I make my living writing, but I should get paid for talking. I do a lot of it. One freelance friend and I commiserate regularly (yes, that’s the right word) on the ills that befall the profession. We also chat up ideas and tips, including this most recent one – don’t quote an hourly rate.
Honestly, I’d never heard this. Yet there it was apparently in some magazine or website post. As he read it, I scratched my head. The notion, according to what he’d read, was that quoting an hourly rate gets clients in the “justify your time” mode. It seems like a pretty logical leap from hourly to that, doesn’t it? But in practice, that’s not happened to me.
I won’t say entirely. Some clients are concerned because they don’t have a lot of budget to work with. If they want to hold onto the purse strings a bit, why shouldn’t they? We’ve already had the discussion and talked about their ceiling prices. If they want to forgo this for that, fine. But in cases where this is a new-to-me client or project, no way I’m quoting a flat fee. Let me tell you a story:
Once upon a time, Lori took on a juicy new project. She was to create instructional content – a set number of study hours, which totaled a set number of pages. This was new content, and the client was assuring that the resources were readily available and the work was easy.
You see where this is going already, don’t you? Not only was the work nowhere near easy, the resources were like the Mojave – dried up and barren. And the page count? Yea, that wasn’t for your “standard” page. No, that turned out to be for a page that equaled 44 lines per page. Check out Word. Single-spaced pages are 36 lines each. And getting 44 lines on that page? I don’t know about Word 2007, but Word 2003, if it had referenced it at all, would have referenced something like “What? Are you joking?” Much of my time, my otherwise billable time, was wasted trying to figure out how to manage the impossible. And that was for the content too, mind you. The sources that were so plentiful were outdated.
So that project that I estimated would take 4 months to complete took 8 months. I hired on other writers to help. In the end, I don’t think I broke even. So no, I don’t think quoting a flat rate is a great idea. Not in this case, anyway.
It’s true that sometimes we can make a good estimate on project length and our costs. But it’s not always so. My rule has been if I haven’t worked with them before, if their project scope isn’t easy to determine from one or two conversations, I’m quoting hourly.
Which do you prefer? How have clients responded?