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How to Earn $250 Per Hour As a Freelance Writer

How sweet it would be to earn $250 per hour — as a writer, no less.

Sounds like a crazy dream, right?

It’s kind of like your dream to win America’s Got Talent with your nose whistling routine: Fun to think about, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Well, $250 per hour is the average rate +Linda Formichelli earns for copywriting, content writing, or journalism.

In tomorrow's post, she'll outline a handful of simple habits that have bumped her pay rate much higher than the pay rate of the average freelance writer.

Stay tuned.

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I've gotten paid the same. BUT I have gotten stiffed (from some really reputable places that I won't mention here). That's a danger for every freelancer out there and IT HAPPENS A LOT. It causes me to really doubt the entire concept. That said, I do have a question for this author: how do you attract your clients? Is it a button on your website? A portfolio? Guest posts? Is freelancing your primary service? I write pretty awesome interviews + profiles and such (and thank my editors for making them better). And I have a portfolio . . . but not as many asks coming in as I might like.  Have any tips in case I wanted to re-invest in freelancing and beef that up?
Holy Crow, Number 3 is me to a tea!
However, I think over-researching when you're new to a topic can be valid, and maybe necessary for some people depending on how their brain works. And I think the idea is more to keep in the same areas so that you can reuse the same research over and over again.
But I love the idea of this tip. Knowing how much your audience knows so you don't go overboard unnecessarily--and keep your rates high, 'cause that is the name of the game. 
Have to say, that subhead made me laugh out loud!
Advice #2 can be dangerous, though. Some writers simply need several drafts and no writing practice can change that. I am a pretty fast writer but I would never tell someone to hurry to make more money because I've seen texts by writers who thought they could do it and I spent more time correcting them than I would have by writing the text myself. Otherwise, this is a great piece of advice, low prices for online writers are getting ridiculous and there's no reason to sell yourself short if you know what you're doing. 
Thanks, Linda. Great tips and even if they don't yield $250/hour on every project, they absolutely improve the bottom line and shift the way we think about our work. I've got a question for you though - I've gotten good at quoting projects for smaller jobs like articles, white papers, video scripts, etc., but what do you do with larger jobs like annual reports and website copy - jobs that seem to grow in scope as you progress? Do you quote per page? 
That is great, Linda. I am curious as to how many different clients you need to maintain each year and how many different projects you need to complete each year in order to keep busy enough to earn $250-per-hour?
I've found that starting a rough draft before I interview actually makes my interviews so much shorter. If I interview before I write, I tend to ask for more info than I'll need--kind of like over researching. However, if I can frame up my article pretty well and just need a quote or two to supplement, I can be very pointed about what I ask, and get the exact right quote for the piece. I'm definitely not at $250 per hour rate, but it helps to cut down on some work time. Thanks for the tips!
A masterful essay, Linda.  Full of smart tips and contagious enthusiasm.
Great article, Linda.

Love your admonition against over-researching. When I find myself doing that, I know I'm procrastinating or indulging perfectionism  - neither of which gets the job done.

Offer master-level value. Best tip in your article.

I specialize in white papers and case studies. One of the extras I often add on is to show my client ways to re-purpose my work. I have gone so far as to pare out 2 or 3 blog posts from a 5000 word white paper.

Guess what often happens? Yep, follow-on work, just because the blog posts impressed them and they saw the inherent value.

Extra value sets you apart, especially when you exhibit not just wordsmithing skills but good business savvy too.
+Cynthia Lindeman Thanks for your comment! I've actually gotten stiffed only twice in 17 years, and the total was under $400. 

