How to Effectively Price Writing Projects and Negotiate the Best Fees

This month we’ve tackled two important steps to making a living as a writer: 1. How to find the best-paying assignments. 2. How to land the clients who have them. And now ...
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Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc. www.awaionline.com.

This month we’ve tackled two important steps to making a living as a writer:

Win Win Puzzle Concept
  1. How to find the best-paying assignments.
  2. How to land the clients who have them.

And now, to wrap things up with a neat little bow, I want to close out this series by making sure you feel comfortable with the most uncomfortable subject for writers …

Pricing!

Specifically, how to get paid as much as possible, and get paid what you’re worth, but without overpricing yourself out of the running.

Today’s topic is a biggie, and while I’m going to give you some practical advice you can follow whenever you sit down to price a project, know this …

You’ll become more confident with pricing and negotiating the more you do it.

There’s no single “right answer” that works for everyone … because like writers, every project, every company, and every product or service is different.

Now don’t get me wrong, some paths come with pretty standard ranges clients expect to pay, where there’s only a tiny difference between the high end and low end of the scale. Things like case studies, press releases, non-selling video scripts, etc. …

But even then, you can add more services to the projects to increase their value — things like designing the case study, optimizing the press release and disseminating it to your press contacts, or preparing the slide deck for a video presentation.

But, if you’re doing anything where there’s a sale involved —where your copy directly increases the bottom line — there’s potentially going to be a wider range of “acceptable” fees.

(Note: If you don’t know the pay ranges for the services you plan to offer, don’t worry … I’ll give you some resources in a minute.)

Now, here are a few things you should consider before setting your fees:

  1. Are you pricing by the hour or the project?

Of course you need to decide what’s best for you, but my recommendation is to always price by the project …

As you gain more experience, you’ll begin to work faster and more efficiently. You’ll gain speed, and you’ll have solid processes in place to help you handle projects more competently.

For example, the first time you write a landing page, it may take you five hours. As you write more of them, each one should take you less time. If you charge by the hour, you’ll end up making less money each time! But if you charge by the project, you’ll be maximizing your earning potential the more experienced you get.

Bottom line is, you should be rewarded for the expertise you gain, and charging by the hour doesn’t work to your benefit.

  1. Are you trying to build up your portfolio or do you have a lot of experience?

When you’re just starting out, it may make sense to charge less. You’ll be able to build up your portfolio quickly. And, you’ll collect testimonials and promotion results to show new prospects.

On the other hand, if you’re a skilled copywriter with more work than you can handle, you should be working your way up the pay scale.

  1. Are you writing for small businesses or big-name clients?

You’ll want to consider the size of the business when quoting fees.

There’s a big difference between writing for a cabinetmaker in Austin and writing for the headquarters of KraftMaid® cabinetry. Not only will their marketing budgets be very different, the revenue they’re expecting from their marketing efforts will vary greatly, too.

Which leads me to the next consideration …

  1. What is the project value to your client?

Will the client potentially make $10,000 or $10 million from the promotion? Obviously, there’s a big difference, and the more your client stands to make, the more you’ll be able to charge.

  1. Is the project scope complex or on the simpler side?

If you’re writing a sales page for a brand-new investment advisory service, your copy will inevitably be more complex than if you’re writing a product description for a new book by a renowned financial expert. You should expect to charge a higher fee for a more complicated project.

  1. What is your time investment and long-term income goal?

While I never recommend you charge by the hour, you still need and want to “take home” a rate you’re comfortable with. For every project, you should estimate how much of your time it will take to complete, and make sure the rate you quote provides you with a reasonable return for your time invested.

Remember, as you get more efficient and can do the work faster, the value of each hour goes up! Don’t charge clients less simply because it takes you less time.

And, if a client balks at your fee, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Resell the value. Show them what they’ll get in return for the expense.
  2. Revise the proposal taking away some of the services.
  3. Walk away. It’s going to happen! You’re going to pitch clients who simply can’t afford your fees, or don’t value enough the service you provide. But understanding the value of your time is an important lesson in building a successful writing business. And you may be better off in the long run spending that same time finding a new potential client.

Just remember, as a professional writer, you offer your clients an incredibly valuable service …

They NEED you, and should pay you well for your time and words.

But it’s important that you understand your own value too. If the thought of charging high fees for your services bothers you … well, you’re going to need to get over it.

I say that with love!

Because it’s true, you CAN make a living as a writer. But the only way to do it is to get paid what you’re worth.

To your success,

Rebecca Matter

P.S. I almost forgot the pricing ranges …

Since there are so many ways to make a living as a writer, it would be impossible for me to list all of the fee ranges in this blog post, but at AWAI, we typically include them in every promotion about a writing opportunity, and go over pricing in more detail within the program itself.

So, a good place to start is with the AWAI catalog and inside any programs you’re taking.

You can also check out a webinar I did for Writer’s Digest, Get Paid to Write: How to Land Paying Gigs Writing Copy and Content, where I go over a few of the best writing opportunities, including how to price and land them.

And then finally, we published Pricing Guides for two of the larger niches for writers that detail the various projects and their respective fees:

How to Price and Land the Top 7 Web Copy Projects

How to Price, Quote, and Win B2B Writing Projects

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If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, by all means let me know! You can post a comment here, or connect with me on Facebook at any time.

To your success,
Rebecca Matter

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