Your Turn: Freelance Writing Rates and PaY: To Disclose or Not to Disclose?

Freelance writing rates and pay are the topic of today’s “Your Turn.”

I’m of the old school

At the end of each month, several writing forums feature threads where each writer discloses how much they made during the last month. They disclose their rates, their earnings and how it compares to the month before. I do see the usefulness of these discussions as they give an idea of what writers earn and can also serve as inspiration for beginners. I’m sort of old school though. I was raised to believe it’s impolite to discuss money, salary and how much one has in the bank. Besides feeling that it’s none of anyone’s business what I earn,  I feel that everyone has different circumstances and different clients.

I also don’t advertise my rates on my blog or anywhere on the web. This hasn’t ever been a problem for me, but I know some writers who feel it’s necessary. I don’t do it because sometimes clients feel if it’s in writing there’s no room for negotiation. Different projects require different rates and I like to adjust accordingly. Plus, I don’t want the world discussing how much I make. You wouldn’t believe how many people come to this blog from searches such as “How much does Deb Ng make.” Also, I feel that the subject of rates leads to very heated discussions and debates about what’s right, what’s wrong and what everyone should charge. If we all stopped talking about money, most of the petty bickering in the freelance writing community would stop.

Yes, you read right. In a post about rates I said we should stop talking about rates.

Does talk of rates leads to unpleasantness?

I don’t mean we shouldn’t talk about fair pay or how to calculate a good rate, as these discussions are very important. However, I think all of this “I charge this much and if you don’t you’re ruining writing for the rest of us” is kind of silly. Rates are subjective. The cost of living in Princeton, NJ is a lot different from the cost of living in a PopulationOneFifty, Oklahoma. The hours we all work, the types of writing we do, and the reasons we write are all different. We pay different rents, mortgages and have different utility bills. I think it’s fine to discuss rates, how to set rates, and how to ensure ends justify the means, but I’m not one to say, “All writers should earn XXX amount of money.” When we start listing specific amounts it gets a little tricky.

By all means, talk about pay. Discuss fair treatment. However, it’s none of my business what you earn.

So what are you thinking. Should writers disclose their rates? Should we talk about how much money we earn? Am I too old school and old fashioned?

Does getting too specific in regard to pay lead to too many arguments?







15 responses
  1. Andy Bailey Avatar

    I was just talking about this on twitter yesterday with @kwbridge and @andrea_r (who I’ve had work done by, BIG work). (

    the resolution of it was to have a basic hourly rate so people can at least see if they can afford you and also if you do simple projects, show a ‘from $xx’ charge. Once someone can see that, a) they can afford your services and b) you are offering a ‘valuable’ service then they can phone you to discuss.

    Once they hear that you know your stuff, the prices on the page wont matter because you’ll be either convincing them you’re worth hiring or you’ll quickly tell if they are going to be a paying customer or just a looky-lou. (or your competition!)

    Personally, when I look for services and there’s no price then I continue looking until I do see a price.

    Some people are wary of putting a price up because of the competition, they think that if they put ‘from xx USD’ then their competitor will just put ,”from xx – 2 USD” but in my (limited) purchasing experience, I hardly ever go for the cheapest option. I wouldn’t trust a 5 bucks an hour freelancer with anything I want to be done for my commercial site.

    If I want it done properly by a professional then I am willing to pay professional rates for a professional job. If I wanted it cheap and nasty, I’d use a foreign country freelancing site where 12 year old’s act as middle men to another middle man etc etc.
    .-= Andy Bailey´s last blog ..ComLuv Gold. One (comment) plugin to rule them all =-.

    1. Chandra Avatar

      @Andy – I quite agree to your comments on the foreign freelancing site, and though I am a freelancer from this side of the river, I can correctly assert your claim. I know of a lot of Indian companies who know zilch about writing, yet they win a lot of projects because they have trapped in plenty of freelancers in their hold who work for peanuts.

      @Carrie – A nice pricing model that!!