I get clients through good ol' shoe leather -- pitching. However, once you do a good job for an editor, you often don't have to go through the whole pitching process, and often they'll come to YOU with assignments.
+David Geer Hi, David! I'm not sure it matters HOW many clients you have -- you can have just one and earn $250 per hour with that one! I've written for over 150 mags and 30 corporate clients over the years, which for me has turned out to be from 13 assignments per month (tip: don't do that) to 3 or 4, which is what I do now to focus on my teaching.
+Juliane Waack Yes, you need to be confident that you can do a GREAT job when you write quickly. I think that comes with time. When I was starting out I'd print out an article three times and go over it with red pen, and have my HUSBAND do the same. Now, it's one draft, quick edit, done.
+Theresa Ceniccola Good question! You need to quote a project price but build a buffer in there -- enough that you feel confident it would cover a bit of scope creep. However, if you get a LOT of scope creep, it's time to talk with the client about reining it in or reworking the contract.
Is it possible to really earn $250 per hour, unless the author is really good. 
"pre-qualified...Look for businesses with at least $5 million in profits to start — those are the ones who can pay you what you want." Oh so true! My first attempt at full-time freelance writing about 12 years ago was a financial flop in spite of having acquired several clients. All their businesses were so small that none of them were capable of providing anything resembling steady income – just a bunch of one-off gigs that couldn't pay the rent. Now, I'm making a comfortable living as a writer by approaching more qualified clients. Your other suggestions look valuable too.  I look forward to applying some of them.
Hourly rates are for lawyers and plumbers
Great post, Linda!

I had to smile reading this, because I just this week took a $3000 project in an arcane area I earn real well for -- writing confidential information memorandums for companies looking to sell themselves. It's a business plan-like document that needs a compelling story arc in it to help the company find buyers. I leverage my long years as a business reporter and blogger, plus some experience writing business plans. I started at $2000 for these and just started raising my prices steadily, after realizing companies aren't price-sensitive on this project, because the outcome is so important.

Anytime you can write something that will make an owner a lot of money, you can charge a lot more. And like you, I do EXACTLY the research I'm going to need and not one speck more. ;-) Don't know if I'll hit $250 an hour, but it'll definitely be north of $100.
So much of what I write is ghostwriting for other business owners, positioning them as experts in their field. Which means any time I want to pitch a story under my own name, I can't send any links that have my name in the byline. Do you recommend sending those links anyway and explaining they're ghostwritten or starting a blog and positioning myself as an expert that way? What would an editor think? 
+1 to #5. So glad that someone's telling the other side of the story to inbound marketing. Selling jobs requires REAL relationships with REAL people. You'll almost always score better clients that way.

Thanks for the article +Linda Formichelli 
+Carol Tice Wow, that is very cool! And I agree -- you're not selling hours, you're selling a SOLUTION. And if that solution makes the client a lot of money, that should equal more for you too.
+Masafumi Matsumoto You'll need to find a business directory that has that info. When I was starting out, I believe the guide I used was called Rich's or Thomas's. But there are many out there.
+Laura Leidner You have to check your contract t make sure you CAN use those as clips and reveal you're the ghostwriter. Is that's OK, you can send them to editors letting them know you ghostwrote them. I know others who have done it no problem...and editors will most likely trust that you're not trying to pull some scam.
+Ric Moxley Thanks for supporting that point with your own experience! So many writers want to pitch dinky companies, maybe because they're too afraid to go after big ones. I tell you, one of my FIRST copywriting clients was Pizzeria Uno. Big companies know how to work with freelancers, are less of a hassle, and pay more.
Great stuff as usual, Linda. I particularly liked the "create the master-level value" material, where your quote succinctly lays out how your stuff moves beyond the mundane.

