As a freelance blogger, you might have heard that you should get paid per project. Or per article, at least. That this way you won’t be penalised for working more efficiently after spending time and money improving your skills and knowledge. Better you get, faster you deliver, right? But we all know that some clients insist on paying per hour.
One of the reasons behind it is that the financial aspects of freelancing can be very confusing, and not only for the clients. And if it isn’t one of those cases where you would rather lose the deal than accept an hourly rate, your only option is to make the arrangement work for you. So here is how you do it, step by step.
Step 1: Calculate your average hourly rate
First, you need to straighten out your average hourly rate. Most freelancers can’t price their time, meaning that it’s fine if you don’t, but this will have to change now.
I say “average” because the catch of hourly rates is that you can’t tell for sure how long it will take to do something until you’ve done it. And yet, you need to come up with a fee. As time machines haven’t been invented yet, an average will have to do.
So, let’s calculate it.
Calculate your projected gross annual revenue
One of the biggest mistakes that freelance bloggers make is to think like an employee instead of a business owner. They couldn’t be more wrong. As a freelancer, you have several costs and no benefits: you pay for your own holidays, pension, health insurance − you name it. And your revenue should reflect these costs.
It would require another article to explain in detail how to calculate your projected gross annual revenue. However, for now, it will be enough if you decide the amount you hope to make per year. Again: this isn’t how much you want to profit. It should also include funds to pay for business expenses, taxes, and indirect costs.
Calculate your working hours and days
Your working hours probably aren’t something as simple as 9-to-5, five days a week. And not all the time you spend working is billable.
How many hours per day do you spend strictly writing for clients? Not answering emails, not marketing yourself, not doing your accounting. Five hours, maybe? Figuring out this number is crucial for determining where your income comes from.
The next step is to determine the number of working days per year – here you will discard days off or holidays. I also encourage you to add five extra days for emergencies or sick days.
Calculate your average hourly rate
Now, calculate your hourly rate. Here is the math:
Billable hours per day x number of working annual days = total of annual working hours.
Then divide your projected annual revenue by the total of annual working hours. The result is your average hourly rate.
Step 2: Estimate a specific hourly rate
With your average hourly rate in mind, come up with a figure for your client. Yes, it might not be the same fee you just calculated above.
Estimate the time you will spend
Assignments with only one type of article that you know well are easier to measure: just write down the number of hours spent on it − research, editing, publishing, and any other tasks should be included.
For all other cases, estimate the time based on your experience. But if you have absolutely no idea, I strongly suggest that you experiment writing a similar article and track your time so you can make an educated guess.
Consider the task carefully
Now, you need to think further about the task itself. Answer the questions below:
- Does it require more expertise than usual?
- Does it create any extra cost? For example, this could be images or an extra pair of eyes.
- Do some of the topics require more effort to get done than others?
Saying yes to any question above means an increased rate.
Then, multiply the time you believe you will spend by your average hourly rate. Let’s say that the article should take around 3 hours to get done and that your hourly rate is €30. In this case, your article will cost €90. Does it sound fair to you? If not, you might want to increase your hourly rate. By how much? It’s totally up to you, really.
Step 3: Communicating your rate to your client
Now that you got an hourly rate in your head, it’s time to talk to your client.
Explain your writing process
Even though some clients might try to take advantage of you, believe me the majority are in fact clueless about the expertise and procedures required in your work. Others can’t tell the difference between a remote worker and a freelancer, not realising that you have far more expenses and zero benefits.
Take the time to educate them. Explain what happens from first contact to publishing, describe the costs, and how things can vary from topic to topic. And always tie each point to time spent.
Suggest a trial period
The next step is to propose a trial period arrangement. Say that you will write a few articles or work for a predetermined number of hours – clearly state how many – under a suggested rate, so you both can see how it goes.
If it is all good, happy days. If it isn’t, you will then explain why and recommend a new hourly rate. This will get them prepared for a possible future renegotiation.
Make it simple
Even though everything here sounds very serious (and it should be), don’t dramatise it for your client. Make it very simple and casual when you write or say it. For instance:
About my fee, an hourly rate can be tricky as it’s hard to predict how much time will take to write each article. And it can differ case by case, depending on the topic and the tasks involved.
As you might know, writing a high-quality article means more than putting words together. It’s about XYZ (talk about your process here).
What if we get started with a provisional rate of €50/hour? I will write 5 articles under this rate (and I believe I will spend around 3 hours on each article), then we can evaluate the cost-benefit and renegotiate it if necessary. How does that sound?
Just ensure that it’s clear that what is on trial is the hourly rate, not you.
Step 4: Make the most of the trial period
So, you both agreed on writing those five articles, congratulations! Your next step is to gather as much information as possible during the trial period. Start by picking your five articles wisely (if possible). Choose topics with different styles, word counts, or complexity, so you can analyse each case.
Download a time tracker app on both your desktop and mobile phone, such as Toggle or Rescue Time, so you won’t miss a second – track everything from answering emails to delivery procedures. I suggest that you record each task separately, so you can figure out exactly where your time (and money) is going.
Keep an open channel with your client by creating a report on Google Sheets or another online collaborative tool. Update it with the time spent on each task as you deliver them so they can learn with you – be prepared for adjustments along the way. It will also prevent surprised reactions when your invoice arrives.
Step 5: Renegotiate your rate
Once your trial is over, send your evaluation to your client. Prepare something very professional with reports and timesheets so you can have all the facts organised there.
If an increase in your hourly rate is in order, be direct and confident about it. You’ve proved your talent and will be presenting solid arguments to support your request. This could also become the perfect time to suggest a change from an hourly rate to a per project or per article rate, if your analysis showed that this makes more sense.
Yes, there is a possibility that you have overestimated something and that your rate should be decreased. If so, accept the fact as nicely as you’d expect your clients to.
Profiting from an hourly rate can be a challenge. You will need full control and understanding of the assignment, your craft, and finances. And the truth is that you don’t always have this information until after completing the job.
That is why you should start with an average rate, do a few assignments, and then sit with your client to renegotiate your rate. Make it clear from day one that this will happen, and that it’s a natural part of the process. This will avoid you feeling trapped in a far-from-ideal rate in the future.