My Journey as a Professional Writer, Part 5: Negotiations

Recently, I blogged about time and making decisions about how to use it. I also blogged about time management and freelancing fees. These ideas have been with me ever since, and I think about them daily.

This became important when I was recently contacted by a client for a repeat job. I won’t discuss the specifics of what the job was, because I promise my clients confidentiality. What I do want to discuss, however, is negotiations.

The first few freelancing jobs I took, I didn’t really know what was a fair price to charge. As I explained in the post on time management, I’ve only recently started thinking about how long it takes me to write a certain document, and how much that time is worth. I’ve done a lot of research online, and found that freelance writing rates, depending on the subject matter, can run anywhere from $20 to $40 per hour. As a recent college graduate, I certainly expect to be earning on the lower end of that range. I should certainly be earning more than what I make delivering pizzas, however.

Because I didn’t know all of this at first, I took on my first few freelancing jobs at prices that, today, I would turn down. I’ve learned a lot more about how to manage my time and estimate the time it will take to work on a project. I can use these estimations to determine what is a fair price. I might go a little lower if I really need the job, but if the price is too low, I’ll decline a job and seek something else.

However, when working with a repeat client, I’m writing for someone who already expects a certain low price, because I’ve already done a job for them at that price. This leads to an awkward need for negotiations. If I suddenly ask for a much higher fee than the original job, the client may think they are being ripped off. If, on the other hand, I work for the lower price, I may be making less than minimum wage. When I first bid on jobs at lower prices, I didn’t know any better, since I was bad at estimating the time a job would take. Therefore with those early jobs, if I got paid less than I should have, it was only my own fault. On future jobs, however, I need to make sure I only accept jobs that have a price that is worth my time, considering that I’m a college-educated writer with more experience and skill than some others who might be willing to work cheap.

Negotiating can be difficult, since a client generally has their own standards of what they can afford to pay. Just as I need to make sure I’m earning enough to pay my bills, a client needs to make sure they aren’t overpaying and ruining their budget. Since I do ghostwriting, I generally assume my clients will be publishing the documents I write for them under their own names. They’re most likely doing so with the intent of earning money for themselves. If they have to pay too high of a fee for the document before they publish it, it could seriously hurt their ability to make money off the publication.

Somewhere between what I need to make and what a client can afford to pay is the middle ground where the price should land. Where this middle ground is might vary from one client to another. If it’s too low, I always have the option of declining a job and deciding to seek out some other kind of work. It would be the same thing if I were seeking a full time job and turned it down because the pay wasn’t enough. Of course, since I’m fairly new at this, it’s still hard for me to know the best way to negotiate and to determine what price is fair for both me and my clients. I can’t afford to undercharge, but I don’t want to overcharge and end up with an unhappy client.

It’s a complicated process, and one I’m still figuring out. In the long run, I’ll likely come up with a set pricing plan that I’ll stick to all the time. Until then, I’ll take on what jobs I can, and do the best I can to figure out what’s fair.

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