Since this is another light week, I'm going on another rant directly related to some project offers I received.
The first concerns a potential client who wanted to hire a writer for his biography. We went back and forth and even scheduled a teleconference. He didn't bother to call. He didn't bother to let me know that he'd hired someone else whose quoted fee was less than mine until I contacted him to ask if I'd misunderstood the call time and date. His budget was $600. I told him that his budget covered a document up to 12,000 words, including editing, revising, and formatting. I think that's pretty generous, considering that merely writing the rough draft would take at least 24 hours of work.
He contacted me yesterday. Aha, I thought, your el-cheapo freelancer didn't work out. Sure enough, my hunch was right. He asked me to write a 24,000-word book for the reduced price of $300, because he already wasted half his budget on the other contractor. Um...no. His failure to hire the right contractor the first time does not mean that I have to work for him substantially less than minimum wage. I sincerely doubt he'd work for those rates; why should I?
Today I responded to an RFP to write a story, about 15,000 words. The potential client responded that his budget was $150. I told him my fee for that project would be $750. He replied back: "Ok, thanks for replying back. Well quite honestly I know that on Upwork the fee for writing is usually around .02 cents per word, this is why usually a 15,000 word book would be about $200. Anyway, I have got your point, I will keep in mind your offer."
My response: "The Upwork fee is NOT the going rate for writing; that fee is the percentage commission that comes off the fee paid to the vendor. Like Fiverr, Upwork takes a 20% commission off vendor earnings. Think of it this way, a 15,000-word book will take approximately 30 hours to draft. That doesn't include time and skill needed for research, editing, revising, or formatting. I certainly won't put in 30 hours of work for only $200, which would then be reduced by the platform commission to only $160. Would you?"
Yes, I got a little testy.
Here's another one today for a similar project. The potential client began with, "How much do you take? Because my budget is quite low at first." Then she added: "[F]or 40 pages, $40; that's my final offer. I will give you, after publishing, a minimum of $60, depending on the sales." Wow. Just...wow. And not in a good way. First, there's no way to predict sales. Second, offering me $0.60 per hour is just insulting. Again, I doubt she'd work for that hourly rate.
(By the way, I edited her responses because they were misspelled and just very poorly written.)
I wish there were a way to persuade other freelancers to stop devaluing the profession. Perhaps if we put a higher value on what we do, then buyers would, too.
So, I told my husband yesterday that I would henceforth concentrate on RFPs for editing. People who hire editors appear to be more reasonable about compensation. If I'm going to write for slave wages, then I'll write what I want for myself. To that effect, I should be wrapping up Russian Gold soon and need some beta readers.
Listening to the VistaPrint commercials, one might be lured into thinking that no entrepreneur will ever get his business of the ground without snazzy business cards to hand out like candy at Halloween. Granted, business cards offer a convenient, low-tech way to pass along your contact information and maybe an inkling about what it is you do.
Goodness knows I've got some. They're dark red with a picture of a chicken. Hen House Publishing. Get it? (Relax, I won't bore you with how I came up with that moniker.) Thank goodness I didn't splurge and order a thousand of them.
What I didn't expect was to have so few opportunities to distribute my business cards. I carry them in my purse. They're more readily available than my cell phone, which is usually dead or left behind. Of the 500 I ordered, I've probably given out maybe 50.
I gave three to my farrier. (For those not in the know, a farrier is a blacksmith who trims horses' hooves and shoes them.) He's in contact with hordes of people from all different professions. Of course, he's not placing a priority on promoting my business. Really, I doubt many of his customers say, "Hey, Mike, you know a good writer or editor?" Many of them would probably be surprised to discover he can read. I've handed out a few here and there, but their promotional value has been pretty lackluster thus far. Or maybe it's because I like being a recluse too much and don't get out.
I'm hoping to give out a whole bunch of them at the ConGlomeration in April 2017. I learned about this event last weekend at the Louisville Mini Maker Faire while helping my youngest brother display his steam engines. Yes, it was fun. I helped out at the Dayton Mini Maker Faire, too.
A young lady approached my brother's exhibit booth, handing out postcard fliers for the event. We struck up a conversation. I informed her that I served as an editor for a fantasy/horror/science fiction magazine and was also an author who wrote fantasy (and romance, steamy romance). She advised me to expect an invitation to speak or serve as a panelist.
I'd be happy to do so. Since Louisville is only a 3-hour drive from home, it's definitely a doable event. Regardless, this means I'll have to prepare: order copies of my books to re-sell (and autograph, I hope), write a speech and design a presentation if I'm going to be a speaker, and take full advantage to hand out oodles of business cards. These won't necessarily be people seeking to hire me as a ghostwriter--unless they want someone to write stories for them--but, perhaps they'll be customers to buy my books.
So, if you happen to see me out and about, ask for a business card. I'll be happy to give you one or six. And maybe, just maybe, you'll need a writer or editor or will come across someone who does and can refer me. Hey, I'm not too proud to beg.
Among the many RFPs I come across asking for professional service at a rate of pennies per hour, I occasionally come across a complaint from someone on the same platform who hired cheap labor and was disappointed by the shoddy quality of work performed or left incomplete. After that first uncharitable reaction of "serves you right," I then find these buyers go in either of two directions: 1) They want to go cheap hiring someone who really is professional because they've already burned their budget on a poor quality vendor; or, 2) They put all sorts of restrictions and high expectations on the new vendor because they assume the new vendor is out to cheat them.
Neither attitude is fair.
I understand the "once burned, twice shy" attitude, but it shouldn't be used to punish a second and innocent vendor because you made a mistake. I also understand that your error caused you to lose money; but that's not the other vendor's fault and the other vendor shouldn't feel obligated to accept slave wages because you wasted your money.
So, in order to prevent the added expense of hiring an amateur and then hiring a professional to fix it, here are some tips on hiring a professional the first time around:
Once you've determined your budget for a project and posted your request for proposals, let the freelancer reply with what he or she can or will do for that budget. If your budget is $20 and you want an original novella of 10,000 words written, don't expect to get top quality talent. Freelancers have to make a living, too--and working for a buck or less an hour won't attract them.
Being a freelancer myself, I suggest not publishing your budget. Post the RFP and describe the work needed in as much detail as you can. A true professional will respond with his or her proposal stating what he will do--or not do--and tell you how much he will charge for that service. That's where negotiation begins. Sometimes, the vendor will offer his lowest rate at the get-go because he knows he's competing against other freelancers who don't mind devaluing the work they do. Sometimes, the freelancer proposes a rate that's what he would like to earn and he 's willing to negotiate. Just be aware that the more experienced and professional your freelancer is, the less room you'll have to haggle down rates.
A true professional won't undervalue or devalue his work.
If you need expert writing or editing, contact Hen House Publishing. We ain't the cheapest game available, but we provide good value for our fees.
Every word counts.