Why Freelance Writers Shouldn’t Charge Hourly Rates


A while back, I had the pleasure of interviewing freelance developer Ryan Waggoner for our No B.S. Course on Freelance Writing. We talked about several topics, but what he said about hourly rates has stuck with me the most.

He pointed out that there’s a severe problem with charging by the hour. As it turns out, hourly rates are bad in many ways.

Here’s a quick summary of why you shouldn’t charge hourly:

In the video, I only covered two reasons why hourly rates aren’t ideal, but there are many more reasons.

Here’s an overview of the main problems with hourly rates:

1. Hourly rates punish efficiency and productivity.

Since hourly rates are based on time, you’ll get paid according to the amount of time you spend on a job. In other words, the longer you spend on a job, the more you’ll get paid.

This is a huge problem because it punishes efficiency and productivity. If Writer A and Writer B do the same job but Writer B takes longer, they’ll get paid more just because they took longer to do it.

If you’re an efficient writer, you’ll earn less money. How ridiculous is that?

2. Hourly rates don’t mesh well with the average freelance writer’s workflow.

Hourly rates require you to log your hours, and this can create some major friction.

First, there’s the problem of simply having to keep track of your hours. While freelance writing should definitely be structured, the beauty of freelancing is that you can be the master of your own schedule. Hourly rates diminish that by forcing you to work under a more typical structure.

Second, writing is exhausting. Even if you do it for a living, writing is mentally tiring. It’s not exactly the kind of thing you can grind out for hours at a time. In other words, you probably don’t naturally operate on an hourly basis.

Third, calculating hourly rates is somewhat pointless. You could fudge all the numbers, and the client would never know! Even if you’re truthful and transparent, there’s no real way to tell. In this way, hourly rates are fundamentally flawed.

It’s much better to use a per project rate. This rate type is super easy for clients to process, and it means you’ll get paid what you deserve, regardless of how much time you take on a job.

If you’re currently charging by the hour, you should definitely consider changing over to a per project rate. If you’re a new writer, check out our video on setting a starting rate.

Your Turn: Do you charge hourly? If so, are you going to change that?

12 comments on “Why Freelance Writers Shouldn’t Charge Hourly Rates

  1. Laura on

    I love the idea of charging per project. My problem is I have no idea what to charge. In a previous comment, Lindsey M Grant stated that she stays within the industry standards. What are the industry standards / guidelines are and what do they represent?

    How does one determine what to charge on a per project basis?

    I want to charge fair market value, but I have no idea what that is or how to figure it out.

    Any insight, online resources, etc that would assist me in determining what to charge would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  2. shelly on

    Thanks. Its great to get this sage advice from freelance writers. I will not charge hourly and it makes perfect sense no to.
    Shelly

    Reply
  3. Luckyessiet on

    I am a new Freelancer. I started writing since 2014, but decide to take a firm step this year.
    With the best of my knowledge i understand that hourly rate is never a good-go to any writer. This is because it gives room to laziness.A writer who knows his left from right and charge per project can get job done even before the agreed time compare to per hour rate where the writer may likely prolong the time he would have use to work on other project with the sole aim of having something meaningful. I will rather go with per project rate.

    Reply
  4. hari on

    the greatest advice I ever got in my freelance writing journey is never to charge on an hourly basis. This article affirms that. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Ian Chandler on

      You’re very welcome! This is a big problem for a lot of writers, so we wanted to make sure it was addressed.

      Reply
  5. Lindsey M Grant on

    I charge on a sliding scale… mostly dependent on my passion for the entity I plan to work for. I recognize that the passion I have is the greatest motivator. It actually makes the effort more engaging and less of drudgery.
    Thanks for the article. It affords insight into the whys I have been practicing and will include in my pitches, perhaps.
    All the best,
    Lindsey G

    Reply
    • shelly on

      Do you give the client a contract/quote expressing that you charge on a sliding scale – particularly if you are writing for the client on an on going basis?

      Reply
      • Lindsey M Grant on

        No. I negotiate each job individually taking into consideration the means and my passion for the project. I stay within industry guidelines, but also let the client know what those guidelines are and what they represent. I believe in full transparency. I think because I afford my clients information with which to make an informed decision there is more of mutual respect. They tend to refer me to associates/friends/family if they are satisfied. If they are not satisfied, they are usually the type of person who is hard to please anyway. I am respectful of clients and their uniques vision and “voice.” I’m unlikely to work twice for someone who is disrespectful, who does not respect the measure of work I do and my expertise… I guess I’m sensitive… it’s kind of a creative-person thing. But it’s working for me.

        Reply
        • Ian Chandler on

          Coming from a fellow writer who does something similar, I don’t think it’s a sensitivity issue. I definitely don’t work with clients who don’t respect or value my work, and price can directly reflect that. The best working relationships I’ve had have often been with higher-paying clients.

          Reply

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