What to Charge Your Health Writing Clients

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The most common question I field is: What should I charge this client? 

The second-most common is: Here’s the rate a client offered me. Is this a good rate?

In fact, because pricing questions are so common, I’ve written about them numerous times in the past. I’ve offered factors to consider when setting your rates, and I’ve given my philosophy of pricing – but that’s of almost no use to a brand new nurse-writer who’s trying to transition to freelance writing. 

So today I’m offering some concrete guidance on how to evaluate a client’s rate and what your rock-bottom rate should be.

You should Never Charge Less Than…

When nurses ask me about pricing, they mainly want to know what is the lowest rate they should accept. So, here it is:

Never accept a rate below 25-cents a word (even if you’re not charging by the word)

For a new writer with no experience, a quarter per word is absolutely as low as you should go. In case you’re unclear how to calculate that, let’s do a little simple math.

Example A: Client offers to pay $375 for a 1,500-word blog post

375 / 1500 = 0.25 per word

Example B: Client offers to pay $250 for a web page of roughly 500 words

250 / 500 = 0.50 per word

Example C: Client offers a rate of $275 for health articles of 1,800 – 2,000 words 

In this case, let’s calculate a “best rate” and “worst rate:” 

275 / 1800 = 0.15 per word

275 / 2000 = 0.14 per word

You can easily see here that Client C’s rate is too low, while Clients A and B are offering “acceptable-to-good” rates.

Calculating per-word rates is not the only way to determine if an offered rate is acceptable to you or not, but it’s certainly one of the easiest approaches – and it gives you fast, concrete data for decision-making.

What to Do if a Rate is Too Low 

It’s easy to say yes to an acceptable rate, but what do you do if the offered rate is too low?

Your two main options in this scenario are:

  1. Negotiate
  2. Walk away

In my experience, successful negotiation only occurs if the two parties start with rates that aren’t too far apart. For example, I doubt you could get a client to double its rate. But you might be able to convince them to increase their rate by a small factor of, say, 10 to 20 percent.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with emailing a prospect to say, “I would love to work with you on this project, and to do so I would need a rate of at least X per Y.” Put your preferred rate in their terms. In other words, if they offered a per-project rate, state your desired rate that way.

As an example, let’s consider Client C, above.

They offered a per-article rate of $275. If you wanted to try to negotiate that, you could say: 

“I’d love to work with you on this because diabetes is a topic right in my wheelhouse as a diabetes educator, and I can bring insights to the piece that a non-clinician writer may not. To proceed on this, I would need a rate of $475 per article.” 

Note the calculation here is 1900 words (the mid-range) x 0.25/word rate. (Note also the way I “re-sold” my services to them, reinforcing the idea that I deserve a higher rate because I bring higher value to the table.) 

And then see what the client has to say.

If you do have to walk away from an offer due to the rate, be polite about it. Don’t “educate” the client about their “low rates” or get angry or sound peeved. Remember, freelance writing is all about relationships – and that editor you’re roasting might change positions in the future, moving to a new client with better rates, and they’ll remember you kindly if you were nice when you declined instead of being prickly. Lots of times the person offering the rate has no control over it; the rate is dictated by the corporate hierarchy above.

So, you need only say something kind yet matter-of-fact like, “Gosh, I wish we had been able to meet on rate, but I understand your hands are tied on this. Maybe we will have an opportunity to work together in the future.”

I hope you’ve found this little pricing tutorial useful!

How do you approach pricing issues? Tell us about them in the comments!

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