Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Should Freelancers Charge by the Hour or by the Project?

Should freelancers charge by the hour or by the project? In other words, should you, as a freelancer, charge your clients a flat fee for doing what they need done, or do you quote them an hourly rate and then figure it out at the end?

The good news is, this is entirely up to you. There is no industry standard, that I know of. I've seen good writers do it either way. However, your client might prefer one way to the other, so be prepared to be flexible.

The Pros of Charging by the Hour:
Charging by the hour is great when you are just starting out. You might not know how much work a project is really going to be, so if you charge by the hour, you're covered. Similarly, if you are venturing into new territory, you may want to charge by the hour. I had written for several years before I was asked to do my first press kit, and I had no idea how long that would take me, so I charged by the hour. An hourly rate is also good if you are working with a, ahem, cough, particularly needy client. I once worked for a client who honestly believed that nothing was good enough. Ever. She demanded revision on top of revision. She would rewrite an article herself and then ask me to fix the grammar, which was more time-consuming than just writing the thing myself. I would have gone broke if I didn't charge by the hour.

The Pros of Charging a Flat Fee:
Clients often prefer a flat fee, as they know what they are committing to. I often prefer a flat fee because it prevents me from being chained to a clock. I like to carry my projects around with me and work on them a little here and a little there. Keeping track of every minute can quickly become tiresome. Most freelancers agree that charging a flat fee will make you more money in the end. The better you are, the faster you'll work. If it only takes you an hour to research and write a press release, and you only charge $40 per hour, then you're going to make $40 writing a press release, when most people charge at least $100 for this task. If you had said that you charge $100 an hour, you may have scared off your client, but asking for a flat fee usually doen't have the same terrifying effect. One more plus: sometimes we moms have good hours and bad hours. Sometimes a 500 word article will take me an hour. Sometimes it will take me three, because I'm exhausted and I have to keep stopping to clean up potty accidents. So, charging by a flat fee can be more fair to the client.

This is not an all or nothing situation. You can do it both ways for a while and see what works best for you. And if you do end up charging a flat rate, you can certainly base it on your hourly rate. If you need to write a grant proposal, and you think it will take you five hours, then you can quote a flat fee based on your hourly rate times five.

It's your business. In the end, it's up to you!

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