One of my coaching clients want to know how much I’d charge her to do most of the writing on the book I’ve been coaching her through. She doesn’t like writing much and we’ve started recording the chapters. She’s transcribing the recordings so she’s sure she’s covered everything she wants to, then forwarding the drafts to me. Here’s how I approach setting a price for a project like this:
- Think about the project and guess a price. This is an exercise for me only. I’ve done a lot of writing over the years and my initial guesses are pretty good. Regardless, I’ve learned to take the time to actually work out pricing for each project.
- Survey what’s already been done. In this case she’s clear on her purpose and we have a solid working table of contents. We also have drafts on five chapters.
- Time myself editing a single draft. I actually did a pretty thorough edit of one of the draft chapters so I’d know about how long each would take. In this case it looks like about two-and-a-half each.
- Multiply editing time by my hourly rate. This will tell me about what I should charge to edit each chapter. A price per chapter isn’t necessarily the final price, but it’s a good place to start.
- Multiply the number of chapters by the per chapter rate. The table of contents currently has 33 chapters. Knowing how these kinds of projects grow I’m going to base my price on 35 chapters.
- Add the time we spend on the phone recording. I have to be careful with this client because she’s developed into a friend and we can spend serious time catching up. That’s okay, but I don’t want to charge her for that. Because we’ve worked together I know we spend about 20 minutes on each recording. Since I was paid for the coaching on the first four chapters, I need to base this number on 31 twenty-minute sessions.
- Add the time I’ll spend editing the book as a whole. Every book I’ve ever worked on or written for myself requires an editing pass through the whole book as a single piece. I can’t test this obviously, but my gut says 10 hours – over two or three days.
- Add a 10 percent for contingencies. No matter how well you plan, stuff happens. Adding at least a 10 percent contingency to the contract goes a long way toward mitigating those for me.Now I’ve got a possible fee I’ll charge for this book. Next I do some figuring on how much that might be a month over eight months (if we really did one chapter a week, which I doubt) or a 12 months which seems much more likely.
- Then I pace. Either literally or metaphorically or both. I want to think about the number I’ve come up with, probably at least overnight. I want to compare it to my first gut feeling price and if they are far apart, and by the way, in this example, they are, I want to know why. I want to sit with the possibilities. Part of my thinking is aimed at overcoming my seemingly innate tendency to undercharge. Part of it, in this case, is to consider what I know about the client, which is way more than I know about most who come to me for a first book.
I’ll settle on a price sometime tomorrow. It will probably be close to what I figured, but I may bring it down a bit for a variety of reasons. I’ll put the price I pick into a letter of agreement and send it to the client. Yes, although I’m comfortable with my hourly and mostly comfortable talking about money, there’s always a bit of anxiety… call it excitement. The truth is the client will agree or not. But that’s for another day.
You may also want to look at the Setting Fees series.
How do you set prices for a writing project?