On Writing: A. Putting it on paper B. What rate should you charge

Recently, the Federation of B.C. Writers asked members to respond to the following two questions.

A. Do you write on a computer? Typewriter? Using pen and paper? Why do you prefer the mode of writing you use? What are the problems you experience when you try to write any other way?

AND

B. “I wonder if the federation offers any resources that help freelancers get an idea of price recommendations for various services,” wrote the member. “There’s a lot of confusing information out there and aside from the going per word rate for local publications it’s hard to know how to charge for things like white papers, newsletter and annual reports etc. Do you have any idea where I might find that sort of guidance?” 

The following are my answers.

painting cover for Kittens and Stars, sm

For illustrations, I prefer watercolour, or watercolour and ink. Watercolour gives me the range of colours and edges I want, and sometimes happy surprises when I use wet in wet. Ink gives me precise drawings when those are called for.

Sometimes I write text by hand. Things such as poetry if I happen to be out and about, or a short descriptive piece. When I’m blocking out elements such as character traits or possible story lines, or doing research, I also tend to write by hand because it seems to help me retain the material better. However, when I start to write a story or a novel, I park myself at the computer. The ease of typing, correcting typos, and editing blocks of text allows my thoughts to flow and lets me get much more done than when I write by hand, not to mention it saves me from hand cramps. A welcome side effect of using the computer is that I don’t smudge the work the way I do in handwriting—because I’m left-handed, and in North America we write from left to right. Words get smudged and smeared as my hand and arm move across the paper. No matter the angle I might turn the page at, the copy is never clean.

To set rates for contracted work, one really needs a handle on:

• exactly what work is required

•how long the task will take

•what expenses will be incurred to complete it

•what do your competitors charge for the same work

•what is your time worth to you

•what is it worth to the client

•how experienced are you at doing this particular job

 

For instance: a prospective client approaches you to do a brochure for their business. This will entail graphics, text, set-up/design, printing, folding and delivering the finished brochures. Rates will differ if you are required to supply the graphics, design and text, or just some of these elements. They’ll differ again depending on whether you’re also contracting to print, fold, cut and deliver the finished product, and whether you choose and supply the paper for said printing, or the client does.

 

If you’ve years of experience under your belt, chances are you will be much faster at it, and there likely won’t be the ‘practice’ failures that sometimes accompany the learning curve that occurs when one is doing a job for the first time. Experience should equal a much faster turn-over time with a quality result. ‘Should’ but it isn’t always the case (something prospective clients might want to keep in mind). Checking the rates and results (quality of product, satisfaction of customers) of those who offer the same services is beneficial for both a potential service provider, and potential customers.