Freelance Writing – How to Avoid Underestimating Price and Time (7 tips)

Being a freelance writer has its challenges. One in particular is knowing what to charge for each particular job. Another challenge is realizing that each job is different, even if it seems similar to something you’ve already done.

Underestimating the Project Time (which means you’ve underestimated the quote)

One freelance writing trap that is easy to fall into is not accounting for more work than anticipated. Unless you work with only a couple of clients and know their work very well, this is an easy trap to fall into. I recently took on a job editing an academic paper that was to be submitted to a health journal. I’ve done academic papers before and expected the work would be something familiar to me. Surprise, surprise.

The project took me a week to complete and I quoted a price thinking it would take about a day, maybe a day and a half.

Even if you request a sample before giving a quote, this may not be enough. It may not give you a clear indication of what the entire manuscript is like.

The solution: Always leave yourself freelance writing ‘room to move.’

Here are seven ‘room to move’ tips:

1. Request to read the entire manuscript before giving a quote. The reason I say the entire manuscript is because if you ask for 10 pages, as an example, you will have no idea what the rest of the paper deals with. In the project I took on, it was the mid-section that was problematic.

While reading the full manuscript may be a bit time consuming, it’s worth it to know what to expect and avoid the freelance writing ‘underestimating trap.’

2. If you’re editing an article or paper that will be submitted to a journal or magazine, request a copy of the journal/magazine the paper is to be submitted to or you might ask for copies of recent accepted articles. This will give you lots and lots of information on how to edit the paper properly.

3. Give a quote that allows you ‘room to move.’ This doesn’t mean overcharging the client, it means having enough common sense to know it could very well take you longer than expected.

If you tend to underestimate a project, double the price you’re thinking of quoting.

4. If you’ll need to read and adhere to a specific journal’s guidelines, take that into account. It will take time to thoroughly read the guidelines.

5. Know that ‘one price’ doesn’t fit all. Every job will be different when dealing with different clients. Don’t assume similar projects will be similar. Don’t assume they will all take the same time to complete.

6. Give yourself enough time to complete a project. Usually, a two-week turnaround is sufficient, as long as it’s not a rush job. The two-week window will help alleviate any feelings of pressure or stress. You will need to determine what window you’ll feel comfortable with and the client is agreeable to.

7. Know when to decline a project. If you’re not sure how long a project will take or it seems like more work than you have the time for, it’s okay to decline. Don’t feel like you have to take every job that comes along. If you know another freelancer who works in that genre, let the client know and pass it along.


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Karen Cioffi, the Article Writing Doctor


Unknown said...


That’s a brilliant list. I can see how adhering to this list prevents costly pricing errors.

Obeying your rules automatically prevents the most obvious mistake: blurting out a price during your first conversation with a prospect without giving yourself time to think about it.

Studying the project before quoting a price helps, as does recognizing that a new client may be more difficult to work with than you expect, even if (or especially!) they are nice on the phone.


Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Diana,

The key is to think first, before blurting something out. I just had a query for ghostwriting a book today and gave a general quote, allowing for quite a bit of room to move.

Now I can submit a formal quote, after analyzing what's involved.

Thanks so much for stopping by!