Saturday, November 9, 2013

Freelancers Unite! So we can make millions of dollars! - NOT!

I'm sick of freelancers posting that we should be earning more money and whining because people underbid them on jobs. One said we shouldn't charge less than 0.50 per word! Regardless of the project! Really? None of the people who posted to this discussion and agreed with this silly rate had famous names like Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. Yet these people think the $0.02 per word (that I charge) is slave labor, and I am giving it away free. Yes, my writing/translating rates are about to increase to $0.03 - $0.05. I also charge based on a sliding scale depending on the job (Editing is $2-$4 per page) and if I have an established relationship with the employer or not (The longer I have known you the more flexible I will be in my pricing).

Let me put what these overpriced freelancers are asking in perspective:

I just wrote a book (in about three months – I do not freelance full time) of 70,000 words that I am planning on submitting for traditional publication or if that fails, self-publishing. Either way, I will put time and effort into promoting/marketing this book, and I will, of course, assume some or all of the risk – my income from it will depend upon sales. All in all, I expect to make about $25,000 off of this book over time. (This book is different from the children's book I am self-publishing in a few weeks.)
By their standard flat rate of 50 cents per word, if an employer hired me for this book, gave me the idea of what to write about, and then assumed ALL the risk for it, I, a no name freelancer who will assume none of the risk nor spend any time promoting it, should charge him $35,000 to write it. The freelance editor should then charge him another $35,000 to edit it (times however many editors he likes to use, I prefer three). The proofreader should charge $35,000, as well. So, those who support this outrageous rate are saying that freelancers, who once again assume none of the risk and frequently are not famous or even known, should charge more for a book than what someone who is an outright author should earn.

The bottom line is that people buying books will only pay so much. That means the people hiring you are only going to get so much for it. If I write an awesome, award winning novel and charge $50 per paperback book copy – I am not going to sell very many books no matter how much I promote it. If I am an awesome science fiction author, I may sell millions of books, but I am limited by the number of people who like to read science fiction. If I write articles for a magazine, I am limited in what I can charge by the number of people who subscribe to the magazine and the number of authors submitting their articles to it.

If you want to be a freelancer, my advice is to research the market and find out what other freelancers are charging - regardless of where they live (please note: NOT in discussion boards where you can say you earn tons of money- look at their profiles and look at the projects and how much they actually earned). That is why I like Guru. I can see what others charge, and I can look at their posted work samples, so I can charge competitively with others who produce the same quality of work. However, when you are just beginning, don't expect to make the same that someone who has a proven track record makes.

Why? I give you this example - When I hired 5 freelancers for one job, 2 were old pros. They completed the job quickly, kept up good communication throughout it, and provided me with quality work. Three of the freelancers were new and had not made over $1000. Of them, one was close to making $1000. He completed the work like an old pro. The other two neither communicated with me, nor completed the work. When an employer hires a new freelancer, he or she is taking on more of a risk with a newer person than an older one. One of the old pros was asking a higher rate and the up and coming one was asking the same (I negotiated a lower rate with the up and coming one). The other old pro was asking the same amount as one of the bad newbies. The third (also bad) newbie was asking a little less than all the others.

My point is, if you are new, you are a risk. I will not even hire people with no feedback as a general rule. But, if you have a service I need, are low priced, and I have time to hire someone else if you fail, I consider it. Regardless of how good you are - being new means more risk to your employer. The way to get them to take that risk is to show them good samples and offer an introductory rate. Start out asking 50 cents per word, and I guarantee I will have made more in my first year of freelancing than what you will make during yours.

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