Freelancing: How to Charge

Freelancing: How to Charge

Figuring out your role as a freelancer and actually finding clients is hard enough. But eventually you realize that you have to come up with prices, which is more complicated than it sounds.

You basically have 3 choices: hourly rates, project fees, or retainers.

Hourly rates are amounts that you charge by the hour (obviously). The benefit  of them is that you get paid for the time you put in, no matter how much or how little it is. The down side is that it will ruin your budget because you’ll never know how much is coming in at the end of the month until you’re sending out your invoices.

One way to ensure income on an hourly basis is to have clients on long-term contracts who require monthly services, such as blogs, social media schedules, etc.

Project fees are a step up from this because you estimate the total cost of a project and agree on the price before you start. Then both you and the client are clear on the price from the beginning. This can put you in a bit of a bind if you end up doing more work than you thought, such as if the client wants to discuss the project multiple times a day, or you encounter issues with the project itself.

When creating a contract for a project, I prefer to include clauses for extra work. I detail the project scope as best I can, and then include a clause or two about what will happen if the project extends passed a certain number of hours, or extra work is required.

Retainers are my favorite way to get paid, and they are good for clients too. A retainer is when the client pays you an amount each month no matter what you do. They are paying to reserve your time, and it is up to them to use it. Now, it’s not my favorite because there isn’t anything to do sometimes, it’s my favorite because it prompts the client to use what they are paying for.

I like having work to do, and sometimes clients can get busy, or even have you on a long-term contract, but won’t have much for you to do. Being on a retainer tells the client that you are there if they need you, and it tells you that you are valuable to the client.

You could end up doing a lot of work one month, and not as much the next. Generally, I find that retainers balance out in the end, without leaving either party feeling like they’ve lost anything.

How do I figure out a price?

How you come up with an amount, whether hourly, project-based, or for a retainer really depends on your location, your experience, and the client’s budget.

Some clients will have big budgets and some won’t. I try my best to fit my fees to my clients, instead of sticking to a strict price. Of course, I do have a minimum that I’ll take, but I think everyone deserves a little help now and then, so if I have to take a little less in order to help someone out I’ll do it.

Take into account the length of the contract and whether or not your client is likely to need you again in the future. You shouldn’t start low and then try to charge more the next time they need you. Keep your prices fairly even, and whenever you decide to change them, offer a clear, straightforward, and reasonable explanation.

Look at other freelancers in your area, and even consulting agencies to see what their prices are like, and then figure out what you need to make to pay your bills. Your price should fall somewhere between the two.

The best way to charge

I’ve had clients on all kinds of different payment structures. I am currently on three different ones with three different clients as I write. I try to judge the best way to price a project or contract based on the client, the scope, and the length.

About a year or so ago, I implemented a sort of mixed pricing method, which has been working out very well. I charge hourly for general tasks, and then for custom graphics, articles, or other projects that can either take a lot of time, or that will require extra work such as a stock photo, special computer programs, etc., I charge a fee.

So, that would mean that for social media scheduling I might charge $25/hour, and then for custom graphics for the social page, I would charge $50/each.

But what you charge depends on what you have to offer, what the client needs, and what you can afford to work for. Don’t charge pennies, your work is valuable, but try not to charge the, more than is reasonable. Just because a client doesn’t have a ton of cash to dump on you doesn’t mean that the experience won’t be valuable to you in the long run.

How do you charge? What do you think the best pricing method is?

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New Stories from Seuss, Lee, and Doyle—Treasure or Trouble?

New Stories from Lee, Seuss, and DoyleMost of you know that I am a big fan of both Harper Lee and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve also read just about every Dr. Seuss book out there. They are three authors that have been with me for a long time, that I go to over and over again. And while I certainly wish that there was an unlimited amount of quality material by them for me to read, I have, until recently, always accepted the last page as the last page.

First, I heard that Harper Lee will be publishing a sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird, titled Go Set a Watchmen. I was excited, but felt a nagging voice at the back of my mind. I wanted to ignore it, but I couldn’t help remembering that I had read that Harper hadn’t been in control of her estate for a number of years due to a want of privacy as well as a decrease in her capacity to manage her affairs.

Since I don’t know Lee, or the whole story, I don’t want to delve too deeply into whether or not this is a legitimate act made by Lee or if it’s something else—the ugly side of the publishing industry poking its great head out of a murky sea. Still, I’ll admit that I will read it, if to do nothing else but to sate my own thirst.

Then, I was scrolling through the plethora of “news” on my phone, and saw a headline that indicated a lost story from Dr. Seuss had been found. 25 years after anything has been published under his name, and years after his death. This news comes only a matter of weeks after we hear that a sequel will be appearing from Harper Lee after decades of silence.

