Published on 17th April, 2018

The Pros and Cons of Freelance Pricing Strategies

Before getting to the biggest freelance question of all (‘How much should I charge?’), you have to decide how you would like to charge your clients. There are four common ways of pricing your work: per word, per hour, per project, and monthly retainer. Each method of pricing your freelance writing work has its pros and cons to consider.

Different pricing strategies may work better with certain projects and clients, so in the end, there’s no right or wrong answer for freelancers across the board. It can also come down to personal preference, so take a look at our pros and cons list for each pricing strategy and decide which ones will work best for you.

Per Word

Pros:

  • Charging per word can motivate you to avoid procrastination and stay focused while writing, since you’re getting paid only for what you write down.
  • It can be easier to raise your rates since an increase from .10 to .15 doesn’t feel like a big jump. This also gives you the ability to raise your rates in small increments as you gain more experience.

Cons:

  • You may end up aiming for a specific word count, rather than writing what makes sense for the piece. Suddenly you’ll find yourself cutting or adding words just to hit your word count.
  • When charging per word, it’s difficult to account for any additional time you spend researching, interviewing, editing, and communicating with the client.

Per Hour

Pros:

  • Charging by the hour is a great way to ensure you get paid for all of the work you put in, including things like research and revisions.
  • If the scope of a project isn’t well-defined yet or the client tends to change their mind a lot, charging by the hour ensures you’re paid fairly.
  • It might be easier to land client gigs because hourly rates look lower and more attractive than a full project price.
  • When lots of revisions are needed, charging by the hour means you’ll get paid for all of the revision work.

Cons:

  • If you’re faster than the average writer, you could lose out on income by charging only by the hour.
  • You’ll have to be diligent about tracking your work time, which is made easier with apps or software, but still a hard habit to get used to.
  • Clients are sometimes skeptical of how long it took you to complete something and may even ask for a detailed breakdown of each hour billed.

Per Project

Pros:

  • Charging per project keeps pricing neat and tidy with just one flat rate to worry about.
  • You can focus on working without worrying about time tracking.
  • When putting together a project price, you can include every part of your work including outlining, editing, communicating, etc.
  • Many clients prefer the ease of one final price that is known ahead of time.

Cons:

  • Depending on the client, you may have to work hard to prevent scope creep. Before starting the project, you’ll need to clearly outline what is included (and not included!) with your services.
  • It can be difficult to estimate how much work a project requires and how long it will take, especially if you’ve never done a similar project before.
  • If you end up underestimating the work involved, you’ll have to put in more hours and end up with less income.

Monthly Retainer

Pros:

  • Typically, the ‘best of the best’ clients will suggest a retainer format when there’s already been a positive working relationship between the two of you. It’s a good situation made even better!
  • Working on a monthly (or weekly) retainer is great for ongoing work, especially if the client needs a variety of writing work done.
  • Many freelancers enjoy retainers because it creates predictable and steady income.

Cons:

  • The client may ask you to do extra work without expecting you to bill them any more than usual.
  • Without tracking your time, the scope can slowly increase over time without you noticing.
  • Your workload can change from month to month, so you may not know if you should take on extra work from other clients that month.
  • Some client may assume that having you on retainer means you’re always available to them, so be sure to have a clear discussion on expected response times and turn-around times.

Robyn Petrik is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada, and specializes in writing blog posts and social media content for creative small businesses. Along with writing, she also spends time painting on her iPad, reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter. You can learn more about Robyn at robynpetrik.com and connect with her on Twitter.

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