So You Want to Quote a Price on a Freelance Writing-Editing Assignment?

As a member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society, and as a marketing consultant, editor and copywriter, I’m often asked to advise fellow members (and non-members) about how much they should charge for freelance writing/editing assignments.
I always tell them it’s impossible for me to give a definitive answer, because no two assignments are the same, and no two freelancers are the same. Everything (well, ALMOST everything) is negotiable.
If you’re pondering how much to charge for a freelance assignment when a prospective client asks you for a quote, you need to consider MANY factors, including:
What is the nature of your business relationship with the client? Have they been a loyal, eay-to-get-along-with client for a long time, or this a one-off assignment with a new client?
What is the nature of the assignment? Has the client briefed you clearly about what THEY mean by “copywriting”, “editing”, “proofreading”…? (For example, when a client asks you to “edit” some text, do they expect just a cursory spell-check; fixing the grammar/style/punctuation according to a given style manual; ensuring consistency of style/layout/spelling/punctuation etc from one chapter to the next; commenting on the actual content and logic of the piece; fact-checking; identifying and fixing any problems with the political correctness and cultural appropriateness of the text; making the text more compelling from a marketing point of view; marking it up for the graphic designer, or what?)
Is the client used to working with freelancers, or will you have to spend a lot of time and energy educating them about the process?
How complex is the work?
Will you have to do a lot of research?
How long do you think it will take you to complete the assignment?
How urgent is the deadline?
How experienced are you?
How much profit do you want/need to make?
How desperately do you want/need the work?
Is freelance writing/editing your full-time business or just a little hobby?
How desperately does the client want/need you?
How much is the work (or rather the results of your work) worth to the client?
Has the client paid your past invoices promptly?
How much do you like this client? Are the people easy and enjoyable to work with, or are they hard-ass negotiators who demand 17 rounds of revisions? Are they well organised? Are the lines of communication and accountability clearly defined?
Is the client expecting you to be available whenever they need you, at short notice (meaning that you’ll have to forgo opportunities with other clients)?
How much have you charged them in the past?
Do you want to brand yourself as “the cheapest in the market”, “around about the middle” or “Rolls Royce”?
Do you have unique skills and experience that no-one else can offer?
Will the client provide support/resources, i.e. will you do the work in their office, or in your own home/office? Will they provide secretarial help, access to a photocopier and phone, meals…?
How long is this deal likely to last? (One week, six months, ten years?)
How many rounds of revisions will you include within your quote?
How much do you think the client is willing/able to pay?
Has the client specified a budget for the assignment/project?
Is the client a big multinational company, a one-person business, a small local charity…?
Will there be any out-of-pocket expenses? Will you absorb those costs yourself or will you bill the client extra for reimbursement of those expenses?
If the task is to edit some existing text, how good/bad is that text? Was it written by a native speaker of the language?
Do you plan to charge by the word, by the page, by the hour, by the project…? A monthly retainer? A percentage of sales or profits?
What is your bottom-line, non-negotiable minimum fee?
Is this the right client/assignment for you? Does it match your skills, background and values?
How much do YOU think you’re worth?

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