Article by Angela Hoy
Freelance writing gigs - what to charge? This is the big question.
When someone hires you to do a special writing job, they give you the assignment and you do the job, writing for money. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not really.
These are examples of complaints I've received over the years:
A local dry cleaner thought he could write his own brochure, but he just "didn't have the time." He hired Melanie, a professional copywriter, to write it for him for a flat fee, and gave her a list of bullet points to include.
After the job was complete, he decided he wanted to add a few more bullet points and remove some he'd provided previously...but he didn't understand why Melanie asked for more money. Like she didn't need to earn money from freelance writing.
The marketing manager of an old business downtown hired Jeff to ghostwrite a historical book about the company. The book would be offered to local bookstores and be used to generate publicity, but the main purpose of the project was to provide a marketing freebie to potential clients.
The marketing manager sent Jeff a very detailed outline of the project along with a list of interviewees. A few weeks later, after more executives at the firm got excited about the project, they all started getting ideas.
Some items Jeff had already written were deleted and the list of interviewees suddenly got much longer. When Jeff asked for a contract amendment and more money, the marketing manager told him there were no more funds in the budget and that the original flat fee was the only money available for the project.
He even threatened to sue Jeff if he refused to finish the book, saying there was nothing in the contract that allowed Jeff to quit the project. But we, as writers, need to make money writing. It's how we earn our living.
Linda was hired to write a series of press releases by the co-owner of a company. After completing the third press release, the company's other owner decided he didn't like the way the series was progressing.
He wanted the first three press releases changed. Linda asked for additional payment to make the changes because the scope of the project had changed so drastically. The company balked at her request, fired her, hired another writer to finish the series, and never paid Linda's invoices. Freelance writing is a profession and should be treated as one.
Scott was hired to ghostwrite a novel for an individual. He completed the work and sent the manuscript and his invoice to his client. The client phoned a few weeks later to say she now wanted the book written in first-person. When Scott requested more money, she told him he should have thought about this possibility before he agreed to the contracted price.
Why is it that business owners don't realize that what seems like a couple of freelance writing gigs to them is a profession that deserves good pay to us?
I receive emails almost daily from writers asking me what they should charge for freelance writing gigs like these. My answer is always the same - charge them BY THE HOUR!
Most people who have an idea for a new project only have a very rough idea of what they want, and they almost always change their minds about some or all of the project along the way.
Unfortunately, when this happens, especially when freelance writing gigs are involved, many people don't think the writer deserves any more money to incorporate the changes.
Why? Perhaps they think "it won't take very long." Or, maybe they think you "just have to move a few sentences around." They don't want their budget disturbed and almost always want to blame the writer if something doesn't turn out as they'd hoped it would.
A sad fact of being in our industry, and probably the main reason why some people think freelance writers don't deserve payment for their work, is because most people think that, just because they can type or hold a pen, they can write. Thus, they think writers' jobs are easy.
One certainty about our industry is that books, brochures, websites, and even most articles are NEVER published as first written. The boss almost always wants some changes, often because they've changed their mind about the scope of the project.
Freelance writing gigs are how we feed our families and earn a living, so we need to have some rules in place before we take on any new freelance writing opportunities.
The way to avoid getting into this mess in the first place when accepting freelance writing gigs is to:
When two companies sign a contract, both firms usually know how to correctly handle the situation (get signed copies of the contract, include a copy of the proposal, addendum's, penalty clauses, etc.).
Unfortunately, when companies are dealing with freelancers, they often don't follow standard procedure and then use the freelancer's ignorance about business processes to screw them later.
After reading hundreds of emails sent in by readers over the years about freelance writing gigs gone wrong, it's obvious, when a project goes awry, the company's attitude toward the freelancer is often, "Well, you should have known this could happen, and included it in your price!"
When the boss changes their mind about a project, it's not your fault! When those changes mean more time on the job for you, you deserve more money!
Protect yourself in writing up front and remain firm and professional
when they try to talk you out of charging extra for THEIR mistakes.Be
careful who you accept freelance writing gigs from. Remember to protect
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and Booklocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers that features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
Booklocker.com, is rated the top POD Publisher by attorney Mark Levine. Mark's book, The Fine Print, analyzes the contracts and services of 73 top POD and ebook publishers. Read more here. Booklocker.com can publish your paperback or hardcover book in 4-6 weeks for only $217.
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