It's inevitable that some clients will want me to quote an hourly rate. But in most cases I prefer to charge by the project rather than by the hour (at least for shorter-term projects). Why? Let me explain.
Writers Have a Process
Writing is an entire mental, creative process. And this process can vary depending on the day, subject, format, audience, and any number of other factors.
The reality is that some pieces are easier to pull together and others are more difficult. And sometimes we don't know this until we get there. When you ask a writer to work by the hour you're essentially asking them to interrupt their natural process and conform to requirements for a specific payment time frame.
And what this means is that sometimes you won't get their optimum product. Why? Because if a piece proves more challenging than expected, you force the writer to make shortcuts to stay within time limits. And is that what you really want when you're paying for professional copy?
Writing Times Vary
Every project is different, and when I quote a flat fee I'm agreeing to write until the job is done. This frees me up to spend as much time as I need to on a project without having to worry about it costing more than expected for the client. Because honestly, sometimes targeted writing is a slow process that requires time to do well. And as a professional I want to be able to take that time.
Let me give you an example. I write quite a few book jackets these days that require me to not only wade through books and pull information together, but to write copy that targets a specific reader and sells the book effectively. My client pays me by the project and not by the hour, which gives me the freedom to write in the way I need to. So completing each book jacket looks something like this:
If you look at my process, I've actually spent several hours of my day getting this project done. But my client has given me the freedom to break up my writing in the way that allows me to produce the best copy without me having to worry about tracking time and staying within a certain limit. So what he receives is the best copy I can produce.
If I were to charge him by the hour I'd have to eliminate the "gelling" time in between writing and try to pump it out in one or two sittings. Which means he'd get a sliver of my full writing potential, and in the end it would negatively affect his ability to sell the book and undersell myself as a professional.
Which brings me to...
Things Need Time to Gel
As writers we need the freedom to step away from a project (sometimes multiple times) to let it gel together. We write all day long, and sometimes our brains need a break to figure out how to pull the final copy together.
Have you ever heard about the importance of downtime for creativity, and how the most creative insights come when you're not actually working? This is especially true for writers. Sometimes I will write something that just doesn't work and I won't be able to fix it in that sitting. So I'll have to step away for a while to let my brain detach, refresh, and come up with something new.
It's just what we do.
So when I have to worry about time and hourly fees this freedom is mostly taken away from me. And I end up having to focus more on the clock and less on the writing, which isn't good for anyone.
Have more questions about my process? Feel free to reach out and ask! Or browse my website to learn more about some of the projects I've worked on and what I can do for you.
12/8/2013 04:09:31 am
I enjoyed your post, Liz. Figuring out the best way to charge my clients is one of my biggest challenges. Like you, I prefer to charge by the project. However, do you ever find that you've undercharged and, if you worked it out, discover you're actually working for a unacceptable hourly rate?
Elizabeth C Armenta
12/8/2013 04:22:09 am
I guess I have been doing it so long that I rarely underestimate. Although yes, one project this year ended up being more work than expected and I lost out financially! I find it helpful to come up with an hourly rate I would like to gross for a particular project, then estimate how many hours the project will take, and go from there.
12/11/2013 09:50:59 am
Hi from NZ.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to my blog. Please use the Category links below to find topics of interest to you, or just scroll through current postings.
Receive new postings via email: