Three times this week, I've found through mybloglog stats that people have arrived on my blog by asking questions about what types of rates freelance writing pays. My answer to that question is that it varies.
Because the question has come up so frequently with my blog arriving on Google as an answer, I thought I would provide a more direct response.
I've been a writer for a little over a year although really, I've been a writer in my heart my whole life. My first paid gig was with a forum where I was paid to write interesting posts. That job paid me $12 an hour through Odesk. That was a really good rate for paid posting and isn't that easy to come by. Many paid to post jobs are a nickel or a dime per post. My next gig was with paid blogging companies and they paid $5 a paragraph with one clickable link. This was quite lucrative for a while until the rules changed and required three posts for that price for one of the big companies that had plenty of blogging work available.
I was lucky enough to be told about a writing agency hiring new writers. My first assignments with that agency averaged about .01 per word, sometimes a bit better. Most of this work required a little research and was mostly keyword dense articles or travel articles. If I could write fast and only had to do minimal research, I could make about $15-$20 an hour. I could earn that anytime day or night and in my pajamas :)
I was hired shortly after I started writing full-time by a doctor who wanted me to ghostwrite for him. He paid me 2.5 cents per word but his work probably paid me less than my .01 jobs because I had to do a lot of research and a lot of revising of my work to get it just right. I enjoyed the work though.
Today I work for various clients and my average rate is probably somewhere around .02 per word. Many writers starting out can expect to make about $0.01 when they start. There are writing companies out there paying .005 per word as well.
Are there jobs paying a lot more? Yes, there are freelance writing gigs at 0.40 per word and even more but they're typically fewer and further between and can't be written very fast. Some of my writing work is so easy that it doesn't even require an edit from me or a backward glance because I've learned on those jobs that they only pay a decent wage if you can edit as you go.
Are there downsides to freelance writing? Definitely. Sometimes you have to write about topics that are boring. Sometimes you compromise creativity and good writing for keyword density. You don't get sick days, you don't get benefits or a pension plan and you have to pay your own taxes. You can also spend time chasing down invoices from people less than eager to pay you for work delivered but is it a good job? Yes! I love my job.
My blog also has plenty of information about where you can go to look for writing jobs as well as information about other ways to earn so feel free to dig through my archives or contact me with questions. I've had plenty of help and guidance along the way and am happy to reciprocate in kind with others looking to start out in writing.