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How To Price A Writing Project

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?



{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Anne

    glad it was helpful Desiree.

  • Fantastic info. Thank you!

  • Anne

    Glad it’s helpful, Amelia… the struggle gets less with practice I find, but I also know it doesn’t become automatic or casual.

  • Bookmarking this page! This is something I continue to struggle with!
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..The Productivity GameMy Profile

  • Anne

    Thanks… I think. Years ago I was a founding member of the San Diego County Commission on the…. Status Of Women… we didn’t name ourselves 😉

  • Like it? It’s yours, Anne! 🙂
    Cathy Miller recently posted..3 Business Communication Mistakes That Cost You Big-TimeMy Profile

  • Anne

    Good point Ivan, and I too usually ask for an advance, sometimes as high as 50%

  • Anne

    Thanks Jamie.

  • Anne

    Phone time… good one… thanks.

  • Anne

    Nice! You’ll probably like today’s post on contracts… love the sow name.

  • Hi Anne,

    I usually request 20-25% in advance. Most clients understand this. Others have an issue with it and want to pay at the end. Bit difficult to handle in some situations but, to survive as a freelancer. you may need to be firm with clients or risk getting abused.

    Ivan Walsh recently posted..12 ways to make your child a better writerMy Profile

  • You’ve done a great service to freelancers who are just starting out. One of the greatest failings of freelancers is the tendency to work for free, or for super-cheap rates for much longer than necessary. Whether it’s due to a lack of confidence in their work (and their worth), or simple ignorance of the process of quoting a price, many freelancers undermine their efforts to become self-supporting by pricing themselves too low for too long.

    Great stuff. Well supported with practical examples. Others will benefit from what you’ve done here.
    Jamie Beckett recently posted..I truly love it when an idea starts to take shape in my head to the point that I…My Profile

  • Great insight into your process, Anne; thanks for that. It’s good to remember to add in phone time – sometimes that can get forgotten. I tend to spell out what I think is involved and then work out a rough price, but your guide really breaks it down well.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..How Often Do You Tell Your Freelance Writing Clients They’re Wrong?My Profile

  • This is one of the best examples of pricing a project I’ve seen – wish I had it when I 1st started. 🙂

    I always create a Statement of Work (SOW) for every project and I find it helps me remember all the things that go into a project when I price it.

    My SOW includes the scope of the project with things like:

    – Estimated # of pages/words of content – I use that for estimating time
    – Length of initial planning call (typically an hour) and # of follow-up calls included in the project fee-typically this includes 1-2 calls with subject matter experts-at an hour each
    – Delivery of outline – may be just a summary of our calls to make sure we are on the same page – typically an hour to pull/review notes and layout outline
    – Research time – I specify the amount of research time (particularly with white papers) – may say something like up to 2 hours
    – I specify that the quote includes up to two rounds of edits

    By spelling everything out, it gives me a tool for pricing and details what is outside the scope of the project (meaning more $$).

    So, I then add up Conference calls + Research time + Outline prep + Writing time (including my own editing) + Edits from clients + Fudge factor (for follow-up emails, quick phone calls and the whatever.else you don’t expect. I multiply that all by my hourly fee and there you go.

    Thanks again, Anne, for a really good guide.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Posts in Friday Lite ReviewMy Profile

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