“So what’s your rate?”
Four words that ruin the negotiations of the unprepared.
You’ve spent weeks chasing your dream client and it all hinges on this one, final reply.
Erm… $50? Maybe $75… No, $100. “One hundred dollars per article.”
Did the client notice your hesitation? Is $100 going to cover the work? Can you survive on this rate?
If I had to hazard a guess and answer the above I’d say yes, no and no.
Because I’ve been there and I know how making your rates up on the spot just doesn’t work. If you enter into a negotiation without knowing your rates you’re going to end up earning far less than you should. I’ve done it in the past and it sucks.
But here’s the good news. We can turn this around and have you prepared for all future negotiations by the end of this article.
Give me ten minutes and we’ll have a freelance rate sheet figured out so you never under charge again.
But You’ve Heard You Shouldn’t Use a Rate Sheet
Some say you should, some say you shouldn’t. I’m going to be awkward and say that there’s an element of truth for both arguments.
You do need a rate sheet, but you shouldn’t openly display it.
Having that wonderful little á la carte pricing menu makes quoting so much easier. A client asks how much you charge for a service, you look at your sheet and immediately know the range you should quote to earn a decent amount.
It also makes planning and invoicing a breeze. I’m not an accountant and whilst my mathematical prowess ain’t half bad, I need my invoicing to remain simple so I’m not wasting billable hours balancing my books.
But, and here’s the key point, your freelance rate sheet is for your eyes only.
Anyone who says:
You need a rate sheet online for clients to take you seriously
You need a rate sheet or clients won’t contact you
Needs to be ignored.
You do need a rate sheet, but it’s for your reference only. Don’t put it online and don’t send it to clients?
Because Every Client is Different
Want to earn a flat rate for every single blog post you write? Does every single white paper require the same amount of work?
No. So why should they be priced the same?
Let’s say your rate sheet lists blog posts for $100 and attracts two prospects.
The first prospect needs 500 word articles with little to no research. You can bash these out in 45 minutes, not a bad rate.
Prospect number two needs 2000 word articles that require at least four references and maybe even an interview. These take a few hours each to complete. That $100 doesn’t sound so great now does it.
You talk to prospect number two saying these articles need a lot of attention and you’re going to have to charge a little more.
“That’s not what it says on your rate sheet.”
You’ve boxed yourself into an unfair rate with only two options. Make next to nothing for your work or lose the client.
Every job requires an individual quote, something you won’t be able to work out until you’ve spoken to the client and established their specific needs.
This is of course assuming you’re attracting clients, something I don’t think rate sheets help with because…
Freelance Rate Sheets Don’t Demonstrate Value
It’s a bunch of numbers with generic descriptions.
- Blog post – $50.
- Blog post and interview – $100
No one’s going to read that and think, ‘wow, this guy’s good’.
Sure you could jazz it up a little by adding some salesy type lingo to convince and persuade, but we all know a business owner is still going to use your fee as the deciding factor in their decision.
Landing clients ultimately comes down to how well you can hustle. Displaying your rates online makes it harder demonstrate the value that persuades prospects.
Prospects see your rates and make a snap decision. They’ll either:
- Balk at high rates
- See low rates and assume you’re crap
- Not want to negotiate on price
Instead of listing prices that cause snap decisions, demonstrate the value and benefits of using your service on your hire me page. Don’t mention price, focus on the results you’ll provide and get them to contact you.
Once a dialogue has been opened it’s your job to make the client need you. Highlight the value of using you, explain the benefits your writing will bring and you’ll be able to quote anything you want (within reason of course!).
Working Out Your Rates
So how much should you charge?
Well, there’s three ways to make this decision:
- Take a guess based on other writer’s rate sheets and test / amend as you progress
- Use this spreadsheet of writing charges to figure it out
- Calculate what you need to earn to survive
If you’re choosing option one or two then you can skip to the second spreadsheet.
Still here? Then we need to work out your minimum acceptable rate (MAR). I’ve written a whole article on the process here, but for those who want a quick fix amend the spreadsheet below to your needs.
Before you change the parameters you need to remember the following.
You work a nine hour day, but this doesn’t give you nine billable hours per day. Unfortunately client’s won’t pay you to market yourself and hunt other work, selfish gits! ( I’d estimate about five hours of billable time per day is reasonable).
Filled out the above and got your hourly MAR estimate? Good. Round it up to the nearest 10 and make a note of it because we’re going to need it again soon.
Now list all of the services you provide with an estimation of how long they take you to complete in hours.
Short form blog post = 1 hour
Long form blog post = 2 hours
No prizes for guessing what comes next. That’s right, multiply your MAR (hourly rate) by the time it takes you to complete each job and you’ve got yourself a good outline for your rate sheet.
Hold your horses, there’s more. Instead of just having a sheet listing prices I went ahead and created an interactive rates sheet.
To get the most out of the sheet I recommend listing primary and secondary services. What’s a secondary service you ask, things like research or interviews that facilitate a primary service.
The sheet comes with a ‘tick box’ function. Place an X in the D column of the services required and the spreadsheet calculates the total for you.
It’s a little hard to explain so I’ve come up with a set of hypothetical needs and an example spreadsheet.
- What service is needed? Blog posts
- Will I need to heavily research each post? No, they’re based on your own experience.
- Are any interviews required? Nope.
- This client also wants a five-part welcome email sequence. (Five deliverables, not five hours)
- Finally they need you to roll out a share schedule for each post on the major SM networks.
For any service that’s required pop an “X” in the D column and the spreadsheet will add up the fees for a final quote.
You can download your own copy of the spreadsheet here. Customise with the services you provide, the MAR we’ve just calculated and the number of hours that service would take to complete.
B column is for the MAR that we’ve calculated OR a flat fee if that’s how you price a particular service.
C column is for the number of hours the task takes you to complete OR if working on a flat fee the number of deliverables requested.
Digging these awesome spreadsheets? Fill in your email at the bottom and I’ll send you the ultimate client comparison spreadsheet. Ten minutes with this spreadsheet and you’ll know which clients are worth asking for extra work and which you’re better off without. You’ll see an increase in your earnings in no time!
I’d recommend keeping this spreadsheet on your desktop. It’s a rate sheet and automatic calculator to quickly get an accurate quote for each and every client.
You can even drop those Xs into the sheet as you talk over their needs eliminating the risk of a rush quote that leaves you needing extra money for rent!
That’s all there is to it. Easy, right?
Have you ever been put on the spot by a client and ended up offering your services at bargain basement prices?
Image – Edinburgh City of Print