When to Take Hourly Contracts vs Fixed Price

When to Take Hourly Contracts vs Fixed Price

The vast majority of clients on freelancing sites don’t care whether a client opts for a fixed price or hourly contract. This is especially true of clients that are new to the site, but it’s also true for many others. They have a set budget in mind so they typically opt for fixed price, but if they think that the job will be better suited to an hourly contract, or if that’s the only option available, they’ll be more than happy to switch over.

And this is key, because knowing when to take hourly jobs and when to take fixed price jobs is essential for increasing your profits as a freelancer.

Fast Writing — Fixed Price

If you’re fast, fixed price is usually the way to go. The average client doesn’t understand how quickly professional writers work. They assume that it takes you an hour or two to write 500 words, and they assume this because that’s probably how they remember writing essays at university. They do a quick calculation in their heads, accounting for research, planning, writing and editing, and they arrive at that number.

In actual fact, most writers can reel off a 1,000 piece in less than an hour and more experienced writers can do it in half an hour. If you’re one of these, you should be charging a fixed price. To the average client, a fixed price of $0.10 a word looks much more realistic and manageable than an hourly fee of $100. In actual fact, you’re probably making a lot more than $100 an hour, but because they’re expecting you to write slowly, they just don’t see it.

Let them think that you’re slow, as that way they’ll assume they’re paying less for your time than they actually are.

Novels and Memoirs — Hourly

If you’re a fast writer and have some experience writing novels and nonfiction books, it may make more sense to opt for a fixed price, especially taking into account what we discussed above. But the writing is not the issue here, it’s everything else that will be expected of you.

Clients looking for short nonfiction books that they can turn into eBooks will take what you give them, assuming it’s well written. They just want a well written book that they can quickly publish and sell. In those cases, fixed price is fine. But for memoirs, fiction, and pretty much any book that comes with extensive guidelines, hourly works best.

Anyone paying you to write about their life or to write according to a vision they have will almost certainly want you to rewrite parts, do extensive edits, or make room for their insane and often poorly-written additions. It’s one of the facts of life of being a freelancer, and if you’re on a fixed price contract, you’re effectively doing all that extra work for free.

In the short term it’s going to feel like an hourly contract is earning you less than a fixed price one, and for the first draft that will certainly be the case, but it’ll pay off in the long run. It also means that you don’t need to argue against edits knowing that they’ll be re-edited later. You’re being paid for every minute you work, so you can just do as they wish.

Emails and Tag Lines — Hourly

There is a huge need for promotional emails, tag lines, and other short copywriting tasks. Many clients assume that the same amount of work goes into these that goes into anything else, but that’s not the case and by charging them your usual per word rate you’re seriously underselling yourself.

A lot of thought can go into writing a single tag line, Twitter/Instagram post or email, and in the end you’re only writing 50 to 100 words. You spend a lot of the time thinking, which you won’t be paid for, and very little time writing, which you will be paid for. Hourly fee works best as you’re getting paid for all the process.

For example, imagine that you’re tasked with writing a 2,000 word piece on your favorite subject, one that you know off the top of your head, either because it’s an interest of yours or something you’ve written about a lot.

Your only limit is how fast you can type and how quickly you can proof what you read. You may knock it out in 45 to 75 minutes, which would earn you $100 at $0.05 per word. Now imagine that you’re writing 10 social media posts for a criminal defense attorney and you’re not versed in legal matters. You may need to spend half an hour researching the company and brushing up on the subject, another half an hour fretting over whether you’re coming across as knowledgable on the subject, and then an hour writing the posts and making sure they are short, snappy, informative, and everything else the client requires.

In the end you’ve spent a couple of hours writing what could amount to 300 or 500 words, earning you $15 to $25. The shorter the job and tougher the work, the more inclined you should be to work on an hourly contract.

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