Why I Don’t Publish a Freelance Rate Card

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.

Bottom line

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.

0 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Publish a Freelance Rate Card”

  1. I wrote a big rant while ago (mainly based on my experiences looking for wedding vendors) about why you should publish rates, or at least some rough guide, online.

    From a freelance writing perspective though, I think there’s arguments to be made both ways. I personally don’t, because requirements can vary so much depending on the client and project. Sometimes I think it might be worth it though to offer a rough outline just to weed out the time wasters…

    1. I think it really does depend on the type of service you offer, and the constraints. For wedding vendors, prices are good to have. But, as you say, there is so much variability in charges for freelancing, that offering a public rate card can just box you in. I have a canned response that is easily updated with my base rates, and a note that more specialized work costs more. It’s easy to send out, so I’m not wasting time on the time wasters 🙂

    2. David @ THGMwriters.com

      As a shopper, I like to see the price immediately. But that works for a very specific item, like a pair of boots or a book. For writing or marketing, it’s tougher to set a price without the specs – word count, complexity of the topic, what the client brings to the table, extras that the client might want, and what the client is able to pay.

  2. I have to agree. I’m just starting out, but thinking of two of the articles I’ve written recently I can’t see how you can have a “standard” rate. Both were about the same length, but the one took me a long time to research and the other I wrote based on information I had at hand.

    Does anyone think that maybe not having a rate card makes it easier to make a connection with a potential client? I mean, if they’re looking at your website, they’re probably already interested in your services, so as long as you make it easy to communicate with you and respond quickly, isn’t it better from the point of connecting with the client?

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