Fixed Rate vs. Hourly Rate – How To Calculate Your Price

Calculating a freelance rate seems like an easy task, but more experienced freelancers know that is a complete misjudgment. Also, among all freelancers, writers will have the most difficulties to calculate their freelance rate correctly because of the nature of the job. Writers have to regularly evaluate their work and adjust their rates depending on the topic they are currently covering, while some other freelancers, for example, developers and designers, can calculate their rate more easily. Also, you should avoid making the most common, biggest of mistakes – going for the same hourly rate for every project. Instead, you will calculate a new rate for each project you take. Let us go through all the variables that affect your rate and I will explain how to use them in your calculations.

Fixed Rate vs. Hourly Rate


The great debate about whether you should charge an hourly or a flat rate will probably never end. Many freelancers believe that going for an hourly rate is almost always a better choice. I don’t agree – in my opinion, fixed rate is nearly always better for writers, and I’ll explain why.

Out of all freelancers, excluding admin support and similar jobs, writers have the most long-term relationships with clients. While developers and especially designers mostly work in short-term jobs that last for a few days, writers are often tied to the same client for months. It’s obvious why hourly rate makes sense for developers and designers, but for writers, things are a little different.

If you opt for an hourly rate, you’ll find yourself in a paradoxical situation – the better and faster you work, the lesser you’ll be paid. The only way out of it is to ask more money from your client. And yes, there are clients who will meet that request – but most probably won’t, because of budget concerns. Some of them might have even planned to start paying less after you finish building the foundation of the business. You can avoid this by negotiating a fixed rate from the start. Then you will be paid the same, but eventually begin to spare time. That way you will earn more per hour, and you will have an option of adding another client if you so choose.

The Variables That Affect The Calculation


To calculate your rate for each project you will have to think of all the variables that can influence it. And to know the variables, you need to familiarize yourself with the project. We’ve all probably been in the situation where we agree to do something, only to be met with unpleasant surprises along the way. This is sometimes inevitable, but there are things about the project you absolutely must know before you agree to work on it. And it will help you get a good idea of how much you should charge.

Is the project short-term or long-term?

The difference between short-term and long-term projects isn’t only the length, but how much you should charge. With long-term projects, there’s a great opportunity to enjoy some steady work for a while. That allows you to charge a little less per article than you normally would have – it keeps your client happy, and as you begin to work faster, you won’t lose out on the pay. Of course, charge a bit more for one-time deals and short-term projects, especially if you don’t have a long-term one or two to back your budget up.

Is the job basic, or does it require special expertise?

When your client’s requirements are outside the basic field, you can afford to raise your rate. If you’re an expert, and one of the few people that can do a good job on a particular assignment, use it to your advantage. You could even get away with a significant increase in rates, depending on your expertise and the requirements (and budget) of the client.

How much time are you going to need for research?

One of the most important things to consider is how much time you’ll spend researching the topic. Disregarding this question is probably the biggest mistake a new freelancer can make. Of course, calculating this is not always easy. Still, if you are relatively new to the niche, you should do some quick research to get at least an approximate answer to this question. Fail to do that, and you will lose a significant amount of time before you even start writing, which means you will be underpaid for the given task.

Will you be able to do the job more quickly after a while?

Being able to gradually shorten the time necessary to do a task can be the biggest reason for accepting it, in case the terms and pay are slightly worse than what you usually accept. If it is an easy job and you can justify the time you will spend doing it, you can accept a slightly normal rate than usual.

When is the deadline?

Deadlines are a pain of every freelancer, and those that honor deadlines are the most appreciated by clients. Understandable, as blowing through a deadline means that everything else involved in the client’s business also has to be delayed, which results in time and money lost. But, if the deadline is tight, you can charge a significantly higher rate than usual. Just make sure to actually finish the job on time – don’t take on impossible tasks for the promise of a lot of money.

These five are the crucial questions to ask before signing a deal with a client. Of course, there are other questions that help you determine whether you should work on a project at all, but these will help you determine your rate.


No Magic Formula For Calculation


You can see why we generally do not recommend sticking to the same rate every time. As a freelancer, you have to learn to be flexible and communicate with your clients well.

Your basic rate will, of course, depend on your niche and your skills – you can’t charge one article $300 if the topic is broad and basic, but you can do that if you are an expert in a specialized and narrow niche.

In order to determine your basic rate, you will at least need to know how many billable hours you will have per week, and how much money you need to earn over that time. There are a few good calculators for that online, as well as a useful infographic for US-based freelancers.

Keep these things in mind when you’re negotiating and you won’t have problems with rates.

Janko Glavonjić

Freelance copywriter interested in sports, science, gaming and fitness. And, of course, the best brother in the world :)

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