Written By Jenna Inouye

I’ve charged from $50 a page to $500 a page—Here’s what I’ve learned.

Jenna Inouye

According to Indeed, the average salary for a Freelance Writer is $22.22 per hour. But as freelance writers, we don’t get paid by the hour. We get paid by the piece, by the page, or by the word. That can make figuring out our own rates complicated.

Over the course of my career, I’ve spoken with perhaps hundreds of freelance writers. Some worked for $0.05 a word—roughly $12 a page. Others wouldn’t even look at a project for less than $500.

Here’s my confession: I made more than almost all of them. And to start, I did it at very low rates.

I entered into the freelance writing world making over $7,000 a month, and I did it by writing at around $0.05 a word or less. Over time, I’ve started working at progressively higher rates. But even as my rates shifted, the amount of work I did never really changed. Today, I’ve held rates anywhere from $50 a page to $500 a page, and I can say with confidence: My hourly rate remains largely the same.

It’s for a simple reason. A $500 page is invariably going to take me ten times as long as a $50 page to complete.

Early in my career, I simply stopped caring about the amount of money I asked for. Instead, I let clients tell me how much they wanted to pay, and I tailored my work product to that. If they wanted to pay $20, they would get a research free, off-the-cuff blog post. If they wanted to pay $200, they would get in-depth research and some light editing.

I’ve gotten a lot of criticism for this throughout the writing community. Many believe that whenever a writer accepts a lower rate, they are driving the rates down for everyone. I would argue that the higher paid work has always been out there and will always be out there—it’s just more difficult to get, and for some of us, not always worth it. And I would argue it’s not about the length of the work itself, it’s about how long it takes you.

For me, a $10,000 project is simply going to inhabit a different mental space than a $100 project. When writing an eBook for $10,000, I need to be focused, on task, and available. When completing a $100 blog post, I can simply drop in and drop out. Once the project is done, it’s done.

And, more importantly, a $100 project is always going to be available. For a $10,000 project, I need to do a pitch. I need to make a proposal. I need to do work.

I’ve found that “lighter” projects are what I need to mentally reboot after larger, longer, and more extensive projects. When I’ve spoken to writers who command $500 per page rates as a rule, I’ve found that they work very little. Their projects are, of course, too demanding.

There’s a certain feeling as writers that we want that. That we want every article we write to be a $500 article that merits critical approval, and that we want to be paid to our very best every time we write a piece. But for me, personally, making every article a $500 article would be exhausting, bordering on impossible.

To make the amount of money that I do, I need to have that “popcorn” work. I need to have work that I can pop in and pop out of; I need to have work that is light and transient.

And while that work may not be very highly paid, it is, at very least, consistent. As a freelance writer, consistent and constant work is an investment in yourself. The more you write, the easier it becomes to write. The more work you do for clients, the easier it becomes to procure additional clients. You’re paying your future self through your experience.

It’s important to remember that as a freelance writer, your hours aren’t just wrapped up in your work, but also the administration of your work—there’s an invisible overhead to taking higher-paid jobs. For me, interacting with clients is a nightmare, and the more I need to interact with them, the more my anxiety grows.

Thus, a $10,000 project may pay more per page, but how much time am I spending sending emails? How much time am I spending courting clients? How much time am I spending avoiding them?

In my personal experience, I found that obsessing over rates didn’t help me. There was this sort of internal, instinctive valuation of my time that was always present. If I was going to charge more, I was going to work more, too. It was always going to even out, regardless of what I asked for.

So, I would say as a writer, that you should pay attention to both your per-project rates and your per-hour rates—and you also need to make sure to value your administrative time as well. There may be patterns there that make it much easier for you to value your work.

Today, I can look at a project and value it in terms of hourly rate rather than words. “This project is going to take me five hours, so it’s a $500 project.” And it goes the other way, too: “This project is paying $50, I’ll spend an hour on it.” This has made my earnings remarkably consistent over time and allowed me to be flexible about the types of projects I take on.


Bio: Jenna Inouye is a professional ghostwriter with the Michael Levin Writing Company, as well as the owner of Commonspace Game Cafe. She focuses primarily on the areas of technology, finance, and marketing. She can be found at GhostOnDemand.com.

Your Comments:

  1. Hana Dolgin says:

    Thanks for your insight!

  2. Dianne Dixon says:

    This is a great article. I appreciate the insight, and you’re right, the more I write, the easier it is for me to plan my writing projects. I hope to be able to be more consistent in my projects as I branch out. Thank you, Jenna!

  3. Susan says:

    I agree with your theory on giving the time and energy based on the amount the article pays. Have you ever run into a low-paying clients who has insisted you give it more time and energy, as if they were paying you $500 instead of $25? If so, how did you handle that?

    • Scot says:

      Whenever I have an overly-demanding client, I simply wrap up what I’m doing for them and sever ties. There are plenty more out there–why bother with anyone who’s a pain in the patoot? Drop ’em!

