Setting freelance rates is always tricky. And I offer different rates, depending on the client.
Setting freelance rates is rarely fun. You have to find the sweet spot, which is the price that you are happy with and the client is happy to pay. Or at least the price the client is willing to pay — and you can live with.
One of the realities of freelance pricing is that, like so many things in life, it isn't one-size-fits-all. There are freelancers out there who charge one price, cater only to clients who will pay that high price, and they do quite well.
I can't quite get there. It's not that I don't take on high paying work. I do my share of high-paying gigs. It's that other things are more important than the money.
Big Clients vs. Small Clients
Small clients have long been my bread and butter. However, when setting freelance rates for smaller clients I make it a point to be affordable. I've had some of the same blog writing clients going on five years now. These are smaller independent bloggers who don't have the budget to pay my “going rate.” And that's fine. Many of them offer me a great deal of freedom in my blogging in terms of what I write about and when I turn it in. Plus, there is a certain amount of security associated with these gigs. They form a base of income that I can (for now) rely on.
I don't charge the same rate for big clients, though. I write for corporate clients, and the same length of blog post — one that takes similar effort — might pay 10 times as much as the smaller clients. I don't mind charging bigger clients that much because they can afford it. In many cases, it's what they expect to pay. When I experiment with raising my freelance rates, I often start with the big clients inquiring about my services.
These bigger clients, which don't offer the same “job security” as the smaller clients, provide a nice boost to my income, and they, in many ways, subsidize the small guys. However, the bigger clients also come with more issues to deal with. Deadlines are often tighter. On top of that, many of the bigger clients are more specific in their demands. Some of them even require my work to pass compliance screening. Sometimes I have to change things to meet the demands of a corporate legal department policy. And it's a bit of a pain.
It's one of the reasons I keep many of my smaller clients. It's just so much easier to work with these guys.
In my blogging book, I write that some clients pay more than $500 for a standard blog post. Sometimes I feel embarrassed by this reality. But the equivalent when it comes to ghostwriting is somewhat obscene. I once added up what some corporate clients are willing to pay for ghostwriting — especially what some are willing to pay for a ghostwritten book — and I felt uncomfortable.
Ghostwriting is a completely different animal once you get to a certain level. It's one thing to ghostwrite for other bloggers, and even for entrepreneurs just starting out. It's something completely different to provide words for an industry executive, or write an entire book for a thought leader (or someone trying to become a thought leader). Not only do you have to produce top-notch work, but the client needs to feel as though you offer an accurate representation of his or her thoughts and style.
When you get into that territory setting freelance rates becomes a different ballgame. Now you want to make sure that you aren't setting the bar too low. With small- to medium-sized clients, you worry that you might be setting rates too high. With a ghostwriting client that's bigger, you worry that you aren't charging enough. After all, you aren't getting any of the glory, and the other person (hopefully) looks great.
As you set freelance rates, consider the type of work you are doing, and the client you are doing it for. Different situations require different rates. Make sure that you cater your pricing to the client, and to your own income goals.