the word, but there may be some that will ask you to work for a flat rate. These clients will request a quote to complete the entire project. While this arrangement works well for many freelance technical writers, it may also lead to problems. There may be more research involved than you anticipated, for example, or the client may change their mind about how long the document should be. Before you agree to a project rate, be sure you thoroughly understand what is expected of you and have a good estimate of how long the project will take.

Tip #3: Do your homework - Research typical rates for freelance technical writers before you begin providing quotes. You have to charge a fair rate if you hope to secure work. If you're a beginner, there's nothing stopping you from asking for $200 an hour, but the chances you will get it are very slim.

Tip #4: Avoid offering rock-bottom rates to secure more work - Some freelance technical writers might feel that the busier they are, the more successful they are. This isn't accurate, however, if the freelancer is working for next to nothing. Think about this: one client that pays $30/hour is just as valuable as three that pay $10, so take the time to look for high-paying assignments once you get some experience under your belt. Giving away your work might make you busy, but it won't earn you the kind of money you deserve.

Last Updated: 05/05/2014