If these two weren’t enough, yesterday, I read that someone found a long lost story from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although I would love to hear about Sherlock one more time, and to read stories from authors who I have long thought were passed the point of publishing anything, I can’t help but feel at least a little suspicious. I mean, three well-known, respected, and famous authors will have new stories published (except possibly Doyle’s, but it will at least be viewable by the public, I believe) and two of them are not even alive.

I could have taken the news of Go Set a Watchmen on its own, even though I still would have wondered if reading it would be taking advantage of Lee if she has indeed been persuaded to publish it. But for stories from both Seuss and Doyle to be found only weeks later makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Perhaps it is coincidence, and they are all legitimate stories that the authors do or would fully support, but if they’re not, something terrible is happening. If, and it’s a big if, these stories are not either real or, in the case of Lee, they are being published under duress, then we are witnessing a horrible manipulation of intellectual property—the thing that we, as writers, authors, designers, artists, and even thinkers use to protect the intangible products of our minds.

It’s one thing to market to an audience. I work in marketing myself, and I can easily say that I don’t undertake any actions that I am not proud of. Products need to get to the people that want them, and marketing is the river that sees the goods to their destinations. However, if these new-found manuscripts are products of uncouth and downright dirty marketing, then I myself feel a little ashamed at being a part of the industry.

Again, I don’t have any “insider information”. I am simply commenting on, what I am sure, many of you have wondered about yourselves. Three is coincidence enough, but if they find a long lost manuscript of Shakespeare’s in the next few weeks I might just lose a little bit of my sanity.

It’s one thing for a living author to publish a book that she wrote years and years ago, but for two more manuscripts to be found, within weeks of each other, from different authors? It makes me a little suspicious, to say the least. Our intellectual property as writers deserves to be respected and protected.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that these three stories are legitimate? Will you be reading any? 

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Submitting Shorts

Submitting ShortsI’ve seen more than a few of you write or comment about submitting short stories. Some are well into the groove, with plenty of advice to give, and others are still skirting the edge of the pond warily, preparing to dip a toe in. We each have a different process for submissions, and I promise, it’s not as overwhelming or frightening as it seems once you get going.

I think that the scariest part of it is the fear of rejection, which I’ve written about before. The possibility that someone out there won’t like your story is difficult to anticipate, because you likely think that your story is one of the best out there. If you don’t, it probably isn’t ready to publish.

On this quiet Sunday, I’d like to exchange some submission tips with all of you. For those of you that have some to offer, please add them. To those of you who haven’t started submitting stories yet, take hold of the ones that work for your style and your personality, and ignore the rest if they don’t suit you.

Edit like you’ve never edited before. This is important. Your spelling, grammar, and less so, your punctuation, should be, if not perfect, than sparkly clean. If you don’t put time into your story by making it clean and clear, why should anyone else spend time reading it?

Edit for more than just spelling. So, you’ve spelled everything right, but did you look into the intricacies of your story? If you have to, get a friend or two to read over your piece. Ask them to pick out anything that they don’t like and to be honest about it. Where did they get bored? Where were they confused? Where did they find inconsistencies? Take their edits kindly, because they’ll make your story stronger.

Don’t write for nothing. Many submissions offer you the wonderful prize of simply being published in their magazine, e-zine, or whatever else. Ignore those ones. You spent time working on a piece of writing and should be compensated for it if it’s chosen. While it’s nice to have a story credited to you, don’t submit to anything that doesn’t pay unless the recognition is compensation enough. I’m talking a fairly well-known publisher, or even just a “for fun” contest. Those are fine, but your work is worth something. Don’t forget it.

The bigger the reward, the more effort. All of your stories take effort, and they always should. You should never submit anything that you aren’t proud of, or wouldn’t be happy to slap your name on. That being said, if you’re submitting a piece of flash fiction to a simple contest, you don’t need to spend hours looking over it. Save the time and effort to put towards a bigger piece that you’ll be submitting to a bigger publisher.

Don’t pay to submit. You should never have to pay to submit a piece of work. It’s different with full manuscripts, since you do have to pay for an editor or an agent if need be, but you shouldn’t be putting capital into short fiction unless you’re making it into a book or anthology. Avoid places that require “submission fees”, unless it’s a legitimate publisher that you are confident will at least consider your story.

Listen to the guidelines. Whether there are submission guidelines about content, contact, or file types, pay attention. Read them more than once. Disregarding a few simple requests will likely get your story into the “no” pile, just because you didn’t take the time to do what was asked. No matter how great your story is.

Don’t be afraid to say “no”. If your piece does get accepted, don’t be afraid to say “no” to any edits that you aren’t comfortable with. It’s your story, and your name, so you don’t have to agree to big or significant changes just because you’re afraid you’ll make someone angry. In the end, it’s what you are comfortable with, not what anyone else prefers.

The submission process is made up of a delicate balance between writers and publishers. While writers want their work to be understood and appreciated, publishers want to provide the best of the best so that they can continue to put out content. Each submission is different, but the bones are usually the same.

What tips or questions do you have about submitting short stories? Have you submitted any lately?