Why some freelance writers are able to charge $500 a piece and others can’t?

If I can get $100 for every time someone asks me how I’m able to charge $200, $300, $500 per article, I probably wouldn’t have to work anymore. Seriously though, it’s a question I often get and it’s also the same question I used to ask other writers when I had no idea what I was doing.

A lot of freelancers struggle with rates and pricing, which is totally understandable. It can be daunting to put a price on your services and skills. But learning how to price them is key to building a sustainable freelance business.

Mindset changes things

Start with your mindset. You may want to jump into the math of things right away but based on experience, having the right mindset plays a vital role. If you always associate your rates with your self-worth and you happen to have low self-worth, guess what rates you’ll be charging? Guess what type of clients you’ll settle working with? I get it… pricing and self-worth sometimes overlap, if not always. But don’t forget this is business, not personal.

Mindset changes things. Some freelancers are able to charge more than others because they stopped thinking, “I’m not good enough anyway so this rate sounds okay” or “who am I to charge $1000 for an 800-word blog post?!” They’re able to charge more because they chose to believe in themselves. To take risks and dare themselves to do scary things. These freelancers know if you stick with a negative mindset, or an “at least I have a client than none at all” mindset, you’ll struggle to grow your business.

You can’t just charge high rates right off the bat

While it’s fun to be able to charge say, $500 a post, you can’t do that right off the bat. Especially if you’re still starting out or you know you still have to hone your skills. There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to rates. It’s not as simple as saying, “I wanna charge $500 so I will.” If you want to be an ethical writer, you’d want to consider the following:

  • Gain more experience

If you have zero experience under your belt, your clients would likely question your rates. That’s just how it works. So go out there and get some experience. Write for clients that pay $20 or $30 for a short blog post or a newsletter. Collect testimonials along the way. No brand would pay a writer $300 or $500 per blog post if you don’t even have a solid portfolio to show. So even if that’s for a small brand, even if that’s a low-paying project, say yes for now. Build that portfolio.

  • Improve your skills

Skill improvement goes hand in hand with gaining experience, but I’d like to iterate its importance. So many freelance writers just want to make tons of money, without even checking their output. So, let me hold up a mirror for you: are your skills worth $200? Or $300? Or $500? If not, that’s totally fine! Keep at it. Being a writer is not easy. But if you’re willing to learn and grow, your skills will improve in no time.

  • Quality above all else

I’ve fallen down this hole too many times, I know how it looks even with my eyes closed. Thing is, there’s a tendency for writers to do crappy work when the pricing is low. I get it. Sometimes, you just want to be done with an article so you can move on to the next because the pay is too low. This was exactly how I felt the entire time I was writing those $20 pieces. Instead of hating those low rates, use the opportunity to deliver quality work, still. Push yourself to be a better writer and you’d soon grow the confidence to up those rates from the $20 or $50 offer.

Specialize, niche down, be an expert

To be clear, there are so many generalist freelance writers who are nailing their business growth. Folks who write about anything and everything yet are still able to build a stable business. So this doesn’t mean if you’re a generalist, you’ll struggle to price your services on the higher end.

But niching down and specializing means you’re focused on just a niche or two. With that focus comes expertise. It is that expertise that will allow you to up your rates and your target clients won’t question it. Seeing your portfolio, they know that you know this niche inside and out. They know you’re an expert on this subject. And if you did a great job with that portfolio, they know you’ll deliver solid work.

Stop making excuses and start charging your desired rates

Okay, this circles back to YOU. Specializing, gaining more experience, improving your skills—these are all about the writer you. But when you’re growing a freelance business, you must also be willing to grow as a person.

At some point, just like being willing to shift your mindset, you must be willing to put a stop to making excuses. Reality is, we’ll always find an excuse to not do something. We’ll always find a reason why we cannot raise our rates just yet.

In my case, one of my most common reasons was that I’m not worthy of that number. That was years ago. I got to the point where I just told myself, “screw it, I’m telling this brand I’m charging $300 and let’s see what happens.” So I did.

This means you can too! Do it and do it scared. Say “screw it” and just give them the number. Worse thing that could happen is they’ll decline and you can counter with a slightly lower number. Best thing that could happen is they’ll say yes.

Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.