Freelancer Earnings: Is it Better to Charge by the Word or by the Hour?

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For freelance writers, this has always been a tough dilemma. 

On one hand, securing yourself an hourly rate may feel akin to having a steady job, but on the other, charging by the word can lead to some big paydays if you’re able to churn out content at a steady pace. 

In my experience, I’ve always opted to charge by the word whenever possible. However, there are certain occasions where an hourly rate makes good financial sense. 

To help improve your freelancer earnings, here are some things to think about when it comes to charging by the word or by the hour for your services: 

For Writing Articles, Blog Posts, Whitepapers, and Case StudiesCharge by the Word

For strictly writing a variety of long-form content, always choose to charge by the word. 

I say this because, as a freelance writer, you more than likely are able to write several articles in a day. For me, I can sit down and write 4 to 5 blog posts in a full 8-hour day. So, if I were only charging $30 to $40 an hour, I’d walk away with around $320. Now, that’s certainly not a bad number, but if I restructured the same amount of work under a per-word basis at, let’s say, $.30 per word, my take-home pay for the day now sits around $750 for 5 articles at an average word count of 500 words each. 

Sorry—a bit of math there—but you get the idea of how much more you can be earning for your hard work!

I would say, for an experienced writer, charging somewhere between $.25 per word and $.50 per word is a pretty fair estimate for quality content. But even for beginning writers who are charging around $.10 per word, you can still earn $250 for the day, and potentially be done sooner than 8 hours.

But don’t get me wrong—hourly rates still come in handy for certain situations. 

For Web Content, Product Copy, Infographics, and Copyediting—Charge by the Hour

So aside from writing lots of words at a time, charging by the hour is reserved for web content, product copy, infographics, and copyediting jobs that require more structural elements. 

In my opinion, writing copy for landing pages or creating a brand language to entice visitors takes time, and the same applies to repetitive product copy or copyediting that requires you to sit down and comb through sentences word by word. Very rarely would you be chomping at the bit to write 50 words apiece about furniture or proofread someone’s autobiography, so as you painstakingly work through it, you might as well get a decent hourly rate to motivate yourself. 

The same rules apply to web content or infographics that you may need to bounce back and forth between your client and another team member. If you were charging by the word, you’d wind up doing hours of work with only a 200-300 max word count in some cases, which is peanuts compared to what you’d make for how many hours it takes to finalize something. 

Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: 

“More words equals more money. Less words equals more hours.” 

As mentioned above, for an average hourly rate for a professional freelance writer, somewhere between $30 and $40 is fair. You may be able to get away with charging upwards of $50 or more per hour, but that’s only if the job is highly specific to a certain category or genre of expertise. 

Be Flexible and Give Your Clients Options

Lastly, just be sure to remain flexible with your clients and give them reasonable options for payment. 

Of course, having a client that pays you a good wage is important, but nothing beats having a client that pays you a steady wage on a regular basis. 

My final tip: always opt for consistency over currency. 

Fiverr is a great way to design several gig packages that cover your time, while still giving clients tremendous value. If you haven’t signed up yet for an account, click here to become a seller on Fiverr and start earning a wage you deserve!

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Chase Maser
Chase Maser is a full-time freelance writer and content marketer. Aside from meeting deadlines, he writes poetry and fiction, and hosts poetry events throughout Los Angeles, CA.