Friday, October 26, 2007

Post #35: 40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career

PUBLISHER NOTE: This series was started to answer questions from seminar attendees about what was going to be taught at the Freelance Writing Seminar. Details. I entitled these posts "40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career".

Freelance Writing Seminar Cancelled: Unfortunately, due to my stepfather's illness and subsequent death, the seminar was cancelled, but this series continues. FYI, you can still take a class on how to start a freelance writing career. Click here for details.

To start at the beginning of the "40 Days" series, click here. And, welcome to the blog. Now, on to today’s post . . .

Freelance Writers: How to Quote Rates So You Land Projects – Almost Every Time

You’ve done everything right. You sent out marketing materials, the client made contact and they ask you – point blank – how much you charge. Now what! What to do . . . what to do. . . ? Believe it or not, this is where many freelancers panic – especially newbies.

Following is some sound advice on exactly how to handle the "How much do you charge?" question. You’ll not only land this project; you’ll land future ones as well. Read on.

First, DON’T quote a rate. That’s right, don’t! Why? It's been my experience that quoting rates off the bat scares the bejeezus out of clients. Why?

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Because they only see dollars signs, not the value you provide. So, how do you get around this?

Quite simply by turning the conversation into a fact-finding/research mission. Say something to the effect of, “Because I want to develop a long-term relationship with your organization, I’d like to learn more about the project so that I can put together a proposal that fits your long-term needs."

Tip, Tip: You’re doing a little upselling for future projects here. Some of the questions you might want to cover are:

1. How often does this type of work come around?

2. Do you usually produce this type of work in-house? If so, why are you outsourcing it now? If not, why are you looking for a new freelancer now.

3. Will I be working in concert with someone else (eg, an in-house graphic designer); a researcher, etc.

And a few others; but, you get the gist. My point is, get as much info as you can upfront so that you can truly judge the parameters of the project.

Many freelancers are so afraid/intimidated about asking questions (boy, I remember I was terrified the first few times I had to do it) that they leave themselves open to all types of problems later. It's normal to feel this way.

As a service provider, society has groomed us to give immediate feedback to our "customers." But, you are not a mere service provider here. You're a business owner. So, while it may seem strange not to provide an immediate response, trust me, it's almost never in your best interest to do so.

To alleviate your fear of giving an immediate response, tell the prospective client that you like to get as much upfront information as possible so that the project can go smoothly -- saving her time and money on the backend. Clients appreciate it when you ask a lot of questions up front. It makes you look and sound professional and knowledgeable about your craft.

Many times, you will ask a question and get a response like, "I'd never thought about that." Right there, you've practically gotten the job. Why? Because it makes them feel comfortable that they're hiring an "expert" who knows what he/she's doing.

Once your fact-finding mission is done, tell the prospective client that you will send her a proposal in 24-48 hours, along with a proposed start and completion date.

Sending a proposed start/completion date is very important because it “subliminally” sets the project in motion, getting it off the client’s desk. If a client has made contact with you, a freelancer, they’re ready to start (and finish) the project.

Following the above suggestions will ensure that you secure most of the clients who ask you for “rates.”

FYI, click here for a list of places you can research the "What to charge?" question.

Yuwanda Black, Publisher
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Misti Sandefur, Novelist/Freelance Writer said...

Very helpful information... thank you!

Now, for a few follow-up questions to your advice:

If you could do another post about what you should say in your proposal, and even include an example of a proposal, that would be great (I learn best from seeing examples).

Finally, would you do this same thing when responding to a writing gig where they asked you to send a quote with your response? For example, there are many projects posted on Craigslist that ask you to send clips/samples, your resume and your quote.

Inkwell Editorial said...


Thank you for writing in. I'll tackle your question in Monday's post, as your questions make an excellent follow-up piece.