Freelancing Post: Email is the Best (or: “Quote What You’re Worth”)

So, I ghostwrite. This is a thing that happens. I know there are a lot of conflicting opinions about that, so I’ll be posting a little more about it at some point. For today, what matters is that, as I delved into online Op Eds about ghostwriting, I found a quote from an actual ghostwriter: “Never accept a ghostwriting job for a novel for less than $X.”

I have been charging 1/7th of that price.

Now, in my defense, there are a lot of rules that don’t need to be followed, especially when you have bills to pay, and this person was writing for one of the big publishers with a bit more cash to spend than your average person. Still, it stuck around in the back of my head: “this is a thing I could do someday as I keep getting experience.”

And then last night, I had the opportunity to put it into practice. I’ve written, at this point, 30 stories of various lengths for clients. I’ve edited more than that. I’ve written in multiple genres and seen my projects top various genre charts.

…Which is where email comes in, because quoting what you’re worth is freaking terrifying, but when you quote by email, no one can see your face. Ha. So, follow the handy dandy steps below if you need to be quoting someone on a job today:

  1. Remove the person’s email address from the “to” box. This makes it impossible to send the email by accident.
  2. Courteous greeting, and a thank you to them for reaching out to you.
  3. Mention the sample work you have included so that they can see if your skills are right for the project (and make sure to put those attachments in now so you don’t forget).
  4. Time for the quote calculation.
    1. First, write down your hourly rate – and I don’t mean the one you’ve been working for. I mean the one you said you were going to work up to. Just write it down longhand. That’s all you have to do with it for now (baby steps).
    2. Next, consider how many hours it will take you to do this project.
    3. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you tacked a silent, “assuming I really push myself hard,” onto the front of that hourly calculation. Recalculate hours if necessary.
    4. Multiply the number of hours by somewhere between 1.25 and 1.5 to account for edits and rework. You should have a sort of instinctive idea of how much the client will require. Remember that in creative work, as in any other types of work, it is good to minimize rework by communicating expectations up front – but that unlike in other types of work, rework is pretty much unavoidable at some level.
    5. Now multiply THAT number by your hourly rate. This is your quote.
    6. If necessary, take a small breath to hyperventilate. Drink a glass of water. Do jumping jacks or push-ups to work off any adrenaline rush.
  5. Take a deep breath, and type this number into a coherent sentence: “For this project, I would charge $_____.” Note that this includes all rework.
  6. Add a sentence or two encouraging them to ask if they have any additional questions about past projects, experience, etc.
  7. Courteous sign-off.
  8. If there’s someone around, ask them to read over the email. If there’s no one around, check it very carefully for grammar issues and typos.
  9. Add the email address back in.
  10. Hit “send.”
  11. Make yourself a mug of tea and try to give yourself a little treat (dance to a favorite song, walk in the sunshine, etc.) You’re awesome. You did it!

You can do it! And you can keep doing it. Remember, quoting what you’re worth means you will get better clients over time. You will not drain yourself to scrape by. You will have time to do better work. It’s scary, but it’s worth it!


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