One of the most daunting aspects of being a beginner content writer is knowing how to charge for your projects. Setting the right content writing hourly rate can be difficult as you try to strike a balance between pricing competitively and not undervaluing your work.
Like any industry, content writing rates vary and depend on a writer’s experience, reputation, and the quality of their work. There are also different ways to charge for writing services including by the hour, word, project, or on a retainer basis.
In this article, we look at how to set your content writing rates by the hour and the important factors to account for. But first, let’s compare the average hourly rate of freelance content writers in the UK and US.
Average Content Writing Hourly Rate in the UK
According to research conducted by Payscale, the average hourly rate for a freelance content writer in the UK is approximately £15 ($20) per hour. At the upper end of the range, freelance writers can earn as much as £40 ($53) per hour. The lowest rate is around £8 ($11) per hour.
Like any job, you can expect to start at the lower end of the scale and work your way up from there in terms of rates. As you can see, there’s a lot of potential for growth and the higher rates are a good incentive to master content writing skills quickly!
Average Content Writing Hourly Rate in the US
According to Payscale once again, the average rate for content writers in the US is about $25 (£19) per hour. Like the UK, there’s a wide range of hourly rates that freelance content writers can expect to earn in the US. The lowest 10% earn around $12 (£9) per hour and the top 10% make upwards of $55 (£41) per hour.
As well as location, the type of content writing services you offer can also affect your hourly rate.
Different Types of Content Writing Hourly Rates
Different types of content writing command different rates of pay. The rate usually reflects the complexity of the work and the level of income the writing generates for the client.
General Online Content Writing
General online web content writing (SEO writing, blogs, and ‘content mill’ work) tends to pay lower per hour than other types of writing. Despite the lower rates of pay, these are excellent ways to get your foot in the door of the writing industry. They allow you to develop relationships with clients and build up a portfolio of work.
In saying that, some experienced writers earn astronomical salaries in these categories. But this is the exception rather than the norm, so you should expect lower hourly rates for this kind of content writing.
Copywriting is one of the higher-paid content writing jobs. This includes writing for marketing purposes, press releases, and sales pages. Copywriters can change higher rates because the impact of their writing can be measured in terms of increased traffic and conversions. The more value you can generate for your clients, the higher the rates you can charge.
Highly technical forms of writing also pay significantly more per hour than other types of content writing. This includes technical white papers, business-to-business (B2B) texts, and industry-specific documents. This is because they require specific knowledge of scientific, medical, engineering, or other specialised topics. Clearly this is only an accessible path for those with certain expertise.
Ghostwriting books or other content is something of a lottery. While some writers earn huge salaries, others struggle to make ends meet. The hourly rates ghostwriters charge usually depend on the potential returns their work generates for their clients.
Once you’ve decided on your niche, research your competition to see what they’re charging for similar work. With this range in mind, you can then work out your own hourly rate. But let’s go into more detail about calculating your content writing hourly rate.
How to Calculate Your Content Writing Hourly Rate
There’s an easy way to work out your hourly rate as a content writer. First, you need to identify your target annual income. This needs to factor in your regular outgoings, such as rent, food, utilities, taxes, and business expenses, as well as a profit margin.
Once you know your target annual income, you can work backwards to calculate your hourly rate.
A Simple Formula
Let’s assume you’ve decided to work on content writing for 20 hours per week, 50 weeks of the year. You’ve also worked out that you need to earn £20,000 per year to make ends meet and turn a small profit.
To calculate your hourly rate, simply divide your target annual income by the number of weeks of the year you’ll work. Then, divide this figure by the number of hours you want to work per week.
So, in our example, this would be (£20,000 ÷ 50) ÷ 20 = £20 per hour.
Don’t Forget Unpaid Hours
When calculating your hourly rate, you also need to factor in the unpaid work you do to run your business. This includes time spent on invoicing, marketing your services, managing your website, and other general overheads. You’ll probably find this adds up to around 10-30% of your total working time. So, it’s important to account for this in your rates!
Let’s now revise our above calculation to take unpaid hours into account. We do this by adding between 10-30% of the hourly rate we calculated. So, the hourly rate of £20 increases to between £22-£26 per hour to account for unpaid hours.
Before finalising your rate, there are a few final factors to consider.
4 Factors That Affect Your Content Writing Hourly Rate
1. The Client
You should always take your client into account. For example, if they’re a non-profit or charity, you may choose to lower your prices to help them with the cause that they support. But you should also consider the value you’re providing to them. If you’re writing sales copy for a very high-end product for example, you know that if your copy generates lots of sales, you’re making them lots of money, and should charge accordingly. But if you’re writing generic content for a small-time blog, you won’t be able to charge astronomical rates.
There is value in a by-line, as it increases your exposure and boosts your portfolio and credibility. If the content you’re writing for a client will appear under your name and they have a big audience, you may be comfortable sacrificing some hourly rate for this additional exposure. After all, this could in turn lead to more business in the future.
3. Royalties or Ongoing Commissions
Some clients might offer you a percentage of the sales that your work generates for them. If so, you may be willing to charge a lower hourly rate with the expectation of future earnings.
4. Ongoing vs One-Off
If you’ll be working for a client on a long-term basis, you might consider reducing your fees slightly. The trade-off is having the security of ongoing work.
Choose Your Content Writing Hourly Rates Carefully
It’s essential to set an hourly rate that’s not only competitive but is also sustainable in the long term. Always keep an eye on your competition to make sure you aren’t overcharging or offering your services well below market price.
When first starting out as a content writer, you might need to set a lower hourly rate until you start to build up your portfolio, credibility, and authority. But over time, there will be plenty of opportunities to grow your client base and increase your rates. And don’t forget to review your rates every six months or so to see if they need adjusting.
Choose a Different System
You may decide to avoid charging an hourly rate altogether. Instead, you might offer your services on a per-word basis. Or you might charge a project fee. Hourly rates aren’t for everyone, so don’t neglect these possibilities for your content writing business.
Setting the right rates is just one aspect of building a successful content writing career.