It's been a good week. Coming off a really rough re-entry (lots of work the two days after I got back), I was able to step back this week, rearrange the schedule, and buy myself a little wiggle room to readjust. I begged off the project offer I mentioned yesterday. Yes, I could have taken it if the client would come up in price (not sure he wouldn't have), but I'd have been sick within a week from stress. Limits are sometimes necessary. Today I'm getting some ideas out to a new client in hopes of helping him get more press in a new area of concentration.
Except for those times when clients either dictate your rates (which means you walk away) or have set rates (magazines), you're going to be asked what your fee is. Show of hands - how many choke and don't know exactly what to say? How many balk because if you're too high, the client may disappear? I used to be like that, too. Then I learned that the clients who don't pay what I'm worth aren't my clients.
So, how do you answer that question? It isn't always easy to know what a project will cost. So here are some suggestions on what to say:
I charge $XXX an hour. Just say it. Own it, too. Don't say it as though you're expecting that nun with the ruler to slam down across your knuckles. Say it as though you're already earning it and have no troubles continuing to do so. If you've done your homework, you've determined what hourly rate will cover your bills and give you the profit you're aiming for.
May I ask what your budget is? It's as fair a question as what your rates are, yet how many of us shrink away from it? Don't. If you're to build a partnership with this client, you both have to be upfront about what you can and cannot accept in terms of cost and fees. Neither of you are buying a used car - no need to be dodgy or vague.
Can you send me more project information? Suppose the client says she wants a "smallish" e-book edited. You have it in your head it's no more than 50-80 small pages. However, once the contract is signed you realize she's talking about a 400-page, single-spaced tome with 8-point font. And she expects you to double check every quote and fact, of which there are hundreds. Get as much information on the project as you can before quoting the price.
Here's my price based on XX number of hours. It's okay to give an estimate that may not be an exact representation of the final cost. That's why it's called an estimate. If you think it will take 25 hours to complete, but you're not sure, say so. Mention your flat fee at that point along with your hourly rate for any work over that estimate.
How do you answer the "What's your price?" question?