Charge by the Minute? Really?
Yes, really. That is what I do for many of my consulting, project management, and editorial clients. I have generated half of my revenue this way since my son was born eight years ago and I have always had enough business. Does it sound crazy? Fair enough. Let me walk you through some of why’s, how’s, how much’s, and with whom’s, and see if it doesn’t fit for some of your readers, some of your work, or some of your clients.
There are at least four good reasons to charge by the minute: 1) The work is actually done minutes at a time, and best measured that way rather than in quarter, half, or full hours; 2) The work may take longer but you personally are squeezing the work in here and there—in minutes—around other obligations, 3) This is not your sole source of income and it meshes well with your other activities and revenue streams, and 4) It’s a compelling sales proposition. Clients really like the idea of only paying for the time you’ve put in.
But Shouldn’t I Be Charging for My Value?
Something that is undeniably powerful about charging for time rather than “value” is that time is an equalizing unit. We all have the same amount of it each day and we all have an understanding of its preciousness. If you and your work merit more in the marketplace, earn that through your unit cost.
How do I keep track of charging by the minute? With a very high-tech system of paper and pencil! I have a clipboard next to my desk holding a sheet of paper for every client. When I do work for them I add the minutes to their chart, using the tick-mark method. Once a month, I enter these amounts into Quickbooks, and send the bill. I extend everyone credit, no advance payment required. As long as a customer pays their bills on time, within 15 days of receipt of the invoice, they’re good. If not, no more credit, they pay up-front going forward. This has only happened once.
How Much to Charge?
This is how you charge for your value—the per-minute rate. If you don’t know where to start, start at $1/minute. That is an easy rate for just about anyone to say to a prospective customer, and an easy rate for just about anyone to hear. $60 an hour for 25 billable hours a week before expenses nets you an annual income roughly at the U.S. median. You can increase your rate as you start getting more work than you can handle at that price. You can also experiment with different rates for different services. I have services at $1, $1.25, $1.50, and $2 per minute.
What Type of Work?
What kinds of work for freelance writers and editorial types fit well with a charge-by-the-minute model? In general, frequent client communication of short duration, regularly, and over an extended period of time make sense. Examples include answering lots of quick questions by phone or email, handling lots of little contacts to manage big projects, and quick writing and editing jobs (think business cards, emails, phone scripts, brochures, resumes, web content, blog posts, and the like). For me, it’s answering all manner of publishing questions (providing hard facts as well as advice) to new and established authors and book publishers; managing all the pieces of book production for corporate, legacy, and self-publishing projects (overseeing and connecting writers, designers, editors, indexers, and printers); and editing and re-writing for business websites and their blogs.
What Type of Clients?
Excellent clients for this model include self-employed professionals (doctors, therapists, lawyers, accountants, stylists, trainers, etc.), small businesses (start with those lining the streets of your neighborhood), and academics and business people for whom English is their second language. Anyone who may have a busy shop or practice but can’t afford an extra employee may appreciate your affordable, as-needed help to make website updates, polish their blog posts, or proofread their new takeout menu or brochure before it goes to the printer. When you start looking around, you will see these folks and their ongoing, short-duration needs everywhere, and you can build from there.
- Writing For Others – What to Charge? By Angela Hoy
- Writers: Should You Charge By the Hour, the Job, or….Something Else? by Myra Muili
- “I want to charge a realistic amount for this freelance job. How much should that be?”
- “How much should I charge to ghostwrite someone’s life story?”
- Should I Charge an Hourly Rate, or a Flat Fee for This Project?
Sharon Woodhouse is a publisher (www.everythinggoesmedia.com), publishing consultant, author, and small business coach (www.conspirecreative.com). Her latest book is The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices.
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