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Statement of Work

Statement of Work

One of the frustrations of a freelance writer is not being paid for the work he/she had done. The freelance writer would charge it to experience. However, it keeps on happening, especially if the client sounds too good to be true.

So to avoid this kind of scenario, it is better to set up a written Statement of Work (SOW) which, for me, also serves as my proposal. And once the client signed it, it becomes a contract.

I have on my file a template which I can freely edit depending on the client’s job request. So each of my clients receives a different scope, thus, a different rate.

Let me show you how I write my own SOW.

STATEMENT OF WORK

Others call this a Contract. Others call this an Independent Contractor Agreement.

The reason why I chose to call this Statement of Work (SOW) rather than anything else is its purpose. This serves as my free quote or job proposal first. And if the client signs it, this becomes our contract.

THE PARTIES INVOLVED

At the beginning of the contract, I always state who I am dealing with.

This [type of contract] is by and between me, [your name] of [your website] and the client, [client’s full name] of [client’s company].

I prefer to deal with one person, even if the clients are in pairs. This way, I avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding during the course of the project. However, if they are a pair, like a husband and wife team, I state both full names in the contract.

If the person has two companies, I prefer to set up a separate contract for each company. Why? Let me tell you a story:

I had this client who reached out to me to write for his website. The topic is within my expertise, thus I wrote blogs on his behalf comfortably well. However, when he announced that he would set up another website and asked me to write for him again, I thought twice. The topic is not within my expertise but I could write about it if I’ll research it well. That would mean more time for research and writing. Thus, I gave the client another set of rates, different from the first assignment. At least, I would not feel I’m at a disadvantage if I write for both websites at the same time.

Most clients would take advantage of this situation. Since they already know how much I charge, they would find a way to use my talent to do something much bigger than the first assignment.

Clients would think that the same rate applies across the board. It may apply to other freelancers like illustrators who could charge per piece, but not for freelance writers.

SCOPE OF WORK

This part of the contract defines the type of project, its scope and limitations. It is better for me to define everything, even the slightest detail.

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a [type of] project for the client which includes:
• [describe the nature,
• scope of the project, and
• limitations of the project]

An example of what I presented to a client recently looks like this:

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a SEO and Social Media Management project for the client, which includes:  
-- administering the WordPress site,
-- article/blog writing  
-- social media posts on 1 Facebook page and 1 Twitter account only (additional social media platforms will have additional charges) 
-- responding to comments for audience engagement (but not including critical or sensitive customer service or technical support issues which I may not be able to handle due to my limited knowledge of and exposure to the company/organization)
-- content curation and 
-- other activities related to Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Management.

Although the above example does not show much details, the important thing is I laid out the general scope and limitations of the work first. Particular details may be discussed and laid out later during the negotiation phase and/or final drafting of the contract.

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DELIVERY DATE AND DELIVERABLE

This part defines the desired outcomes based on the previous scope of work. I usually state what I would produce (e.g. 2 articles in .docx format), when or how frequent are they delivered to the client (e.g. weekly), and how should they be delivered (e.g. via Google Drive).

Here is what I have on my template:

DELIVERY DATES: I shall complete the Services and/or Work by or in accordance with the delivery schedule below:
Deliverable/s: [number of] hours per week (a total of [number of] hours per month) of writing in [type of] format.
or [number of] words of [type of] writing in [type of] format within [period of time] upon my acknowledgement receipt of written instructions via email.
Submission: Submission of deliverable will be via email or Google Drive or whichever the client prefers.

REVISIONS

Some freelance writers miss this part because they might not have given a thought about it. There are clients who keep on returning the work for revisions many times that the writer’s pay itself is no longer worth it.

As much as possible, I make sure that the work is perfect that it needs no revisions at all. However, there are times that clients point out an issue or two for the writer to revise. Once is acceptable. But more than twice require additional charge.

Here is how I stated it on my Statement of Work template:

REVISION: Edits will be avoided at all costs and are not anticipated except in extreme circumstances. An article may be returned to me only once for revision at the sole discretion of the client. Revision will be done within 24 to 48 hours upon return. Succeeding revisions, if any, will be charged as per the writing rates stated below.

PAYMENT

I guess this is the part why freelancers need to set up contracts with their client in the first place. Getting paid for writing may be fun, but getting paid right is another issue.

