One of the questions I get asked a lot from people writing for money is how can they know the right price to charge for an article. I think the problem they run into is whether or not to treat their work like a product or a service and there is a difference. With a product, you can look at it and easy know what the market value for it is. For example, if I am trying to sell you a radio (product), you can look at it and based off its condition can pretty accurately know the market value. However if I were trying to convince you to allow me to perform surgery on you (service), it wouldn’t be that simple. You would have to think about things such as my qualifications, reputation, and experience. It not uncommon for one person to provide a service for dirt cheap while another person charges a premium price for the exact same work.
The first thing you need to decide before you put a price tag on your writing is whether you’re going to sell it as an article (product) or a sell yourself as a writer (service).  What’s the difference you ask? Well let’s take a simple 500 word article you've written and examine the two different ways to sell it.

If you’re going to sell that article as a product, then features are going to be your best friend. You will make sure that your client knows that it is exactly 500 words, it is grammatically clean, it contains all of the keywords naturally integrated into the writing, etc. You can see where I’m getting at. It’s not much different from any product you try to sell.

Selling your writing as a product will be most beneficial if you work in bulk. If a person is looking to buy 20 or 30 articles, believe me quality is not the most important thing on their mind. So trying to sell your writing based off your merits as a writer won’t really get you anywhere in this case.  They will be more interested in the hard facts just like most wholesale dealers: how many articles can they get for how much amount of money and how many words will the articles have. For this kind of selling, it will be best to set a flat rate. For example, ten 500 word articles will cost $60.

The negative side to selling your work as a product is that you won’t make a killing off your articles, so the only way to see an increase in your earning is to write more articles. And that is exactly how wholesale companies work. Their strength doesn’t lie in each individual sale, but when they sell in the thousands is when they really make serious money. But, you are just one writer and to reach the kind of production level for you to make a decent amount of money you will have to write for several hours a day.  It will be nearly impossible without hiring some extra help to make a living off that kind of work. That is why most of bulk writing is done by larger writing companies or groups of writers.
That being said, I am not trying to discourage you from selling your writing that way. In the end, you should stick to what works best for you. 

So the next question is what price will be good will be a good one if you are selling your articles as a product. First thing you need to understand is that you will be going against stiff competition. And by that I mean people who are charging only a few bucks per article, if that. So to get any business at all, your pricing has to be competitive. I’ve looked at several places such as Elance and other writing websites, and it seems the base price for a basic 400 to 500 word article is around $3 to $4.That doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you write 100 articles in a month that $400. Your success will depend on how quickly you can bang out a decent article.

Now if that does not sound attractive to you, then you should be happy to know that there are ways to make much more cash writing for articles although this method takes more time. It a common technique used for a lot of businesses today: its call branding. Why are people willing to pay so much more for a Ferrari then they do for a Honda? It’s all about brand, and if you want to be able to charge $15, $20 for an article that other people would do for $3, then you are going to have to have some serous brand power.

In essence you are going to be selling yourself more than you are going to be selling your writing. Building a brand is simply influencing people’s perception of something. You goal should be to convince people that when they buy articles from you, that they are buying top quality work. The problem with building a powerful brand is that it doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s going to take time for you to build up your reputation enough so that you can charge top dollars. How do you go about building your brand and reputation? The first thing you need is a strong resume or a strong portfolio. Trust me; it will be much easier to get a nice writing gig if you have a degree in something related to writing or a degree in the field that you are going to be about. People would generally rather have a person who attended culinary school write for their food website because of the credibility a real chief brings even without any real writing experience.

If you don’t have a degree or any specialized education, it’s still not the end of the world. A strong portfolio works just as great as resume. Clients love looking at portfolio because it is a true representation of what you bring to the table. If they are really impressed by what you bring to the table, then you will have more flexibility charging for a higher price.
The second thing you need to build your brand is experience. You need to get a few projects under your built. You need to have a few positive feedbacks to post on your site. To get those first few jobs, you will probably have to charge less than you would like, but what more important is that you get those first few clients. The more projects you complete, the more satisfied customers you have: the more your reputation and credibility will grow. That is when you will be able to charge those lucrative prices that make the most money.

Building your brand is something you should focus on for your entire career writing for money. It’s important to understand that one unhappy client, can ruin years of your hard earned reputation. So be professional all the time. If you are going to charge premium prices make sure that your writing quality matches the price. 

There is another way to charge for articles, and that is hourly. Hourly payments will still go under the “brand” policy. The better your reputation is, the more you will be able to charge per hour. I’ve looked around on the web to compare some prices. The lowest I’ve seen is around $4.00 an hour. The highest I’ve seen is around $50 an hour. So somewhere in between there will work out for you.

Don’t feel that you need to make your prices set in stone. Each client is different, so you should have a little flexibility with your prices especially if you are trying to build your brand. People don’t like generic. If they feel like you worked out a custom price for them, then you will find that your customers will be a lot more satisfied.  

People asked me how much did I charge for an article in my freelancing days. The answer is: it varied from client to client, depending on the amount of work, the complexity, and how much time I was given. I found that a combination of selling your writing as a product and as a service worked best in most cases. However, for higher priced jobs I’d always default to my brand to win over the client. I said it before; you need to find what works best for you personally. There is no magic formula. You will learn what works best for you through trial and error and experience.

On that same note, be selective with who you choose to work with. Not every client out there is reasonable, and some of them will expect more from you than anyone person can possibly deliver for them. Don’t risk your reputation writing for money just for a couple of extra bucks. Before you decide to work with any client, be sure that you can deliver everything that they are asking for. Be sure to clear any areas that might be unclear for to you. Be professional at all times because your career as a writer deepens on it.