    2. Deb Ng Avatar

      Hi Andy,

      You make good points. There ARE clients who will want to see price first thing, before they even judge the writer’s talent. If that’s what they’d rather do, I can’t fault them for that. Others will pay a good writer’s price, regardless because they know they get what they pay for.

      It’s sort of like buying a TV. The people who are looking for immediate price gratification will purchase the Walmart house brand because it’s the cheapest model and they just want to be able to watch. Those who know there are more factors going in to determining the purchases of a TV and wish for the best, rather than the cheapest, will go for the Sony because it’s a better investment.

      I’d like my clients to hire me because they like and believe in what I do. I’d rather know I was hired because they enjoy my writing rather than enjoying my price.

  2. Jaime-Ann Avatar

    I think whenever the topic of pay comes up it is a touchy subject. Its one topic I never really engaged in with friends and co-workers because there is always someone that will end up hurt, or (in my experiences) a wee pit obsessed! But Andy Baily made a really good point! In order for me to trust someone with the responsibility of selling my brand then $5.00 an hour will not cut it.
    Though I, myself, provide copywrite services this is something I had to think about. I come from a background of corporate inside sales with marketing experience. I lived, breathed, and relied on copy – and when it sucked (which was too often in my opinion) I re-wrote it myself to close deals. So the first thing I did was offer my services through providers like E-lance, Guru, and others. But I kept finding I would lose out do to other provider’s bidding near “dust” for the job. WTH I thought! So I literally decided to have my own website (which is still a total WIP) where I would begin to create value in my work and help others learn about the business!
    Awesome article Deb! Like you mentioned, there are a ton of things that roll up into the final “rate” each copywriter charges like marketing, resources, talent, length of time in the business. I want someone who knows what I want; who understands what goes into the equation to produce top-notch copywrite, not someone who devotes an hour a night to paying clients’ work! But if you trust your business to cheap copy then – well you know!
    .-= Jaime-Ann´s last blog ..Finding Freedom… =-.

  3. Kelly McCausey Avatar

    I guess it depends on who you’re targeting as a customer? I tell writers who are trying to build a clientele to make their prices obvious and provide website visitors with a simple way to place an order for their services. I think this works great for someone offering simple article, blog post or special report writing services.

    On the subject of discussing what you earn – that’s a fun one Deb!

    On the forums it seems like there’s some motivation for sharing your earnings, like when you want someone to sign up ‘under you’ for a company that offers some kind of two tier payment plan – of course you want to brag about how much you make!

    I’m not a writer for hire – but I do write for myself for a living and I am pretty transparent about my income because I want to show an honest example of what a work at home mom can accomplish and establish my credibility as a coach.
    .-= Kelly McCausey´s last blog ..Friday, I Love You – But I Don’t Need You =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Kelly, I read the forum discussions and I can see where the monthly pay threads are always the most popular and also the most encouraging. If I participate it’s either to congratulate the writers for doing so well or to say, “I made XXX% more (or less) than last month.” If wee were all in an office environment and everyone sat around in the cafeteria disclosing their earnings we’d all be shocked – and maybe a little angry at the differences in pay for the different people and departments.

  4. carrie Avatar

    Excellent post, and this is a widely debated topic. I try to get away from quoting hourly rates because I think they make clients feel uncomfortable/rushed, therefore I lean toward flat project rates, which are all inclusive, and include revisions, consultations, etc. I like to keep them confidential between clients and myself, as I do think every project is different. I do however openly post on my web site, packages & pricing that I came up with when I started to see a pattern in what people were asking for. So they are Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Premium, and the include a set # of monthly services. This was designed to make it easier for folks to get a feel for what I would charge, and also saves me time and energy on clients who might not be a good fit.

  5. NC Sinha Avatar
    NC Sinha

    Prospects are highly attractive. But when one actually delves deep, one may be a little disappointed as I am. The reason for this is–payment is demanded while offer is made for a job. This sounds strange to me. For a new entrant like me this is an irritant and a repellent. I wish to enter, but I cannot because the demand of money for a service not even rendered is a big deterrent. My experiences have not been very happy ones. And it is always difficult to trust anyone these days. This is such a scarce commodity. Is it not possible to make a clean entry without much fuss?

