Your biggest asset as a writer is your time, but most freelancers have no idea of how they spend theirs. And if you don't know how you're spending your time, you don't know what your average hourly rate is, which is a strong indicator of your productivity.
Consider this: you accept an assignment that pays $500. Say you spend 10 hours researching and writing it. You make $50/hour on that piece. But if you wind up spending 20 hours researching the story and another 15 writing it, you’re making less than $15/hour!
That’s why I suggest newer freelancers create a timesheet for each of their assignments. Each time you work on the piece, make an entry on it, like so:
Assignment: IGA profile ($600/1200 words, due April 20)
Date/Task/Time (in hours)
April 4/Background research/1.5
April 6/Research & arrange interview/1.0
April 9/Interview & transcribe notes/1.75
April 12/Draft story/2.0
April 14/Revise draft/0.75
April 15/Proof & turn in/ 1.0
My timesheet reveals that I spent 8 hours on this relatively simple one-source piece. That means I made $75/hour—not bad. If I have to revise the piece, I’ll add the time on, which brings my overall rate down. (If I had pitched this idea, I’d include query-writing time as well as that is part of the "cost" of the assignment.)
Use this method to track your writing time. (Software like Traxtime makes it even easier.) You'll soon discover which assignments are most lucrative—and which take more time than they're worth.