How Should You Charge as a Freelance Researcher?

Are you doing research for your freelance gig? Here are some considerations as you set your rates.

Among the jobs you can do as a freelance professional is research. Freelance research involves finding information about a particular topic and then organizing it in a way that's useful for clients. Often, freelance research goes hand in hand with writing. There are times that I need to do research in order to complete a project.

Charging for freelance research can be a little difficult for some — especially since many of us are writers that charge on a per-project basis.

Build Your Freelance Researcher Rate into Your Price Quote

Because I'm primarily a writer, and not a researcher, I usually build the research rate into my price quote. The quote I offer for a blog post, or for web content, usually includes the amount of time I expect to spend researching the topic, as well as writing it.

That makes things a little easier for everyone involved. However, if I miscalculate how much time it will take to complete the research, then I end up working more than expected. As you gain experience, though, it becomes easier to accurately gauge how much time you are likely to spend researching a topic.

If all you're doing is offering research, you might consider a per-project rate. Some researchers charge a flat rate in tiers. So, you might charge $500 for research projects that take up to 20 hours, and then tier up from there. Another option is to charge a monthly retainer for clients who want you to do regular research. That retainer would cover your total work for the month, based on research. I know freelance researchers that charge $1,500 per month and do a variety of research tasks for their clients.

Charge Hourly for Your Research

In some cases, it makes sense to charge hourly for research. When I ghostwrite a book, I break out the research aspect. This is easier since you never know how much time you will spend researching, including interviewing sources for the book.

Even if you aren't writing, though, you can still charge hourly for your research. Freelance researchers do the legwork so that others are freed up to do other things. If you are strictly a freelance researcher, it can make sense to charge by the hour, rather than for the project. Download a timekeeping app that can help you monitor how much time you spend on a project, and use that information to help you figure out clients owe you for your time.

Deciding how much to charge for freelance research can be a little difficult at first. You need to figure out what rate makes sense for you. When you are first starting out as a freelance researcher, you can expect to make between $15 and $25 per hour, depending on the work involved. Often, interviewing a primary source means a higher rate, closer to $25 or $30 per hour.

However, if you are experienced at research, and as you show good results finding exactly what the client is looking for, you can begin charging more. Some freelance researchers earn as much as $50 an hour or more. Indeed, my rate for doing extra research on a book or some other project is right around $75 an hour. There are times when I have to spend hours on the phone with a client who wants me to ghostwrite his or her book. That time should be paid for since I could be using it to do something else.

Should You Become a Freelance Researcher?

Freelance research can be a rewarding job. It's not too difficult, and almost anyone with decent research skills (and a good knowledge of the Internet) can engage in freelance research. You can boost your credentials with a four-year degree, and you should have an idea of what constitutes a “viable” source. Once you know those things, you can get started offering your services, whether you research exclusively, or use research to boost your writing.

11 thoughts on “How Should You Charge as a Freelance Researcher?”

  1. This is very relevant to me as I’ve recently been doing research and enjoying it. But it can be time consuming. I haven’t got around to charging yet but this post will help. Thanks for sharing on

    1. Miranda Marquit

      Thanks for stopping by, Sian. While I don’t mind doing a little research without charging, when you start noticing how much of your time is eaten up by it, it’s probably time to think about charging for it.

  2. Hello Miranda,
    I’ve been asked by a family member to research (and put up for sale) antiques/collectibles on a family estate. I know it will be time consuming and I have done internet research before for school and am very thorough. But, I have no idea what or how to charge for it. Any ideas? Thanks!

    1. Miranda Marquit

      That’s an interesting approach. If you’ve done research before, you can base your price on that. Perhaps in the $20 per hour range? Or, if you are feeling lucky and you believe the items will sell for a substantial amount, you can negotiate a percentage of the profits.

  3. Miranda, could you answer a question for me? Charging by the hour makes sense, but in my case I must put together a budget for research study and not sure how to do that. Budget should include all expenses related to the research study, including paying statistician(who has no idea what he will charge), expenses for compensation and my own fee. I anticipate some additional charges once research starts. Employer intends to submit grant application, hence the budget.

    1. Miranda Marquit

      That’s a tough one since you are trying to put together a budget for everything. You need to account for your time, and estimate how much it will take, plus account for the stats guy. Start by figuring out how long you think it will take and then add half again. If you think it will take you 20 hours, add another 10, making it 30. Then, figure out how much you will be paid. If you want to be paid $30 an hour, you would budget $900 for your research. Stats is a different animal, though, with statisticians getting paid much more per hour for compensation — sometimes $75 or more. So you will need to figure that out as well. I’d round up most numbers to the nearest $100 and add them all up. Consider running it by an experienced researcher you know or a professor who can let you know if your numbers seem realistic.

  4. I’m debating a daily rate, at this point. All this per word, per article, per hour measure seems to do is undermine the idea that I still have bills to pay and can’t take on 15 blog posts a day. I’m redoing my fee structure. Super annoyed.

    1. Miranda Marquit

      A daily rate makes sense, too. Charge based on what works for you. I regularly change my rates, and often quote different rates depending on the client and project, with reference to my basic underlying structure.

  5. I am passionate about writing and researching, but I have no idea how to break into an industry to apply my skills. I have a 4 year degree in IT and spent 10 years in that industry. I have been in marketing for the last few years. Any pointers for someone wanting to break into blogging/social marketing/ghost writing?

    Thanks for this article – I was recently asked to do some market research/analysis and had no idea what to charge for my time.

  6. Eric Huffstutler

    Miranda, I live in a very historical city and in fact, the neighborhood I live in is one of the most historical in the nation. That said, I have been attempting to do freelance research on various historic structures for their owners. This includes time at the state library and visiting the courthouse to do a chain of deed history back to the beginning. I don’t want to insult a client by asking too much since I am just starting out and yet, also don’t want to undercharge either. Some of these properties take many hours of research. I can spend 5 hours or more a day at the library and could require several trips. There are costs of driving, parking, copies, and printing as well as the research time. One client wants me to do studies on individual properties which are attached as a tenement (do a package deal or individual?).

    What would be the best way to charge and approach a client with these variables? Thank You!

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