Talking Money With Freelance Writing Clients

in Money Issues

Pay writers hereAlthough being comfortable talking about money is actually a normal adult behavior, lots of people don’t actually feel that way.

Writer’s want to get paid for their work and that means talking with clients about money.

If you’re not comfortable talking with your clients you may find these tips helpful:

Get out of vagueness about your money

When you know how much money is flowing in and out of your accounts, you will feel much more confident when talking with anyone about money. Start by tracking all your income and expenses.


Somehow, when you really know how much money you have, or even don’t, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you need to do. For example, if you’re almost out of money you may have to consider a temporary job or doing something to fill the coffers. If you’ve got a decent amount you know you can continue hold out for the better paying projects. 

Either position is much stronger than not knowing. That strength will translate to some real self-confidence when you need to talk with clients about money.

Know what you charge

I’m always surprised to find many freelance writers are also vague about how much they charge for the work they want to do. I start with an hourly rate. Then I estimate how long I think a particular project will take. I add 15-20% as a contingency and that’s my fee. You might find the post, 10 Steps To Setting Your Fees helpful.

However you do it, you’ve simply got to know how to set your fees and how much you charge if a conversation about money with clients is to make any sense at all.

Know you’re worth it

Coupled with knowing what you charge is that illusive thing that might be called self-worth. Although some would argue money and self-worth shouldn’t have anything to do with each other, the truth is they usually do. You can go along way toward feeling better about yourself by eliminating negative self-talk and turn that internal nay-saying editor into a friend.


When you’re comfortable with yourself, your talents, and how much you charge, you’ll find it much easier to talk with clients about the money you want them to pay you. That confidence often means they will be willing to accept your offer.

Help your client be comfortable talking with you about money

Writers aren’t the only ones who feel uncomfortable talking about money. You’ll find clients may feel the same way. If you’re confident and self-assured some of that attitude will rub off on the client. At least they will know that you’re not threatened and they don’t have to work to protect your feelings.

You can also make it easier if you bring up money first. Or at least be willing to. If you’re listening carefully you’ll find that eiother the client will ask how much you charge or it’s time for you to bring it up. There’s no point in trying to dodge the issue.

Often you’ll be able to simply state your price. Then you simply stay quiet until the potential client responds. Not to the point of rudeness of course, but your fee is your fee and you don’t need to try and explain it or apologize for it.

Sometimes you wont be able to quote a price because you’ll need additional information to truly understand what’s involved and how much time it will actually take you to complete it well.  Don’t hesitate to explain briefly what you’ll need and promise to give them a price when you have that.

When you need to raise the rate

Eventually you’ll run into a project that requires much more time than you originally agreed to spend. Some call this ‘project creep’ because it tends to sneak up on you.

Your first defense is to build in that contingency fee. If the extra time is less than say five percent you can probably live with it and add even more the next time you work for the client. Much beyond that and you’re going to have to talk to the client about more money or less work. Sometimes the client will truly not realize what they’ve done; on the other hand they may be trying to squeeze as much out of you as they can get away with. It’s up to you to draw the line.

Past-due payments

And yes, you’ll also run into clients who don’t pay on time, and even some who try not to pay at all. I’ve got a writing friend who is having trouble collecting a large ghostwriting fee from a well-known client! It happens.

When you’re comfortable talking about money it won’t be difficult to pick up the phone and ask when to expect payment. And if you need to, you’ll also feel okay about sending the bill to collection or taking the client to small claims court.

You’re entitled to be paid; you’re entitled to make a profit – both of which means you will be talking with clients about money.

How do you feel talking with clients about money?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelia Ramstead February 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Great post. I’m finally starting to get into the swing of this. It’s really taken me a long time to break past my fear of the “money” talk. I think I blew it up in my mind to the point where it was this insurmountable block. Actually getting my asking price (which I was terrified was too high) for a project went a long way toward reducing the fear factor.
Amelia Ramstead recently posted.."I’m High-Functioning, Except When I’m Not"My Profile

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annew February 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

Yes, like everything else Amelia, practice helps.

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Carrie Schmeck February 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I’m definitely learning. I bid one project and underestimated the time it would take–not the writing, but the revisions. I say “two revisions” in my contract but since it is a first time client, I’ve allowed a little more back and forth. I can see I’ll need to do a little more coaching/managing on the next project before I send them drafts.

Another client signed my proposal estimate. When I billed them the final (and shaved four hours off the top because it didn’t take as long as expected), they wanted me to account for all the hours. That feels a little weird. Have you ever had that happen?
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annew February 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Carrie, we all make mistakes as we learn this business – sounds like you’re on the right track. I’ve occasionally been asked to account for time – I just do it on the invoice, and I estimate it. I actually track my time now, but that’s mostly for me, not clients.

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Casey February 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

This post is quite helpful. Thanks, Anne. I began freelancing full-time almost a year ago, and it was the best professional decision I have ever made. It’s been an exciting time and I’ve learned a lot, but the one area in which I’ve struggled most is being confident and assertive when it comes to my rates and getting paid. I have quite a bit of professional experience, so recognizing my own worth and gaining the confidence to set clear rates based on that has become a priority. This post has a number of good reminders for why this aspect of freelancing is so important. Thanks again.

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annew February 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Glad you liked it Casey, and it sounds like you’re doing well. Nice to hear.

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Bill Swan February 1, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Here’s one that I came across recently – the issue of when a prospective client never responds after requesting a bid or quote. Do you offer a lower rate when reaching out a second time? And would that sound desperate? I didn’t because it probably would sound odd.

Another situation I have gotten into is when you get deeper into the discussion of where the project is going yet no one has mentioned money. Twice I’ve made that mistake. Now I just tell people a flat per word rate up front and let them decide from there.
Bill Swan recently posted..What a Writer’s Blog Teaches About Dollars and DebtMy Profile

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annew February 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Bill, see Cathy’s article http://simplystatedbusiness.com/2012/01/3-ideas-for-taking-the-sting-out-of-rejection/ – love her approach. Flat per word rates can work and certainly avoid problems if the project grows…

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Sharon Hurley Hall February 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

This is a good breakdown, Anne. I think many people struggle with estimating how long a project will take. You might know how long it will take to write a single article, but estimating time for a more complex or multi-faceted project might be more difficult.
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..It’s Time To Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates – Part 1My Profile

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annew February 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Yeah, some of this stuff just takes experience… so we guess as best we can.

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Anne Woodman February 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Anne, This is an important topic, and you do a good job covering it. I think many of us do feel uncomfortable when discussing money. I have spoken with freelancing friends, and we are never sure if we did not get projects due to bids that were too high… even when the client might say, “The boss knows someone who got the contract.” There is always a question in the back of my mind–should I have bid lower to get that job?
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annew February 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I know, and when it’s accepted we wonder how much money we left on the table!

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