After our co-founder suggested a journal on pricing, I've decided to write one to use my experience to help you with one of the biggest questions, how do I price my commissions?
What is your writing style? I don't mean past or present tense. I mean this: How do you write? Do you use synonyms to make your work pop? Do you know how to string certain words together to make it sound more elegant than the standard? Or do you simply write? Depending on how much experience you have, the last point will mean a lot to your pricing.
If you're a beginning writer, you likely don't know how to make synonyms work properly. Your grammar may not be up to speed, and you might not know how to make your sentences have more omph. I'm not saying it's impossible for you to not get business if you're starting out, but it depends on how well you advertise yourself. Beginning writers may get more business than those who have more years of experience under their belt due to how much they put themselves out there and how confident they are in their skills.
Let's take a peek at some examples and how I would price each piece based on writing style and grammar.
A pain, greater than any battle wound or fire, licks at his bones and settles deep in his nerves.
I've used my own writing as an example, but you can tell how you get a great image of how much pain the person is in based on the description. For this kind of work, I would price it around $3 per 1,000 words.
The headache grips her head. She bends over and holds it.
A lot of writers I've seen tend to write this way. You don't know what kind of pain the person is in, or how hard they hold their head. Description is a wonderful thing when it comes to writing, as it enhances it further and paints a picture for your readers. Now, something like this, I would say... $1.50 per 1,000 words.
Remember this: Describing things is your friend in writing. Don't be afraid to say "excruciating". It gives a much more vivid image than to say "pain".
Hey, it's your Co-Founder, imaginary-rose! I was going to add this as comment, but it just grew and grew so I decided to tack this on here. I suppose this is a slightly more advanced guide to pricing.
My one real tip for pricing commissions is simply: self-reflect—honest self-reflection. This is why I think you can read a lot of pricing guides and get advice and suggestions from others, but ultimately your prices are your choice. Here are three things I'd consider during self-assessment: time, need, skill/experience.
- How long does it take you to write a page, 1000 words, a short story, etc? How long does it take from story inception to final edits? However you're dividing your commissions, figure out how long it takes. And be honest. Work that doesn't take as long can be charged for less-obviously. A 1 page drabble will cost less than a multi-chapter story. I can write 1000 words in an hour. I can actually write 2000 words in an hour if I really focus. But I cannot write an 1000 word short story in an hour. Why? Because I can't write 1000 good words in an hour. So I have to decide - should I write 1000 junk words in an hour and then spend just as much time or more rewriting or should I go a little slower, take a little longer, but write a lot better and cut down on my editing time? That answer depends on the next question.
- How much time do you have to devote to writing? Do you work long hours and then have to go home to prepare dinner and maintain your household? Do you go to school, then deal with afterschool activities and then have to go home to do homework? If you've only got a few hours a night without obligations your time is worth more because it's more precious. That will affect your price.
- Why do you have commissions open? Are you doing it for fun? Do you desperately need money for bills? Do you just want some spending cash? Your prices should reflect what you need them to. Keep in mind, if you desperately need money - high prices may mean fewer customers, but the few customers you get will get your closer to your goal. One customer who pays $50 is worth more than 10 who only pay $1, but is worth less than 10 who pay $10. (Math—it burns!)
Where to start?
- How much time and effort have you devoted to your craft? Ten years of casual writing may mean more experience, but less skill than 5 years of intense study. A master craftsman can charge more than a beginner. You don't need to take classes or spend hundreds of dollars of writing books to improve. A self-taught writer can be just as good as one that has taken classes as long they're actually teaching themselves. Study. Learn. If you want to get paid for your writing you’re going to have to put effort into your writing even between commissions. If you're reading this, you have access to the Internet, a place where people love to give their opinions on things. Find tutorials, guides, tips, hints for writing in general and the specific areas you want to excel at. And more importantly: read. Read published books, but also unpublished Internet work, fan-fiction, whatever. Reread your old stuff and see how you've improved. Reading something you've set aside from a while ago can help you objectively look at what areas you need improvement. And then improve. As you get better, you can increase your prices.
I suggest figuring out a base price of how much you'd ideally like to be charged an hour (100
, $5, minimum wage for your area, whatever) and then increasing or decreasing based on your time, need and skill/experience. Still need help?
I'm not comfortable offering specific price help, but our wonderful founder has said she'd be happy to offer help, when she has the time. Feel free to ask, and leave examples of your work, but don't wait around in commission limbo for a response.
--What tips would you give for pricing commissions? Leave a comment!