If your dream is to make a living as a freelance writer, one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is, “how much should I charge?” You don’t want to charge an unreasonable amount that will leave your clients disappointed with the caliber of your work. However, you also don’t want to charge so little that you can’t afford to support yourself.

While some people earn under $1 an hour writing online, other freelancers make as much as $250 each hour! As for myself, I generally earn between $40-$100 an hour, but I’m striving to up that rate as I specialize in a couple profitable niches.

In order to determine how much you need to charge for your writing, ask yourself the following questions.

How much money do I need to live on per Day?

This is the amount of money that you believe is necessary to live the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re living in Southeast Asia and happy to earn $10 a day, or whether you’re the sole provider for an American household, needing $500 a day, it is essential to have a target annual salary before setting your rates.

Once you realize how much you need to live on, add 30% to that to cover taxes, insurance, and other costs that may come up. Therefore, if you want to make $200 a day after taxes, you actually need to make $260/day.

How many days a week, and week’s per year, do I want to work?

When you work for yourself, you give up the paid time off and sick leave that you get when working for an established business.

If you add up holidays, paid leave, and sick leave, most jobs are providing you with close to one day of additional pay every two weeks – or just under one hour a day.

So, after determining your desired annual salary, you need to ask yourself how much time off you’ll want. Surely you’ll need a couple of weeks for that occasional vacation. Additionally, you’ll probably want to schedule in time for any sick days you might need.

This will help you determine how much you need to earn per week. After this, it’s time to determine how many days per week you’ll want to work.

You can work the traditional five if you want, but you’re self-employed. So you can do whatever you feel like! If working six days a week seems reasonable, go for it. Or, if you’re able to meet your financial needs with just three days of work per week, there’s nothing forcing you to work more.

By knowing how much time off you want, you can determine how much you need to make per day.

How long can I write per day?

Next, determine how many hours a day you can realistically spend writing. Unlike an hourly job, where you earn $20/hr regardless of how productive you are, when freelancing, you only make money for what you produce. If you don’t feel like working one day, you can’t just show up and get paid – you’re literally making nothing!

I can write productively for a solid 4-5 hours. After that, my quality and enthusiasm begin to dwindle. So, if I want to earn $300/day, I actually need to be making $75/hr!

Yes, that can sound rather intimidating, but it certainly is possible. The key is to become an expert in a topic, allowing you to produce faster than others would be able to in that niche.

For example, with an MBA, some doctoral coursework, and several years of reading and writing about business, I’m able to develop business-to-business content much faster than your typical blogger. All of the studying and reading I have done for my own development give me a valuable pool of knowledge to pull from when developing content for clients.

Think of a few topics that you would enjoy studying during you free time, and focus there. By doing this, not only will you be able to produce content faster, but the research you need to do for articles will actually be enjoyable and beneficial to you.

How much value does my writing provide?

The high paying projects aren’t interested in words to fill up their websites, they want content that provides value to their readers and sets their organization apart as a thought leader. To do this, they need exceptional content.

There are many ways to determine the value of your writing. Research what other people charge to write on the same topic; evaluate how much the company earns (it’s much easier for a company making $5 million a year to pay you $500 per blog post than it is for one that earns $50,000 per year); and determine whether the content you are writing is developing new information or simply rewriting what others have already written.

Ultimately, though, the value of your writing is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it. As I’ve said before, value is arbitrary. If someone will pay you $100,000 to write a blog post, then that’s the value of your work!

How full is my schedule?

The life of a freelancer relies heavily on the economic concept of supply and demand.

When I find myself with absolutely nothing to write, I’ll pick up articles paying $25-50 per 500 words. After all, I need to be writing to make money – and $25/hr is better than $0/hr.

However, when my schedule is on the fuller side, I only apply to and accept  projects that pay upwards of $150 per 500 words. If I’m not desperate for jobs, I can patiently sit out on the lower paying ones – focusing my sales towards higher paying clients.

Therefore, although you want to understand how much your time is really worth, and you want to constantly be increasing this amount, it’s acceptable to occasionally work for a little less when it gives you the opportunity to keep your schedule busy and develop your writing skills.

Don’t sell yourself short

It can be incredibly easy to undervalue your time when freelancing. After all, if you make $25/hr when working for an organization, how can you justify charging $75/hr when working for yourself?

Hopefully the questions up above have helped you realize why charging more is not only acceptable, but necessary.

If you were working for a business, you wouldn’t be productive for the full 8 hours a day; you would receive healthcare, paid time off, and other benefits; and they would be stuck paying you – even when they didn’t need more work done.

As a freelancer you allow a business to avoid hiring a full time content marketer for $60-80k a year. So, if you’re hired to produce 25% of what a full-time content marketer would produce, then expecting to make $20,000 from that employer during the duration of the year is very reasonable.

Again, remember that you get to determine your value. There are some people looking for cheap writers, and they would be thrilled to have you write for them – but they’ll expect your same level of quality.

Don’t waste your time.

Focus on developing content that you enjoy and that provides true value to your client. If your article provides $1000 of value to the business owner, she will be happy to pay you $500 to write it.