Several of our writers’ group members are attempting a freelance writing side hustle. They agreed that setting their fees and negotiating are their greatest challenges.
Should they price similarly to other freelancers? Attempt to undercut them?
Knowing how much to charge is confusing. You would rather not price yourself out of the market, but you don’t want to lose money either.
Freelance writing: how much will you charge?
You negotiate every day, with your children, your partner, co-workers… even with yourself.
1. Negotiation: know what you want and the least you’ll accept
What’s your time worth? Consider how long a project will take and set an hourly rate by deciding on the least amount you can accept. (This is your bottom line.)
Here’s a scenario. You’re a ghostwriter. A prospective client wants you to write a novel. After estimating the number of hours writing and editing 50,000 words will take, you set your fee at $8,000.
You quote this figure, with a deadline. The client will owe half the amount on acceptance of your proposal, with regular milestone payments.
Please be wary at this stage. Three of our group members got their fingers burnt when they scheduled projects purely on the verbal acceptance of a project.
Be sure to get a contract and a payment upfront.
2. Money talks: no payment, no work
Too many things can go wrong—a client may accept your proposal, only for his boss to cancel it. Meanwhile, you’ve passed on other projects, thinking that you’re booked.
Tip: only those people who have PAID for your time have any call on it. A prospect becomes a client when you’re paid.
Many freelancers make a mess of their calendars because they schedule projects before the money is in their bank account. A freelance writer in our group completed a six-week project without payment; the “client” just strung her along.
Clients say “yes”, when they mean “maybe”. Please remember that until someone pays, there’s no point in taking them too seriously. The old saying “money talks” is critical when you work with clients.
Your freelance writing essentials
Do you have a contract template and a rates sheet? They’re essential.
One writer in our group also suggested two watchwords for anyone attempting a freelancing side hustle: reliable and professional.
She said: “Always meet your deadlines. Many freelancers aren’t reliable, so you can charge a premium if you never miss a deadline. On the other hand, if I do miss a deadline, I automatically give the client a break on the fee.”
As for professionalism, she has three suggestions:
- Itemize every item on an invoice.
- Beware of scope creep (if a client wants more, add it to the invoice.)
- Invoice regularly; don’t fall behind.
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