Freelancing Rates: Do You Know What to Charge?

For those of us who slid sideways into the freelancing life, it’s not always obvious what to charge for our services. If you look at jobs posted on sites like Elance, you might get the idea that freelancers are paid $1 per 500-word article. You can probably figure out your lower limit for pay, but how do you know the industry standard for what to charge?

A Rates Resource

A fellow freelancer recently pointed me to a terrific resource: the Editorial Freelancers Association’s list of common editorial rates. Despite the editorial slant of the name, this list includes rates for fact checking, indexing, writing for websites, medical writing, and more. Check it out!

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If you write or edit on a freelance basis, how do you decide what to charge? Any other resources you’d like to share?

The Myth of Simple

I read recently that the brain tends to see everything as far more simple than it actually is.* It was remarkably refreshing to read that this is a problem common to humanity, since it’s one I struggle with all the time.

Take writing, for instance. I get an idea for a new book project, and as soon as I start brainstorming, ideas for characters, plot elements, and cool world concepts come flying fast and furious. I might even write a skeleton outline of the story structure in those magical first days when I know that the story is THE BEST IDEA I’VE EVER HAD and that WRITING IT WILL BE SIMPLE.

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Simple? Ha. Once I actually put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) I have to face reality: The characters and scenes I thought I’d envisioned so clearly are no more substantial than mist. It’s one thing to have the idea, but quite another thing to bring that idea to life on the page.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. It’s easy to forget, somehow, that the beautiful language, witty dialogue, and sparkling characters we want to create are the result of a hundred rewrites. This is the reason that Anne Lamont instructed writers to “write shitty first drafts” in her classic guide for writers, Bird by Bird. There’s always a gap between that first story vision and the first words you write. This is also the reason we practice things like freewriting and participate in challenges like NaNoWriMo, which help us learn to silence that inner critic long enough to get something—anything—down on the page. Once those first words are written, it always seems to be easier to see how they can be improved.

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Care and Feeding of the Discouraged Writer

This post was originally published in April, 2011, but it seems to be particularly relevant during the craziness of the holidays. Hope this encourages you as we hurtle toward the end of the year!

Jami Gold’s recent post Have You Ever Been Tempted to Give Up? is thought-provoking and true. In a weird way, it’s encouraging to realize that even published, successful authors struggle with this question.

Jamie’s post ends with a question: “What pushes you to the edge of giving up (lack of time, rejections, something else)?  What things help motivate and encourage you (a support system, wanting to prove something, finding successes wherever you can)? ” Visit her blog to see what other writers have to say.

Have I ever been tempted to give up? Absolutely! As has every writer in my critique group. As has every writer I know personally. And yet, most of us don’t. What keeps us going? I think the answer depends on why we’re tempted to quit, the way different illnesses respond to different treatments.

In my experience, there are several factors that can push me to the edge:

  1. Too much rejection/too little affirmation: This ailment is best treated by interaction with other people. Turn to your critique group, writer friends, Twitter tweeps, or a trusted first reader for encouragement and perspective. Or read the thoughts of a successful author in writing books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Jane Yolen’s Take Joy, or Stephen King’s On Writing.
  2. Physical exhaustion: When a writer is juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities—as most of us are—sometimes we spend so much time living inside our heads that we forget to take care of our bodies. Are you physically worn out? Try treatment with a brisk walk, plenty of water, a restful foray into nature, or a good night’s sleep.
  3. Mental overwhelm: When juggling too many to-do’s—writing or otherwise—it’s easy to get mired in too-much-to-do-itis. Overwhelm is not conducive to creativity. Treat with a hefty dose of self-kindness, lightening your load, word play, and small, achievable writing goals to help you rediscover the joy of writing.
  4. Negative creative balance: In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes the source of an artist’s creativity as a “creativity pond”, something that can be overfished and emptied if we don’t take are to refill and restock. If you spend too much time working—even doing work you love—you may discover that your muse is not longer speaking to you. Treat with Artist’s Dates, infusions of beauty and sensory delights, and creative stimulation such as a conference, class, or writing book.

Sometimes, you have to have faith and keep pressing forward; other times, mere willpower is not the answer. If you’re tempted to give up, ask yourself why. It might help you puzzle out the best remedy for what ails you.

