Advice for bidding on a freelance writing job?
April 10, 2019 4:57 AM   Subscribe

I am a freelance writer, but I have little experience submitting bids for work. I have an offer to submit a bid on a massive copy writing job for a large company. I really want at least some of the job, but I don’t want to underbid. This is anonymous because I don’t want to risk the employer finding it.

Is 50 cents a word realistic for health / medical writing? Would it make sense to quote a word rate, then offer a discount if they commit to giving me a large share of the project?
Or an hourly rate? I have trouble gauging how much time it will take because some elements would require more time than others. I’d really appreciate any advice or anecdotes you can tell me. If you’ve hired freelancers or looked at project bids, I’d like your insight too.

Region is Midwest US, btw.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
As a freelance writer, the best business investment you could make is to spend 99 bucks for an annual subscription to, which includes resources and discussion boards for asking exactly this and related questions to a bunch of super-supportive fellow freelancers.

I do a different kind of writing. Last year I worked with folks who wanted a project bid, not a per-word bid. I think it really varies. But probably the offer to submit has told you what the client wants (per-word, hourly, or per-project bids). In any case, I have found to be a useful resource. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:07 AM on April 10, 2019

Former freelancer, though not in medical (I did tech), and former assignment editor for publications and managed contractors for my current day job. (Still all tech.)

I wish I had more detail on the "offer to submit a bid" - whether this is a cattle call or a "someone I know at Acme Corp asked me to submit a bid for a project."

For copy writing, I would want to know the scope of the project and guesstimate how much time / how hard it's going to be to do the work + what the panel of reviewers look like and so forth. Some companies are easy going and others are going to be very difficult to work with. When is the project due is important, too - is this a slow moving project or are you going to have to drop everything to deliver it on time? Because failing to deliver on time is a big no-no.

I would not submit hourly or per-word unless you have to. At least for me, tracking hours is a PITA and what happens if you submit 10,000 words and they slice that into 2,500?

When assigning work, I would want a project bid for copy writing, not per-word or per-hour. I don't really care how many hours it takes the freelancer or agency to deliver, I care about the project being completed and on time. Hourly billing means when they deliver a so-so / terrible first draft they want me to pay again to fix it. Nope. Per word is also out, because that's too variable and, again, what happens if we cut the word count by 1/2 or something in the end?

Generally I have a budget to do X or I need to go to somebody up the ladder with a number to get approval. Nobody wants surprises at PO time - "well, we budgeted $2,500 for this, but turns out it's $5,000."

If this is a large company (depending on your definition of large), I'd shoot for $1-$2 a word. Too cheap and you're not going to be taken seriously. They're farming this out to a freelancer because they don't want to pay for a full time person, so they need to pay a premium to support freelancer availability.

Also, large company may mean additional headaches above & beyond the writing & approvals. You'll possibly need to get set up in their supplier system to get paid, and you'll get paid on large company time - that is, months after the project is completed.

Depending on the size & such, you might also want an up-front payment of a percentage, then a first draft payment, and then settle up on acceptance/completion. It is not at all uncommon for projects to die or be set adrift because of large company org changes, personnel departures, or priority shifts.
posted by jzb at 5:25 AM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

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