LaToya Irby wrote a guest post at AllFreelanceWriting called Do You Have a Standard Payment Policy? There she lists the four typical ways freelance writers got paid. That got me thinking how we determine the way we charge.
If you’re like me, when you first started writing you were happy to get almost anything. I know that I simply accepted what I was offered when I sold a booklet to Hazelden or an article to Runner’s World. (This was long before content mills – I doubt even in the beginning I would have written for them more than once or twice.)
Understanding how each of these payment methods works is important as you consider how to set your fees.
Per hour – You charge your client for each hour you spend writing for them. The problem with this is that the faster you learn to write the less you get paid per word or per page. And you will get faster if you continue to write regularly. On the other hand, knowing your hourly rate can be a guide to help you set other kinds of fees and to help you determine an offer is worth doing.
Per word - Paying writers per word has a long tradition. I’ve heard it said that one reason Charles Dickens’ books are so long is because he was paid by the word. Some magazines and even some blogs pay by the word. Some book ghostwriters also charge by the word. The potential problem is the temptation to write more words than are strictly necessary. The few projects I’ve done this way as I reach the end I find myself thinking more about the number of words than perhaps I should. It’s never been a big problem for me.
Per page – Book ghostwriters often charge per page and sometimes magazines will offer a page rate. Of course, the number of words on the page in question has to be defined. Fonts and margins and spacing all play into the number of words we actually get on a page. As a writer I’d rather worry about the writing than how the page is set up. Of course, if you’re writing something that will be printed on paper, the publisher actually does control how much space your writing takes. Per word is easier to understand.
Per project - Here you and the client agree that you will be paid x amount for a writing project. Everything from $2 an article to $150,000 for a ghostwritten book is an example of being paid per project. One way to get at a project price is to determine how long it will take you to actually get the writing done, multiply that by your hourly rate, and add 10-20 percent for contingencies. That’s the project cost. The risk for the writer is they will badly underestimate how much time will be involved. This is my preferred way of working. I don’t want to charge my client for the mistake I make that takes me a couple of hours or more to fix. I also want to be paid for the inspiration I have in the shower that makes the whole project work. It takes some experience to set per project fees and be comfortable.
Most freelance writers find they get paid in several ways, depending on the nature of the work and the desires of the client. Chances are after you’ve been writing for several years you’ll find you too have a favorite method. Just be sure you think your choices through as you make them.
How do you charge your clients?