What to Consider When Pricing Freelance Work?

By Sharon Stringer, EdJ Contributor

Image by Sam Beckwith (CC by 2.0)

Freelance work is a big part of life for almost all media startups and entrepreneurs, who typically can’t afford to hire full- or part-time staff for many jobs, and who may need to freelance themselves to pay the bills.

Here are eight things to consider when pricing your freelance work or hiring freelancers to work for you.

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When setting fees:

1. Find out what the competition receives for the same work you’re doing.

While The Writer’s Market is a great source for current compensation rates, you might also want to join the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) for added professional support and guidance. The EFA also offers a list of current compensation rates.

2. Determine a cost of your time for researching, writing, editing, and meeting with clients.

Be painfully realistic about all of the work and time it will take to complete your assignment. Depending on your client’s needs, you might find that you have to spend more time than anticipated on completing any part of the work.

3. Be prepared to speak up for yourself if you believe the compensation is inadequate.

Freelancers with minimal experience may find it necessary to work at whatever rate is offered while building a portfolio. However, as you grow in experience you might find that below-average compensation rates are unacceptable. Set baseline limits for your compensation and stick to them.

4. Learn how to adequately communicate your value to your client.

Inform your potential client about your past experience, recent publications as well as about any relevant training or workshops you’ve recently completed. Be certain to identify how your skills are different from those of the competition and are best suited for the job. Never undercut your value.

5. Learn how to negotiate.

Much of your success in obtaining and retaining clients will be related to how well you can negotiate. Don’t be afraid to make a counter offer.

6. Ask for a retainer.

Many of your clients will be used to paying a retainer for contracted work. Those upfront funds will help you with costs associated with producing your work as well as serve as motivation for what’s to come. It also helps you to budget your expenses.

7. Ask for written recommendations from current or former clients.

It always helps when someone can serve as your reference. Don’t hesitate to ask for something for your files.

8. Consider taking an entrepreneurial journalism course to gain access to resources and the latest information in freelancing.

There are numerous online courses to help you improve you skill and learn the business end of freelancing. You might consider continued education through a workshop or short course at the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, Poynter Institute, or Investigative Reporters and Editors, just to name a few. Some workshops even offer fellowships. Don’t forget to check out what’s available at your local university.

Sharon Stringer is professor of communication at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania who has worked as a freelance writer and radio news reporter.