I get a lot of questions about pricing.
In this episode, I’m going to break down the two most common misconceptions writers have about pricing, and I’m going to give you a framework for pricing your freelance writing services that will maximize your income now AND through the rest of your career.
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Read The Transcript: How To Price Your Freelance Writing Services
Hey guys, welcome to Write Bites, a series of 10-minute episodes on writing, marketing, and freelancing.
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about pricing. I’m going to be touching on two very common misconceptions that writers—new and old—have about how pricing works and what they should be pricing.
And then I’m also going to be giving you a framework for how to price your services over the course of your career.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is I got a few questions from some of my course students over the last month about pricing, and I realized that even though I addressed it in the course, I hadn’t quite gone as in depth as I had originally been intending.
So, over the last two weeks, I’ve been putting together a brand new, super in-depth, step-by-step lesson on how to price—which just got added to the course earlier this week.
And while I was doing that, I was thinking, “Hm, you know, I should definitely touch on this in a Write Bites episode as well,” because this isn’t something I typically spend a whole lot of time talking about. Anyway, this is going to be my 10-minute spiel on everything pricing.
Let’s dive in.
For starters we need to address two common misconceptions about pricing:
Number one. A lot of new—especially new writers—get super preoccupied with what they charge on their first few projects, or even what they’re charging on their stuff through the first year of their career.
The thing you need to understand is that it really doesn’t matter what you charge initially.
In fact, if you are not on the clock because of a lost job and a bunch of bills you got to pay, I actually recommend that you undercharge through your first year to try to maximize the workload that you go through.
The more time you can spend working on real projects and increasing your mastery as fast as possible through that first year—that’s going to pay multiples in the following years in terms of your earning potential, because you’re going to have increased your mastery much quicker than if you’re just chasing higher rates through that first year. I see a lot of writers who are three years in, and they’ve only worked on like 20 projects.
And sure. Maybe they charged a rate on those 20 that the average three-year copywriter would be a little jealous of, but at the end of the day, they made less over the course of three years than other writers who are charging less because they just worked on a massively smaller volume of work. As a result, their mastery curve is way behind than if they had worked on a hundred projects over those three years.
All that to say: don’t get hung up on what you charge early. What matters is what you charge over the course of years. And the framework I’m going to provide in this episode will help you maximize your earning on that, in that scope of years.
The second misconception people have is that pricing is directly connected to value. People think that they need to identify the true value of their work and price it around that. But frankly, in a free market system, that’s not true at all. Pricing is not about what it’s worth, it’s about what you can convince someone to pay for it.
You know, there are two ends to that spectrum. There’s:
- “What can you bring on your side of the equation?” to bolster their perception of value of your work so that you can convince someone to pay a higher rate,
- but then there’s also the end-user side, you know, the customer side. “What are they interested in paying for this service?” What can they be convinced of?
So, for example, if you’ve been through my copywriting crash course, you’ve seen my example of Pepsi’s logo remake. Pepsi paid a million dollars for a logo that looks like it could have been made by a fiber designer.
And that’s not a flame. I actually love fiber designers. The point is that if I were to go and hire 20 different fiber designers to redo the Pepsi logo, one of them would probably have made something as good or even better than what Pepsi’s million-dollar agency came up with.
And the point there is not that Pepsi overpaid. The point is that Pepsi is a $65 billion company. So they needed to spend a million dollars on the logo redesign. If they had spent less than that—if they had spent $10,000-–it would have looked super bad because when you’re that big, you can’t invest 10,000, a hundred thousand dollars into something that’s going to, you know, be a billion dollar rebranding rollout.
So, when we talk about what you can convince someone to pay for it, there are multiple variables at play that are going to factor into what someone is willing to pay. What happens to a lot of writers is they get caught up in these variables and they start trying to guess what a client is willing to pay or how a client will value the work.
I compare it to trying to time the stock market as an investor. We know that the leading portfolio managers, the leading investors, the most knowledgeable people on the planet consistently are unable to beat the market average.
And the same is true when we talk about pricing. You are never going to get a better return by trying to guess these variables and anticipate what a client’s going to be willing to pay.
What you need is a system for pricing. You need a framework that’s going to work consistently across the multiple clients and consistently over the course of your career. And so that’s what I’m going to teach you here.
Ultimately, this framework comes down to one thing and that is demand for your service.
