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flat rateRecently I talked about the three ways freelance writers can charge for their work. Charging by the hour or by the word are fairly straight forward. Many find that developing a flat rate proposal is both mystifying and difficult.

In Writing a Proposal For Yourself and Others I outline my approach. Judging from the comments and questions I get the difficulty comes from deciding what the flat fee should be.

First, be sure you understand the scope of the work

You’ve got to have a clear idea about what exactly you’ll be doing. This goes beyond simple explanations like an article, White Paper, or a blog post, or a book. You need to know things like:

Where the information will come from? The client? Your research? Some combination? If you’re doing the research for the piece you have to figure in that time in order to set the right flat rate.

How many revisions are expected? This may be something you want to include in your proposal.

Who will sign off on the project? If it’s more than one person it will take you much more time to complete it. I’ve occasionally had committees take over a year to approve what to me is a simple writing project. That’s extreme, but it happens.

Another way to look at this is you need to identify all the areas in the project that will take time in addition to the time you’ll spend writing and editing.

How much time will it take you?

Your next step is to figure out how much time it will take you to do this project.

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profitable freelance workRant warning!

I just discovered that Upwork, formerly Elance, has raised the amount it charges their creatives. I also just read and signed a petition protesting. I’m not linking to it because I think I was wrong. Upwork is honoring existing contracts and the increases are based on a sliding scale, which I didn’t understand when I first read the petition. Hat tip to Jake Poinier and his article, Upwork raised its fees, and here’s what you can learn from it which has the facts straight and is well reasoned.

The reason I was so slow to even find out about this is I no longer use bidding sites to find profitable freelance work. Back in the day, and I mean the late 1990s, I discovered Guru.com and successfully landed a couple of contracts that paid decently. As they grew and attracted more freelancers the prices tended to drop. It didn’t take me long to realize bidding for writing jobs is a losing proposition.

Bidding sites drive down the price

It’s a losing proposition for both the  writer and the client. Here’s why:

Jake’s article points out how he was tempted to view a writer he was considering hiring because her rates were too low! You have only to read some of the dreck that’s out there to see how bad writing can be.

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freelance writers charge for their workTypically, there are three ways freelance writers charge for their work:

By the hour,

by the word, and,

by a flat fee.

Which is best? Like so many things in freelance writing, the real answer is ‘it depends.’

The first problem

Pricing your work is full of conundrums. The first is deciding how much you need to earn.

Yes, you’ve got to start there. You must to know how much money you need to pay your expenses and for at least some of your wants. And you’ve got to remember than as a freelance writer you’re paying your own taxes and for you own benefits. Everything from self-employment tax and sick leave through retirement has got to be figured in when you begin to set your rates. Once you know how much you need to earn, you can begin working out how you should charge.

Charging by the hour

I find knowing my hourly rate is critical to determining price. Yet I rarely charge by the hour.

The advantages of using an hourly rate include:

  • It’s easy for both you and the client to understand.

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pricing jittersDo all freelance writers get pricing jitters? I think so. At least I know I do even after years of successful freelance writing.

Oh, it has gotten way easier. I was reminded of this the other day when I had to quote a book ghostwriting price to a new client.

For some reason I remembered the first time I raised my rates – another pro told me to double them, and I couldn’t do that much. But I did find away to increase them by 30-40 percent as I recall. Those pricing jitters were much worse then the proposal I presented last week. Pricing jitters I had, however.

Here are seven things to think about when you’re thinking about pricing for your freelance writing.

Willing buyer / willing seller

There really is only one good definition of a fair or good price – a willing buyer and a willing seller. Of course, if you let pricing jitters eat at you too much you may find yourself leaving money on the table – setting a price that’s too low.

Your price is your price

There really is no such thing as a ‘standard price’ for any writing. There are trends, maybe. Know what you charge and how you got to that number even if you pulled it out of thin air.

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diversifyEarning income as a freelance writer is both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, the feeling of making money with nothing more than your mind and your words is rewarding in a way few other things are.

On the other, there are times when work seems to dry up, and the worries about having enough to make ends meet start again.

One of the best ways to protect against the unpredictability of freelance writing is to seek out income from unusual sources. Let’s take a look at some lesser known, but tried and tested, ways of making money writing.

1. Ghostwriting eBooks for Professionals

The power of the eBook to put someone on the map, increase their authority within their industry, and make their services more attractive to clients cannot be overstated.

If you spend some time browsing the blogs and websites of leading professionals, you will increasingly see that many are offering a free eBook in exchange for signing up to their mailing list.

