Rate per Word Is Absolute Bullshit

Freelance writing rate

Hey Ishan,
I started my content writing career last month and it’s going good after the initial glitches. With the help of a few friends, I bagged projects and now spend most of my time writing from my home.
However, I’d like your advice on one thing. Whenever I approach someone for a project, clients ask for the price that I charge per word. I have talked to a few writers but have no idea how it works. Are rates decided on experience or is there a formula for it?
I don’t want to quote too much and lose the project. I don’t want to be underpaid either.
I hope to get some clarity on this.

What I Told Her

Rashmi, how are you doing?
I am so happy for you. And I’d apologize in advance for what I’m going to say next. It’s raw but I hope it helps you in some way.
Paying per word is most stupid custom of the writing industry. Do developers charge for the number of lines they code? Do digital marketers charge by the ads they create? Do teachers quote by the number of words they speak?  
I don’t know where it all started but it’s high time for a change. Most clients pay per word, encouraging fluff and complain about the writing being loose.
What else do you expect? It’s like paying an employee to fill certain number of hours than focusing on objectives.
Having said that, rate per word is a prevalent. You’ll have to work a way around it. I definitely do not want you to charge by words. It promotes bad writing.
I suggest that you work with clients that value your time spent on the project or objectives that you mutually decide on. One of the best practices is to calculating estimated work in the project and quoting for it. You can tell clients that you can’t put everything in the same bucket for the calculation.  
Reach to me when you need me.

A Seven Year Thought Process

I was young when I started writing for money. Being naïve and desperate to earn money, I took all kinds of projects at outrageous rates. Rate per word has been a thing since then.
Once the head of the content mill offered me a cent for every word. It seemed the best price for a boy who had been writing for a couple of months.
However, this client was making me research for hours. The tech docs required hours of surfing and I was still paid by the words I wrote. I quit in a week.
Now this another SEO client wanted me to write website content with the keywords. I did. He reviewed the draft but wanted something creative in the writing. I sat whole night researching similar businesses to come up with the copy draft. He loved it and yet I was paid by the word.
Time spent in research and editing went unaccounted.
Things haven’t changed much in the last seven years. I meet a many writers and I pity how some clients exploit young writers. These writers love their work but have struggle with per word prices.

Ishan Mathur

Ishan is a published author, blogger, content and growth marketer. He's the guy behind SnapWryt and Copy Chronicles communities.

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