As soon as you start writing for clients (not publishers) you need to figure out what you'll charge them.
There are two ways to charge - by the hour and by the project. Let's first look at some of the advantages and disadvantage of both.
When you charge by the hour you need to keep track of the actual time you spend. Although most of that time will be actually writing, you also need to include research time, thinking time, the time preparing invoices, particularly if you have a client who wants detailed one, etc.
It's always tempting to ignore time that really should be charged, or just literally forget about some of the chores that you do around a project. There's a real danger you'll earn less than you should unless you keep good track of everything.
The other potential problem is that it will take you longer, sometimes much longer, to complete a piece of work then the client thinks it should. When that happens, and it's fairly frequent, you may find yourself in the horrid position of trying to justify your charges.
Flat fee by the project
When you charge by the project you're setting a flat fee. For example, if you agree to do a series of blog posts for a company you might say each post will cost $100. If the client knows they only want six posts you might quote the total - in this example, $600.
Many people who ghostwrite books charge flat fees. I actually say on my website (https://annewayman.com/the-dreaded-pricing-question/):
... in general, a book, which runs from 200-300 pages, or between 35,000 and 100,000 words, will cost you something in the neighborhood of $40,000 – $75,000.
The advantage for both you and the client is you know what to expect - you know what you're going to earn and the client knows what they will pay.
The disadvantage is that you may not charge enough to really pay you what you're worth. Usually experience cures this.
And a truth about flat fees is that they are usually based on hourly rates.
Finding your rate
Start with what you need to earn to meet your expenses and some of your wants on a monthly or annual basis. Don't forget to include benefits like health insurance, disability insurance, sick pay and the like.
Then decide how many days a week and how many hours a day you plan on working.
Jenn Mattern has some nifty free calculators you can use:
Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator - I find this one incredibly useful.
Her Freelance Project Hourly Rate Calculator doesn't work as well for me because it's figured in minutes rather than hours - but if I were doing a bunch of articles, press releases or blog posts it would be helpful.
These guides and others are just that - guides. Use them to discover what feels right to you.
Your self-worth and how you charge
When writers complain that they aren't able to make a living I find the problem often has more to do with their view of themselves, their self-worth, than anything else.
I'm not talking about the general case of nerves or uncertainty any time any of us start anything brand new. That's normal and probably good judgement. There is a learning curve with freelance writing, just like anything else.
No, I'm talking about an attitude toward yourself and your writing that says more about you than your skills.
There's a Buddhist saying, treasure yourself, and if you're not able to truly treat yourself and your writing ability well you probably won't be able to earn well either.
If your view of yourself isn't up to par, there's all sorts of self-help out there. I've even written a bit of it myself, and so has Lori. Check out 6 Ways You Can Accept Responsibility For Your Own Self-Worth As A Writer and What's Your Value?
If you find you aren't making progress on your own, consider getting professional help. Poor self-worth will cause you problems in every area of your life, not just writing.
Assignment 8 - Share your experience - not required
There's a forum thread where you can share your stories about self-worth and writing or just ask a question or two. Keep in mind that we're professional writers, not counselors, but heck, we may have a helpful opinion.
None of us were born knowing how to set fees, yet every successful freelance writer has found a way to do it. By sharing your story and asking questions you'll be able to draw on writing pros who know the ropes. We've all been there. Take advantage of us.
Forum link to: Setting fees