Dr. Freelance: I have a client who is constantly asking me how much time it will take me to write copy for their website. I feel self-conscious, because I typically consider myself to be a slow writer (and I pride myself on being precise). Nonetheless, he wants to know how long it takes me to write a 500-word article with little research involved. It usually takes me about 60 minutes from start to finish. Do you think that is an appropriate time? Or do you think I should be faster or slower?—Got the Time
GTT: You think cranking out 500 words in an hour is slow?!? I’d have to imagine that actually ranks you in the upper percentile of wordsmiths. If that’s your speed for solid, clean, no-research text, that’s for you to decide, not for me to judge. Personally, that’s a much faster rate than I would ever commit to.
More important, I think fast estimates (and focusing on how much time will it take to write copy) might set you up for unrealistic client expectations:
- What about the times when it takes longer? Is the client going to be willing to pay extra?
- What about sickness or injuries slowing you down? It happens even in our low-impact industry—I unexpectedly broke a finger doing yardwork a few years ago.
- Is 500 words an hour a pace you can maintain, day after day, year after year—or are you risking burnout?
I know you didn’t ask, but I would also recommend you factor in whether you’re earning a rate that makes sense. Anne Wayman’s post “How much should I charge for…it doesn’t matter for what!” makes an important point along the same lines. My freelance rate calculator freelance rate calculator is a good way to ferret out what your rate should be.
Look at it this way: If you’re able to get that client to pay you a dollar a word at that speed, I think you’d find a lot of people would be envious—that’s $500 an hour! If, on the other hand, you’re only making 10 cents a word, that’s $50 an hour for exactly the same amount of work. The choice, at a very basic level, is yours.