So you’ve been asked by a client what your per-word rate is. How do you respond? What’s fair to charge and is a per-word rate really the best way to go?

Numerous pricing models exist in freelance writing, giving you a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to costing a job. While, traditionally, writers have been content with the per-word pricing strategy (which involves assigning a monetary value to each word written), it’s become apparent to many of us that this method is less than fair. Today I want to share with you three strong reasons why you should avoid the per-word pricing model and aim to apply a per-hour, per-day or per-project rate instead.

  1. Per-word pricing doesn’t factor in the amount of time spent on a piece of writing. 

If I asked you to write a 500 word blog post on a topic you know well, you’d probably be able to do so in less than an hour. But if I asked you to investigate a highly abstract, little-known subject using your online research skills, it could take upwards of 5 hours to get the job done. My point is, how long it takes to write a 500 word piece is subjective, and therefore the hours you invest need to be factored into your pricing. Freelance writers who use a per-word pricing system don’t necessarily do this. They might charge 10p per word and therefore £50 for the piece, but if that piece takes 5 hours to write, they’ve essentially worked for just £10 per hour. That seems a little low to me…

2. Per word-pricing doesn’t consider the overall value of your work

Let’s say I’m working for a large luxury spa business. Their cheapest treatment is £75 and their most expensive spa package is upwards of a thousand. Let’s pretend you’ve been asked to write a promotional blog post that sells their products and services ahead of mothers day. This piece will be emailed to their 6000-strong mailing list and is almost guaranteed to generate sales. This fictional company could, in theory, gain tens of thousands of pounds (if not more) from this one email. Now, ask yourself. Is it fair that you only get £50? Because, if you apply the same per-word pricing model in this scenario, that’s all you’d invoice for a 500 word piece. My point is, when you write content, you’re not just writing words. You’re selling an idea. You are contributing to the growth of a business. Your pricing should reflect this, shouldn’t it?

3. Per word-pricing makes you lazy

If you know you’re being paid per word and you’ve not been set a word limit, what are the chances that you’re going to be as concise as possible? If you’re smart, the answer is zero. To earn the most money from a per-pricing method you need to write as many words as possible and that’s where copy can easily become boring, long winded and lazy. You might do this unconsciously, of course. You might write ‘you are’ instead of ‘you’re’ simply because it earns you 20p instead of 10p. And clients hate it. They spot it straight away and you lose credibility as soon as you get caught out. So, that’s the third problem with per-word pricing in freelance writing. Without a set word limit, you run the risk of babbling.

It is of course up to you how you price a project. My advice, however, is to be fair to yourself and to your client by choosing a different model.

In our Facebook video this week I talk more about this and discuss the other options available to you. You can also join Learn Freelance Writing if you’d like to gain access to our exclusive rates calculator and personalised pricing advice.