Quoting for Your Work - the First Interaction
by Ann Harth
Writers are unique. When it comes to running a business -- we all have our own ideas. The following method may
or may not be the best, but it works for me. My mantra?
"Communication is crucial."
But let's take a step back. Before you can send a quote, you must decide what to charge. Setting your fees can
be one of the most difficult parts of running a writing business. If you're filled with self-admiration and rank
your writing skills up there with those of Stephen King or Harper Lee (ten points if you can tell me what Harper
Lee wrote), you won't have a problem asking people to pay for your time.
If, however, you're like many of us were when we started out, you may be filled with a touch of unworthiness.
Why would they pay me for my expertise? An attitude like this will not pay the bills, not even the milkman's. A
humble persona may have its place when you are meeting a prospective mother-in-law or a testosterone-laden boss. It
will not give your business the kick-start it needs.
Want to change this attitude?
Prove yourself, not only to others, but also to yourself. Even if you are the next Hemmingway, without
experience and a few articles to throw about, who's going to know? Before you start asking for money, spend some
time writing a few articles and get them listed on one of the dozens of article sites on the Internet. www.ezinearticles.com, www.goarticles.com and www.infogoround.com are just a few. Build up a portfolio and include
snippets of fiction, non-fiction, articles and testimonials. It takes time to build up an impressive profile,
but it's the best marketing tool you will ever have. Create a background so impressive that even you will be
blown away by your expertise.
Okay, you have collected articles and writing samples. You have built a website and people are beginning to show
some interest. You are running a business. Let's assume you want it to be financially viable. A good way to find
out the 'going rates' for your services is to have a look at other people's websites or check out the ASA
recommended rates for writers. With these in mind, you need to decide on a few basics:
- How much do you want to earn annually?
- How many hours per week do you plan to work? Don't forget to take into account weekends and holidays.
- Do the math
Obviously there is a lot more to it than this. Eventually you need to take insurance, possible illness and
business expenditure into account, but we'll go into the nitty gritty another time.
At this stage, let's assume you have a preferred hourly rate in mind. You may have to work up to this rate, but
it's good to keep it in mind. You check your emails ten times per day just waiting for that first job to land in
your lap. Finally, one morning, you log on are greeted with an email:
I have a written a 10,000-word story for kids. I have never written anything before, but I really want to
publish this. I think it will initiate everlasting world peace and create a renewed passion for the protection of
the environment. Can you please tell me how much it will cost for you to get this to publishable standard?
You have an important job to do. The plight of the planet rests on your shoulders. You know you are the only one
for the job. But how do you even begin to figure out how much to charge this crusading author? How do you even
label this work? Is it a rewrite? A ghostwrite? An edit?
These are the steps I follow.
1. Take a look at the manuscript. Read at least the first third as well as a synopsis. This will give you
enough information to decide whether the manuscript needs a light copyedit, an entire rewrite or something in
between. As you read, jot down a few ideas. How would you improve the structure, the grammar or the characters? If
you have some direction before you begin, the job will seem much less daunting.
2. Communication is crucial, starting now. Outline the specific services you can offer and find out how
much input your prospective client wants. Do they want you to give them suggestions so that they can improve their
own work (a manuscript assessment) or are they simply handing it over for a complete rewrite? This is very
important, as the time allotment will differ significantly. Be sure to keep records of all interactions with your
client. These can help clarify your role and settle possible disputes in the future.
3. Once you have a clear idea of your client's wishes, you are ready to send a quote. There is no single
template for a quote for writers/editors, but be sure to include:
- A list of the services you will offer. This can include marketing assistance or help writing a synopsis or
cover letter. (I often charge a little more for a synopsis, as I detest writing them!)
- The services that you will not offer (as in countless rewrites due to a change-of-mind on the part of the
- When you plan to complete each stage of the work
- Schedule of payment. It's good idea to break the work into steps and ask for payment after the completion
of each. I often break a rewrite into three steps: Outline -- rewrite - final edit and proofread. At the
completion of each step I send an invoice. When I receive payment, I send the completed work for approval. Once
I have the go ahead, I make any necessary or agreed upon changes and start on step two.
- The completed work's final format.
- Type of communication. Email, phone, etc. I prefer email as it is quicker and much more concise. A
phone call can easily carve an hour from your day.
My quotes often take the form of a chronological list. (See sample below). This way it is easy to work through
your project step by step. If a payment isn't made or feedback isn't sent, you know to sit back and cool your heels
until your client has fulfilled his part of the bargain.
6 Saturn Way
Jupiter Village, 4001
68 Dylan Close
Zimmerman City 1965
26 October 2010
Dear Mr. McGee,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with a quote for rewriting your manuscript. It sounds as though it
will benefit the entire planet.
If you decide to engage my services, we will work through the following steps:
- I will read your manuscript and make initial suggestions re structure, point of view, word count, age
appropriateness, etc. I will also devise an outline for the rewrite.
- I will send the first invoice for approximately 1/3 of the total balance.
- When invoice is paid, I will send outline and suggestions.
- We will discuss suggestions and outline. I will apply any agreed upon changes and complete the
- I will send second invoice with approximately 1/3 of the total balance.
- When invoice is paid, I will return the rewritten manuscript.
- We will discuss suggestions and rewrite. I will apply any agreed upon changes and complete a final copyedit
and proofread. I will format according to normal submission policies.
- I will send the final invoice for the balance of payment.
- On final payment, I will provide you the final draft of the manuscript in a Microsoft word document. I will
also compile a list of appropriate publishers and/or agents and general guidelines for submitting your work.
This will include method and general information re cover letters and synopses.
For the above services my total quote is $_______ , to be paid in three installments. Balance is due before
completion of final step.
If invoices are paid within 7 days of receipt, I will complete this work by the 1/1/08.
If you are interested, I will also provide an added service of writing a synopsis and cover letter for you, at
If you wish to respond, please use my private email address. firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you.
I often use my quote as a firm guide when I write a contract. I find that adhering to my list keeps things
honest, straightforward and simple. Don't let writing quotes intimidate you. Focus on a clear and complete
explanation of your services and insist upon open communication.
Next time: Invoices
© copyright Ann Harth. Ann Harth is a freelance manuscript assessor, copyeditor, proofreader and
ghostwriter as well as a published author. She writes in all genres of children's fiction from picture books to
young adult novels as well as adult fiction and non-fiction. She has successfully completed several text-editing
projects for university students and authors, and is the assistant fiction editor of www.moondance.com, a literary on-line magazine. She is also on the
creative writing staff of www.storydog.com, a website for children.
More information on the freelance services that Ann Harth offers can be found on her website at www.annharth.com.