  4. Georges Fery says:

    Thank you Jenna for a great eye-opener. Not that I am looking for clients – my niche is the history of the Americas before 1492. Your approach is down to earth and quite refreshing. We are bombarded daily with endless proposals to learn more, do better, find more clients, make a million… for a fee, of course! Well done. georgefery.com

  5. H.L. Dowless says:

    My Dear Author Community,
    In all honesty I highly question the validity of an author’s claim in regard to writing a work that manages to turn $10,000 American dollars or Euros. This figure would equate with an author managing to craft a work reaching bestseller status of 30000 plus copies sold.
    I can personally grasp the reality of on netting 10k, when it occurs. An article or an essay fetching such dollar amounts, or even a short story, I can only perceive upon the situation with this work possibly going viral(rare as a novel reaching bestseller status) or if one lands a movie contract in lieu of writing such an article or essay (even rarer). No doubt, it has happened, and still does from time to time. Writers might as well be playing the lottery, sitting at the local poker table, etc, while betting on a win, however.
    If even making a basic living from writing is still possible, then please inform myself and many more out there how to accomplish such a magnificent feat in today’s publishing climate. I apologize, but I am missing out on something. There is nothing I had personally rather do than make a living writing. Gas, grocery, and beer money is good enough, until I can figure the rest of this mysterious puzzle out.

    • Jacob Jans says:

      H.L.,

      Such rates are not uncommon when ghostwriting, especially for businesses. You’re thinking in terms of traditional print publishing, but the world of freelance writing is vast, and largely un-related to traditional print publishing.

  6. Aden Curtis says:

    Jenna, I find your pricing approach to be the healthiest of any out there!

  7. Julie says:

    Excellent article–straight forward, down to earth. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Chrie A Whitley says:

    Thank you for this article. I am just starting to get into freelance writing. I am a published author of a YA novel. However, it is a bit different than freelance writing. I was wondering how and what I needed to do to make extra money. You have made me realize it’s not a the money. It’s about the writing. Again thank you so much. I can now relax and just enjoy my writing again.

  9. John Edwards says:

    Thanks for the article! I’ve always thought about going on fiverr and start up a freelance writing gig for stories, but I was never sure about what to charge for my writing. I see everyone else price around 1 dollar per hundred words, but I’m not confident in my grammar skills.

  10. Megan Hamilton says:

    This makes good sense. Simpler projects should just take less time.

  11. Olivia Rose says:

    Thank you for this article. I am just starting to get into freelance writing.However, it is a bit different than freelance writing. I was wondering how and what I needed to do to make extra money. You have made me realize it’s not a the money. It’s about the writing. Again thank you so much. I can now relax and just enjoy my writing again.

  12. Joseph Riden says:

    Client: What is your rate for freelance writing?
    Writer: Show me the project and I’ll give you a quote. My rates vary by the size of the task and what it requires to do it well.

    This is simply pure common sense. I’m glad to hear from a real and sucessful freeance writer who’s been willing to bear this out. My own history includes many years of freelancing as a mechanical CAD Designer and Project leader. In that world, this author’s approach is exactly how it went down. These principles are how to do freelancing “right” so you give the client the best deal that will get you paid for the required effort.
    This is how I do freelancing whether it’s writing or design. It works and it sorts out the clients into the good ones and those to avoid.

  13. Steven Lowe says:

    Hi Jenna. I am an author but always looking to expand my writing parameters. Would like more info on ghostwriting opportunities. I write sci-fi, short stories and a spy series.

  14. Holly says:

    Great article. Totally agree, the more labor intensive the work, the more one needs to be paid. However, I find that many clients want a lot of work (research, seo, style) for very little. I accept and support those who are trying to build a business and can’t afford very expensive writers, but when writers agree to write 1,500 word pieces for $15 it drives down the value of what professional writers do. I never want to turn in something crappy because it has my byline on it. The question becomes where do we find quality clients.

  15. Jake 'James says:

    This in no way told us how to get $500 per page, like the email implied. Of course you charge more for more work and time.If you cheapen your work too much, sooner or later word gets around.

  16. Emmanuel Kudjo Adu says:

    I am a neophyte writer but not sure my people get paid for what they write and I am scared I will submit my work without being paid.
    Colleague writers I am endowed with the intellects in writing Poetry, Drama, and Prose respectively.

    Kindly link me to Universities that will examine my work and give me Scholarship to improve my skills in writing. Thanks.

  17. Laura says:

    This is an interesting perspective! I’m pretty new to the freelance writing scene and the prevailing wisdom is to charge as much as you can. I feel like I need to get a bigger volume of work under my belt, which is hard to do when I’m taking on big, expensive projects. This gives me something to think about as far as how to approach the search for work!

  18. Linda Lichtman says:

    Lots of writing: plays, one woman show…attempting to finish two books…both humor/memoir…essays on life experiences and stories…where can I begin and how???

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