Technical Writing ToolBox

A Blog on Technical Writing

How to set your Freelance Writing Rates?

Photo Credit: Dilbert.com

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.  I will describe a few payment methods I’ve used as a freelance technical writer.  Only you can decide the payment method suitable for your freelance writing assignments as each assignment is different.

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 often use either of the following options to quote a project:

  • Hourly wages
  • Page wise bid
  • Monthly salary
  • Fixed bid (by project)

Hourly wages

Time me

Time me (Photo credit: mrlins)

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

A stack of copy paper.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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

Calendar

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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!

I’m interested to know which method do you use to set rates for your freelance writing projects? Leave a comment and let me know.

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20 responses to “How to set your Freelance Writing Rates?

  1. Sudhir Kumar Verma April 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Gurpreet,

    I belong to Delhi. I have been into the Freelancing mode for the past 6 years now and I have been working as per all the modes as mentioned in your article.

    As per my experience, the mode depends on the client as well as the kind of project one is undertaking. When I say the kind of project, it implies the type of document(s) and the time span to complete the document(s).

    “CASE A”
    ========

    I would also suggest flat rates for some of the items, for instance Rs 25,000 for logo design, or Rs 200,000 for the corporate ID -entire package.

    Hourly rates are usually difficult to work out for such items. A 10-page dynamic website (with 2 pages dynamic, rest 8 pages static) costs about Rs 25,000-30,000, with domain name, hosting charges, and one year maintenance included. For websites, you may quote a rate depending on how many pages would be dynamic and how many static.

    I would suggest a package of Rs 2,00,000/- and specify a list of deliverables.

    For example:
    1. One logo
    2. Templates for envelopes, visiting cards, letter heads, PPTs
    3. 10-page website with dynamic features (additional pages @ Rs 500/page static and 1000 for dynamic)
    4. Print-ready artworks (on a CD)

    “CASE B”
    ========

    Custom Article and Blog Writing
    $8 per 100 words (Rs 368 => Rs 350)
    250 word article … $20 (Rs 920 => Rs 850)
    500 word article … $40 (Rs 1840 => Rs 1600)
    750 word article … $60 (Rs 2760 => Rs 2600)
    1000 word article …$80 (Rs 3680 => Rs 3650)

    Custom Website Content
    $10 per 100 words
    150 words … $15
    250 words … $25
    400 words … $40
    600 words … $60

    Content Services

    Content Editing … $5/100 words (Rs 230 => Rs 250 to Rs 300)
    Copy Editing … $3/100 words
    Proofreading … $2/100 words

    Copywriting

    100 word ad … $50
    250 word ad … $125
    500 word ad … $250
    750 word ad … $375

    Custom Press Release *

    250 – 500 word release … $75
    *Submission available for an additional fee

    Ghostwriting

    0-500 words … $0.10 a word
    500+ words … $0.08 a word

    For all the above mentioned document-sets, time span varies as per the exhaustiveness of the project.

    Thanks!
    Sudhir Kumar Verma

    • Gurpreet Singh April 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Hi Sudhir,

      Thanks for reading my blog and for posting such a valuable comment. I did worked as a freelance technical writer but never had the chance to work with Indian companies and worked always for North American clients.

      How has been your experience with the Indian clients in terms of defining of scope, rates, and payment issues?

    • Jarrett Buffett April 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      very good submit, i actually love this website, carry on it

  2. Selma Pacholec April 4, 2012 at 3:27 am

    I adore your creating design, do proceed writing! I’ll be back again!

  3. Srivalli April 6, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Hi Gurpreet and Sudhir,

    Thank you for the detailed information. I’ve worked on freelancing projects both based on hourly mode and a fixed price for a project. I think that both of the modes suitable as long as we are clear about the expectations and requirements.

    Have a good weekend:)

    • Gurpreet Singh April 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm

      Hi Srivalli,

      Thanks for reading my blog.

      You made a good point. I’ve seen many projects getting failed due to a mismatch of expectations between a client and writer.

      • Emily Irineo April 25, 2012 at 3:29 am

        Hi, My personal thoughts on this material are that its well-written, intelligent and easy to understand. I appreciate this kind of useful information, specially when it is this smart. I have considered starting a blog myself. Ok bye for now.

  4. Melissa April 9, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I really appreciate this type of information. For several years now I have worked on small portions of larger projects, learning about technical writing and editing; however, I am soon to embark on my first journey as a freelance/contract writer and am leary of how to set rates, etc. Your detailed blog is extremely helpful! Thank you!

  5. Pooja April 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Regarding your comments on the hourly pay, I should say it is easier by using the Odesk application. You can account for travels or for any time working away from your desk by specifying this it as “manual time” in the Odesk application. You need to discuss this with your client first and then you can manually include such times for billing. That takes care of the problem!

  6. Latrina Pentecost April 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Thnkx so much for this! I have not been this thrilled by a post for a long time! You’ve got it, whatever that means in blogging. Well, You’re definitely somebody that has something to say that people should hear. Keep up the wonderful work. Keep on inspiring the people!

  7. Wanita Mancell May 24, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Great article and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is really the best place to ask but do you guys have any ideea where to hire some professional writers? Thx 🙂

    • Gurpreet Singh June 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Wanita,

      One of the best resources would be your local Society of Technical Communication (STC) chapter. They will be maintaining a database of all technical writers in the area.

  8. Miyoko Leatham May 28, 2012 at 6:04 am

    very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it

  9. ramya September 13, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Hi Gurpreet,

    I am not sure how relevant my query is since it is regarding freelance illustration, but I hope you can give me some tips.

    I usually quote a flat rate per project (usually comprising a bunch of illustrations) keeping in mind two rounds of edits, but I sometimes find that the client has more edits than I’ve anticipated. How does one account for these?

    Warm regards,

    Ramya

  10. Pingback: Setting Your Rates: Freelance Writing | Jennifer Greenleaf

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