A Client Asks You to Rework Their Existing Content. How Should You Quote That?

Pricing your services is one of the most difficult parts of running a successful freelance writing business.

It’s hard enough when a client wants you to create something from scratch. But things can get more complicated when a client asks you to rework their existing content.

Maybe it’s a partially completed draft. Or maybe it’s older content that needs updating and revising.

How are you supposed to quote that?

 A Tale of Two Houses

Your first inclination might be to adjust your quote down. Maybe by a lot.

After all, working from an existing draft should be easier than starting from scratch, shouldn’t it?

Not necessarily.

Let me use the analogy of housing construction to explain.

Ask yourself: Is it easier to build a new house or completely renovate an existing one?

With new construction, you know what you’re dealing with.

If you’ve built a similar home before, you can be reasonably certain of your costs. And unless something bizarre happens, you have a good chance of delivering a high-quality end product.

Renovating an existing home isn’t so predictable.

You’ll have a lot of unknowns. Maybe you’ll open a wall and discover that the wiring isn’t up to code. Or you’ll get halfway through construction and discover the perimeter drainage system wasn’t installed correctly.

You also have to work within constraints. You might not be able to change the foundation or load-bearing walls, for example.

Even issues that are more minor (like walls that aren’t straight or floors that are stained) can cause problems.

All of which can slow down your project, require additional expertise to overcome and impact the quality of your final product.

Existing Content Might Not Help Much

If you’ve ever had to work from someone else’s existing content, you might be very sympathetic to the challenges faced by home renovators.

If the content isn’t already excellent (and it’s probably not, otherwise they wouldn’t ask you to change it), then you’re often better off starting from scratch.

By starting from scratch, you remove the unknown pitfalls and constraints of the existing content.

And just as importantly, you can be more certain of delivering a better final product within a reasonable timeframe.

So when a client asks you to rework existing content, don’t automatically offer a big discount.

Having existing content to work from doesn’t necessarily make the project any easier, faster or better.

And it could have the exact opposite effect.

Exceptions Can Be Made for Research

However, we should make a distinction between reworking existing content and working from supplied research.

Here, the rules may be different.

When clients supply you with research materials, you’re still creating the content from scratch.

And when a project is research heavy, it can be truly helpful to have supporting materials supplied to you.

In those cases, it might be reasonable to reduce your fee slightly because having these materials can save you time and help you deliver a better end product.

But before you reduce your quote, ask to look at the materials first.

You may find they aren’t all that helpful (and you’ll still have to do a lot of research on your own).

Or you may find that the client has a HUGE amount of material. And you’ll have to spend a lot of time sifting through it to find the useful nuggets.

Take All Factors Into Account

So don’t assume that existing content will make your job any easier — or the final product any better.

Because you might still have to build your content from the ground up.


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