The 30 Day Marketing Boot Camp for Freelance Writers

How to Setup and Present your Fee Schedule

on June 27, 2011 in Marketing
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It is one thing to market your talent to potential clients. It is another thing entirely to present your fee schedule and agree on a price and other project details.

When setting up your fee schedule for the first time, you need to do so with “marketing” in mind. What good is this info if you don’t have anybody to send it to?

There is one word that should describe your fee schedule: simple. You don’t want to overcomplicate things. Instead, this document should be simple for both you and potential clients to read and decipher.

What should I include? I have prices for several types of jobs on my fee schedule: marketing copy, feature article, newsletter, press release, sales copy, and web content. Since these are the services that I provide most often, they are the ones that I pay the most attention to. From time to time, I update my schedule to ensure that the information is correct and that my rates are where they need to be.

You don’t have to present your fee schedule in any special format. I have this saved in a Word document and stored on my desktop. This way I can reference the information on a moment’s notice, while sending it out to clients just as quickly.

Tip: keep a hard copy of your fee schedule with you when attending “in person” networking events. This allows you to make accurate quotes if the situation arises.

To successfully market your skills and stay consistent with each client, you need a fee schedule.

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14 Comments

  1. Allena June 27, 2011 Reply

    love it, simple! BUT I would suggest that freelance writers include a MINIMUM project amount. I will not take small projects that net me less than $150. I can’t add the client to my roster unless the project is more than $150.

  2. Dana Prince June 28, 2011 Reply

    A pricing schedule is definitely a good idea.

    I made up a new client package that’s saving me time from digging for things when a new query comes in. It has a client questionnaire, some samples, and a simple Excel price list. I also have a few different price lists (and I always date them), which helps me keep track of what I’ve quoted specific people.

    I used to quote people based on what they asked for. Nowadays I do that (I also have a standard quote template I use at times) but I also send a price list so they can see which other services I offer. My price list has turned out to be a pretty useful upselling tool.

    I have my payment terms right on the price list so people are aware, from the start, how to pay me, what my deposit policy is, my revision policy, etc. It has definitely been a time saver and I think it helps me present myself as a professional.

    • Jennifer Mattern June 28, 2011 Reply

      I agree completely. When I started posting rates publicly it saved a huge amount of time. Cheapskates who thought copywriting and professional blogging came at $10 per page dropped off the face of the earth and a better breed of client got in touch more frequently because they didn’t assume I was another cheap, low quality writer. When I hire freelancers, I consider it unprofessional if they don’t have some kind of rate info on their sites, and I immediately move on. I’m too busy to wait around on quotes from people who don’t respect my time enough to give me some basic idea up front. If they want to customize the rate after that initial idea, that’s a different story. If you don’t post rates, but your competition does, guess who I’m more likely to contact with project specs. And excellent point about posting payment terms as well as fees.

      • Dana Prince June 29, 2011 Reply

        I’ve always shied away from posting my rates directly on my site but your reply really got me thinking so I’ve put a one line average starting rate just to weed out some of the people offering $3 articles and to help those who just want somewhat of an idea of my rates so they can decide if they want to contact me. I agree with the fact that when I’m looking at my own options online, more info is better and I know I’m more likely to contact someone for more information if I at least have an inkling if their pricing is within my budget or not. Thanks :)

  3. Peter Bowerman June 28, 2011 Reply

    I’m going to be the contrarian here and recommend NOT having a posted or emailed fee schedule. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a “typical” brochure, newsletter, ad, case study, web site, etc. Every single project is different and has different requirements, different degrees of difficulty and hoops to jump through to gather source material, interview experts, etc.

    And presenting a wide fee range to account for all those differences between similar project types is no solution. If you could do a brochure for as little as, say, $500, and as much as $2000, then having a range of $500-$2000 renders that information virtually meaningless.

    Not to mention, a prospective client reviewing a fee schedule on your site or in an email, and who needs, say, a brochure, and sees that wide range, will naturally lock onto the lower end of it in his mind. He has no idea what the difference would be. And if once you get his parameters and determine his brochure would be, say, $1200, then he’s already disappointed that you’re a LOT higher than that low end of the range.

    In my experience, good commercial clients (i.e., the kinds I want to work with) don’t expect to see a fee schedule on a site, because they know every project is unique and has it’s own unique parameters.

    If someone asks me what I charge, I don’t quote an hourly rate (as it means nothing in the absence of a specific project to give that hourly rate some context). If they insist, I’ll say, “Well, I recently did a six-page brochure for a client, and charged, $2500.” If they freak out, then I know we’re not likely to be a match. If they don’t, then I know we’re still on the same page.

    One man’s opinion…

    PB

    • Jennifer Mattern June 28, 2011 Reply

      Posting a fee schedule isn’t all that limiting. But on the contractor side it weeds out those not serious about hiring a professional (unfortunately common for many types of freelancing writing), and on the buyer side it makes life easier in finding someone. As for your example with the brochure, I’d say even if you aren’t comfortable sharing prices or ranges, posting a few of those specific examples of past project pricing in your portfolio could be equally effective.

