WRITERS. As a solopreneur, there are certain times you think about pricing: (1) when preparing your tax return (and seeing how much—or how little—you actually earned for the year); and (2) when a client asks you to provide a price as quickly as possible. Long-time freelance writer and editor Laurie Lewis has written two books that can help in both situations.
“What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants” is a 185-page book that was initially published in 2000 and updated in February 2011. Self-published through Outskirts Press, the new version is available in both print and e-book formats.
“Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW” is a 5,000-word e-book. Lewis wrote the e-book after receiving an email from a panicked freelancer who needed to come up with an appropriate fee for a job, but didn’t have time to read the long-form book, “What to Charge.”
What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants
Because fees vary so widely and can rise and fall with the economy, this book doesn’t include a list of average rates for specific services. Instead, Lewis provides practical strategies that have been proven to work over a period of years—even through the 2008 recession and in today’s globally competitive economy.
Lewis emphasizes that success in freelance pricing goes beyond naming an appropriate fee for a specific job. She explains how to protect yourself before accepting a job, keep detailed records of how you spend your time, and analyze your pricing after the job is completed.
Lewis shows how pricing strategies can support the different goals you set for your freelance business at different stages of your life and career.
“What to Charge” explains the different methods of pricing (hourly, per diem, retainer, project, unit, etc.) and why you probably will not use just one single method. You will also learn:
- How to identify the going rate for your region, industry, and type of client
- How to gather information about a job before accepting it
- Why it’s important to keep task-based logs
- How to set flat-fee project rates
- How to prepare to negotiate fees with confidence
- What to include in contracts and letters of agreement
- What to do when you don’t get the project
- How to use information from your end-of-job and year-end analyses
- How to increase your fees and give yourself a raise
The book contains instructive, real-world experiences of a variety of freelancers. These examples illustrate some consequences of setting your prices too low or overlooking key items during the information-gathering and contract-writing stages of the process.
“What to Charge” emphasizes the value of keeping a detailed log of all of the non-writing tasks that may be required to complete a freelance project (e.g. arranging and preparing for interviews, creating tables and captions, etc.).
In a section covering frequently asked questions, Lewis addresses thorny issues such as:
- Can you charge for travel time?
- May you charge for overtime or rush work?
- What’s a good payment schedule for a long-term project?
- What should you do about a slow-paying client?
- Can you change your fee after a job has begun?
- Can you charge a client who hounds you for advice?
At the end of the book, Lewis reminds us that pricing is both a science and an art: “It’s the art of pricing that turns a good business into an outstanding one.” She emphasizes that “No job has only a single correct fee” and urges freelancers to “Rely on your creative instincts at every step of the pricing process. Don’t be afraid to try something different.”
“Be especially creative during the negotiating process,” Lewis advises. “Only you know what you want from a job, in terms of both money and non-financial rewards. You can achieve whatever goals you set for your business if you simply follow the logical steps in the science of fee-setting, and add your own artistic flourishes.”
Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW
Some clients don’t call a freelancer until the pressure is on. They suddenly realize that they won’t have the time or staff resources to complete a certain project themselves. So when you get a call from these types of clients, how will you respond? Can you quickly come up with a client-approved price that won’t leave you feeling frustrated, overworked, and underpaid? The guidance provided in this e-book can help.
Whereas “What to Charge” provides advice that can help you grow your freelance income over time, “Freelance Fee Setting” provides guidance and lists of questions that can help you quickly and accurately determine a fee for a particular assignment. She outlines a three-step process:
- Ask questions that can help you better understand the job
- Weigh the pros and cons of different methods of pricing
- Plan your negotiating strategy.
In the section on preparing to negotiate, Lewis suggests considering these elements:
- The fee you actually want to earn
- Your opening bid
- The lowest acceptable fee for the job
- The concessions you want from the client if you have to lower your price
- The steps you will take as you lower your price—both the dollar figure and the concessions for accepting less money
“I cannot stress enough that you should be prepared to walk away from the job if the client refuses to pay, at a minimum, the fee (with concessions) that you think is the lowest acceptable price.” writes Lewis. “You’ll kick yourself later if you agree to a fee that is too low for the job.”
In addition to writing books on pricing strategies, Laruie Lewis gives presentations for organizations with freelance members.