Do you charge by the hour or by the project? Do you send estimates or proposals? When do you require payment?
After much trial and error, and the guidance of a fabulous mentor. I have some pretty solid answers for these questions. Here they are and my reasons why:
1. I charge by the project.
- This is for the sake of clarity. I found that when I charged by the hour, it ended up being an invitation to a negotiation. When I said something took 10 hours, there were questions (‘did it really take you that long?’) and I felt that my time and my work were devalued.
- A wise, wise person once said to me, “I build websites twice as fast as I did 5 years ago and my skill and experience levels have quadrupled. If I was charging by the hour, I’d be making half the amount for far better work.” This is a golden statement because it is so true. One of my strengths is my speed. Typically, I write very fast and charging by the hour would penalize me for this instead of honoring my ability to deliver high quality work quickly.
- Concepting time. Now who can place an hourly value on this most important part of any creative process? Sometimes I eat lunch, sometimes I read my favorite blogs, sometimes I walk my dogs, sometimes I write free form – but my mind is always working and suddenly, blam!, I’ve got it. The concept is there and the writing begins.
2. I send proposals. I found that when I sent an estimate such as 6-8 hours, clients set their sights on the lower number and again there was a lot of wiggle room. With a proposal, everyone is clear about what will be done and exactly how much it will cost.
3. I require payment before I begin any project. For one time projects, I require 50% before I write a word and then the final 50% at the project’s completion. For ongoing projects, like blogging, I require payment for the upcoming month before it begins. I know some people won’t send the final draft until they have the last check, but I haven’t had to go that far.
- As a freelancer these methods are critical to keeping the cash moving. I’ve had many projects where I’ve completed the bulk of the work and the client gets busy and hasn’t done the final proof…and on and on…until it’s been 8 months and I haven’t seen a dime.
- When working with a new client, protect yourself and get the money first. I hate to think the worst, but there are bad people out there who will take your work and then disappear. Of course, with established clients or close-knit referrals, you can bend this rule if you need to due to time constraints.
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