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For a variety of reasons, freelance writing is rapidly becoming more popular. Opportunities abound, and the flexibility afforded in being your own boss is enough to have many people questioning—can I really make a living with a freelance writer salary?
I won’t make you read to the end—the answer is definitely yes.
However, if you are considering diving into the world of freelance writing, you are probably looking for a little more detail. A freelance writer salary varies wildly depending on your goals, your skills and experience, the type of work you do and the amount of effort you are willing to put in.
Whether you are just starting out, or are a seasoned gig worker, as you settle in to your career it is useful to know what the average freelance writer salary is, so you can determine how much to charge, whether you are earning a fair rate, what types of clients you should look for and what you can aspire to.
Average freelance writer salary
Like most professions, it is impossible to predict exactly what a freelance writer salary will look like without knowing who they are working for, how many hours they are putting in, how fast they work and a variety of other factors.
So instead of asking what a freelance writer salary is on an annual or even monthly basis, it is sometimes more useful to compare what different writers charge hourly or per word. Here are some average freelance writer salary rates for different types of writing to help you get a feel for what to expect.
Freelance journalism is a rewarding career. Journalists often write about exciting topics, help sway public opinion and may get to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of the world.
Except for a lucky few A-listers, the journalists do not make the highest freelance writer salary of the group. However, you can sometimes expect to enjoy other perks, such as a travel allowance and networking opportunities.
A freelance journalist makes, on average, $56,000 per year.
Usually in the context of the advertising industry, copywriters write the words that appear on collateral material such as brochures, flyers, print ads, websites, and more. Copywriters enjoy a wide variety of subjects and generally have lots of creative opportunities.
Copywriters earn an average of $21.55 per hour.
Social media writers
Writing for social media is an interesting beast. On the one hand, crafting posts that will yield a good ROI for clients takes a lot of talent, and skilled writers in this category are in high demand. On the other hand, social media content is generally short, quippy and not a lot of words. With this in mind, most social media writers do not charge per word or hourly, but on retainer.
A social media freelance writer salary averages between $1000-$3000 monthly.
Technical writing takes a bit more background knowledge to do well. Technical writers take complex data and turn it into easily consumable material. Think user manuals, how-to guides, infographics, that kind of thing.
A technical writer might be someone who has worked in a specific industry, or just someone with excellent research skills. Due to the additional expertise needed to fill this job, a technical writer may have a higher than average freelance writer salary.
Experienced remote technical writers can charge between $.25 and $1.00 per word.
Many blog owners outsource at least some of their posts to freelance writers. Blogging is a great entry level gig for someone looking to get started in a writing career. You need a basic understanding of SEO and a decent social media presence, in addition to your writing skills, to become a successful freelance blog writer.
Once you find a niche and a good rotation of blogs to contribute to, the average freelance writer salary for bloggers is between $50-$200 per post.
How to charge as a freelance writer
Knowing the various types of writing and what freelancers charge gives you a great base to determine what kind of freelance writer salary you can expect, but deciding how much to charge is a bit more complex than just picking an average number.
In general, there are three things to consider before setting a rate as a freelance writer: your experience, the industry you are working in, and your goals as a freelancer.
Experience. Writers with some years under their belt can expect to earn a higher freelance writer salary than someone just starting out.
That said, the amount of time you have been an active writer is not the only factor that goes into how much you make. Your skill level, any classes you have taken or certifications you have earned and the strength of your portfolio are all great ways to showcase your expertise.
It is usually wise to start out at a lower rate in order to get clients, and then gradually work your way up to charging more as you gain experience. Don’t forget to make the adjustment when you feel you are ready.
Industry. As illustrated in the above list of average freelance writer salaries, not all types of writing are worth the same amount. Technical writers and copywriters generally make the most per hour, while content writers will need to take on more clients to earn an equal amount.
Additionally, the types of clients you work for will determine how much you can charge. Large corporations often have a dedicated budget for contractors and will be able to pay more, although the competition for jobs is also steeper. Working with small businesses or other freelancers may mean you have to compromise on rates, but these kinds of projects can be a great way to build your portfolio.
Goals. Some freelance writers are looking for the true nomad lifestyle, able to earn enough to consistently travel, work from anywhere, and have complete freedom over their schedule. Others are hoping to earn a little extra cash on the side of their full-time job, or stay active in the workforce while caring for young kids.
No matter your reason for entering the freelance market, your goals will affect the way you run your business and how much you charge.
The goals you have for your career will likely change over time, so just check in with yourself occasionally to ensure that your pricing structure makes sense.
Once you have established which end of the scale your writing career falls on, you need to make decisions about how you will bill clients. Typically, a freelance writer salary is made up of hourly rates, a per project cost, per word charge, or monthly retainers. Each is a valid way to structure your business, and each makes sense in different circumstances.
- Charging per hour allows you to get paid accurately for the amount of time you spend.
- You set a rate that you consistently charge, and then you are able to control your freelance writer salary by the amount of hours you dedicate to work each month.
- If you are a fast worker, you may get paid less for some projects than you really deserve.
- You need to carefully track all of your time spent working.
- A project based model means you know exactly how much money you will make each time you take on a project.
- Often, efficient workers make more money by charging per project instead of per hour.
- You needn’t track your time in order to accurately invoice clients.
- It can be difficult to estimate exactly how long a project will take, so on occasion you will be under-charging for work.
- Project based invoicing is susceptible to scope creep.
Cost Per Word
- Some clients will pay a high per-word rate when they wouldn’t pay a higher hourly or project rate, because they like seeing exactly what they are getting for their money.
- Charging per word can help limit the scope of an article, because clients won’t want to pay more for longer content.
- If you finish the subject matter in fewer words, you will make less money than you thought you would.
- You won’t get paid for the research, client meetings or other interviews you do as part of the article.
- Monthly retainers give you the peace of mind of knowing exactly how much your freelance writer salary will be.
- You make the same amount of money even if business is slow.
- Retainer clients are hard to find, since the advantage of hiring freelancers is the flexibility offered.
- You cannot up-charge clients if you are required to do more work in a given month.
- It can be difficult to increase your retainer once it is set.
The average freelance writer salary is excellent information to know when you are getting your freelance career started, but remember that it is only one piece of the puzzle. You can expect to make more or less than that average based on your experience, the goals of your business and your writing niche.
It is up to you to take the steps necessary to thrive as a freelancer. Build that portfolio, value your own work, set and achieve goals on a regular basis, and build a strong network of like-minded professionals around you, and you will boost your freelance writer salary in no time.
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