Several writers have commented to me in the course of the year that they make $30-$40 an hour writing four articles an hour for content mills, and that they consider that great pay.
But is it? What is a good rate to shoot for in freelance writing?
My answer, in case you couldn’t tell from the title of this blog, is $100 an hour. That should be your goal.
Let’s do the math to learn why it’s important that your hourly rate be so high.
If you work 35 hours a week, $30 an hour means you’d make $52,500 a year allowing for 2 weeks’ vacation. Sounds good on the face of it, right?
But at $100 an hour, you make $175,000 a year. Wow! Big difference, huh?
I sense that you’re freaking out. Think it’s impossible? Yesterday’s pay rate? Hardly. That’s my own rate goal for my business.
If you’re saying, “I don’t need to make $175,000 a year, so $30 an hour will be OK,” I’d like you to consider these three things:
Your expenses.Costs include paying your own health insurance, which is more costly every year. Paying state, local and federal taxes, and self-employment tax. Paying for equipment, marketing, Web-site development, advertising, heat, light, paper and other supplies. Making $40 an hour at a full-time job where they pay the benefits might pencil out – but the equation changes when you’re on your own. After expenses, that really doesn’t leave much net profit.
Unbillable hours. Then there’s the downtime. You wait for interview calls to start, bill accounts, market the business, tally up your monthly accounts, have a slow week where you aren’t fully booked, and on and on. Not every hour is a billable hour. Track your time for a month to get a sense of how many real, billable hours you’ve got – it’ll probably be eye-opening.
Work/life balance. Didn’t you start freelancing so you could spend more time with family? Many freelancers get into it for the “freedom,” but end up working 12-hour days to keep it going…not that freeing in my view. A lot of us with children find we’ve got only 30-32 real, available work hours in the week unless we want to stick our kids in many hours of child care.
Put these three factors together and you’ll quickly see why your average hourly rate needs to be high in order for you to earn a decent living.
Don’t know what your average hourly rate is now? Track your billable hours for a month to get a sense of your current rate. Then, set a goal of improving your hourly rate in 2010. You won’t bill $100 an hour overnight if you’re at $20 an hour now. It’ll take time to gradually replace lower-paying accounts with higher ones – but it’ll be worth the effort.
There’s one final reason to aim high, for $100 an hour. We often don’t achieve our goals in life. Maybe one client’s at $100 an hour, but you have another situation where it works out to less, but there’s still a good reason to do the gig — a great editor connection you want to keep, for instance, or great exposure that helps your marketing. So when we shoot for $100, we may end up with $75 overall and still do quite well. Shoot for $30 and you may end up with not enough to buy groceries.
Whatever your rate now, make a plan to increase your hourly rate in the coming year – because better-paying gigs are what truly put the “free” in freelance.