Like the military, the ethos of freelancing can be summarized as “hurry up and wait.” The current and extended lockdowns due to COVID-19 exacerbate the problem. Ohio is under a stay-at-home order until May 4.

So, we wait.

We wait for the lockdown to be lifted, to once again gather with friends and family to revel in closeness and exchange hugs. The extended lack of personal human connection wears on the soul of even the most diehard introvert.

If you’re a freelancer, you wait for responses. First, you bid, then you wait. If a prospective client responds to your bid, then you discuss the project and wait some more for a decision and a signed contract. If the project proceeds, one must wait for the needed information before beginning the actual work. With ghostwriting, there’s more waiting. The ghostwriter submits the drafted content and waits for the client to review it and request changes. Finally, there’s the waiting for payment.

Some freelancers require a percentage of the project fee before beginning the work. That’s great when one knows the project scope. For extensive projects like novels, there’s often no telling how long the manuscript will be. The last ghostwritten novel I completed was estimated at 80,000 words and ended up at 104,000 words–quite a difference.

When the issue of fees comes up, questions arise. The fairest, most equitable method I have found for fees is based on word count. Per-page invoicing ignores the many variables that affect the quantity of content per page. Variables include margin width, font, font size, spacing, and leading. Lately, some potential clients specify their formatting requirements: letter size paper, 1/2-inch margins, 10 point Times New Roman, single spacing. The word count resulting from those specifications is about double that for a page formatted in standard manuscript format: letter size paper, 1-inch margins, 12 point Courier, double spacing. The former needs around 500 words to fill the page, the latter averages 250 words per page.

Those variables matter.

Some clients request unlimited revisions. I don’t agree to those, because that means the project is never complete. Instead, I either specify a limited number of revisions covered by the project fee, or a clause stating that my obligation to the content ends upon completion and delivery. The content is not delivered until and unless the client approves it.

The waiting game may feel like wasted time, but it serves to give the client the time needed to assure himself or herself that the content produced for the project matches needs and expectations.

In the meantime, anyone can put time waiting to good use. I’ll be working a new new manuscript.