How to charge (in freelancing)?

by Gurpreet Singh

Writers working on a freelance basis often face difficulty in deciding the method to provide a quote to their clients. Whether they should charge on the basis of pages, assignment, or, hour et al. Gurpreet Singh describes a few payment methods used by freelancers to decide the payment method suitable for their freelance writing assignments.

Freelance writers, many times in their career, wonder about the method they should use for their writing assignments. While it seems an easy and good way to use one particular method for all types of writing assignments, the variety of projects having different requirements make it almost impossible to use a standard payment method.

Several factors need to be considered while quoting for a freelance project. The following factors play a role in determining the suitable payment type for a freelance writing assignment:

  • Type of work – editing, proofreading, writing, and so on
  • Amount of work or effort – two hours, five days, two weeks, and so on
  • Type of work arrangement – client site, home, or office

Freelancers frequently use either of the following options to quote a project:
⇒ Hourly wages
⇒ Page wise bid
⇒ Monthly salary
⇒ Fixed bid (by project)

Hourly wages

The most common method used by freelancers (worldwide) is to quote an hourly wage. This type of quote is suitable for newbie freelancers. In this method, you are paid based on the number of hours you put in for an assignment. It simply means that you are paid for what you work and not a penny less or more.

Nevertheless, the output should be within a certain range from the employer’s prospective. If you take more time to finish a small amount of work, slowly but surely you will start losing contracts.

This system is popular in countries such as US, UK, and so on. A word of caution here! If there is travel included in the project then the hourly bid is extremely difficult to calculate. Suppose your work involves going to the employer’s client site and if the site is divided into several subsites, then the hourly bid is extremely difficult to calculate due to the involvement of factors such as travel time, travel expenses, and availability of client resources.

Page wise bid

Employers worldwide prefer this type of payment for content development, however this is the most difficult to provide. In this strategy the number of pages is multiplied by a fixed constant. For example, a company that wants to have 10 pages of content on its recent medical product would prefer a quotation based on the number of pages.

You can compute the bid for these kinds of projects easily only if you have worked on similar projects and know the amount of time and effort that need to be put in. However, if you are new to the domain, company, or type of project, this method would not be suitable as it takes experience to determine the actual time required to do a particular job.

You can, of course, ask others for a time estimate for similar projects but other’s experience really does not help, because in most cases time is inversely proportional to. An experienced person spends lesser time on similar kind of projects. Even though there are exceptions it is advisable to opt for other pricing methods if you have not worked on similar projects.

You can quote a page wise bid for tasks such as editing, proofreading, translation, and so on as there is a limitation on the work or pages. Even in such projects, it takes lesser time to review non-technical content than highly technical content. So propose bids based on the type of content.

Monthly salary

If a project extends for months or years, it is better to ask for a monthly salary like the regular employees. There are projects that run for 2-3 years, so a monthly salary is the best option. Page wise or hourly bids do no work in such situation due to the extent of the project. This is especially true for web portals that contain thousands of pages of content and research assignments.

Fixed bid

This bid is a combination of several methods and most sought after by employers across the globe. Employers prefer a fixed quotation on the documentation project that cannot be estimated by page length.

Suppose you are proposing a page wise bid for a project where there are 10 illustrations in some pages and one or no illustrations in some other pages. It is not in the interest of clients and writers to provide a uniform per page bid. Therefore, you can quote a bid for the entire project. Most of the experienced freelancers prefer this type of bid.

Apart from a few rare instances, almost every client prefers a fixed amount for the project, so that they are relived from the uncertainty involved in the cost of the project.

This practice has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending upon several factors. If you are experienced then this option provides a better opportunity as you can charge the client more than the usual hourly bid rates. However, if you are inexperienced and cannot determine the scope of the project, you eventually work more for less money most of the time.

Suppose you estimated that it would take a month to write a few white papers on a highly technical topic and quoted a good price for that. Unfortunately, the project was more difficult than you estimates and it took two months to complete the project. You finally worked for two months for the same price.

While estimating take into account at least 25 percent buffer time. In the beginning, freelancers often provide a deadline of the minimum possible days. However, factors like sudden illness, internet connectivity, power failures, unavailability of core data, and other unknown but significant factors make it nearly impossible to stick to strict deadline.

Therefore, it is always a wise decision to include a 25 percent buffer time to the deadline. Every client would be happy to get the work done before the deadline and this extra time ensures that you deliver the work before the deadline.

Each method has its own Ying and Yang components and it is up to you to follow any method depending upon your choice and condition.

Happy Freelancing!

About the Article

This article originally appeared in Vol I, Issue 4 (Sep-Oct 2006) issue of MITWA News, the newsletter of MITWA mailing list. It is reprinted here with slight modifications.