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Should Freelance Writers Charge by the Word or By the Project?

If you’re a new freelance writer, you’ve been torturing yourself about how you should charge for your work, how much, what to offer, and more. 

This chaotic tornado of questions running through your mind is 100% normal. 

We all struggle with knowing how to price our work, especially in the beginning. 

In this post, you’ll discover how most freelance writers charge for their work, how I did it, how I do it now, and why. 

I’ve based this post on my personal experience and what I see my close network of other freelance writers and copywriters doing to price their packages. Not every freelance writer (or copywriter, in my case) does the same thing.  You’ll have to decide what makes sense for you and your business. 

Let’s get into it!

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*This post has affiliate links which means if you click a link and buy through my link, I will get a commission. I only promote products and course I know are high quality or I’ve paid my own money for and had results. Everything I promote has been vetted thoroughly by me.

Why I Charged by The Word in the Beginning

Before I became a freelance writer, I took the course Write Your Way to Your First 1K by Elna Cain. 

It launched my career as a freelance blog writer.  

Within a month, I had earned back the VERY reasonable cost of the course with my first blog client. Here is the first package I offered (with almost no experience except practicing on my blog and the Write Your Way to Your first 1K course). 

  • 2x 500-word blog posts
  • Images with alt text
  • SEO research 

$200 USD

At the time, I was also still a virtual assistant for bloggers charging around $30 per hour. 

I learned to charge by the word for my blog writing from the Write Your Way to your First 1K course.  

You see, blog posts are perfect for charging by the word.  Typically when someone hires you to write a blog post, they have a certain number of words in mind. 


The Google algorithm favors specific lengths (typically, the longer, the better, as long it’s high quality and not just fluff content), or their marketing plan requires specific blog post lengths.  The more content published each day on the web means the Google algorithm LOVES beefy, valuable content.

This is called Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short). 

Some companies will have a variety of lengths, a word count minimum, or a standard format of how they like content to be delivered and published on their website.  

In my case, they wanted a standard 500 words (shorter than recommended, but it was my first client).  I was charging in the area of $0.10-$0.12 per word and created a package based on the extras. 

If you’re a new freelance writer looking to jump-start your career, I highly recommend you check out the course that did just that for me. You can check it out here. Or you can read my VERY detailed review here.

This course paid for itself within a month of taking it. Even years into my career, it’s still the least expensive course I’ve seen to launch a freelance content writing career if you have zero (or very little experience).

When Charging By the Word Makes Sense for Freelance Writers 

You see… I wouldn’t charge by the word for one specific reason:

My writing is more revenue-driven and valuable since I’m now a conversion copywriter (don’t be overwhelmed by this, it took some time to get here).  I now purposely try to REDUCE the number of words on the page. 

Part of my process is to read through my copy and remove any words that don’t move the message forward. 

Also, I found charging per word forced me to try and lengthen an article even when it didn’t need it.  

In my opinion, charging by the word forces the writer (especially if you’re new) to add “fluff” to the article.  “Fluff” copy means words that don’t hold any power—repeating the same thing you just said differently.  This loses the reader’s attention VERY quickly. 

If you’ve ever read a recipe blog and scrolled past the life story at the beginning, you know what fluff copy is.  

Recipe bloggers do this because it adds to the word count.  Otherwise, recipe posts would be really short.  

Today, I charge per project.  This allows me the freedom to make choices based on what the customer needs, not a specific set of words on a page.  

It helps me:

  • Focus on value for the client
  • Attract clients that are a better fit and won’t nickel and dime my work

This doesn’t mean there’s no place for charging by the word.  

As a new freelance writer, charging by the word is much easier than working out the cost of a project.  

It’s a great place to start.  It’s also the standard for blog post writing.  I don’t do blog post writing for clients anymore, so this is another reason I’ve eliminated charging by the word. 

I do, however, have copywriter friends who write blog posts and still charge by the word quite successfully.  

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When to Charge a Project Rate for Your Freelance Writing Work 

When I narrowed my specialty in conversion copywriting and email sales strategy, I started charging by the project.  

I began by doing weekly emails and welcome sequences.  I calculated how long it would take me, decided on an hourly rate, factored in any extras (like setting it up in their email management program, setting up links, automation, etc…), and came up with a price.  

This pricing strategy made more sense because emails should not be long unless there’s a good reason for it, and there is no algorithm to appease with a word count. Instead, I design emails to sell, connect, and engage effectively. 

In the beginning, it’s hard to figure out.  And you likely will undercharge or get this wrong once or twice (or even ten or more times).  

Pick a price and adjust from there.  It’s hard for everyone.  It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone. 

Here are the types of projects to charge a project rate:

  • Emails
  • Sales pages
  • Social media content (some companies may be okay with charging by the word)
  • White papers
  • Website copy
  • Basically, any conversion copy that doesn’t require a specific word count

Keep reading for more ways to charge if these two options don’t feel right to you. 

Other Ways Freelance Writers Can Charge for Their Work 

There are lesser-used ways to invoice your clients as a freelance writer.  

When I started, I had no idea how to charge for my first email client.  I was transitioning from being a virtual assistant and just beginning to understand email strategy.  

Instead of charging a project rate, I charged an hourly rate until I got the hang of it.  Not every client will agree to this, but it worked for me at the time. 

Word Count Range

Charging by word count range is a way of turning your per-word projects into a flat project rate.  

