Freelance Writing
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Freelance Writing

Charging Freelance Writing Clients Per Word — Pros and Cons

Does Journalism’s Gold Standard Make Sense in Content Marketing?

If you’re developing a pricing structure as a freelance writer, then you’ve probably considered one of three pricing strategies: per word, per hour, and per project.

For full details on all of those see this post:

One of the classic pricing models, which newbie writers always seem attracted to, is the idea of pricing per word. At ten cents per word, this sentence would earn me enough money to buy a can of Coke. What’s not to love about that (you might wonder)?

Here are some reasons it’s good. And some reasons it’s not.

Pricing per word: it’s easy to understand

It’s Traditional

These days, many writers — including this one — ply their trade for the most part by writing for businesses and agencies. However many of today’s crop of content marketers have backgrounds in ‘editorial’ (journalism).

Pricing per word is a common methodology used throughout the journalism world. If you want to get a feel for how much publications are paying these days, then check out WhoPaysWriters.com:

For freelance content marketing writers that have made the transition from the news industry, charging clients per word is a tried and tested method for earning revenue from their words. What many are unprepared for is the fact that the rates commonly paid for content marketing pale in comparison to those which major publications pay.

All is not grim in FreelanceLand, however. Content marketing offers an abundance of work. Just don’t expect the gold-standard dollar per word rates: at least until you work your way up to the very top rung.

Why Pricing Per Word Is Good

👍 Great For Stimulant Abusers

If you like to hammer out words quicker than you can say ‘I just made a dollar typing this’, then pricing per word might work in your favor.

If you’re fast typist — like me — and happen to have a rampant caffeine pill addiction — possibly like me — then pricing per word can be a goldmine.

Clients needn’t be privy to the inner workings of your freelance life, such as aforementioned caffeine-fueled writing binges that last into the small hours of the morning.

In other words: if you’re consistently fast then charging clients per word can let you profit from your speed

Those reading this might object: “stimulant abuse isn’t a viable long term strategy.” To which I would agree. They might also say: “that’s kind of scamming your clients.” I would disagree with this point.

Pricing per word allows you to capitalize on your experience. As you accrue more experience, you get faster — and your actual hourly rises as a result. I would argue that this is perfectly legitimate, in much the same way as more experienced salaried workers receive periodic pay rises as their value increases to an organization.

However:

👎 You Only Get Paid For The Writing

However quick you are at typing, if you’re getting paid by the word, then nobody is going to be paying you for the two hours you need to spend doing background research in order to be able to write that article at lightning pace.

As you grow as a freelance writer and work on progressively more challenging projects, you will probably find that more background research is required than when you’re starting out.

Your per-word rate only covers the writing. You won’t receive compensation for:

  • Meetings that are required as part of the project
  • Subject matter expert (SME) interviews required as part of the project

👎 It Discourages Brevity

In the word of Mark Twain: ‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote you a long letter.’

There’s something extremely satisfying about figuring out how to communicate your thoughts succinctly.

It’s one of the key skills that we, as writers, should always be trying to develop.

When Pricing Per Word Makes Sense

For clients, per-word pricing allows them to control costs. In order to do this they need to:

  • Negotiate a per-word rate with the writer
  • Specify a maximum word limit for each piece

For writers, per word pricing makes sense if they like to write fast and long. This can be a good way of disguising quick work. It also allows them to receive justifiable reward for their experience. As they get progressively more experienced and faster, their actual hourly rate goes up: because the time divisor gradually decreases.

On the flip side, this pricing structure doesn’t compensate writers for the hours they can spend on research. As such, it should be used with caution.

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Everything about the art and craft of running a freelance writing business including client management, growth, marketing, and more.

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Daniel Rosehill

Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com

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