:) Cheryl

Photo courtesy of Paolo Camera

Windows 8 for Writers?

I had a recent scare when my computer threatened to die in the midst of a deadline-driven project. I needed a new computer—one that wasn’t on the brink of death—and I needed it immediately. As in, before my old machine gave up the ghost with catastrophic timing.

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Normally, I would take my time choosing a new computer: research which version of Windows I wanted, how fast the computer I wanted, test out keyboards, etc., and then I’d probably buy from online because that’s usually where you can find the best deals. In this case, however, I needed to buy a new computer from some place where I could carry it out of the store and have it up and running in a matter of hours, which meant my options were pretty limited. Since it turned out that my computer shopping expedition coincided almost exactly with the Windows 8 release date, I came home with a computer with a touchscreen and Windows’ wacky new operating system.

I’m not big on change, so I probably would not have gone this route except for the time crunch. Now, having used Windows 8 for a few weeks, it’s starting to grow on me.

The Good

  1. I love the touchscreen. I worried that it would take some getting used to, and decrease my productivity in the meantime; instead, I got used to it so quickly that when I use a computer that doesn’t have a touchscreen now, I find myself trying to scroll up and down, click, and move windows around on the screen with my finger. The touchscreen definitely speeds up portions of my writing process because it is slightly faster to navigate between through documents using the touchscreen then it is using keystrokes or a mouse.
  2. The touchscreen has a second unanticipated benefit. As someone who spends way too much time either on the computer were writing longhand, I have a perpetually inflamed tendon in my right wrist. I’ve worked with the physical therapist, know the right stretches to do, and so on, but I found that the single best thing I can do for my hand is to change up the way I use it. That is, I tried to avoid repetitive motions by switching between the keyboard, voice dictation, different types of mice, and a Wacom bamboo tablet when working on my computer. The touchscreen gives me one more option, one that I find easy to use with my left hand as well as my right and one that is significantly easier on my hand then using a mouse.
  3. The Windows 8 interface has a significant cool factor. I’m not convinced that finding programs is easier using Windows 8, but it’s not more difficult either. Little by little, I’ve been rearranging the "tiles" to make the programs I use most often more accessible. And I kind of like some of the bells and whistles, like the fact that the tile for pictures scrolls through my recent photos.
  4. A surprise bonus—apparently, the camera on this new computer (the acer Aspire V5, for those who are interested) is far superior to that on my old machine. Since I do quite a bit of video calling, it was cool to learn that my picture is much clearer!

The Bad

  1. Although Windows 8 provides a sleek, simple interface for accessing programs, at times it’s almost too simple. For instance, the built in application for looking at photos is great for looking at photos — but that’s it. In their attempt to simplify, it seems that many of the built in applications have lost functionality.
  2. Third party applications that are compatible with Windows 8 seemed to have the same problem. For instance, there’s a very slick Windows 8 version of Skype. It fills the entire screen, it’s pretty, and it performs basic Skype functions like sending and receiving calls. However, if you want to use Skype’s more advanced features such as the ability to transfer files, you need to reinstall an earlier version of Skype on the "desktop" which, as far as I can tell, is Microsoft’s nod at the fact that almost no programs are actually ready to run on their new operating system.
  3. Certain web browsers also seem to have issues with Windows 8. I’m certainly no expert in this arena, but apparently "plug–ins" such as QuickTime and Google voice/video fail to function when running the browser in Windows 8 mode. This seems to be the result of Microsoft’s push toward “plug–in free browsing”. My interpretation is that Microsoft doesn’t work and play well with others, which is created a number of conflicts with other programs I find especially useful. Bummer. On the flipside, I’ve been able to work around most of these problems by running programs in the desktop mode.

The Conclusion

Overall, I’m darned happy with my new Windows 8 machine. I think it will take a while for third-party programs to catch up with the new operating system. In fact, I think it’s taking Microsoft a while to catch up with its new operating system, based on some of the glitches I’ve found in their programs as well as those written by other software developers.

Note: I also think the Windows 8 interface would be much less user-friendly without the touchscreen, so if you’re thinking of giving it a try, make sure to test drive the touchscreen version.

But I’m warning you—you might never readjust to the normal, non-touch variety!

Anyone else have experience with Windows 8 and/or a touchscreen computer? What do you like or not like?