Did you ever feel like you underbid a freelance writing job, and left money on the table?
It’s a common problem. Now that I’m listening to a lot of new writers in the Freelance Writers Den forums, I’m discovering that writers at all levels of experience have a strong tendency to bid too low.
They feel insecure about their skills, or just don’t have an idea of what would be a fair rate.
This isn’t good.
When you underbid, you rip yourself off.
What you don’t ask for as a freelancer, you don’t get. And then you have no one to blame but yourself that your earnings are lower than you’d like.
When you bid higher and get a gig, you have a chance to earn more while doing the exact same amount of work. Desirable, yes?
But bidding is tricky. There’s no one answer to what to charge — every project is different.
I recently did two project bids where I ended up earning thousands of dollars beyond what I originally thought I might make. I used two different strategies anybody can use to earn more.
Here they are:
I was recently offered a chance to write six chapters of a business book. Sounds exciting, yes?
But the rate the prospect initially came to me wasn’t: Only $700 per 3,000-word chapter.
So I politely inquired if they might be willing to pay more.
“$700 for 3,000 words sound low to me,” I wrote. “The figure I had in my head was about double that, but maybe we can find some middle ground?”
They came back with an offer of $900, and said they were willing to commission eight chapters at that rate immediately. So that was $1,800 more for getting two additional chapters, plus $1,600 more for asking for a higher rate, for a total of $3,400 more. Simply for pulling the Oliver Twist thing and asking for more.
Since this client may have more work in future, the add-on earnings could continue to roll in if I get additional projects — one key reason locking in a high rate early is important. You want to establish as high a baseline as you can, in case more work is coming. So much easier than asking for a raise later on.
2. Ask another writer
I was getting ready to bid on a large government contract that needed to be done on a rush basis. I had done my calculations on how long the work might take, and thought I might ask for $10,000.
Then I ran that idea by one of my best writer friends. I described the project and told her my bid.
“I think that’s way too low!” she said. “Personally, I might bid double that.”
Wow! What a reality check. I was too chicken to come up that much…I honestly didn’t think this public agency would go for it.
But I did raise my bid by about 30 percent. It was accepted without any objection — the client basically didn’t even blink.
So there’s another few thou, just for getting a quick reality check from a friend.
Now that I’ve done the work, I’m grateful I took the time to adjust my quote, as dealing with government bureaucracy is something less than a picnic. Always eats up more time than you can imagine up front…so glad I put in a bit more wiggle room to support earning a good hourly rate despite the red-tape time.
It doesn’t take long to ask a client if there’s any wiggle room in their pricing, ask a writer-friend’s opinion of your price, ask for feedback on your price on a writer chat forum — or to grab a copy of The Writer’s Market and look at their survey data on typical rates.
But the payoff could be big.
How do you determine your price for freelance writing? Leave a comment and let us know.