The original question we focused on is “What are people willing to pay?”
Now we’re shifting that to “What are people willing to pay you?”
And the way we find this is to go out and test it.
So, the first thing that I want you to do in my pricing framework is to fill out your available hours at whatever price you can, no matter how low it is.
So if you want to work 20 hours per week, go get 20 hours of work per week at $20 an article or $10 an hour; I want you to fill your schedule at whatever price you can. And then from there, you’ve gone out through probably outbound pitching, direct outreach, but over time, demand will come from inbound marketing as well.
But you’re going out and you’re generating enough demand to fill your schedule. Once we do that, now we continue to generate demand.
This is where a lot of writers fail. They stop generating demand once they fill their schedule.
We don’t stop. You fill your schedule, and you keep generating demand for your work.
You keep pitching, you keep marketing, you keep branding. And what happens is now you’re going to have more leads than you can work with. So, what we start doing is we start raising our rates.
You raise your rates by 50% and see if you can maintain a full schedule. And if you can, and nine times out of 10, you’ll be able to, guess what? Now your new rate is 50% higher and you don’t work for anything less than that. So you keep doing that as long as you continue to generate demand.
Let’s say you started at 10 cents per word. Now you up to 15 cents per word, and you continue only taking new clients at that 15 cent per word rate, and in few months you tell the lower-paying clients that you’re raising your rates. And if they don’t want to raise their rates, you drop them and fill them with the new people who are saying yes at 15 cents per word.
And then you continue generating demand for yourself. But now, you filled your schedule at 15 cents per word.
So now the next client who comes, you see if you can sell them at 20 cents per word or 25 cents per word. And then you just see, because if they say, “No,” your schedule’s already full, it’s okay. If they’re not saying yes, that’s fine.
So now, when you do raise your rate, you get to experiment and see, “Are people willing to pay you even more?” And if you start to have two, three, four clients, come in at that higher rate, then you’ve just given yourself a permanent raise.
Now, what happens if that doesn’t work?
Let’s say from 15 cents per word you jump up to 25 cents per word. And people start saying, “No. It’s too high.” Well, we don’t care if one or two say no, but let’s say, over the course of two months and 20 leads, 15 out of those 20 leads say “No,” specifically because the pricing’s too high.
Now you know you overshot a little bit. Your mastery and your demand generation can’t manage that higher rate. So, you stay where you’re at for a while. And you continue practicing. You continue getting better. You continue generating leads for yourself.
As clients drop off, you replace them at that 15 cents per word rate. And then in a few months, you try again—you jump up to 20 cents per word and you see what happens. And if you start getting some bites there, you move into that next phase.
Then, for some reason, something happens, and your demand falls off. Now, all of a sudden, you aren’t replacing your clients at 15 cents per word, and you’re starting to get big holes in your schedule—because maybe you stopped pitching for a while.
That’s where we stepped back down to 10 cents per word to fill our schedule, whatever we need to do to fill that schedule. Then, once we filled it and we can get back to generating more demand, then we can stair-step it back up.
Over the course of the eight years I’ve been doing this, I’ve met people here and there who charge more than me per project but make way less than me over the course of a year.
And it’s because of this concept. My ego does not prevent me from dropping my rates a little bit if my demand has fallen off. It just communicates to me that I need to do more work on my demand. So, I temporarily lower my rates a bit to fill my schedule back up. And then immediately, as I invest in more demand, jump my pricing back up to match it.
You have to understand that what you can charge is a function, not of your intrinsic worth, but of the amount of demand you’re able to generate for your business. The more work you do on the demand side, the higher rates you’re going to be able to charge the less work you do.
You might need to drop the rates back, and that’s okay. Stuff happens. But it’s better to maintain your workload, maintain your client volume, maintain the overall income, than to get hung up on some specific rate and find yourself on an unnecessary rollercoaster, up and down, feast or famine scenario.
So that’s my philosophy. And it’s worked extremely well for me over the eight years. It’s worked for hundreds of my students, and I think it’ll help you as well.
Catch you in the next episode.
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I hope this was helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Do you agree? Do you disagree with the fierce heat of a thousand suns?
Let me know in the comments below.
Plus, if you have a question you want answered on a future Write Bites episode, ask in the comments or shoot me an email, and I’ll add it to the schedule.