      Then again our differences of opinion are probably at least partly based on different marketing styles. I know you’re a fan of tactics like cold calling for example, and in that case you can jump right into discussions and details. I take a query-free approach letting work find me in nearly every case. And when you rely on your platform, it’s a huge help to weed out poor matches. And it also helps because many prospects find me via search — the same way they find my competitors, and having more information on the business site has made some more inclined to contact me than others they’ve found. I’m sure that’s not the case with all buyers, but in my experience it has been with enough that I’d not pull the price list down.

  4. Jessica Mason June 28, 2011 Reply

    Both sides of this debate seem to have pretty good reasoning, so I’m torn as to which side I fall on.

    I have to say, when I was planning my wedding and looking for service providers I really appreciated and was much more likely to use businesses that posted at least an idea of their rates on line. The ones who didn’t seemed like too much bother to me. Finding out their rates seemed like just one more level of stuff to do.

    On the other hand, I was definitely on a budget, and as such, probably not the ideal client for a lot of people.

  5. Lori June 29, 2011 Reply

    This is one thought-provoking post. In fact, I discussed the very thing Peter brings up on my blog yesterday (with a link back here). I can see both sides, but I still lean toward going without. My reason – projects may appear to be the same, but there are just too many factors affecting price to be able to give an accurate estimate.

    • Jennifer Mattern June 29, 2011 Reply

      Then why not use an online estimating tool for a basic guide right on your site like I believe another commenter mentioned? Include a disclaimer that actual quotes may vary a bit, but let it give them an idea based on some basic factors (length, type of project, etc). Or what about sharing a few pricing examples with portfolio pieces you have on your site? If you can give them that info one-on-one, you can give it to them there as well.

      I just haven’t heard a single reason for not posting some kind of rate info that can’t be overcome yet. Maybe not a print schedule to hand out, but the Web makes it much too easy to just ignore it — especially if the competition is doing it and making their prospects’ lives a bit easier in the process.

      And yes. Great post Chris. I love ones that spark some serious back and forth discussion. :)

  6. Lori June 29, 2011 Reply

    I appreciate the suggestions, Jenn. And Chris, I agree. Great post because of the discussion it inspires. :)

    I have to say that Jessica’s comment made me pause. She’s right. I do business with people who post their rates. If they don’t, I can’t be bothered. So why aren’t I doing the same?

    I think I’ve just been convinced to change my mind. :)

  7. Rebecca July 1, 2011 Reply

    This is interesting because I’ve been told over and over again not to post a fee schedule because it limits you. Plus, every client and project is different. Perhaps, there can be a ‘happy medium’ for certain projects such as blog and article writing. Maybe your lowest per word rate is $.30 or $.50 per word. It’s a suggestion.

  8. Tyler Bennett July 3, 2011 Reply

    I think that you should change your pricing based on every project. Some projects are easier or harder than others, and this should affect your pricing. Once you have all the details of a project, use that information to determine your price.

    • Jennifer Mattern July 5, 2011 Reply

      That’s a thought I hear echoed a lot, and it’s one I very strongly disagree with. There are a few reasons for that:

      1. Things get “easier” as you get better at what you do. You should not, under any circumstances, be paid less for that. You get paid more for that greater experience and the efficiency that comes with it.

      2. A project might seem “easy” because you have more subject matter expertise. Again, that’s not something you should ever be paid less for. Generally writers are paid more when they bring that kind of experience, education, etc. to the table.

      3. You can easily have set rates for basic projects and additional fees to account for projects that you know will be difficult. For example, your set rates might include two rounds of edits, and up to three interview sources. If a client wants more than your base service, they pay more for it. That doesn’t mean “easier” projects get billed less (as they’re usually easier due to points one or two above).

      4. As freelancers, one of the biggest ways we get raises is by getting better at what we do — not by constantly raising rates. That means over time projects will get easier, and we charge the same for them as it’s how we can increase our hourly rate. If we discounted every project that became “easy” we’d have to increase overall rates (and possibly change target markets to accommodate the new rates) much more often. The best comparison is a garage. Many charge a set hourly rate for labor, and the hours of labor are predetermined for every project. If you get the new guy and he takes 3 hours to do a 2 hour job, you still pay for just 2 hours and he’s paid less per hour based on his experience. If you get the top mechanic in the shop and he finishes your work in an hour, you still pay for the standard 2 hours for that project. And in that case they make out better because their experience allowed them to earn more without having to raise their standard rates. That’s the same way standard project fees work for freelancers. Sometimes you’ll screw up and underestimate the amount of time something will take, and you may have to eat some of that cost. Other times you’ll get your project fee even if you finish twice as quickly as you expect. You earn more per hour when you do. As you get more experienced you get better at estimating and find a happy medium.

      I’ve been doing this for over a decade and haven’t once come across a project that couldn’t be accounted for with a base rate structure and simple add-ons. As long as you’re clear about what your advertised rates include and what costs extra, there really is no need to come up with individual quotes for every single project that comes along. If you prefer to do that, there’s nothing wrong with it either — just not necessary in many cases.

  9. Corey Freeman | Writing Whale July 8, 2011 Reply

    This is a great article with even greater discussion! I haven’t actually written down a Fee Schedule but now it’s top on my to-do list. As far as displaying rates publicly, I like Jenn’s explanations and reasoning. I can totally understand how your hourly value would go up because of flat/rate prices and jobs getting easier. Really interesting stuff here.

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