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What to charge?

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What to charge?

Postby expatana » Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:32 am

Hi,

I'm in negotiation formy first freelance writing gig, for a webmaster in a field I'm mostly unfamiliar with who wants a "ghostwriter" to re-do his 86-page training manual. The manual is already written with all the info seemingly in the right place. What he really needs is not a ghostwriter per se but a good proofreader/editor and someone who's good with formatting in Word.

I'm a very experienced editor but I'm only about 80% on Word, not quite enough to do a paid job like this, as he wants things like professional Table of Contents done right, etc.

Since this is my first job, I have NO IDEA how to tell him it's not really a ghostwriting job. A ghostwriter writes something from scratch from notes/research done by the client. This document is all written.

Mostly, I have no idea what to charge him.

Any ideas on how I can find out before the end of this week? Also, I know I've no right to make a client wait for my own learning curve. This job will take me longer than one done by someone who knows Word in and out ...

Thanks a mint,
Ana
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Postby Lynn Terry » Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:48 am

Can you not turn down the offer, and look for offers more suited to your expertise?
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Postby Jim Guinn » Wed Oct 17, 2007 10:50 am

Don't know if it will help....but, I do proofreading/editing (in addition to ghostwriting) for a couple of online companies. I charge $75 per hour.

If my lack of expertise or technical knowledge "slows me down" on a particular document or project, I usually charge 1 hour for every 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour I work to compensate.

Jim
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Postby expatana » Wed Oct 17, 2007 3:40 pm

Thanks, Jim. Do you normally do web-based work? Any clients ever grumble about making sure you bill the correct number of hours? After googling this topic a while back, and seeing varied charges and ways to charge (per page, per word, per hour) ... I'm inclined to also choose per hour. It's easier for both editor and client to figure out and honors the time we put in as well as our expertise.

You must have fabulous background or knowledge of specific fields. Your rates seem high based on my Google research into the field. Oh well ... good for you! I'm pleased to see a colleague getting paid what they're worth.

For that rate, do you do a lot of ghostwriting or total re-writing? My own professional knowledge is basically proofing/copy editing. Not sure I could go that high even if my formatting knowledge was beyond reproach.

And ... what do you, in your work, consider ghostwriting to be? I want to make sure I'm telling the truth to this client, that he doesn't actually need a ghostwriter -- someone to re-write from scratch, right?

Thanks guys. An intense night tonight figuring all this out. And Lynn, thanks for your response also. As for just turning down the job, I do have the copy editing experience and have been eager to get started doing this freelance as one of my income streams. I plan a website on this, also. It's hard enough to get your first clients.

I'd hate to lose a client just because of a learning curve in Word or formatting. I can always charge him under the actual time (one editor I've heard of, when confronted with a document requiring a learning curve, charges a 1-hour rate per 1 1/2 hour he does.

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Postby expatana » Wed Oct 17, 2007 3:45 pm

So Jim, you're the second editor I've heard of today who works "free overtime" to make up for learning curves. Ok, makes perfect sense. Getting there.

I really, really hope I can accept this job. This is a tough bird to break into, but once you've got your first clients (and testimonials), it gets easier to get work.

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Postby Jim Guinn » Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:35 am

Hi expatana.

Yes, I do mainly web-based work, but I have written manuals, also. To date, no one has complained about my billing hours. I think those I have worked for know they are getting a good deal. One thing I have going for me is my English degree and experience as an English teacher. Most of my jobs have been for people/companies whose first language is not English. Most of my work is rewriting or proof reading, but I have also written original text based on their needs. I consider ghostwriting to be the writer behind the published author, writing either from scratch or from the input of the customer, i.e. ideas, notes, facts, figures, etc.

Have you worked with Word before? It is really not that difficult to pick up.

Jim
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Postby expatana » Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:26 pm

Hi Jim,

Yes, I've used Word lots, just not all the features. The ones I'm being called upon to use here are tables of content (he really has them scrambled, no tabs set), a lot of listing of facts, margins and tabs, and headers and footers -- all of which I'm still learning and some of which have confused me in recent office jobs.

I did editing of business, scientific and academic documents translated from Japanese to English when I was teaching English in Japan. I got good at it, although since I didn't have Japanese, I had to do some guessing. I'd be far better with those from Spanish, which I know pretty well.

It wasn't my business to ask what you charged, or to comment on it publicly, but I appreciate your kind input there. If you don't mind ... how did you come to that figure? How did you research it? Did you start out charging that, or did you raise your rates as your experience grew?

Thanks,
Ana
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Postby Jim Guinn » Fri Oct 19, 2007 3:11 am

It wasn't my business to ask what you charged, or to comment on it publicly, but I appreciate your kind input there. If you don't mind ... how did you come to that figure? How did you research it? Did you start out charging that, or did you raise your rates as your experience grew?


No problem, Ana. I don't mind discussing it.

A couple of years ago I was approached by someone who owned a business and knew I could write. They offered me $75 an hour. I thought that was pretty good just for writing, so I accepted the job. I later learned from a friend who owns another online company that professional writers can get more, but $75 was a fair price. I've thought about raising it, but don't want to get greedy and lose jobs. I'm happy with the $75/hour.

Jim
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Postby expatana » Fri Oct 19, 2007 8:22 am

Hi Jim,

Wow, it seems you lucked out. I googled editing sites and the ballpark for proofreading/copy editing was $25-$40 an hour, with most sites actually charging by word or page. The average hovered around $18 per 1,000 words.

