4 Ways to Price a Big Complex Writing Project

So you’re talking to a prospect about a big, complex writing project.

And they ask you to put together a quote.

That’s great! Congratulations!

There’s only one catch: you’ve never done this kind of project before. And you have no idea how to put a price on it.

You might be tempted to charge by the hour, to make things easy. But that’s rarely a good idea.

In this article, I’ll share with you three different approaches for pricing simple and complex projects when you don’t know what to charge.

1. Master Fee Schedule

A master fee schedule is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a list of fee ranges for kinds of different projects.

So when a client asks for a quote, the first place you should check is your master fee schedule.

If the project is already listed on your master fee schedule, your response might be quite straight forward. “I charge $ABC for case studies. It includes XYZ and excludes DEF.”

Or your thinking might be more nuanced: “Hmm, I charged $ABC for this last time, but I’d like to quote higher. So I’ll bump it up 10%.

Or maybe: “I quoted $ABC the last couple of times but didn’t land those prospects. Maybe I’ll quote slightly lower so I can get a sample for my portfolio.”

2. What’s It Similar to?

But what if this type of project isn’t listed on your master fee schedule because you’ve never done it before?

In that case, you need to think about what the project is similar to.

For example, say you need to provide a quote for a short e-book. You’ve never written an e-book before.

But you have written white papers.

If you think about it, an e-book isn’t all that different from a white paper. An e-book may have more pages. But it will also have more white space and images.

So you could use your white paper pricing as a benchmark and scale it up or down as needed.

3. Internal Time Estimate

With this method, you estimate how much time the project is going to take and then apply your internal hourly rate.

Let’s use social media marketing as an example.

Say a client asks you to manage their social media content. You calculate approximately how much time you will need to spend on it over the course of a month using a spreadsheet:

Next, you add up all the hours for the month.

In this example, you estimate you’ll spend 12 hours on this task each month.

Then, you add 20% to this total (because most of us typically underestimate how long it will take to complete those tasks!).

This buffer will also give you the flexibility to not nickel and dime the client for every little extra thing that comes up.

12 x 20% = 2.4

12 + 2.4 = 14.4

You then apply your internal hourly rate. Say that hourly rate is $100.

14.4 x $100 = $1,440

Remember, you’re NOT sharing these calculations with your client! This process is simply to help you come up with an estimate and give you more confidence in your quote.

If the client hesitates, suggest doing a one month trial to see how it goes.

You can also suggest that you sit down in a few months and adjust the fee up or down based on how things are going.

4. Value-Based Pricing

Value-based pricing is a big topic — too big to dive into fully here.

But in brief, value-based pricing considers the value of the project to the client. It’s calculated using factors such as ROI and/or risk.

For more details on this pricing approach, take a look at my interview with Jonathan Stark.

Don’t Revert to Hourly Pricing When Things Get Complicated

Even when projects get complicated, you can still use one of these methods to put together a quote.

This doesn’t mean your quote will be perfect. But it should be close.

And that’s a heck of a lot better than falling into the hourly pricing trap.

By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1.  Grab a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.

You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

2.  Download a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.

I’ll show you the 3 things you need to do to get your business off the ground safely and land your first paying client faster.  — Click Here

3.  Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’d like to work with me to grow your income quickly with better clients (and become one of my new success stories). Just email me at [email protected] and put “Case Study” in the subject line.

4.  Get a 1:1 strategy call with me.

Are you a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time with less stress? Let’s jump on a quick call and brainstorm some ideas for getting you there. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Brainstorm” in the subject line.