  6. Jeanne Avatar

    A few thoughts:

    First, disclosing rates for potential clients on your website is not a good idea. Why? In addition to the reasons above, it also tells your competitors exactly what you charge. And while the freelance writing community is a lot friendlier than, say, a luxury goods company vying for market share, do you really want everyone else underbidding you?

    Second, I think publishing how much money you make each months is awful! You are putting yourself at risk – why tell would-be thieves “hey, I make a lot” (or conversely, tell your coworkers and friends, “hey, I’m still not making enough to pay my rent.”) I like how Darren Rowse uses a pie chart without figures showing readers how much he makes as a PERCENT of income off of his blog. That not only teaches me something new (I can look at the chart and see potential income streams for my blog that I hadn’t thought of before) but it keeps his privacy intact.

    Great article and very thought provoking.

    Jeanne Grunert

  7. Melissa Austin Avatar

    I don’t put my rates in writing on my website. On my blog, there is only pricing for my advertising package.

    I am not comfortable putting my rates into writing on my website because then the client may feel there is no wiggle room.

    As for disclosing how much I make each month…I don’t agree with that either. It may be very discouraging for beginners or even someone who is seasoned but doesn’t make alot. I know for me, I am still fairly new to this, and when I see people saying I made “XYZ” this month, it makes me wonder what i am doing wrong if I am not making enough. You wouldn’t go bragging to co-workers about what you make in any other kind of job, so you shouldn’t here either…

    Just my thought

  8. NC Sinha Avatar
    NC Sinha

    This world moves on the principle of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. So quality really matters and one must be ready to pay for quality. But this still does not answer my query. You are offering a job. Why demand money?

  9. allena Avatar

    i asked this at– as my most popular articles and blog posts there are always the ones that are VERY specific about money. Overwhelming response was “please keep telling us!”

    i hate talking about money, though. It makes me feel bad. I don’t want to discourage anyone. Freelancing is SO up and down. If I am riding high this spring, it doesn’t necessarily mean that much… I take it when I can get it… Who knows what next month is going to bring (sick kids, less work, I don’t know!)
    .-= allena´s last blog ..If a Client Doesn’t Pay, Should You Go Public? =-.

  10. LIsa Avatar

    I do have a daily rate, but that rate can vary. Beyond that, I have found that as I get better at certain types of writing I am faster and better at the work – and for that reason I no longer charge an hourly rate for that work because I would be making LESS money for doing MORE work! I can make a lot more than my daily rate doing several fast, high quality projects in a short period of time – assuming they’re the right types of projects.

    Not only that, but every industry has a different vision of an appropriate fee: Demand Studios may think that $15 for 500 words is appropriate, but it’s unlikely that a major corporation would feel the same way. If you tell IBM you’ll write their sales brochure (just a few hundred words) for $15, they’ll assume you’re a rank amateur who has no idea what his time is worth.

    I’ve actually lost projects for underbidding AND overbidding. IMO, the secret is not in presenting a constant hourly fee, but in knowing and understanding your prospective clients’ expectations and needs.


  11. LIsa Avatar

    oh- so in answer to the original question NO, I don’t “reveal” a rate on my website ( Instead, I craft a custom rate based on a detailed understanding of the client, the project, and the process by which the project will be completed. I need to know how many revisions are likely, whether there are multiple editors and many other details before I can make a meaningful bid.


  12. Phil Avatar

    Lisa is right, rates can vary. Some work requires more time, research and expertise than other work. Also, during a slow period, you might cut rates to get work, but you don’t want the discount to be your de facto standard. During busy times, I’ve been able to charge additional for rush jobs. And you might provide a better rate for a client who is easy to work with, and charge high rates to difficult clients (who still may not be worth it, but at least you have something to show for it).

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