This part of the contract should define how much you will charge for what type of project. Specify also how you should be paid (e.g. via PayPal or bank deposit), how much is the deposit, and when and how the balance should be paid.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

SAMPLE WRITING AND KILL FEE

Here’s the sad and frustrating part. Many clients require sample writing from writer applicants. A few of them would pay for the sample writing, but most of them don’t. If they belong to the latter, I refer them to my website, blog, or portfolio so they could check it out. If they insist, I won’t bother. Most likely they will pay me lower than my worth.

To avoid this problem, I offer a paid writing sample or paid trial. I charge this the way I charge per article. The Statement of Work specifies that if the client likes the sample, the project will push through. If not, the payment for the writing sample serves as the kill fee.

But the kill fee also serves as a good protection for freelancers who are in the middle of a project. If the client suddenly decides to terminate the project, and the freelance writer is not yet paid for the current task, it would make sense that the payment for the current task would serve as the kill fee. However, this should be stated in the Statement of Work, too. Better specify in the contract how would you like the sample writing and kill fee be paid for your protection.

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RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, AND NON-COMPETE

We are now reaching the end of the contract. However, there are other issues that need to be discussed.

I usually ghost-write for clients. Thus the issue of copyright should be laid out in the contract. More often than not, I would declare that the copyright belongs to the client on a ghostwritten project. Otherwise, I would declare the full copyright of the article and have my by-line attached to it.

Another issue is the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the client and me. This is especially applicable in ghostwriting projects where we both agree not to publicly (or even privately) tell anyone that I write for the client’s behalf. This is stated in the contract as well.

Since freelance writers get many jobs from different clients, it is common that a writer gets two clients having the same industry or niche. To prevent conflict arising from this situation, I declare and include a non-compete clause in the Statement of Work.

This is how I wrote mine:

RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, NON-COMPETE: I hold no copyright to the materials created. I agree to non-disclosure of rates, processes, and client lists. I agree to refrain from competing with [client or company name] for the same client during the course of this contract.

EXECUTION AND EFFECTIVITY

This is the last part of the contract. It specifies how will I deliver the Statement of Work to the client, and in what format. It also specifies what will happen if there are changes in the terms and conditions during the course of the project.

Also, I specify the date of effectivity of the contract and when should the project start. If the client can define the date of when the project will end, the contract contains that detail as well. However, most of my freelance writing contracts are open-ended.

At the bottom of the contract are two signatures: one for me, and one for the client.

I usually write the terms and conditions on MS Word or Google Docs. Then save it as PDF before sending it to the client. I don’t need to have this notarized because most of the clients don’t want to be hassled, too.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing and productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

How Much Will You Charge?

The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.Robert Benchley

The quote above came from American comedian and writer Robert Benchley. Every freelance writer, or other freelancers even, can relate to it. How much should a freelance writer charge is one of the frequent questions asked among writers. Just recently, two readers have consulted me about this.

A freelance writer can charge whatever he or she wants as long as it makes sense for him or her, for the client, and for the market. As long as the freelance writer feels that it’s fair, there is nothing to worry about.

There are people who charge way too much and get those high rates because they’ve built their reputation and their business up and have earned it. I know someone who can demand a million pesos for a book project because she has great writing credentials under her belt.

On the other end of the scale are the other writers who charge way below what they should, unknowingly or deliberately, thus affecting other freelance writers and the market in general.

So how much is fair?

In the course of my freelance writing career, I’ve tried weighing four ways on how to charge a writing project: per word, per page, per project or per piece, and per hour. There are pros and cons for each but let me give you an idea how it works for me.

Per Word

When I got hold of my first copy of Writer’s Digest back in the mid-80’s, I read from the ads that contributing writers would get between $0.05 USD to $0.25 USD per word. At that time, the exchange rate was Php 35.00 = $1.00 USD. I was in high school then and all I could say was, “Wow!”

When I joined the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP) in 2012, we had agreed that no Filipino writer should charge below Php 2.00 per word. And yet, some writers accept projects that pay way below that rate.

In fact, I’ve encountered a writing platform that pays writers $6.00 per 500 words. Although there are many writing tasks to grab daily, and an average writer can write up to 3 articles per day, it may look like the rate is fair if converted into Philippine peso. But think again, given the task requirements [like sticking to the SEO keywords and the exact 500 words] plus the time spent on research, writing and polishing the draft, the $6.00 per 500 words is way below the Php 2.00 per word FWGP standard.

