Should You Stick to Your Guns on Your Freelance Rate?

Freelance rates are all over the place. It’s possible to find someone to write a 500-word article for as little as $3, and someone else to write a 500-word article more than $1,000. There are a lot of factors that go into what you might charge for your freelance rate.

As you set your own freelance rate, it’s important to know when to stick to your guns, and when it makes sense to bend a little bit. I know I don’t mind accepting a little less for my work if there are enough other factors to compensate.

A recent study from Fidelity found that many millennials are willing to take a pay cut if the quality of life is better. I can definitely relate. Here are some of the calculations I use when deciding if something is worth a pay cut:

How Big a Discount are We Talking?

The first step is to figure out how much of a discount you’re talking about. A recent inquiry from a potential client resulted in a “negotiated” rate that was $200 per article below my somewhat-modest quote. At that huge discount, with what I was being asked to do, it just wasn’t worth it. I countered with something more acceptable and I doubt I’ll hear back.

I don’t mind negotiating. Few of my clients actually pay the same rate for articles because I do work on a per-project or per-gig basis. However, if the discount is massive and you don’t have a compelling reason for me to work with you, I won’t do it. I value my time a great deal, and it has to be worth my time investment if I’m going to work at a discount.


One of the biggest factors in my decision to work for a lower freelance rate is flexibility. Will I be able to work on my own time? Can I work ahead? Is it the end of the world if I fall a little behind? Most of the time, I meet deadlines and get my stuff done. Sometimes, though, I need a little grace — just like everyone else.

If someone is flexible and easy to work with, I have no problem accepting a little bit less. I have some clients that basically let me set my own paycheck, in that I can do as much or as little as I want. That kind of freedom and flexibility is worth a lot more than mere money. The return on that type of arrangement is worth giving up some of the money.

How Picky Are You Going to Be?

Of I give you a discount on the freelance rate, I expect that you aren’t going to be super picky. The unfortunate reality is that I’ve discovered in the past that the pickiest, most demanding clients are often those who pay the least. If you are asking for a big discount and you aren’t granting me flexibility, or if you have a laundry list of things that just have to be done, or if you’re constantly asking for revisions, I’m out. I will fire you as a client. Very few of my clients have ever asked about revisions and been picky about them, but those very few were always cheap.

If it looks like you’re not going to be too picky, and if it looks like you’ll be willing to let me do pretty much what I want, I’ll take that discount.

Two of my associates recently pointed out that someone who wants a big discount for my writing should also be prepared for a discount in quality — or at least have something else to offer. Otherwise, it’s not worth the trouble.