That was for proofing/editing only, not complete rewriting or ghostwriting, which was more. Some of those more advanced services may have hovered near what you charge.

I still haven't decided what I'm going to charge him. Another forum is advising me to charge $25 per hour, with one page each half hour, making the fee about $1,000. But my Google research says no, it's not a competitive rate.

But it's a big job, with not only some heavy editing but lots of formatting.

Thanks again,
Ana
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Postby expatana » Sun Oct 21, 2007 2:36 pm

Hi,

In my full reading of the document, I'm finding my biggest challenges are that I'm not in his industry and therefore have questions about the organization and jargon, and the MS Word formatting. I'm not finding the answers I need directly from Word, so in this respect I can't honestly market myself here as an expert since I'm not yet.

Would any of you consider discounting in exchange for a simple website made (he's a webmaster who also does that), and being honest about my lack of Word expertise?

And, Jim, do you charge full fee (for editing, not writing) even when you're not familiar with the industry itself? He could easily get someone who is, as I've found in my research ...

He's going to want to know by tomorrow at the latest.

Thanks,
Ana
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Postby Jim Guinn » Mon Oct 22, 2007 11:00 pm

And, Jim, do you charge full fee (for editing, not writing) even when you're not familiar with the industry itself? He could easily get someone who is, as I've found in my research ...


Yes, I always charge the full fee, but may not charge for the full time (1 hr for 1 1/4 or 1 1/2) if I have to play some "catch up".

Jim
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Postby expatana » Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:07 pm

Is there any chance this thread can be bumped or something? I have set my fee for this job and emailed the potential client. He was most eager before ...

Now after hearing my fee, which was well within the ballpark for what I'd be doing (much lower than yours, Jim), and even on the low side, he's hedging, saying he's "not ready yet," he may be in a couple of weeks. But the hardest part for a beginner like me is ...

He wants my samples. I don't have any. I just plain forgot about this necessity. You see, I wasn't quite ready to market this yet when I met him at the seminar.

All I have is a freebie I did for another webmaster, a very simple editing job that has none of the substantive work I'd be doing for this guy. It's no longer marked. And I'm not sure I'm allowed to show it to others anyway.

It would take me considerable time to make up "fake" samples to show him (is that what you use to start out -- fake samples?), then mark them all up, in the time required. He's naturally expecting a pro to send them right on.

Help! How in the world do you get started?

Ana
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Postby Steve MacLellan » Wed Nov 28, 2007 6:19 pm

Hi Ana,

Help! How in the world do you get started?


I'm not Jim. And although I'm not new to web development, there is still sometimes that I suck up some of the time on jobs due to a learning curve. For example, if I'm working with new scripts that I've never used before. It's one thing to install them... but often these days, it's an entirely different thing learning how to use them. In my opinion, Jim gave you really good advice.

When I first started out, I did web development free for a few clients. It allowed me to get some experience behind me. Plus other then doing complete websites, I took on a number of smaller jobs installing scripts and fixing other problems various people were having.

This free work gave me something of value, besides the experience. When I started charging for my work I had a portfolio and testimonials from satisfied clients. This might be something you could consider.

Over-all, you're definitely on the right track. You're starting your own business, and you're doing the research it seems on pricing your service. You definitely want to price yourself to be in the ballpark, if you're going to be charging. Unless a client knows they are getting a reduced fee because you're starting your own business, pricing your services too low is just as bad as pricing them too high. Jim can charge what he does. He's been in the business and been around it for a long time. Once you get a few years behind you, you can increase your prices.

Best Regards,
Steve MacLellan
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Postby expatana » Wed Nov 28, 2007 7:39 pm

Hi Steve, Jim and group,

I've been mostly absent from the group recently, getting the job done, now that he's hired me. I ended up having to subcontract out for some of the formatting, because I'm not 100% on Word, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- the person I hired did a lousy job and I'm having to spend hours learning to correct her!!! My client wants his final revision this Friday.

Pressure!! I can't believe I have to correct someone I'm paying who I thought was an expert -- and I don't know how to correct her.

It's turned out to be pretty bad.

Thanks for your good advice. I definitely didn't undercharge, and I don't feel I overcharged, either. I had to be careful this first time, because as you said, Steve, this is my very first paying job and I don't know everything. So I couldn't charge the moon. Then, I have to pay the (incompetent) formatter the agreed-upon fee, so I'm not getting much for an enormous job.

Oh well ...

See ya,
Ana
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Postby Steve MacLellan » Wed Nov 28, 2007 8:13 pm

Hi Ana,

Sometimes it's hard to get good help...

I don't know if this will help, but if you're working for a webmaster and you need to format a lot of html for his manual, you can copy the code into lots of text html editors (many you can download for free), format the code there, and most of these editors will color the various elements.

Then you just copy and paste it into Word.

Here is an example taken from a new page I'm doing for a client. I opened my text editor with the html document, copied the code and pasted it into Word. For this example, I've converted it into a pdf file, but this is just so you can see what it would look like. Example here: http://homebusiness-websites.com/format.pdf

You will see it maintained the same formatting and color from the text editor -- without ever having to know about how to do all of this by tabbing and Tables in Word.

Best Regards,
Steve MacLellan
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