The Sound of Silence
Back among the working again. The vacation was great! Perfect weather, too. Daughter and I had a blast.

I’m taking a small breather from the Beginner’s Series to answer a terrific question posed by Nikki. She asked what we should do when queries go unanswered or worse, ask for your rates. Here’s my take on it:

When you put your queries out for magazine/journal articles and they go unanswered, it used to be the standard wait time was six weeks before you nudged the editor. I say if it’s an email query and you hear nothing in two weeks, send a nudge on week three. It’s quite possible the email was lost. Lord knows we’ve all had emails go missing right there in our own in boxes. It doesn’t hurt to send a reminder and ask if the idea fits.

If, however, we’re talking about a query for a gig, the fact that it goes unanswered is a telling sign. Remember, most gigs will generate at least 100 or so query letters from hopefuls, so it’s not uncommon for the client to not respond at all if he/she has found someone else. However, do yourself the favor of sending a follow-up. Again, wait about three weeks before sending out a note asking if the client has found anyone and if you can be of any further help. I did this once after a few months of waiting and managed to score the gig because the person hired didn’t deliver. In fact, following up in a few months is always a good idea. Often, the client has settled for the low bidder, and cheaper isn’t always better.

On to the question of rates. I send my rates out willingly. I know there are clients out there looking for cheap writing. Frankly, those are clients I don’t think are serious enough about their projects for me to write for them. You should adopt the same thinking. If your price is going to deter them, then it’s a bad match for you both. So when asked, quote your hourly or project rate and do so without apologies or batting an eye. Get yourself to a point where you are comfortable asking for the price you quote. Nine chances out of ten you’re still too low for the market, but you need to accept your own worth before you can expect it from your clients.

Also, don’t get into “negotiations” on your fee. Your fee is your fee. You should offer payment options first and hold firm to your price. If you really want this project and you have a strong sense it will lead to more work in that area, lower your fee only after you offer payment options and have considered carefully how this will affect your work on this project. Know that your bottom line is acceptable to the most important person in this equation – you. For instance, if you bid $4,000 for a total website makeover and the client counters with $1,000, you have to be comfortable knowing that you’re getting one-quarter your fee for the same amount of work. Can you do it without resentment, especially when that client comes back for the fourth or fifth little fix or major revision? Factor it all in to your decision to lower the rate.

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  • Lillie Ammann July 27, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Glad y’all had a good vacation!

    I agree with being upfront with your rates. I have a pdf document with information for prospective clients, including my rates, on my blog. I’d rather not waste my time talking to people who can’t or won’t pay my rates. I will talk to authors seeking an editor, advise them to join a writers group, and refer them to resources on my Web site. Writers, after all, usually have limited resources.

  • Nikki July 28, 2007 at 2:07 am

    Lori! Thank you! I have about 3 people I want to send follow ups with and I just didn’t know how to do it. I am still fuzzy on how to word it. I know I don’t want to lead off with, “Hey! Remember Me?” Cause I know that odds are they don’t. I might look like any other writer to them. As for my rates, I feel much better that you have put what I was thinking and feeling out there in black and white. Thanks again!

  • alicia July 28, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    GREAT post, Lori. I’m a bit more lenient on my negotiations (sometimes I just really want to do the work for personal reasons) but that doesn’t happen often – or at all if I’m starving at the moment, haha.