Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Freelancer, Charge Thyself

I received a letter from a writer who is apparently new at the business of freelance writing for a living. She wanted to know what she should charge to write reports for a private investigator who inquired about her services. My response:

Reports writing is such a varied field--the reports could include audio transcription, summarizing court transcripts, condensing meeting minutes, highlighting police reports, etc.--that it's pretty tough to set a per-project price on it. For something such as this, I would decide what my time is worth per hour and go with that.

As an alternative, you could offer a hybrid approach, quoting a price per hour in a range of, say, $40 - $75, depending upon the amount of research involved or the difficulty you anticipate of preparing the report. If you estimate a project to be easy sailing, you could quote toward the lower range of $40/hour. If you anticipate a project to be really time-consuming and unpleasant, you could quote a higher price closer to $75/hour or more. In that way, both writer and client would know what the bottom line is likely to be from the start and would both feel fairly comfortable with the final figure.

You could also charge a flat per-project rate plus overages based upon anticipated hours. In condensing a transcript of a three-hour court hearing, for example, you could charge a flat rate of $150 ($50 for three hours' work) plus $50 an hour for anything over three hours' time. That would be a nice way of protecting both writer and client, as well. Some typical flat-rate projects:

Advertising Copywriting: At $50 - $100/hour; $250 and up per day; $500 and up per week; $1,000-$2,000 as a monthly retainer.

Direct-mail Advertising: This would include copywriting direct-mail letters, response cards, and other advertising and marketing materials. At $50 - $120/hour or $2,500 to $10,000/project, depending on the complexity of the project. Additional charges for production such as desktop publishing, addressing, photography, graphics production, etc., would be in order.

Press Releases: At $350-$500/release.

Marketing and Sales Letters: At $400-$2,000/project.

As you can see, flat rates vary considerably per project.

Remember that, no matter how you charge, you'll want to include out-of-pocket reimbursement for expenditures: postage, shipping, telephone calls, travel, etc. And don't forget some kind of cancellation clause, whereby you specify that, should the client cancel before the completion of a project, you will bill and be paid immediately for all work expended by you up to that point. (You'll need to keep accurate time records on an Excel spreadsheet or a timesheet recorder of some sort.)

To learn more about freelance writing rates and what the American Society of Authors and Writers advises freelancers charge, check out AmSAW at http://amsaw.org.

Copyright 2009 AmSAW

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