Freelance writers often do a wide variety of projects, and occasionally they get offered new type of project that requires some careful evaluation.
That was the case with freelance science writer Christopher Crockett. He has a strong background in physics and astronomy (a PHD in astronomy, actually), and he’s using that to carve out his freelance writing niche.
Here are the main portions of a thread (with some minor edits) Christopher started inside the Freelance Writers Den, where I’m one of the moderators.
Bidding an SAT Physics Test Preparation Book
Oh wise den members…
This is tangentially related to writing: I got cold-emailed from a potential client who is looking for someone to fact check an SAT test preparation book on physics. My background is a perfect match (taught high school and college physics for a spell, currently an astrophysics researcher, etc.) so I’m really intrigued.
The client asked for a flat-rate bid….and I haven’t a clue what’s a reasonable rate!! Has anyone had any experience with this kind of project? It’s 308 pages that need to be checked for technical accuracy (including checking all the sample questions for correctness). Definitely not something that can be done in an afternoon. (Wink)
At $30/hr (roughly my salary at my day job), if I can work through 4-5 pages per hour….that works out to $1800-$2300. But I have no idea if that’s outrageous or dramatically underselling myself. I’m also not sure about the 4-5 pages/hour…that’s a bit of a wild guess.
Any insight would be immensely appreciated!
Christopher, this does sound like a great fit for you.
Have the company send you the entire manuscript. Look through it and get an estimate of how many pages you can actually get through in an hour, making sure you look at different portions of the manuscript. (There likely were multiple authors, and some may do much better work than others.)
Also make sure you are clear on exactly what they want you to do. For example:
- Do you have to edit/fix incorrect solutions that show how to do a problem, or do you just have to point out that one or more steps/calculations is incorrect?
- Do they expect you to also do any copy editing, or correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors?
- How do they actually want you to enter the corrections? Track Changes in a Word document?
- And what about equations? These typically use specific software, such as MathType, that you may need to purchase. (Ask for reimbursement, if necessary) Of course, you’ll also need to learn how to use equation software, if you don’t already know how.
- Once you’ve pointed out factual errors, will they want you to check again once they’ve made the changes?
- Anything else they need you to do that takes significant time?
The overall goal is to figure out everything you need to do and roughly how long it will take you to do the entire project, and then multiply that by your hourly rate. Consider adding 10-20 percent for negotiating room.
I wanted to come back and first thank Margie and John for their advice (actually John was the first person I thought of when I thought to myself: “Who would have some insight into this sort of gig?”).
After getting a more detailed look at the work, I estimated it would take about 40 hours and because I like symmetry in my numbers $40/hr sounded like a rate that would make me happy. So I ended up bidding $1600…..and got the gig! 🙂 This is now the highest paying gig I’ve gotten so far – nearly double what the previous record holder was.
I’ve actually just wrapped up the project (ahead of schedule and at 38.5 hours — good estimating!) and found it to be fun, challenging, and intellectually stimulating. Hoping for more like it in the future!
Thank you again!
And My Reply
Congratulations Christopher — I’m glad it worked out so well.
Next time bump the rate substantially higher in your bid: they just might take it!
Important Takeaway: Calculating Freelance Project Bids
For any freelance writing/editing project, you need to get enough info from the client to be able to determine approximately how long it will take you to do the work.
Then you need to multiply this by your hourly rate (or what you think they’ll pay, if it’s higher) to get your project estimate. Depending on circumstances, you may also want to add a little for some negotiating room.
Note: always bid by the project and avoid quoting an hourly rate whenever possible.
There’s a Book on How to Price Freelance Projects
And it’s written by Jake Poinier, Dr. Freelance:
Check it out!
How do you bid your freelance writing and editing projects? Anything to add to the conversation above?