My second post on this blog was about money—and why writers should talk about it. Information is power, after all—and if you don’t know what other writers are making, how do you know what to charge?
Markets vary, but here are some average rates to keep in mind:
National magazines: $1-2/word+
Trade magazines: $.25-50/word
Regional magazines: $0.10-50/word
Custom magazines: $0.50-$1/word+
Blogs: $25+/blog post or $0.50/word+
Website copy $0.25-.50/word
Books (including ghostwriting)
Book proposals $4,500-10,000+
Full-length books $10,000-35,000+ (+royalties, in some cases)
Teaching (six-week online class) $100-200/student
Note that when it comes to print markets, I don't worry about dollars/word, but dollars/hour. I'm no longer doing a lot of feature-length pieces for national magazines the way I did early on in my freelance career, and most of the articles I do don't pay that well per-word. But because they're relatively easy to research and write (and involve minimal editing/rewriting hassles), my hourly rate on them stays high. For example, if I spend a total of four hours researching and writng a piece that pays $500 (which isn't unusual for the service journalism stories I churn out), that's an hourly rate of $125. Not bad at all.
That being said, I'll tell you that this year has been a tough one, workwise. I lost a book deal I was counting on at the last minute. I had a project that paid a mere $10,000 expand in scope and eat up much of the first five months of the year. I only had a handful of speaking gigs this year, and my biggest project (a book I'm ghostwriting) paid only $13,500--less than half of what I was paid for a similar book several years ago. I've had to drop my rates for book proposals to far less than I used to charge.
But here's the thing. I can't control what a client can afford, or is willing to pay me. But I can control how I spend my time--and after fourteen years of experience, I've learned how to work as efficiently as possible:
I reslant just about every story I write about.
I sell reprint rights.
I write articles and books about the same subject so I get more mileage from my work.
I ghostwrite books for clients which means I no longer have to spend time selling the book once it's published.
I speak professionally, which raises my profile, adds to my bottom line, and sells books.
Get the idea? There are things you can control and things you can't. You may have no say over what markets pay you (other than deciding whether to work for them) or you may be unable to negotiate the amount of money you want when working with a client. But you, and you alone, are the boss of your time. Master it, spend it well, and you'll be more successful as a freelancer.