Price It Right: 5 Tips On How To Give Best Estimates On Your Work
My roof needs repair. One roofing company said the cost was in a range of several thousands of dollars and refused to be specific. Another roofer said he couldn’t possibly tell me how much it might cost until he starts working and that he would just go up there and come down after 8 hours, if that was all I could afford.
I went with a third roofing company that gave me a detailed estimate written out and with a cap, with the provision that if and when he was to go over the agreed estimate, he would get my approval.
If only all estimates were as easy in the gig economy so many of us engage in every day.
Some assignments and projects require an hourly estimate, some clients want a total estimate, then do not want to build in for extra time, extra add-ons or even changes in the project. Agree to this now or no deal.
As a writer, editor and speaker, I deal with estimates weekly on my time and expertise. I have made mistakes underestimating the time of a project and I have learned from all my errors.
“Freedom and flexibility is what draws many people to independent work, and while the perks of working for yourself are wonderful, freelancing also comes with its challenges. Many freelancers struggle to make ends meet; they are not charging their clients what they are worth. Some have only worked on salary, and have no concept of what to charge or how much to save for taxes. Other freelancers have figured out how to work less hours and make more money; it is reported that 19.8% of full-time independents earn more than $100,000,” writes Grace Gallagher in the HHub.
A new report from Website Planet, researching hundreds of freelancers on Upwork and Fiverr shows that female freelancers earn about half of what men do.
“The bottom line is that women are being paid less because they are bidding or otherwise accepting less money for jobs,” Shira Stieglitz writes. “This is either because they perceive their skills to not be as valuable, or because they believe—for whatever reason—that they must offer a lower rate in order to stand a better chance of winning the work.”
Stieglitz writes, “In the traditional workplace, women have become somewhat notorious for being more reserved, often to their professional detriment. It’s been well documented that women are much less likely to speak up during a meeting or ask for a raise, because they do not want to be seen as pushy or overly aggressive. Women are also less likely to apply for an open position when they feel as though they do not meet all of the criteria of the job description, whereas men are more likely to apply, assuming they can ‘grow into’ the requirements and learn on the job.”
Here are 5 tips on reversing that tendency and giving estimates to your work so that you are treated and compensated fairly with pricing and payment models that work well for you.
On big projects, get half in a down payment. If I have agreed on a price, say for a keynote speech, I send a contract (or my agent does if I am working through her) and require half the payment to secure the date. This way all the research that goes into my writing the speech and practicing it is not without pay. The other half is either due at the speech itself or within 10 days. I learned that lesson after waiting 90 days for an international nonprofit to pay me for a keynote. You can do this on bigger assignments where you have a set price and you need to do research before the project even starts.
Research exactly what you need to do and get granular about your time. While he is talking about web design, Sam Barnes writes in Smashing Magazine, what are the necessary steps and principles of accurate estimates. You figure out every step of the project and how much time it will take. “By getting granular with project phases and tasks for estimates you are also able to tweak them very quickly if you discover the estimate you have submitted is above the client’s maximum budget. For example, how often have you been told by a client they want to go with you but your quote is ‘just a little too high’ and ‘if you could reduce it by five hours we can business’?” Then you will have to decide what to cut, so you don’t end up losing money and time on the project.
Research going rates in your area. Tools such as Upwork and others can help you figure out how much to charge for certain projects in certain fields in different areas. Jake Jorgovan in Career Foundry writes that you can charge per hour, you can charge per project, but it is best to charge for the value you are to the client. “Many blogs and books refer to this as ‘value-based pricing’ and it has become quite the popular buzz word in the freelancing industry. With value-based pricing, the idea is that you anchor your price point against the value that you are providing to the client. Sometimes you can quantify this value in specific numbers. Other times the benefits may be intangible. If you can emphasize the value that you provide to the client in your proposal process, then you will begin to see your income grow as a result of it.”
Not all rates are the same. For instance, if I have an editing project and a client is super easy to work with and gives me steady repeat business, I may give a better rate. Also, if I have a client who requires phone calls and reassurance and updates and emails me constantly, I will add those into my hourly rate. “When billing by the project, many freelancers think it makes the most sense to estimate the time the project will take, multiply their hourly rate by that length of time, then add in some buffers to make sure all your overheads are covered and quote that total as your rate. This line of thinking may be a mistake,” Gallagher writes.” It is actually better to be open to charging different amounts for the same project, depending on who your client is. If possible, try to get a sense of the client’s budget, then build your rate around their budget. For example, it is absolutely fine to charge higher social media freelance rates for a large corporate client with a big budget than you would charge a start up with a smaller budget.”
There’s an app for that. Check out this list of 50 apps for finding work in the gig economy, by Angela Stringfellow who writes in the W Blog, “The gig economy only works when individuals and businesses, or individuals and potential clients and customers, can connect quickly and easily. That’s where gig economy apps come in. By downloading these apps to a mobile device, workers have hundreds or even thousands of potential jobs at their fingertips, just as prospective clients and customers have access to a wide pool of workers waiting to fulfill a need for them, such as giving them a ride or purchasing and delivering their groceries. Businesses also use these platforms to connect with potential workers and select those that are best suited to their needs.”
Join a network of other gig workers and share info. Perhaps you can meet virtually or get together for a happy hour in your area, but sharing info on pricing, rates, and solutions to difficult clients can definitely help you solve problems. You also may be able to collaborate on projects, if you find you need additional help on something too big for you that has a looming deadline.
It is upsetting and demoralizing to be underpaid for good work you have completed. You always want to feel valued in everything you do. It starts with estimating your price. So be sure to get paid well, because you’re worth it.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com