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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Am I being ripped off? Freelancing for a profit

For me one of the hardest parts of any freelance business dealing is coming up with a price for my work...
On the one side, I want to make money from my earnest efforts and on the other side, I don't want to come in so high that I lose out to a competitor...

So how do you work out a fair price for both parties? This generally varies from job to job. For instance, a straight training job is a fixed price for a fixed amount of time or a price per person on a course - easy. The problem is when you are asked to quote for a bigger job such as editing a document. Most people charge RX per page but the problem here lies within the pages.

One document may need minimal editing whilst another almost a complete rewrite. So again, you have to come up with a middle of the road price that won't see you coming out at R50 per hour... There's also the number of pages involved and whether you're going to get regular work from this company.

See some samples

So the price boils down to per hour or per page. If you can have a good look at the job beforehand, you should be able to work out just how much to charge. At the very least, you must be able to see some sample pages to get a feel of the work.

Bear in mind also that 'editing' can mean different things:
• Proofreading - the easiest work where you just have to correct grammar and spelling - without reworking the text.
• Copy editing - this is where you improve the style, formatting and accuracy. Check that there aren't inconsistencies and that the style flows well. This obviously includes everything you would do when proofreading. If this falls into a specific category such as medical or financial, it will also include extensive fact checking which should also be factored into your price.
• Content editing - This is the hardest, most intensive type of editing where you may have to take raw material and create content whilst doing all the above...

Another approach to pricing that I've learned over the years (thank you Chris Moerdyk) is rather than give a price for a project ask what their budget is? Generally, it's more than you were going to ask for.

And then there's consultancy work. Just how much are you worth to someone on a one-to-one basis? This is perhaps the trickiest area of all. I do, basically, have one hourly rate that I charge but occasionally you have to judge again whether to drop your price in certain circumstances. Don't be too rigid otherwise you may go hungry.

Perhaps the one policy that's paid off best for me is to try and give your absolute best to each and every job you do and that way your new client can turn into your old client...

About Marion Scher

Marion Scher ( is an award-winning journalist, lecturer, media trainer and consultant with 25 years' experience in the industry. For more of her writing, go to her Bizcommunity profile or to Twitter @marionscher.
Sid Peimer
Thanks for covering this for us freelancers.I charge R1 500 per hour. But boy, what an hour.
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 14:59
Pat Pughe-Parry
There are 2 ways of looking at "going hungry". The one is losing a job because we are charging too much (or so we are told) or secondly accepting work at rates which are an insult to our capabilities and experience. Having spent far too many years doing the latter I am finally learning that over delivering, fighting with clients who don't respect what I do, delaying payment etc .... because I let them, is no longer acceptable to me.When we start commanding respect for our work and our time, the decent clients respond in kind.It is surprising the response when I do get tough and stand up for myself. Just wish I had done it years ago.
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 15:17
Marion Scher
Agree with you both. I'm also learning that if you don't ask you don't get...
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 15:47
Sid Peimer
Well said Pat. These are my 7 'rules':1. Always take 50% deposit to initiate (or a PO number from larger clients). 2. Be available at all times (except when in meetings)3. If you have been given verbal brief, respond with your written understanding of the brief, and wait for their response before even thinking (even when the brief seems cut and dried). To be honest, I break this one once in a while.4. Never deliver on time – if the job needs to be there first thing in the morning, the actual deadline is the previous day.5. Always be 15 minutes early for meetings. If you get there a long time before, make some calls on your cell. Don’t do that in the street though – must be somewhere secure. Apologising for being early is a doddle compared to apologising for being late. Everyone understands it is difficult to judge traffic.6. Never allow the client to manage your mood. Always know you tried your best and that you have the right to make mistakes once in a while.7. If the invoice has not been paid there was no job to begin with.
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 15:51
Pat Pughe-Parry
Thanks Sid, 2. Agreed but we also need boundaries. Even if we choose to work at 3am it is not appropriate for our clients to contact us at that time .... unless we invite them to.6. Really like this point but hard to do sometimes. Keeping emotions in check and managing my self talk is a challenge.7. Hear hear!
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 16:00
tai chishakwe
Great post and an even great conversation afterwards. Glad passed by here!
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 16:10
Carolyn Cramer
An enduring challenge for me too Marion - particularly as I focus on the NGO sector who often plead poverty :)
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 16:28
Leon Schnell
Marion, this isn't just a freelance dilemma - show me a full-time staff member who is happy that they're being paid what they deserve. In our minds, we're all one lucky break away from our billionaire potential being converted into billionaire reality, but to our employers/clients, any price above zero is a grudge-purchase unless you can command a premium for your lifestyle benefits or guaranteed sales improvements ('value' to make you feel better. There's no substitute to allowing people to form a personal relationship with you, because after that pricing becomes more of a non-issue ... the decision has already been made. With corporates it's still a challenge though because the person who is your fan isn't always the person signing the PO.Where everybody thinks they're a writer and COULD do your job if they just could find the time, you're going to always have to fight. People need to treat you as a specialist rather than an out-sourced time-saver, or you're always going to lose.
Posted on 19 Jun 2014 18:35
Right said Fred
Something that should be engraved on the heart of every freelancer: You're only as good as your last job.
Posted on 20 Jun 2014 05:28
Donnette Davis
Sid, Absolutely love what you have written. It is particularly gut-wrenching when you have given your heart, soul, extra time and effort, completely over delivered on a contract and the following year client requests the same level of bar, for less than half of agreed contract price for previous year because although the results of the work are acknowledged, client has really no idea of how you made it happen, and so undervalues your contribution and input, while at the same time praising it. Talk about dilemma!Never sell yourself short! You work hard to specialise in a field. If Joe Painter quotes me on my house painting job and I accept it, he's a specialist and has quoted well below market trends, and he does a fabulous job, is it really reasonable of me to ask him to please come in the following year at 30% of last year's job because although my budget has increased overall I decided to cut the painting budget?I just never understand this aspect but it seems to have become the norm, and I really have developed the opinion that bad business can happen any day! I have taken jobs on, just to get them, which have ended up costing me more than what I have been paid ultimately. You're worth every dime of your hard-earned remittance. Don't settle or undersell just for the sake of getting the job.
Posted on 20 Jun 2014 07:31
Donnette Davis
I had to repost, and now sit with two posts, apologies, and I can't delete the first which says "socialist" and not specialist! Oops!
Posted on 20 Jun 2014 07:33
Rod Baker
Hi Donette. Sorted
Posted on 23 Jun 2014 05:42
Carl Roodnick
Rule-of-thumb beats thumb-suck when it comes to putting a price on your consulting value.Decide on your (cost-to-company) worth per month. Then calculate what that translates to per hour. That's your flat-rate consulting fee.
Posted on 23 Jun 2014 16:58