When charging a writing project per word, better ask the client for the required word count. Most of my clients for web content require me to write articles 1,200 to 1,500 words long. Only a few would require me to write up to 3,000 words. Since the word count varies, it is easier to set the price per 100 or 500 words. This is much easier and acceptable to both client and me.

According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine dated October 2013, writers may charge from $2.00 USD per 100 words for academic writing, $3.00 USD per 100 words for special reports, $5.00 USD per 250-399 words, and $10.00 USD for 400-500 words for article and content writing. That was almost seven years ago. The rates have changed now.

However, if the client specified a project long enough that charging per word maybe too much, I go for the second option: per page.

Related Article: Statement of Work

Per Page

Two years ago, I finished an e-book project that paid me by the page. I’ve checked around and saw that prices per page vary from one writer to another. One source said, it’s $15.00 USD per page. That is around Php 780.00 if converted. The client may say it’s over his or her budget, so be ready with a counter-proposal to meet halfway.

Editing and proofreading services are better charged by the page, whether fiction or non-fiction writing.

However, because of images, charts, diagrams, etc., the text would have to move along adding more pages which could be both an advantage or disadvantage. The more pages I have, the more money I’ll get. However, the not so good thing about it is when I compute for the per word rate, chances are it would go way below than my usual per word rate. Realizing that would make me think twice, my next option is to charge it per project.

Per Project

This is something easy for the client because it’s a flat fee regardless of the project’s length. Also, I have an advantage to figure out how much I would like to get paid without the limitations of word or page count. I just have to factor in the hours and resources spent, in a way that it makes sense to both parties, and still have enough gain at the end.

Project that requires interviews, library research, and other non-writing tasks, etc. are best charged on a per project basis. I think as if I’m going to be paid a salary per month or per week, depending on the project’s time frame. Also,  I ask the client how much is his or her budget and I base my quote from it.

The disadvantage of this method is if the project becomes more in-depth than I anticipated and I end up on the losing end. Most freelance writers suffer this kind of trauma — working on a project, being told to revise this and that, hoping to get paid but ends up not being paid due to some unfortunate circumstances, and if ever paid the amount is lower than all the effort.

One way to prevent this is to ask for a down payment to finance the project, and ask for the balance once the project is done. This is stated in my Statement of Work (SOW) along with the project’s details.

If ever the client decides not to continue the project, I usually state in my SOW that the down payment will serve as the “kill fee”. This way, I’m paid for the services rendered during the first days of the project.

If I can’t figure how much the whole project would cost me, then I try charging it per hour instead.

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Per Hour

This method is tricky at the same time fair. I’ve scouted around and saw varied rates from $5.00 USD to $40.00 USD. (And I also found a few who charge much higher.) If you try to convert that into Philippine pesos you’ll exclaim, “Wow!”.

I use a timer and an invoicing tool so I could easily charge the client and show him or her how my time was spent in the project. That includes research, Skype calls, writing, and editing. I just have to be conscious of my time and motion and be honest in charging.

I bid for $11.00 USD per hour for two separate writing projects. The British client said, “I guess you’ll just be writing for thirty minutes per item, how’s that?” The Australian client said, “The US dollar rate is too much. How about if it’s in Australian dollars?” In short, I sealed both deals on 2015.

The advantage of being a Filipino is having this kind of opportunity to work with foreign clients and still get comfortable with the rates even if it’s below expectation. Both $5.50 USD and $11.00 AUD were fine with me because I was comfortable with that. Believe me, it was much more than the starting rate I had in freelance writing back in 2012.

I have set a lowest rate where I could still be comfortable and resolve that I should not go lower than that. Also, I factored in other fees like the kill fee, time for research, meetings, and revisions. I check with the client what the project entails then decide which method to use.

To help me decide, I weigh in the pros and cons of each rate in relation to that project. I start proposing for the hourly rate, then go for the per project rate. For small projects, it’s simpler that I start proposing for a per project (or per piece) or per page rate. Then I sent my Statement of Work (SOW) which could also be my contract with the client once it’s signed. The rate will now be sealed.

Among the four methods, I prefer charging by the hour. However, different clients prefer different methods. So this is a tough balancing act and yet I like the variety.

How you’re going to charge the client depends on you. As long as it’s fair for both parties, as long as you’re comfortable with the cost, then it’s fine to charge per hour, per project, per page, or per word. But please, freelance writers, not perhaps.