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writing careerWhat ideas or picture do you have about your freelance writing career? Are you sure you even want a freelance writing career?

I was in sixth grade when I realized there were authors behind the fiction I was learning to love to read. I began developing the idea that I might someday join their ranks. As I recall my mental picture was vague – I was a grownup somehow writing books. I had no idea how books got written or published at that point, nor any clue of what sort of an adult I might grow into – sometimes I still wonder about that.

In high school I grasped the notion that many writers were writing in New York city. For awhile I had dreams of moving there and ‘conquering the city’ as a writer. Although that specific dream drifted off when I married, the idea of a writing career stayed with me, fueled  by reading Writers Digest Magazine and buying the Writers Market every year.

I was 32 when I dared to send two over-the-transom submissions on spec to two women’s magazines. At that point my vision was of me typing madly every day sending off magazine articles and getting checks in the mail. Those first two articles didn’t sell, but I kept at it and gradually began to make some money at writing.

A writing career can go many directions

Next I discovered computers which I loved because they would check my still very creative spelling. I was so frustrated with learning about them I realized they needed writers who could explain how to run them – writers, not programmers. I went to a computer trade show and passed out cards explaining to anyone who would listen that I could write manuals if someone would tell me how things worked. I actually kicked off a fairly successful writing career as a computer manual writer. Which led to my first inside job – documenting both software and hardware, and then into writing for the magazine the company produced.

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Writing a Proposal For Yourself and Others

proposalA business woman I know called me in somewhat of a panic because she’d been asked to write a proposal for her services.

I was surprised because I know her to be articulate yet she seemed to have little idea how to get even a brief proposal started. Plus, she felt she hadn’t been given enough information to be able to provide what her client wanted.

We talked it through and she got it done. But it got me thinking about proposals in general, and to recognize a potential new market for me and others.

What, exactly, is a proposal?

Google defines proposal this way: “1. a plan or suggestion, especially a formal or written one, put forward for consideration or discussion by others.”

That works I think, although I’m a bit puzzled by the idea that writing a proposal makes it formal. Perhaps that’s because a proposal often forms the basis for a contract.

When I create a proposal for a client I spell out the project in as much detail as makes sense for me. My goal is to make it as clear as possible to the client what I expect to do for them. The proposal, or a contract based on one, also serves as a way for me to stay clear on what we’re trying to accomplish which, when the project is big and takes months, comes in handy more often than you might expect.

Fill in the blanks, almost

Here is a list of what I want to include in a proposal:

Vision for the project – this is often expressed as the purpose and goals of the project and states the ultimate result, like a book, or a speech or an article or an article series, etc. [click to continue…]


Two Question Survey for Freelance Writers

surveyI’ve got a couple of questions for you… yes, only two.

This link, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CHSFLXP, will take you to the survey.

In a week or so I’ll write about the results and about the questions too…

Thanks so much,

Write well and often,



writing clientsHave you ever had a client just disappear? You’re rocking along getting assignments, fulfilling them, getting paid.

Then maybe they miss a scheduled call or you realize you haven’t heard from them in way too long.

You call and/or email and text and get back… nothing! The phone is still connected, but only takes messages. There’s no response to email or texting. It’s as if they fell off the face of the planet or maybe moved into some sort of witness protection program.

I’m not talking about the client who goes silent because they’ve decided not to pay you. That’s a different problem altogether. I’m talking about the client in good standing, who pays your invoices promptly, and then goes missing.

Once in a while a writing client comes back

I was reminded of this when I picked up the phone the other day. I didn’t recognize the number – remember when all calls came in with no information other than the ring?. It turned out to be the delightful assistant who almost a decade ago found me to ghostwrite a book for her principal.

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artYesterday I wrote about Krista Tippett’s  Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with that book even though I’ve barely finished the first chapter. Later in the day I read How to Battle Impostor Syndrome: Owning Your Writing as Art by  over at TheWriteLife.com.

You see, Tippett’s writing is the finest kind of artistic writing for me. It’s non-fiction, about things I care about, and I love the lyricism in her writing voice, the thoughtfulness of both her approach to esoteric topics and her obvious love of her readers. She takes such care to speak to us clearly and carefully!

“That’s how I want to write” is a significant part of my internal response to Tippett. Not in her voice, but in my own. And once in a while I do.

Sometimes I don’t know how

Like Marian, I’d like to do that kind of artful writing more often. Sometimes I don’t because I don’t know how. Yesterday, for example, I wrote this as a description of the finger food potluck we’re having here where I live. I said this:

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