Why Freelance Writers Shouldn’t Charge by the Hour

You Know how some freelance writers complain that their work isn’t valued?

So they leave the content mills and start looking for their own clients, setting their own rates.

And then these same freelance writers fall flat on their faces when they undervalue their own work… and they’re no better off than when they first began.

If you’re charging by the hour, you might as well go back to the content mills. Here’s why freelance writers shouldn’t charge by the hour.

Why Freelance Writers Shouldn't Charge by the Hour

1. You punish yourself for being good at your job.

Frustrated man working on laptop; why freelancers shouldn't charge by the hour

When you have a job and you do really well at it, you often get a raise. In some companies and organizations, you even get a raise just for spending time on the job. When you charge by the hour for your freelance writing services, you do the opposite to yourself.

When freelance writers charge by the hour, the better they get at their job, the less they get paid.

You’re in fact punishing yourself for being good at what you do.

Charging by the hour is a sure way to not get paid what you’re worth. Time has nothing to do with it.

2. You’ll probably misjudge how long something will take

Laptop showing time 08:21:57; why freelancers shouldn't charge by the hour, Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Here’s the deal: if you’re charging by the hour, you need to make an estimated guess at how long something will take you (because you’re charging upfront, right?).

Here’s the problem with making an estimated guess about time: especially in the beginning, projects almost always take longer than you think they will.

So now you’ve used up all the hours your client allotted (and paid), and the project is not even halfway done. You’re now in the awkward position of having to either: 1. tell the client to pay up for more than what they originally agreed to, or 2. work without getting paid until the project is done.

Neither of these situations is something freelance writers should have to deal with. You’re worth more than the hours you spend on a project.

It’s about what you know, the experience you’ve gained, and how you put those things into practice—not about how many hours you spend.

4. It’s about your expertise, not about your time

Woman in office reading a book in front of full bookshelf, Photo by Pj Accetturo on Unsplash, Why Freelancers Shouldn't Charge by the Hour

There’s a legend about Pablo Picasso sketching a portrait of a woman. It took him only a few minutes to do the sketch, and the woman balks at the astronomical cost of the drawing. Her argument? “It only took you 5 minutes!” His response? “No, madam; it took me an entire lifetime.”

Writing is easy for me because I’ve been practicing it in various forms since I knew how to write. Writing in a format that’s suitable for commercial blogs, looks good, and engages readers is another skill I’ve been building since I started writing blog posts.

Writing is the easy part for most freelance writers. But when you do freelance writing, you’re not just writing. You’re researching, you’re molding your words to match your client’s voice, and if you’re writing blogs, you’re often sourcing for photos and internal and external links.

Learning how to do all of these things in an efficient manner takes time, and when you get to a point where you can do them quickly, it’s because you’ve worked hard (and often long) at building that expertise. It’s for that expertise that your clients pay you, not for how many hours it takes you to use it.

5. It’s about ROI, not about your time

laptop showing graph; Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash, Why Freelancers Shouldn't Charge by the Hour

For freelance writers who do content marketing, this is a big one. Most clients aren’t interested in how long it takes you to do something (as long as you deliver your projects by deadline). What they’re interested in is what your work brings to the table in terms of lead generation, engagement, and increase in sales.

Your clients want to know the value you’re bringing to them and to their audience, and at the end of the day, how that value affects their bottom line. The good clients who understand this don’t balk when you charge what you’re worth. And if you have the expertise to affect their ROI positively, you’re worth a lot.

Don’t undervalue yourself by charging by the hour when you should be charging by the value and expertise you bring to the table.

If you’re still charging by the hour, try re-thinking your pricing strategy.

How do you charge your freelance writing clients?

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Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a writer, a wife, and a homeschooling mom in an out-of-the-box, adventurous family. She's on a mission to show the world that writers don't need to niche to be successful. She hopes you'll join the conversation on the MultiTalented Writers blog.

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