2. Conduct your own financial analysis
“One of the mistakes that writers often make is trying to guess how much they should charge for something or how much they should bid on a project to be sure that the client will accept,” Moran says. “I think writers need to take a step back and really look at what their financial needs are.” That means the expenses you incur in running a business: a desired salary, taxes, office supplies, overhead.
The average service professional, Moran says, has 1,400 billable hours to sell every year. Take your expenses, divide by 1,400, and you get your hourly rate. Taking projects below that number means “you’re actually losing money on every project that you’re doing, and you’re increasing the load of how much more you’ll have to do to meet your expenses,” Moran says.
Cost is not the only reason to say no. Joseph D’Agnese, a veteran freelancer and co-author of The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs, advises writers to beware of “time-suck clients.”
These people weren’t content to hire a writer, sit back, and wait for the project to get done. In D’Agnese’s experience, it was “too much talking, hand-holding. They wanted advice. Then it was like, ‘Wait, am I a counselor on the publishing industry to you?’” Writers also need to learn to say yes. “As beginners, we don’t often know how much work we can achieve unless we push ourselves,” he adds. D’Agnese was nervous to pursue additional projects until he discovered he could juggle multiple assignments.
Moran advises writers not to undersell themselves. There are markets for humor writing and children’s books that pay well if you search them out. Moran has found them. She has been paid $1.50/word for her humor pieces. Or, if you can’t find those markets, social media makes it easy to cultivate a following and a reputation in a field of expertise while earning clips.