Recently 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.
This gets easier with experience. It gets even easier if you time your projects. Either way you’ll begin to know how long it takes you to get certain kinds of writing done.
For example, I know it takes me 45 minutes to an hour and a half to write a blog entry of around 600 words. The actual time depends on how much research I have to do.
Another approach that can work if the project is a big one is to offer two do two or three pages and time yourself.
Your goal is to estimate the time you’ll spend getting the writing drafted, edited, and finished.
Multiply by your hourly rate
Once you have the time estimated, simply multiply that by your hourly rate. If you don’t know this yet, the free hourly rate calculator at AllIndieWriters.com works well.
For your own calculations, add ten percent for contingencies. You won’t tell your client about the addition – this is to make sure you’re getting enough to make a profit.
It really can be that simple – except sometimes that total will be too high or too low. Or you’ll know it’s way above or way below market.
The art of the flat rate
There is an art to flat rate pricing. While there are no standard fees for anything in the creative field, you can get a sense of what the market will accept in general several ways:
Ads for writers that carry both a decent description and a price are helpful and worth looking at.
Getting a sense of how much the client expects is truly helpful. Most often you can just ask what their budget is. If they are reluctant to tell you, try a rate that feels a bit high to you. You may be pleasantly surprised that they indicate that’s fine. They are likely to let you know one way or the other if it’s way too high. Then you can ask them what they have in mind.
Bur sometimes you simply don’t know and you have to name a number in a proposal. One of the reasons I put my prices on my website is so I can ask if a potential client has looked at them. If they have and still called me I’m reasonably sure they are okay with my fees.
I don’t know who said something like ‘the first person to name a number loses in negotiation.’ I find it just the opposite. If I name a number that’s on the high side for me and they accept, we’re golden. If they ask me to come down, I’ve left myself room for just that.
Not so by the way, if you’ve got a decent amount in savings, it’s much easier to negotiate I find.
Of course, part of the art of setting a flat rate is the willingness to walk away from a client who isn’t willing to pay you enough, but that’s true when charging by the hour or by the word.
Got questions about setting a flat rate? Ask them in comments and I’ll answer as best I can.
Write well and often,