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How to Charge for your Writing, and How Much

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” said 18th-century English writer Samuel Johnson.

He was wrong, of course.

There are many good reasons to write besides making money. Writers write to influence others, to entertain, to pass their life story down to their grandchildren, and many more reasons, including just for the sheer joy of it.

But it is delightful to make money writing. I’m assuming that if you’re on this website you love writing, but you would also like to earn some money. And you can do that. Although most writers don’t make a living at it, others do very well indeed.

Many times writers have little to no choice about what they’re paid, but sometimes they set their own rates. This article explains how to do that.

The amount you charge depends on what type of writing you’re doing. It’s tough to decide, and this article addresses that later. But an easier decision is how to charge. There are four possibilities: by the hour, by the job, by the page, and by the word. Most have advantages and disadvantages.

By the hour

Some writers like to charge by the hour because they get paid in accordance with the difficulty of the work. If the story is so difficult to write that it takes longer than what the client expected, that’s fine. You may have some explaining to do to your client, but at least you’re getting paid for what you put into the work. But clients tend to be wary of writers changing by the hour, for the obvious reason that it’s too easy to pad time. I’ve never charged by the hour and doubt I ever will.

By the job

Charging by the job has an advantage for both the client and the writer—you both know exactly what the fee is. But there’s the issue of the client saying, “I want to add another chapter.” Most clients would probably agree to pay additional money but still, you have the problem of determining exactly how much more to charge. For example, say the original story was supposed to be 1,000 words and you charged $200. Then the client sends more material, which adds another 284 words. How much more should you charge? Sure, it’s possible to do the math, but it’s likely to be confusing.

I’ve never had this happen, but it’s also possible that partway through a job a client decides he wants to cut a large amount of material. Then what? By rights, you should cut your fee, but that’s disappointing. And you still have the problem of figuring out how much money to cut.

By the page

Charging by the page has the same issues of the client potentially adding or removing material. But a bigger issue is what constitutes a page? The Editorial Freelance Association says the industry standard for a page is 250 words. But one writer said she figures there are 500 words to a page. And what if your client says, “Wait a minute. You should be able to fit 300 words on a page, not 250.” Do you still charge the same rate? Worse yet, after you agree on a rate, finish the job, and send it to the client, he or she could employ some methods to fit more words on a page, such as making margins miniscule or leaving only small spaces between lines and paragraphs, then send the work back to you and expect an adjustment.

I’ve never charged by the page; it seems too fraught with potential problems.

By the word

Arguably, charging by the word is the best method. You can give the client a precise total charge, and if he later adds more material it’s easy to adjust your fee. Even if the client removes material it’s easy to reduce your charge.

How much to charge

Finally, the toughest question—monetary amounts. The decision of how much to charge is probably one of the most difficult ones you’ll make. Run a search on “what to charge for writing” and you’ll get an amazing variety of answers.

I’ll only address charging by the word because that seems like the best practice. It’s difficult to name a specific fee; there are many variables, such as the type of writing, your experience level, and even where you live. But a range somewhere between 10 cents a word and $1 a word makes sense. So, if you’re writing a 1,000-word story, you’re looking at charging between $100 and $1,000.

There’s just one more thought about money. Be 100 percent sure you and your client are on the same page regarding the monetary arrangements. Writing is tough enough; we don’t need to make it more difficult by a misunderstanding about money leading to resentment and a bruised relationship.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Joe Wisinski