ratesThe question comes as often from veteran writers as it does from new writers: how much should I charge? There are formulae, equations, and tons of advice on how to get to that perfect rate for you.

The thing is, though, that rate? It’s going to change.

Sometimes the work demands a higher rate. Sometimes the client situation (be they the ideal client or the client from hell) helps determine the proper rate. Sometimes, you just want a damn raise. And sometimes you just don’t want to go through the process of setting rates when you or your career aren’t ready for it.

But you can’t go without an idea of what you need to charge, can you? So here are some ways that are less intense, less time-consuming, or less confusing that can help you get to an hourly writing rate you can live with:

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how to get unstuckIn our forum someone who is working to be a better freelance writer asked how they could get unstuck and really take action on their writing careers. It was clear this person had plenty of great ideas for landing more gigs and better paying writing jobs, but they felt stuck.

I know the feeling! In fact, I’m sure every writer, even the most successful feels stuck from time-to-time. If you don’t believe me, read some writer’s biographies. You’ll soon discover you are not alone.

Here are three ways I find I can unstick myself:

Chunk down the project

Often, when I’m feeling stuck it’s because the writing project feels too big. This is certainly true for, say, ghostwriting a whole book. If I didn’t first break it into chapters and even subheads within a chapters I’d quickly go into overwhelm

This same approach works on smaller projects too. Marketing myself can also seem overwhelming. But if I break the marketing down into smaller bits, like send 1 magazine query a week, or call 5 prospects a day, or figure out what words I want on my website – then figure out the design, etc. The smaller chunks you can list, the easier they get to do. I can write a magazine query in a week without much problem. I can decide what I want on my About Me page pretty easily. I can write a draft of a blog post of 500 words or so more easily than I can a final version.

free content for writers


You get the idea.


Bookending is one of my favorite productivity tools, particularly when I’m feeling stuck. It’s simple. Just call a supportive friend, tell them how many minutes or hours you plan to work on the project, then, when you’ve done that amount, call back and report your success. If it happens you didn’t do it after all, call and report that!

There’s something about being accountable that works – which is why we have a whole accountability thread in our forum. Every week I post what I hope to get done and every day I mark off what I’ve achieved. I know folks are reading it because they often make supportive comments – just as I do with the other people who are using that thread. It works… I want to show off for my friends.

Promise yourself a reward

Rewarding yourself when you accomplish something is a great idea anyway. I also use this when there’s some writing project I don’t really want to do. Often I’ll say something like “when I get 1,000 words written I’ll reward myself with a trip to the library for a new mystery.” Since I love a cup of coffee mid-afternoon, I’ll sometimes use that as my reward – as in “when I finish this article draft, then I’ll make my coffee.

I use naps, a cup of coffee, a short walk, reading something non-business like, even reading and posting in our forum, etc. as rewards.

How do you get unstuck? We’d like to know. Share in comments or join the forum now and share there.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

file4361249324381Right now in my life, I’m taking a poetry course online, writing an insurance licensing course, and reading some new cookbooks. I’m doing two of those for pleasure (I’ll let you guess which two) and one for a client.  But in each of these activities, I’m educating myself, which will translate into a better business.

Wait — how is reading a cookbook or writing an insurance course helpful? Poetry courses are great for improving writing and structure, but the other two? Yes, they’re useful, too. So far this week I’ve put together a blog post about one element in that course and have increased my cooking creativity, which has opened up my brain to the possibilities in my prose.

We writers get the day-to-day work stuff pretty well. We also can market well enough to survive. Yet how often do we educate ourselves on basic business principles? Freelance writers are business owners, yet you’d not know it by the way many writers run their businesses. So here are a few areas (and resources) to help you get a business education:

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writing negotiationIf you’re going to be a successful freelance writer you must learn how to negotiate contracts or agreements with the people who hire you. Many writers seem to be both confused about negotiation and maybe even a bit afraid of it.

When you look at the definition, however, it’s not so scary. According to dictionary.com the definition of negotiation is simply a

mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement. 

In other words, you and the client talk about what the client wants done, any deadlines, payment and payment terms. When you are in agreement and that agreement is reduced to writing, in an email, a formal contract or a letter of agreement, the negotiation is complete and successful.

In fact, those are the four musts of a negotiation:

  1. Scope  or description of work
  2. Deadlines or due dates
  3. Payment amount
  4. Payment terms or due dates

Each element is up for negotiation. For example, you might want to break a long project into parts, or you might suggest a magazine article instead or in addition to a blog post. The scope of the work is redefined.

The client wants it done by tomorrow and you know darn good and well you can’t do a decent job in less than a week – so you tell your client you’ll have it in a week.

The client offers X amount paid 30 days after completion and you counter with X+ amount, 50 percent down and the balance due on completion.

At any point the negotiation can fail if you and the  client don’t come to agreement. I don’t consider those failure s. If the client and I can’t comfortably come to agreement on any of these issues I know I’m better off letting them go find someone else. While I’m willing to do some give and take, it has to be within what’s really acceptable to me or the project is in trouble before we start.

Ask for what you want – just like a cat

It’s up to you to ask for what you want and need. That’s part of the responsibility of a freelancer. Only you can determine what kind of writing your best at and enjoy the most, how much time you’ll actually spend writing each day and how much money you first need to earn and then want to earn.

When you know these things you’re in a position to successfully negotiate a writing contract – if you don’t, you’ll hesitate and probably settle for the kind of writing job you really don’t like to do.

I actually do use my cat, MzTiz, as a model for negotiation – she knows what she wants, when she wants it and doesn’t hesitate to ask and ask. And she’s pretty reasonable when she doesn’t get her way too.

Asking for money

Naming the price you want, asking for the amount you need seems to be the hardest problem freelance writers have, particularly in the beginning. At least it was that way for me.

The biggest thing I had to learn my worth as a writer – not everyone can do what we can do. In my case I also had to believe I was worth it – improving my self esteem through counseling and groups helped immeasurably. So did just getting older.

Asking for what you want is a practice and it takes practice. The first time I upped my hourly fee by 30 percent I was scared to death. Today I name a price and I’m not frightened a bit, because I’ve learned about myself, and the writing markets I play in.

Another trick I’ve learned is that if I’ve got a fair amount in savings it’s much easier to negotiate than if I think I’ve simply got to have this next contract.

Yes, not everyone who contacts me hires me. Which is fine. I know there are always more clients out there.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman



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