Rather than publicize my fees with a freelance rate card, I negotiate on a per-client basis.
If you click around a bit as a freelancer, you will notice that there are plenty of services that offer a freelance rate card. Publicizing your rates can be one way for people to quickly figure out whether or not to hire you. I've found, though, that it works better for me if I don't publish a freelance rate card. Instead, I prefer to negotiate on a per-client and a per-project basis.
Reasons to avoid publishing a freelance rate card
Before you publish your freelance rate card, read on to see why I don't. Then you can decide what is likely to work best for you.
More Room to Experiment without a Freelance Rate Card
When you have a freelance rate card posted on your site, you have little choice but to adhere to it. Yes, you can negotiate if someone asks you to perform work outside the scope of your normal writing, but, for the most part, you are stuck with the rate you publicize.
If you want to raise your freelance rates, you have to change the public rate card. This doesn't give you a lot of room to experiment. If a potential client sees your freelance rate card online, he or she might decide it's too expensive without even talking to you — and move on. Without a rate card, there is a better chance for you to talk to the potential client and explain the value that you bring to the table.
Besides, setting freelance rates is a bit of a process. I quote different rates depending on the client. A smaller client isn't going to be charged as much as a bigger client. (It's true; I could just stop working for smaller clients and focus on the “big fish,” but that's really not my style.) I do my best to take that into consideration, as well as the type of work that I'll be doing.
Not only can you experiment with different rates for different clients, but you can also experiment with rate increases on successive clients. You can see where your top might be right now.
Various pay structures
I also like that it's possible to get a little more creative with the pay structure when you don't publish a freelance rate card. You can agree to revenue sharing or traffic bonuses when you aren't confined to a rate card. This provides you with the chance to work at a discount with your flat rate while at the same time providing the potential for increased growth in your income.
You can also experiment with different types of posts and service packages when you don't publicize your freelance rate card. I've started to add a new pricing category when I send my rates to potential clients via email. Trading on my journalism background, I have added a type of post that includes primary sources and/or more research.
If you are going to do the research and include primary sources, you should get paid for that. It's more work, and it adds to the credibility of the post/article. As a result, my fee for such an article (and I always call it an article if I'm playing up the primary source/better research angle), is twice as much as for a “regular” blog post — even though the word count isn't twice as high.
Longer, detailed posts with research or primary sources take more time — you have to dig into data, or talk to someone on the phone. There was one interview subject that would not shut up. I was on the phone with him for an hour and a half, no matter how hard I tried to get off. You can't build that level of crazy into your pricing structure, but you can account for it by charging more for all of the posts that require a certain level of time risk.
If you want more flexibility in your pricing, keep your freelance rate card under wraps. Have a general idea of what you'll charge so it's easy to send that information to potential clients but don't put it out there for people to find, or it might come back to haunt you.