The P Word: Price
We've been talking with fellow freelancers lately, and some questions have cropped up about how to price projects, and about expensing. We wanted to share our thoughts, as well as some responses from the Freelance Remuda Facebook group with you below!
Read, then let us know your thoughts and how you price projects, especially when they include travel.
1. How do you price out content packages, particularly when working with a publication for the first time? Word count vs. flat fee? Do you price lower starting out?
Kate: Pricing - yikes! One publication pays by the word for news items and others pay by the article/photo package. Recently I've faced the struggle of having to send a rate to someone and it was slightly terrifying -- what if I send too high a price, and what if I lowball my work? Advice I was given was to come up with how long, in hours, it would take me to complete the article from interview to sending it off and figure up an hourly rate. I also consider the publication and what I know of their working budget. This past year, as I grew my business, I accepted assignments for less than what I had been paid by others for the same quantity of work. It was with a new client, and none of the assignments required me to travel too far from home so the expense to me was minimal. By my third assignment for them, the editor bumped me up $100 an article because she was getting quality material. Sometimes it does take a little sacrifice to build a relationship.
Abigail: Rates are so tricky. Does the magazine you're working with provide an estimated word count for your proposed article? Do they have rates set already? If you're happy with the rate you got from a previous assignment at that magazine or another, you could use that rate, adjusted for word count length, photos, etc. to come up with a rate. It really depends on the length and difficulty of the story, and if you're providing photos, in my opinion! Factors influencing the rate include your experience with the magazine, knowledge on the topic, difficulty of topic, length of the story, photography needs (or travel to sources)... and the budget of the magazine. When I'm pitching a new publication and we're talking payment, I try to make the rate as fair as possible, but also enough to make it worthwhile to me.
2. How do you handle travel expenses?
Abigail: Most of the travel I've done lately is for personal trips, with a story thrown in here and there along the way. On those trips, I will pay for the mileage and meals for the portion of the trip going to and from the source/event on my business card, not my personal card, but I pay for it myself. If I'm going to do a story where I will only use the photos taken for that one publication (no stock photos for anything else) I will sometimes bill the magazine for mileage for the shoot to and from my hotel if I'm reasonably close by. If it's a multi-day assignment like an event that I have been sent to by the magazine, I will work with the magazine to agree upon lodging and mileage, along with the rate for the assignment. All of that is discussed prior to the trip.
Katie Navarra, freelancer: Most of the travel I'm currently doing is for event coverage. In this case, I bill the publication for mileage, tolls and hotel and the agreed upon fee for the product. I make sure to discuss it up front and include it in an estimate so there's no surprises when the invoice is sent.
Jessica Hein, Paint Horse media /Editor POV: discuss all charges and expectations up front so you know what is available/acceptable and what's not. Better for everyone involved.
Kate: Some publications will let you know up front if they will pay for travel expenses. For example, I am traveling to do a half-day photo shoot for a series of articles, and the editor has lined out they pay for the shoot, which is separate than the pay for the articles. Once the shoot is complete, I will submit an invoice for that half-day shoot. Another example is that I am traveling to gather three stories from one source for one publication, and the editor offered to pay my travel when I first proposed the content. In the past, I have asked an editor if there is reimbursement provided for travel if the trip was only for their publication - I've been reimbursed and I haven't, so it just depends on the budget.
3. What do you do if you're on a trip for more than one content buyer?
Kate : On a trip where I gather content for multiple buyers, I absorb all expenses. I then list them all by assignment as it pertains to date on my expense spreadsheet. Before I take the trip, I am certain the work will cover the all of the expenses.
Abigail: Similarly to Kate, I pay all my own expenses. If there's an expense directly related to an assignment, I'll put that on my invoice for that magazine--if we agreed upon it already. Typically I don't charge mileage unless I'm going to one place for one magazine.
4. What kind of expenses do you absorb yourself?
Kate: The columns on my expense spreadsheet include: Airfare, baggage charge, rental car, parking / fuel, equipment (lens rental), meals, mileage and an other column. Most of my travel I absorb up front and carry until I am paid. It can be hard to hold that cost, but as my business grows, I know that travel for stories is a must for me to offer quality content.
Abigail: Kate travels a lot more than me--my travel is mainly 2 hours or less, on a day trip. Unless I'm going outside of Dallas-Fort Worth for longer than a day, I usually pay for my own meals and fuel along the way. As I said, I don't usually charge for mileage, unless the trip is solely for one publication--it goes under my expenses on my bookkeeping.
5. At what point in communication with the editor do you discuss travel expenses?
Kate: I discuss travel as soon as an idea pitch is accepted.
Abigail: Once we start talking about rates, I talk about expenses.
BONUS: From the Editor's POV - At what point is airfare / rental car cost something that magazine is willing to pay or reimburse?
Jessica Hein: In my opinion, if the magazine has contracted the trip — meaning sending said freelancer to a location they wouldn't otherwise be traveling to for the interview/photo shoot — then those costs would be paid. If you're already taking the trip and hunting for a way to subsidize your trip by capturing a related story/photo assignment, then none or perhaps only some of those expenses would be covered by the publication.
There you go? Now, tell us how you handle travel expenses and project fees!