Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Rate Negotiation Dance

In my role as a freelance copy writer I am constantly reviewing and evaluating the rates I charge. I talk to other freelancers, I read advice on how to set your rates, I calculate how many hours I want to work and how much to charge hourly or per word in order to make a "decent" living (in a recent discussion on a LinkedIn group we talked about peanut butter verses caviar). It’s a real tight rope walk, especially if you’re an expat living overseas. I’m a Canadian living in Dubai. It’s tough to set rates when the range is as dramatically broad as there are myriad types of writing. When you’re based “globally” what is a fair market price? Do you set prices based on the US dollar (which is scary considering the direction it’s going) or the currency of the market in which you’re currently based? I’ve seriously contemplated having multiple rate sheets depending on the client’s location. That seems to me to be the best approach. Right now, being based in Dubai, my rates are quoted in Dirhams. However, since as freelance writers we can work from wherever we are in the world and our clients are multi-national, I do also have a rate sheet quoted in US dollars. So, is it a direct conversion? It should be but it’s not because the value of a professional freelance writer varies from country to country. A writer based in India charges far less for their work than one based in the West (purely because of cost of living). It’s even the same within some countries. When I was living in the States a writer in New York could charge more than one living in Florida (probably the cost of living issue again). Here in Dubai it’s an even more confusing jumble, with expats from all over the world working here. We’re all living in the same country but each group seems to be paid in line with what they could command in their home country (with some exceptions, of course). With the virtual nature of the business world, a company has the ability to tap into resources from anywhere in the world so the rates charged by those of us who choose to live in countries or cities with a higher cost of living are much higher and, therefore, less competitive…or are they? So, my conclusion at this point in time is that I believe it’s my responsibility to demonstrate to a client the added value of using my services. No matter where in the world you are, a combination of skills, experience, reputation and professionalism in any field are a rare commodity. Professional writing is an expertise and should be viewed as such. I’d love to hear from other freelancers and consultants how they tackle this challenge.

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