Why Hourly Rates are Not a Freelancer’s Friend

Speed is one of your greatest assets as a freelancing writer – how quickly and accurately you produce an article is essentially how you determine what you’re bringing in. In some industries – graphic design, site construction, etc – it makes sense to work by the hour, because your tasks may not be straightforward in the overall scope of a project. In writing, though? Hourly pay can put a huge dent in your earning capability, because you’re likely shortchanging yourself by either betting against your efficiency or your talent. Hourly pay benefits the client the vast majority of the time – not you.

I produce about 800 words an hour, provided the subject isn’t overly detailed. Business landing pages, a series of product descriptions, an informative article: these are my typical targets. Just this morning I wrote 800 words between 10 and 11 am and pulled in $60 for my troubles. Later, I received an unexpected message from an Odesk client, inviting me to work on their project. This is the (admittedly, a bit snarky at the close from yours truly) exchange that followed when I submitted a bid of $16/hour. Bear in mind that my profile is also set to $20/hour as a default, specifically to prevent horrible clients like this one from interrupting my work day.

A screenshot of a conversation between ThatWordChick and a potential client.

Admittedly, I could have been a little more polite about brushing her off, but how would you feel if a corporate headhunter had invited you to an interview, assessed your skills, took up your time and then told you that you were being overconfident if you didn’t lower your salary expectations by at least 80%? This is why some unscrupulous clients choose to offer only hourly pay for what should be a task-based payment expectation. Mind you, I have no problem with ‘batch’ payments or set weekly paydays, but work should be ideally priced by the word, and at most by the piece – never by the hour in our industry, at least in my opinion.

Remember: a client that’s looking for good work should have the work itself as the focus – not how you produce it, so long as you check in at the specified times and your progress is to their standards. While there may be some honest hourly-preferring clients out there, by and large hourly ends up being a raw deal on this side of the pen. Set up guidelines for work-centric payments, not time-centric, and you’ll likely be a lot happier and more profitable.

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