And the brevity of that quote—which is only a pointed paragraph more than a bland, empty quote—ties in to your "write quickly and efficiently' stuff. You don't spend much time explaining your master value, but the explanation is compelling. Thanks!
Jay Oza
With all due respect, I am not buying this piece at all.  Writing is a commodity.  There are boat load of excellent writers I see on the Internet. They all could not be making $250/hour.   Software coding yes, but not writing.  Anyway, good piece of writing. 
Linda is DOBA (it's an industry term). Being hypercurious about everything is invaluable for me. Isn't that why we're in this game in the first place? Spend every waking hour of your day researching, thinking, deducing, inducing, and learning when you're not writing or selling. If you're not hardwired like that, writing is going to be a tough sell and a tougher gig. Take clients in industries you're already obsessed with, passionate about, and people consider you an expert in. I don't do outside research for some of the work I do. I know enough about the subjects to produce quality work right off of the top of my head. I wrap the piece up in 15 minutes and make $80-$100. Obviously that's "best case scenario." The work often takes longer. I do not write 40 hours a week. I write maybe 8 hours a week, spend a few hours pitching new work and another couple hours on the phone. Last thing. If  someone doesn't pay you, out them on They earned it. 
+Jay Oza If you treat your writing as a commodity, prospects will see it that way too. But SMART clients know that good writing solves a problem and brings in more money. Writers who know what they're worth, provide that value, and charge good rates for it will always make way more than the writers who see what they do as a commodity for the content mills.
+Jay Oza
If all you write is quick SEO 'articles,' then writing is a commodity. If you learn to write more sophisticated products that not every writer can produce, then it's a whole different ballgame.
+Aston Reynolds Okay, I looked up DOBA and all I could find was info on drop shipping. How DARE you call me a drop shipper? :) Seriously, though, you're right -- you need to have insatiable curiosity and the drive to learn and improve. I work only 6 hours per day now, but much of the rest of the time I spend taking workshops, reading industry blogs, brainstorming ideas, etc. 
+Clint Neville Yes...shoe leather really counts in this industry. I've had a few clients come to me through my website, etc., but most of them I scored by approaching them with a pitch.
+Linda Formichelli "DOBA" is from the movie My Cousin Vinny. It stands for "Dead On Balls Accurate." The movie quote fell off of the SERPs at some point. My bad. :-P
Totally agree - the other week I earned $1600 for two hours work. The task was a project rate to write two long form ads - headlines and copy! My best long-term contract rate was $15,000 per week for five months - and that was 14 years ago!  Multinational clients with vision, commitment, resources and a deadline is the key.
You hit the nail on the head with all points Linda. There have been many times where I over-researched when just trying to write a blog post. I pinned this post to refer back to.
Nice write up +Linda Formichelli and I totally agree, when you can target clients that have access to the money you want it's easier to get it.  

I have a rather large prospected client that I will be approaching and I noticed that you even suggested snail mail as a way of cold calling.  Have you found that this is effective as calling or emailing?
Really inspiring Linda. Just wondering if you can direct me to any articles about how and when to bump up a freelance writers rate? As well as looking for new clients, (thanks for the direction about which ones to target) I think I now have enough experience under my belt to ask for a better rate. Cheers
+Linda Formichelli you are absolutely right on all points. It's funny to see the majority of the comments mention they over research as well! I have to stop that. This has been a huge talk amongst virtual assistants that the hourly rate is not how to make money. You end up with the money pinchers and hagglers that don't see your worth. Thanks for this post! AWESOME.
wow. I totally agree with not using freelancer sites. It's my number one rule. I'm actually clocking up a good rate working with non-english speaking clients in Turkey. Being the only native english speaking writer who is advertising these services has been a bonus. 
+Linda Paull Yeah...I'm Other Den Mother at the Freelance Writers Den and they have a great job board with gigs that pay. But a lot of the other ones are just a race to the bottom. Elance, Craigslist...ugh.

Good for you getting nice rates where you are!
+Lillian De Jesus Yes, quoting an hourly rate just invites micro-managers who want to control how you spend your time! We're not hourly wage-earners...we're business owners.
+Kim Chartres I can't think of an articles or posts, but in general you always want to be moving UP. I like to write to my editors after I've worked with them a bit asking of they can go to bat for me with their bosses to bump up my rate. Of course, bring up any coups you've had with them -- your articles have been well received, the editor rarely has any changes. etc.
+Wade Harman Hi, Wade! I actually wrote a post on snail mailing sales letters for Copyblogger. (Search on my name and you should find it.) I have gotten a good response rate -- up to 11% for people requesting my information kit.
The secret sauce is finding the those higher paying client, presenting your best case on why they need your solution, and doing your writing as efficiently as possible. T hanks, Linda. Nice work.
I think my main concern would be actually finding the clients in the first place. That in itself requires time.
+Joe Rogers Yes, but take heart - your goal is to build relationships with clients so eventually you don't HAVE to scour the universe for clients...and you won't have to pitch, pitch, pitch. Clients who love you will come to YOU with work.
+Jay Oza Thanks, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the same thing - there are people in India and the Philippines who will undercut prices (admittedly, for a lower quality article) every day of the week. There is just too low a barrier to entry for writing copy and the fact is most customers aren't all that interested in quality, only garnering enough interest to get eyeballs all over their ads on a website.  And really, how long can any writer stand producing assembly line articles on subjects they really don't care about?

