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Anne Wallingford, WordSmith


Freelancer's FAQ

Fees and Contracts

To provide both encouragement and a warning to other freelancers, I have obtained permission to share this letter with you.

Anne, to say how your advice helped me is really quite simple. The main thing you emphasized … was NOT to be afraid to ask for a professional service type of fee. You also suggested that I focus on explaining transferable skills and [show] how my current skill set could benefit a client even without prior writing experience in the area in which they needed work to be done.

To that end, I got a call from a contract services firm who had a long-term project for an information technology tech writer. Having never participated in a project like this, they loved my business and finance background and my experience of managing multiple projects.

When talking billing rates, I quoted $33 an hour as a 1099 sub-contractor, which they immediately accepted. After the 90-minute interview, the managing partner asked me WHY MY BILLING RATE WAS SO LOW for someone with my type of knowledge and experience! I kid you not!

I responded by saying that that was my foot-in-the door rate, and that I would not be giving up outside contracts to write business and marketing plans, nor to develop commercial loan financing proposals. He said, fine, no problem! Anyway, a lesson learned!

I have a four month project that will almost certainly extend through much of, if not all of 1999! I'll be working with programmers, developers, Business Analysts, and Project Managers to develop all kinds of documents, including learning Robo & Win Help for online help systems! I know what you're thinking, and yes, I am aware that that is a scorchingly HOT area for tech writers! My job is to learn these software tools as fast as possible because the firm wants to have me specialize in and on this tool. Suffice to say that my new bill rate for this will be AT LEAST $45.00/hr. to the firm; $55 to $60 for direct work.

I now know why the managing partner made the comment about the lower billing rate I quoted. You see, I DID NOT get a scope of services agreement re: the exact specific duties that I would be asked to perform. The contract I signed was the typical generic one re client confidentiality, etc., etc. Rest assured, that won't happen again! Here's why: I'm currently working ON FOUR projects and HAVE TO LEARN SEVEN PIECES OF SOFTWARE TOOLS, NONE OF WHICH HAVE I ANY EXPERIENCE ON!

Thanks again for your input & comments, and as always, all the best!

Your email "pal,"
Gary Ziegler

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Tuesday, April 01, 2003 15:30