What should I charge?
September 12, 2007 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Freelance writers, help! How -- and how much -- should I charge for this book project?

Several years ago, I wrote an article about the owner of a real estate development company for a now-defunct print magazine. The owner of the company is famously successful -- probably the most successful developer in the beach areas of my city. I put a great deal of thought into the article for writing portfolio purposes, though the magazine was a small, local publication.

Recently, through a mutual acquaintance, the RE bigwig tracked me down. He's putting together a coffee table photo book for his investors, with a limited print run of 100 or so, and he wants me, specifically, to do the writing. He says he's been interviewed many times since my piece, but apparently I'm the only writer who nailed what his company is all about. Flattering, random, exciting, etc.

We're talking about two to three pages of text (don't know the word count) in a book with large dimensions. Company biographies, some local history, etc. He says he's already put about 60k into the project, and he's willing to pay whatever freelance rate I quote.

But I have no idea what to charge. All my professional experience is with local print magazines and web media. Does anyone have experience with this type of freelance project? Should I go for hourly, or per word? What should I charge?
posted by changeling to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've charged per project for this sort of work. No advice as to how much you should ask, though.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:14 PM on September 12, 2007

Just give him a flat rate. He doesn't care about the money, he just wants the job done. Pick a number you'd be thrilled to get, and tell him that. You'll underprice yourself naturally.
posted by letahl at 12:21 PM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

How long do you think it would take you?
posted by raf at 12:48 PM on September 12, 2007

I like the adage that if the client doesn't look like they've been slapped in the face when you tell them the cost, you've priced it too low.
posted by skylar at 1:03 PM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

I say charge per word. Aim high, i.e. higher than you would for a regular print magazine (even an upscale one), because this is essentially PR work, not editorial. If you're also being expected to sub, edit and proof your own words, charge double. The UK's National Union of Journalists has a Rates for the Job website which might be helpful.
posted by jonathanbell at 1:18 PM on September 12, 2007

I agree with jonathanbell that you should charge per word. I think $2.50 per word is a fair rate for something of this type. I only charge flat rates for editing projects (I usually charge by the hour for that.) But for writing, I think the industry standard is to charge by the word. Good luck. Sounds like a great project.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:22 PM on September 12, 2007

Don't be a word monkey. It cheapens your market worth and limits how much money you can make on a range of projects. Same goes for hourly rates. The only real benefit offered by ether of those approaches is they offer a degree of protection against project bloat.

Deal with that by quoting a fixed fee based on a maximum number of pages, making it clear that added fees will occur if that cap is surpassed. And since the client has very helpfully made it clear that you possess some unique skills that cannot be found elsewhere, make sure that's reflected in the value of what you quote too.

That's my fancy way of saying quote high.
As a writer, there is a lot of value to what you do.

How much is really up to you.

And you formulate that by answering three questions:

- How long do you think it will take to do the work (assume it will take longer than you plan for);
- How much is your time worth (don't short-change yourself here!); and
- How much is it worth to your client to have a professionally crafted document that makes him look like an absolute genius of heartbreaking proportions (looks like he's already answered that).
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 1:47 PM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Congrats on the job!
My sketchy calculations:

Large-size book page might be about 300 words per page times $2.50 per word, times 2 or 3, minus a little for small print run, well, I'd say $1500-$2000 and see what he says.

(I work in publishing and that's a little more than we'd pay, but if he likes you and has more money than our company, do it!)
posted by rmless at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2007

Don't be a word monkey. It cheapens your market worth and limits how much money you can make on a range of projects.

Or it shows that you actually know your industry well and what fee that type of work commands.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:59 PM on September 12, 2007

I'm a freelance writer (corporate collateral mostly) so I go through this agony all the time. Don't view it as a mathematical calculation (e.g., 10 hours @ $100/hour or $2.50 per word). Consider the value you're providing. Sure, your time is important, but even more important is how much the client values the project. Consider:

1. He's using it to attract INVESTORS. (ka-ching!)
2. He's already indicated you're the guy he wants (double ka-ching)
3. He's willing to pay whatever you ask. (HE doesn't know the going rate either.)

Allan Weiss has a great book called Value Based Consulting (or something similar) that examines this approach in detail, if anyone's interested.

So when you meet review the value you offer, then quote high. You can always come down.

(Or you can be like me, wimp out and settle for $1500-2000. Bah.)
posted by wordwhiz at 5:14 PM on September 12, 2007

Honestly, for this type of project, you need to take whatever "reasonable" figure you come up with and double it. You're not in a bidding war - the client specifically wants you. Make it his job to get nit-picky with the price. I'm willing to bet he won't, and you'll get your quoted price.
posted by tjvis at 11:09 AM on September 13, 2007

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