The most obvious result of the commoditzation of writing is the flood of BS "Top Ten Things You Didn't Know About XYZ" articles all over LinkedIn, MarketWatch, etc. This is little more than a new twist in the SEO manipulation game. If I can smell it this far away, so too will the algorithms in the not too distant future.  
+Linda Formichelli - ah, well I don't have clients or relationships with scientific companies in that way as most of them are big and have their own PR/copywriting depts. 
Thanks for the great insight. Some of the concepts could be adapted for almost any freelancer. 

#2 makes me a little uneasy - sounds a bit mercenary, but I get the point. 

Thanks again. P
It's great if you're a movie actor. Take a look at what we are doing and ponder.
+Mary Collings​ you go girl... you are definitely an inspiration to me, im hoping to get my writing career going like you. It's hard, but I am more than a conqueror!
I have a question about freelancing. Long story short, I'm one of those people who never knew they were good at writing -- until, that is, the last two years that I've been attending a university, and have continually ending up receiving A-graded papers (even on papers I thought I should have gotten a poor grades on -- they always seem to come back with high grades). Now, so you don't think that the university I am attending is just "handing" me my grades, it currently ranks as 25th in the nation for online BA degrees. I currently am working toward my BA degree in English with a cognate in Professional Writing, but originally, that was just the quickest way for me to get a BA (because I had a lot of English classes from previous attendance at various community colleges), and I had intended to further pursue a Masters in Elementary Education. However, I have always loved to write (and type -- I love to type too ... sounds weird, I know, but ... I just love the feel of the keys under my fingers), and with the continued A-graded papers I've received back, with compliments from my teachers like "Excellent work," I've really begun to think perhaps I am heading the in the wrong direction with Elementary Education. My confidence in my writing skills has really increased, and I've come to the point where I have figured out that if all of my teachers are giving me A's on my papers, I must be good at this writing thing. Hence, I am looking into freelancing, but I have never done freelance writing and I don't want to sell myself short by taking on lower-paying jobs if my work is worth more. I once worked for a medical transcriptionist (she had partnered out her work because it was getting to be just too much for her to handle), and I would spend 12-14 hour days typing up doctors' transcriptions and get paid about $4/hour (the pay was not hourly-based, it was based on the number of words I would type), and ... I'm not going to sell myself short again. 

So anyway, I was just wondering if anyone had any tips, since I've never really done this before. I don't even have a blog website up yet; although we had to set up a WordPress one for a class, but ... that was a rushed thing for me as I've got a pretty heavy load right now, so I was just trying to get the project done, and our teacher really only cared about seeing that we were able to set one up, so ... I'd need to go in and really spend some time on it first, which I intend to do eventually when I have time). Anyway, just wondering if you think I should start with some lower-paying blogging jobs just to be able to put that on my resume as I've never done this before, or if I should shoot for higher paying ones -- any tips would be helpful. 

I'm surprised Copyblogger published this. Ain't up to their standards.
I enjoyed reading this. I over-research all the time and it leads to procrastination!
Amazing to command that kind of earning! I can't even get a $10 job... haha!
I try to write a blog with 2 articles a day. That is not enough. I like to get 10000 visits a day to be considered serious. I am trying to find out how to write faster and do some sort of article planning. I try to setup a matrix with categories and then combine them all that should at least give some tought. 
Hi, +Laura Hilsendager ! It's fine to write for cheap -- or even for free -- AT FIRST. Just enough to get a few clips...but then you want to move on up and out. Too many writers get stuck writing for pennies because they never feel like they have enough samples -- but I think this is just an excuse to not have to pitch bigger names. My view is you need ONE good sample to start landing good-paying gigs.
Excellent article. I love this quote: "...if you rely only on your website and LinkedIn profile to bring in clients, you’ll be dealing with a lot of tire kickers and prospects who want to pay you in exposure. (You know, people die from exposure.)" Well said; I'm still laughing at that one! 
Linda, just read this piece; what a kick in the head! I feel like I've already mastered the first four; step five is a killer. I'm a two-plus year Elancer. I've developed a collection of repeat clients some of whom say I'm "magic," and "utterly unique," but none will pay a $250/hr rate. I need and am prepared for a better grade of clients. Time to hit the road, starting today! Thanks for the kick in the head.
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