Raising your rates and driving traffic

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Found this two-part question about raising your rates and increasing traffic lurking on my “Freelance ghostwriting rates” post from quite a while back…

Dr. Freelance: I’m a former literary agent and I am just starting out after about a decade out of the publishing business as a freelance editor and ghostwriter. I plan to charge 20 cents a word for ghostwriting and 1 to 4 cents a word for editing, depending on the level. You say here that 50 cents a word is rock bottom for ghostwriters, but I’ve seen 20 cents elsewhere. Should I up my rates or is this fair since I’ve been out of the game for a while?

Also, I put up a website with a free trial period, but will be paying around $95 a month. I haven’t received a single hit. Any advice on how to increase traffic to my site?—Sarah

Welcome back to the freelance world, Sarah. The 50 cents a word is what the Writers Market survey generated, so that’s certainly not an ironclad rule—it may be that the audience responding to that question is more experienced in the ghostwriting realm, skewed toward major urban markets and/or more successful authors. (I’d love to see the details myself!) On a purely anecdotal basis, I remember a very successful ghostwriter (who counts a ghosted New York Times bestseller among his works) telling me it would be crazy to ever go below 25 cents a word when I asked him about a project I was considering. For the record, that’s what I bid, and I didn’t get the job because I was too expensive.

But let’s go back to basic principles here. I don’t think having been out of the business for a while should affect your rates negatively, even if your negotiating skills maybe have gotten a bit rusty. Your experience sounds like it would warrant a strong market rate—and therefore raising your rates—quite likely more than $0.20, but only you can determine what that is in general, and what that is in any specific project. Like a house, it’s worth whatever someone will pay you for it when it comes to signing on the dotted line. There’s plenty of fodder in my “make more money freelancing” category for more thoughts on exactly how to do figure that out, though it ultimately comes down to trial and error.

As far as driving traffic goes, there are a million websites out there that can give you SEO strategies in expert detail better than I can. There’s no quick fix, but for me, blogging and social media channels are probably the most efficient ways of getting people interested and building word of mouth. Be forewarned: Technically they’re free tools, but they take time, energy and persistence. And I know you didn’t ask, but $95 a month sounds awfully steep for web hosting (if that’s what that cost represents), so you might want to research your options beyond that free trial.

Good luck!

Any other recommendations about raising your rates? Share ’em in the comments!

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  1. Sarah Ray says

    Thanks for the excellent advice. I dropped that hosting company yesterday and I’m starting over today, although I copied all my text from the site before I cancelled. That price was supposed to include a professional build and marketing, but the site they threw up (appropriate term, considering) was ugly puke green and boring, so I redid the whole thing myself. I was also told, 5 days before the end of my free trial, that I was entitled to an hour a month of free SEO consultation. Fat lot of good that does. It took me 20 minutes on hold just to cancel, too.
    Definitely worth taking the time to shop. This company apparently put all their money into this TV ad, instead of into paying enough employees a decent wage. They’re called “Web.com” by the way, so be warned!
    Chalk it up to a learning experience for me. Thanks again for your encouragement and advice!