How to Set Rates as a Freelancer

April 11, 2022

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Hey folks!

Let’s talk setting rates as a freelancer, shall we? I get asked about this a lot, and it was something I Googled many times while planning how I was going to freelance. And I’m sorry to say, there’s no definitive answer.

Some people charge by the word.

Some charge by the hour.

Some by the project.

Some mix it up depending on the job.

The right answer is basically find what works for you, what you’re most comfortable with, and make sure it’s in line with what others in your industry charge.

But here’s what I did and found.

I looked up editors on Upwork to see what their hourly rates are. I looked at their experience, what types of content they edit, and how long they’ve been editing. Pairing that information with some blogs I found and a couple resources linked below, I came up with an hourly rate I felt comfortable with.

And then I quickly realized I much prefer getting paid by project rather than by hour. I just find it easier when dealing with clients, and lets me be more flexible in my rates. I have a baseline that I go off of when calculating a quote, but it’s not one that I tend to announce (which is why my rates aren’t listed on my site).

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Even more importantly, the client knows what they’re paying right off the bat. Yes, it can change as the project goes on, especially if, for instance, they ask me to edit more or less than what we’d initially agreed upon. But I find it’s easier to reach an agreement when a final quote is given.

Another thing I’ve seen a lot of opinions on is whether or not to charge less than what you could make at first in order to get clients. I can see the value in both sides of the argument – charge less, get clients and reviews, then start to earn more as you go on; charge more, get money to support yourself and your business, and set the tone right away. Personally, I lean towards the second option as much as possible. Here’s why I lean that way:

  • clients might expect you to charge more cheaply moving forward.
  • it might look like they’ll get fast work, but maybe not the best work.
  • you’d be selling yourself short! You’re doing an important service, and should be compensated as such.
  • similarly to the first point, clients will then expect other freelancers to charge less, which can make it hard on those who charge more to find gigs.

Are any of these outcomes guaranteed? No. Plenty of clients would be understanding if you started charging more, especially the ones worth working with. So don’t let those ideas scare you off of doing what you feel is right for your business. Those points are just how I personally feel. But in cases where you do want to start off charging less, I recommend joining a site like Fiverr, where the whole premise is that you can find freelancers who charge $5 a gig (you can charge more on Fiverr too, but the lower prices are a big draw for clients).

As someone who wanted concrete answers to the question “what do I charge?”, I know I might not have scratched everyone’s itch. But if you’re an editor looking for how to price, here’s where I suggest looking:

I also came across a fantastic tool through Women Who Freelance on their Instagram page. In case the link doesn’t work, here’s their step-by-step breakdown for calculating your hourly rate (note the tax amount is by Canadian standards):

  1. Ideal annual income + 20% tax = total income
  2. 52 (weeks in a year) – # of vacation weeks = total work weeks
  3. Total income / total work weeks = weekly income
  4. Weekly income / # of work days = daily income
  5. Daily income / # of work hours (in a day) = hourly rate

You can then charge that rate, or use it as a baseline like me to determine what you’ll charge for a given project.

For those of you looking to start freelancing, I hope this helps you figure out a place to start when it comes to setting rates. And feel free to ask me any questions you may have about it down below!

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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