When you hear the phrase "nickel and dime" chances are that you think of being a buyer -- asked to pay for ridiculous little add-ons to a product of service, greatly increasing the overall price. Can you also be nickel and dimed as a freelancer? Absolutely.
How Freelance Clients Might Try to Nickel and Dime You
As a freelance writer, you probably either give a client your standard rates or a custom quote up front. Either way, you know what's expected of you and the pay covers that work, and only that work. For example, if you're writing a feature for a client's corporate newsletter, you might charge a rate of $1.00 per word for the article. That rate might include two rounds of edits, and you don't bill the client separately for small charges like phone calls to an interviewee. Your proposed (and accepted) feature might include working with two interviewees.
While these things probably would never happen all at once, let's pretend for a moment that you have the client from hell. All of a sudden, you're asked to do other things like:
- Add a third perspective to the piece (meaning another interview, more phone calls, etc).
- Get transcribed copies of interviews to the client.
- Write a separate short summary for the feature (so they can use it as a preview on their website).
- Do very minor extra edits because they ran it by a "friend" who felt a need to give their two cents after it was approved by the actual client.
- Consult with the client on the phone about the formatting of their newsletter.
- Come up with 3 photos for the feature (not originally discussed).
Other than the transcription, each of those things might seem relatively minor. If you're hoping to turn a one-time gig into a long-term one you might be tempted to just suck it up and do these things without renegotiating the total project fee, especially if the client throws one at you at a time rather than asking for all of these things at once. At the time they seem like relatively simple and innocent favors.
"Favors" Cost You Money as a Freelance Writer
Look, there's nothing wrong with going above and beyond for a client once in a while. In fact there's nothing wrong with going a little above and beyond every time you work with them. But you should know what you will and won't do up front, and you should be willing to say "no" when the requests start to pile up.
I know it's not easy. Sometimes you just want to be a people pleaser. It's easier than risking disappointment, right? But this isn't your bff asking you for a ride to the airport. It's not your sister asking you to watch her kids for an evening. It's a client. In that particular relationship you both have responsibilities. Yours include completing everything agreed to. Theirs include paying you for the time invested in their project. If they change the terms, it's basic business sense -- they should pay for the extra time.
How are these little favors the equivalent of a company nickel and diming their customers? Every extra minute, half hour, or hour you spend on the client's project (essentially unpaid) is time away from other paying projects. Spent an extra two hours on that feature? Charge $75 an hour on average? You just got nickel and dimed out of $150. It's not like putting that time into running a site of your own (where you might earn revenue and use it as a marketing tool to land new clients). You aren't likely to get anything out of that lost time that you wouldn't have gotten anyway for completing the project as planned.
There's a very fine line between being a good freelance writer to work with and being a flat out pushover. Which are you?
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.
She owns 3 Beat Media -- a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.
Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.
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