Offering freelance writing estimates

While writers who work with magazines and such won’t run into the idea of estimates too often, those writers who work on corporate communications projects — something like writing an employee handbook springs to mind — will often be asked for an estimate.

Estimates are straightforward things, right? You multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours you think it will take to complete a project, and tell your client that number. And that’s the amount that the client will just about always pay at the end of the project.

The problem that I’ve run into, however, is that it can be surprisingly hard to judge how long a project might take. You might need to do some research you hadn’t factored in, or a client might ask for fairly major changes. And even if you do take much longer to complete a project, your client is going to expect you to stand by your estimate.

I’ve heard plenty of advice to take the number of hours you think a project will take — and then add half again that number to figure out your estimate. It can work as a general rule, but it can bulk up a quote significantly and might cause a client to find a different freelance writer. It comes down to a judgment call on what you think you need and what your client can afford.

But I do feel it’s important to add a clause saying that the estimate does not include any changes that the client requests. I may be willing to do a round of edits without additional charge, but any major changes in a project’s direction renders my estimate null and void.

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