The trick here is to keep the ranges pretty close together.  Your client will likely want to the top end of the range. 

Here are some examples of how you could separate into word count ranges:

  • 500-700 words 
  • Up to 800 words
  • 1000-1250 words
  • Up to 1000 words

If you work for a client for a while and they like a variety of posts with different word counts, you could work out an average to charge them monthly for a set number of posts with the same word count.  As an example, if you have a client who wants:

  • One post for 1000 words
  • A second post for 1200 words
  • A third blog post for 1500 words

You could charge for 1233 words per post (the average of the three – but you might want to round up or down) per post and review it again in a few months if their needs change. 

If you use the strategy of averaging out your word counts, make it clear what you’re doing.  Clients are busy and tend to forget what you discussed.  Make sure you remind them and detail it on the invoice or in your statement of work. 

Create Word Count Packages

This technique is similar to the above pricing strategy but with a twist. 

Instead of ranges, lay out standard packages.  

Here’s an example of how you could implement word count packages. 

  • 700 word blog post
  • 500 word social media post
  • 1000 word blog post
  • 500 word LinkedIn bio
  • Up to 600 word product description 

I highly recommend creating packages.

I try to create packages for all of my work based on a deliverable, making it much easier to price my work. 

You Can Charge By the Hour (But I Don’t Recommend It)

I don’t recommend this strategy unless you have no other choice. 


Clients will want a list of what you were working on during your allotted time.  Some may even want you to use a timer.  You’ll have to find some way to account for your time.  

I ruled this out as a strategy after my first hourly client.  I found it very stressful.  Instead, I started charging project rates based on how much time I estimated I would need to complete the project.  

Project rates also allow you some time to breathe in case you’re new to a specific type of writing or subject. For example, you can set your schedule how you like it as long as you meet the deadline. 

Copywriters Can Charge Royalties (Advanced Technique)

Charging royalties on your work is an advanced strategy used by copywriters who have a lot of confidence in their work.  As of the time of publishing this post, I have never done this and can’t speak to how effective it is.  

You’d only use this strategy if you know how to make money for your clients (writing copy designed to sell, sometimes called direct response copywriting or conversion copywriting).

I have read some copywriters find this to be very lucrative. 

I’m only telling you so you’re aware of what’s possible.  You can go ahead and skip this strategy altogether until you have a lot more experience.  

Freelance Service Swap or Barter (Not Recommended)

Some people may ask you to do a service swap.  

Bartering sounds like a good idea right out of the gate, especially when you’re new.  

>>> But there’s a big problem you may not see at first. 

The further along in your career (especially if you go into copywriting in the future), you’ll see the term “perceived value.”  

It refers to how valuable the person receiving the product or service perceives that thing to be.  

When you swap a service, there is no money changing hands. As a result, your work is perceived as less valuable, even if it’s high-quality work. 

When someone hands over money for a service, they will value that thing more than if it’s free.  (You can read the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” to learn more)

It’s strange, I know. 

Also, when you swap services, you may not be getting the same value in return.  

I would just steer clear of swapping services altogether. 

woman at a wooden desk writing in a notebook - she had an orange shirt on.  She's in front of a computer and there are plants in the background.

How Do You Know What’s Right For You?

Here are some examples of what I would do. 

>If you’re creating content that relies on a certain number of words (or your client has asked for a certain number of words for any reason), you can charge by the word until you’ve worked with the client for a while or get a handle on how long it takes you to accomplish specific tasks.  

>If your client needs random tasks done and you can’t invoice a package or a deliverable, charge by the hour; for example, if your client has a variety of functions that vary each month, they could buy a block of 3 hours. 

When I started offering research packages for copywriters, I offered a 3-hour research package.  This package was the easiest way to price that kind of project. 

>You can easily throw together a standard invoice or set up a cart on your website for your clients to buy an hour of your time. 

>Use the same hourly strategy to sell a day of your time or a week at a time.  You could also work out an arrangement where you’re available at a certain time or day of the week for whatever they need.  Some writers call this a day rate or a VIP day. 

What I Recommend Every Writer Do

When you’re just starting, just pick the pricing strategy you’re most comfortable with using.  Don’t overthink this.  It can keep you from getting started.  

I used to delay getting back to clients because I was scared of over or undercharging.  You risk losing business the longer you take to get back to someone. 

To start, charge however you are comfortable or what the client is asking for. 

Eventually, every writer should have:

  • Packages for their most common projects 
  • An hourly consulting fee
  • A day rate, week rate, or VIP package 

But remember.  Don’t overthink this in the beginning. Instead, just focus on getting business.  With each new client, give this some thought.  Eventually, you’ll figure it out.  

It took me a while to get it right, and I’m still working on my packages.  

And this is just my opinion. Your freelance writing career is YOUR business.  You can run it however you like. 

Feel completely LOST trying to get your freelance writing business off the ground? You’re not alone. I was in the same head space when I started my career. I highly recommend you see if Write Your Way to Your First 1K is a good fit for you. In my opinion, it has everything you need to go full time as a freelance writer. Click here to check out the course details!

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woman sitting at desk writing in a book with an orange shirt on.freelance writers pricing

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If you’re a new freelance writer, you’ve been torturing yourself about how you should charge for your work, how much, what to offer, and more.  This chaotic tornado of questions running through your mind is 100% normal.  We all struggle with knowing how to price our work, especially in the beginning.  In this post, you’ll…

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