What To Charge As A Health Writer – Step By Step Guidelines

When you venture into the world of health writing, everything can seem a bit overwhelming. But for most, the most confusing step is figuring out what to charge as a health writer. People charge anywhere between a few dollars up to a few thousand for one article. So where should your business fall in? Let’s look at the things that affect what to charge as a health writer, and how to figure out your ideal rate.

What To Charge As A Health Writer – A Step By Step Guide

what to charge as a health writer woman biting pencil looking at laptop on desk

The truth is, there is no ‘right’ answer to this. There’s no set rule that says you must charge over this amount or under that amount. A lot of it comes down to your personal circumstances and your gut instinct. This is the formula I use to help people figure out what to charge as a health writer.

Step 1 – Figure out what you feel comfortable earning per hour

It seems pretty simple, but when it comes to what to charge as a health writer, you need to start with what you’re comfortable earning. This can vary depending on your previous jobs, your money mindset and your level of experience. There’s no right or wrong answer – just have a think about what you feel comfortable earning.

For example, say you’re a new practitioner without much writing experience. You might feel comfortable with $30/hr, because it’s higher than your current retail job.

Step 2 – Take into account your business expenses

As a health writer, you are self-employed. So when it comes to what to charge as a health writer, you need to charge as a business, not a person. A business should cover things like superannuation (I use Grow Super), taxes and the cost of expenses like booking systems, accounting software and legal documents. All of these things should be added on top of the wage you want to pay yourself.

For ease, I tell people to double the rate they’ve decided on in step 1. This allows for 10% super, 20% tax and 20% business expenses. Your numbers might be a little different, but if you’re new to writing, it’s a good starting point.

In the previous example, this would take you up to $60/hr.

Step 3 – Compare your rate to your living expenses

This is a little check-in I like to include. Sometimes, what you want to earn per hour is a little off-base from what you need to earn. There will be more on this in the future from my favourite financial guru, but have a look at your personal expenses. If you have to pay rent or the mortgage, you need to charge enough to cover those! So have a quick look at your budget, and make sure that your hourly rate is going to cut it.

Step 4 – Figure out how long it takes you to write

It’s fairly rare for writers to charge per hour – we’re much more likely to charge per word or a flat fee for a particular project. So you’ll want to look at how the rate you want to earn is going to translate across.

Start writing some articles, and time yourself. Then use the average times and lengths, and decide on a rate based on those. For example, you might find it takes you 90 minutes to write a 1000 word article. Based on your ideal rate of $60/hr, you’d want to charge $90/1000 words as a starting rate.

What To Charge As A Health Writer: FAQ

Does it matter what my potential clients are earning?

I don’t think it should. If someone truly can’t afford your rate, they probably aren’t at the right stage of business to be outsourcing. It might even be that they are undercharging in their own business – but that’s not a reason for you to reduce your fees. Simply wish them well and let them go to someone who is comfortable earning what that person can afford.

Sometimes, a client will have the budget, but they’re not clear about the value you’re offering. That’s where it’s vital that you know how your content is going to support their business in the long-run and can communicate that to the client.

Personally, I’ve had clients who are brand new start-up businesses that have been fine with my prices. I’ve also had massive companies go silent after I send them my fee guidelines. At the end of the day, I know my value as a health writer, and I want to work with people who appreciate that.

Should I charge what everyone else is charging?

Dear god, no. You should charge a fee that makes you feel comfortable while still covering your costs. I tend to encourage people to charge just above their ‘comfortable’ rate at first, because most new health writers will be undercharging.

To put it in perspective, I charge less than what many writers in the freelance world do. This is because I have years of study already in my head, so I don’t need to do countless hours of research to write a 500-word article. I wouldn’t feel comfortable at this stage to charge $400+ for something that takes me an hour or less.

But I’m also not going to charge the $30 or less that you can pay through content mill sites like Upwork. My years of study are worth more than that, no matter how quickly I am writing the content!

Should I offer discounts or do sales for my services?

I prefer to avoid discounts, or at least the term ‘discounts’. I do choose to offer a batch rate for ongoing clients who give me steady work month after month. Occasionally, I’ll offer a VIP slot up for an auction. When I launch a new service, I’ll offer it at a lower rate to begin with as a sort of ‘beta testing’.

That being said, the key to sales and discounts is to do them on your terms. If you ask me for a discount on a quote, the answer will always be no. The only way you are paying less for that work is if I do less of that work. I don’t work with people who don’t value my service. But I do choose to reward ongoing clients or offer a special price to worthwhile organisations, such as charities and non-profits.

When should I charge above my standard rate?

There are a few times when you can think about charging a bit higher than your average rate:

  • The work requires a lot of research and referencing. It takes up more time than what you think it will, believe me! Research-heavy work tends to be about 125% of my normal rate.
  • The client is a known PITA – freelancer term for pain in the ass. This usually applies to people you’ve worked with before, or someone you know has worked with them. If they’ve wanted multiple revisions or changed their mind halfway through the project before, bump up the rate to reflect the extra time it’s likely to take. The goal is that your rate either scares them off, or makes it worth your effort.
  • The work requires you to purchase anything. For health writers, this usually applies for things like writing recipe books. It doesn’t matter if you make a recipe for them, and then eat it for dinner. The point is that you’ve spent that money for their benefit, so you can include the approx cost of ingredients in the quote.
  • It’s a last-minute rush project. I’ve had clients want recipes assessed right before Christmas before, so I’ve charged them a premium rate. If it truly is a rush job that is essential, the client will pay!

I’ve realised I’m massively undercharging. How can I raise my rates without losing all of my clients?

Take your time. I know it can be tempting to go from $30/hr to $150/hr. But unless you have zero clients, this sort of price rise is likely to lose your current clients and make it harder to go out and find the new ones who will pay those fees.

When I first realised I was undercharging, I increased my prices every 6 months – one in Jan, and one in July. This allows you to make more comfortable jumps – from $30/hr to $50/hr, and then to $75/hr and $100/hr, for example. Then I slowed down once I reached a good rate – now I will only be doing occasional increases to account for inflation.

When you do increase your prices, let your current clients know in advance. Offer a batch discount for them, or let them pay upfront for a package before the price rise. This makes them feel like they’re getting a deal, and gets you some dollars!

Need some help figuring out what to charge as a health writer? 

I’m here to help. You can find my mentoring for health writer options here.

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