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Providing Writing as a Service? Here’s How to Talk Turkey!

writing feesBy Darren McMurtrie of PromisePay.com

New freelance writers often complain about unfair wages and stiff competition coming from content mills and other online sources.

Starting the conversation about fair compensation can be fraught with anxiety and nerves. After all, how much is your work really worth when hundreds of thousands of providers offer the same service for pennies?

If you have asked yourself that question when determining your rates, you are thinking about the process backwards.

Before you can begin to dive into the main dish of client negotiation, you need to know what you can afford to accept as a service provider. What is the minimum hourly wage you need to earn? What would it take for you to be happy with your pay situation?

Once you know the minimum you need to earn, you can begin to think about conversations with clients.

Consider the source

Before quoting a price, or even starting the payment conversation, take a look at where you found the client. The ‘where’ can often give you clues about how much you should be asking for.

If you first made contact with the client through a referral, the client probably already has price expectations from the person who sent them your way. Be sure to ask.

If you nabbed the client through your website, the price information should already be posted. If they contacted you through a site and have no idea what prices should be, move on to the next step.

Ask about the budget

You undoubtedly offer a range of services, from creating simple blog posts on a monthly basis to a full service marketing plan and implementation.

Offering different products means that you can offer different things at different prices for different budgets.

Ask the client how much they are hoping to spend, and what they expect to receive for their money. Sometimes, there is room to negotiate bonuses based on pre-agreed key performance indicators.

For example, if you believe that your content can bump a client’s web traffic, ask about a bonus based on the percentage of increased traffic. If you double a client’s traffic, a performance bonus could make up for an otherwise small payment amount.

Be prepared to do some hand holding

New clients and existing clients often have one thing in common – they don’t know what to ask for.

They know what they want in one way, like more traffic, a higher sales volume, and a more engaged client base. What they don’t know is how to get there. Small business owners hear about amazing success stories every day.

As part of your hand holding, it is your job to make sure those stories don’t build up unreasonable expectations for your client. Never exaggerate about results.

Be flexible about payments

A big client complaint can be limited payment options.

If you only accept checks, you limit your client’s ability to pay on time. Make sure you have a payment system in place like PayPal  or Dwolla that allows your clients to use credit cards or bank transfers.

The addition of an escrow payment option, like PromisePay, guarantees you get paid, but also allows your client to feel secure about paying you upfront.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need

If you have a basic number that allows you to pay your bills and eat every month, that is what you need to ask for. Some clients may react with sticker shock, but it is better to get all the cards on the table in the beginning of the relationship.

Nothing sours a contract faster than the realization that the first bit of writing was offered at a steep discount. Facing the full price can have clients looking elsewhere.

If you are offering a first time discount, be sure to show that on your invoice.

Present your price as part of the discussion about the value you will add for your client. Work with them to find a price point that leaves you both happy, and you can leave the negotiation table energized and excited to start on the project.

Talking turkey is necessary, but it doesn’t need to be a confrontation. Keep it conversational.

For those already writing and earning a living, how do you deal with clients that argue over invoices? Do you negotiate or do you have a strict pricing policy?

Darren McMurtrie is the Co-Founder of PromisePay (http://promisepay.com), the fairest, safest and easiest way to pay, and be paid, for services online. He also writes for the PromisePay Blog (http://blog.promisepay.com) where he helps business owners, freelancers, and contractors learn about and understand their finances.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Glad you found it helpful, Margaret.

  • Oh man I just went through a big rate battle with my last client. When I negotiate I let them know the value that I bring and how much quality they’re getting for the rate I provide them. If for whatever reason they still can’t afford it, I negotiate the prices but scale back the work. I usually start conversation with what their budget is and work from there.

    Your point about considering where the client is coming from is something I will definitely keep in mind in the future!

    Great post!

  • Nice article Darren! Apart from the budget, quality is the key. Competition for low quality writing on the web is fierce, and offshore “writers” will be able to easily undercut your prices. Some offer 500 word articles for only a dollar or two. This means that if your work isn’t exceptional, you’ll likely stand no chance at building a successful article writing services company.
    Worli recently posted..Off Shoring and Outsourcing Achievement of Search Engine OptimizationMy Profile

  • One of the things I did last year, Anne, was to put guideline prices on my site, so I send potential clients to that if they haven’t come via my website – that lays the ground work. I tend to thrash out pricing issues before the invoicing stage, as well as lay out what a particular price point gets the client. And thanks to a template I got from Cathy Miller, I can easily turn that email discussion into an agreement that we both sign. Of course, I still have clients who haven’t transitioned to this system, but it’s made the process for new clients much easier.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Why I’m a Prolific WriterMy Profile

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