The Pros and Cons of Hourly vs. Per Word Freelance Writing Rates

As a self-employed freelance writer, you probably enjoy a great deal of autonomy and freedom. You get to design your own work schedule, work from anywhere, and collaborate with a wide variety of clients. With that being said, when you’re running your own freelance writing business, you need to make a lot of important decisions in terms of how you’re going to run it. You need to consider how many clients you’ll take on at one time, how you will complete your taxes, and how you will charge your clients. Two of the most common rates for freelance writers are hourly rates and per word rates.

Wondering which one you should opt for when charging your clients for your freelance writing services? This guide outlines the pros and cons to each type to help make your decision a little easier.

Hourly Rates

One of the ways you can charge your clients is by the hour. However, determining exactly how much to charge per hour can be tricky, particularly if you’re just starting out in your freelance career. A good way to approach it is to consider how much you’d ideally like to earn and how many hours you want to work, or how many hours you think you will need to complete a given task. For example, if you want to work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, and earn $50,000, you need to take work that pays you $25 per hour ($50,000 ÷ 50 weeks = $1,000 per week. $1,000 ÷ 40 hours = $25 per hour).

If you’re planning to charge by the hour, you will likely need to use an employee time clock app. Many businesses require their freelancers to use these tools because they facilitate the process of logging hours and ensure employees are staying on task.

One of the main pros of an hourly pay rate is that you can potentially earn more money initially than through a per word or per project rate. For example, if you typically charge $50 for an article on a per project rate, then $50 is all you get; however, if you charge $25 an hour and the article takes you three hours to complete, you get $75. An hourly rate also reinforces the value of your time to clients (i.e. you’re getting paid for all the time you’re putting in conducting research, writing emails).

On the other hand, an hourly rate can be a bit more tedious, as it requires constant time tracking. Additionally, you run the risk of making less money in the long run because as you become more familiar with the client’s style and needs, you become more efficient and therefore clock fewer hours.

Per Word

Per word rates vary depending on the level of expertise, the amount of effort required, and the level of experience of the writer. Typically, per word rates fall anywhere between $0.05 and $1 per word. To determine your per word rate, consider your years of experience, your level of familiarity with the subject matter, and how long it will likely take you to complete the task.

Per word rates are a great option for freelance writers with a specialized niche. If you’re an expert in a given field, clients will likely pay higher per word rates for your content. Per word rates are also a good alternative for clients who may be put off by an hourly rate.

With that being said, per word rates can be unideal in certain cases. For example, it’s sometimes difficult to tell exactly how long an article will need to be, which makes it difficult to know how much you’ll be earning. What you initially thought would be a 1,500-word article may end up only being 750 words, which means you’re taking home half your projected earnings.

Ultimately, deciding which rate scheme you use for your freelance writing business is a decision only you can make. Whether you choose an hourly or per word rate, there are pros and cons to each that you will need to navigate. As long as you choose a rate that covers your business costs, you’ll still ensure the profitability of your business.