How a Freelance Writer Made Thousands in Extra Cash With Zero Additional Effort

Carol Tice

How a Freelance Writer Made Thousands in Extra Cash With Zero Additional Effort. Makealivingwriting.comDid you ever feel like you underbid a freelance writing job, and left money on the table?

It’s a common problem. Now that I’m listening to a lot of new writers in the Freelance Writers Den forums, I’m discovering that writers at all levels of experience have a strong tendency to bid too low.

They feel insecure about their skills, or just don’t have an idea of what would be a fair rate.

This isn’t good.

When you underbid, you rip yourself off.

What you don’t ask for as a freelancer, you don’t get. And then you have no one to blame but yourself that your earnings are lower than you’d like.

When you bid higher and get a gig, you have a chance to earn more while doing the exact same amount of work. Desirable, yes?

But bidding is tricky. There’s no one answer to what to charge — every project is different.

I recently did two project bids where I ended up earning thousands of dollars beyond what I originally thought I might make. I used two different strategies anybody can use to earn more.

Here they are:

1. Negotiate

I was recently offered a chance to write six chapters of a business book. Sounds exciting, yes?

But the rate the prospect initially came to me wasn’t: Only $700 per 3,000-word chapter.

So I politely inquired if they might be willing to pay more.

“$700 for 3,000 words sound low to me,” I wrote. “The figure I had in my head was about double that, but maybe we can find some middle ground?”

They came back with an offer of $900, and said they were willing to commission eight chapters at that rate immediately. So that was $1,800 more for getting two additional chapters, plus $1,600 more for asking for a higher rate, for a total of $3,400 more. Simply for pulling the Oliver Twist thing and asking for more.

Since this client may have more work in future, the add-on earnings could continue to roll in if I get additional projects — one key reason locking in a high rate early is important. You want to establish as high a baseline as you can, in case more work is coming. So much easier than asking for a raise later on.

2. Ask another writer

I was getting ready to bid on a large government contract that needed to be done on a rush basis. I had done my calculations on how long the work might take, and thought I might ask for $10,000.

Then I ran that idea by one of my best writer friends. I described the project and told her my bid.

“I think that’s way too low!” she said. “Personally, I might bid double that.”

Wow! What a reality check. I was too chicken to come up that much…I honestly didn’t think this public agency would go for it.

But I did raise my bid by about 30 percent. It was accepted without any objection — the client basically didn’t even blink.

So there’s another few thou, just for getting a quick reality check from a friend.

Now that I’ve done the work, I’m grateful I took the time to adjust my quote, as dealing with government bureaucracy is something less than a picnic. Always eats up more time than you can imagine up front…so glad I put in a bit more wiggle room to support earning a good hourly rate despite the red-tape time.

It doesn’t take long to ask a client if there’s any wiggle room in their pricing, ask a writer-friend’s opinion of your price, ask for feedback on your price on a writer chat forum — or to grab a copy of The Writer’s Market and look at their survey data on typical rates.

But the payoff could be big.

How do you determine your price for freelance writing? Leave a comment and let us know.

16 Comments

  1. M. Sharon Baker

    Happy to help Carol. You’ve been a great sounding board for me too.

    It does help to have similar caliber writer to bounce things off of and discuss a project’s requirements. I recommend that everyone finding a writing buddy.

    Thanks for the plug. 🙂

  2. Jane

    Asking other writers certainly helps a lot, coz sometimes (well, a lot of times) we won’t know the amount of time and effort involved in the product. Someone who is already working on a similar project could help a lot in this direction.

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