However, we can also think of freelancing as a labyrinth, and the nature of a labyrinth is that no matter how ahead or behind you may be compared to others, you’ll eventually find your way out. This means that sometimes it bears listening to someone who’s still in the brush, but fifty feet ahead of you on the same path.
They may not be able to speak in confidence and authenticity about the exit, but they know more about the forty-nine steps ahead of you than you do. They will eventually get there, just like you.
In July, I’ll be a full year into full-time professional writing. Ghostwriting as a vehicle has not yet delivered me all of the results, in the form of financial measures and renown, that I would like. As those measures have been ever-evolving throughout this process and as I have been acquiring new experiences and insights, this isn’t entirely caused by writing as a vocation.
Declaring a new path and walking it are two different things, and in the final analysis, what I want from those who would be my guides is lived experience and evidence, not mere possibilities.
I know of no other way to be credible with those looking to take those first steps on the path to making a living and a life by doing what they love. As with any trade, the awareness is something that can only come over time.
Staying true to that commitment, I will only share what I know to be true in evidence, not theory, with those who follow after me.
LESSON 1: PRICE FOR WHAT YOUR WORK IS WORTH, NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU’RE WORTH
In the beginning, I priced myself much lower than what the market can bear for my book ghostwriting services. In so doing, I was able to secure clientele out of the gate who otherwise might not have wanted to pay regular rates for a new writer. Not long afterwards, I let slip the ropes from my full time day job and set out on the open seas of freelancing with an eventual aim towards true entrepreneurship.
I don’t think I could have asked for more inspirational projects to start with, some of which are still in progress. I’m very happy and grateful for the relationships I’ve built up with my authors during our time together.
Ten months later, though, the original pricing regimen no longer works to pay my dues, and about two months ago, I realized that the time had come to raise my rates for new clients. Almost immediately, all the stories of self-doubt that, like most writers, I carry around in my subconscious at all times, popped up.
“You can’t raise your rates, Jody. You haven’t been in business long enough! You don’t deserve it! You can’t do it!” along with other blah-blah-blahs of the background mindchatter. This is, I would assert, a common phenomenon with many self-employed creatives.
Ultimately, the mindchatter means nothing. Pricing ghostwriting services has nothing to do with one’s personal worth, even one’s experience, and only slightly about previous results and experience. Pricing is entirely based on what’s practical, given the realities of what it takes to ghostwrite a whole book.
Money Buys Time, Time Equals Quality
Quality work is time-intensive, plain and simple. You need to have the time freed up to focus on producing great content, to do your research, to learn your subject matter so proficiently that you can write in the same voice as your author, who has already spent years developing his or her own expertise in the subject.
A ghostwriter simply can’t deliver quality if what they are earning from the work doesn’t pay their bills. I’m hard pressed to imagine any professional in any other trade that would.
In such a scenario, the writer would have to take on other smaller assignments to make ends meet. This has a cost in time, momentum, and peace of mind. Even when fulfilling on the contract, in the back of the writer’s mind hover all of those anxieties about notices and collections, debts and scarcity.
If he has to, he may even have to go back to a “J-O-B”, which would pay his bills, but significantly reduce his available fulfillment hours.
It all has a cost in the quality of the book that the writer has to deliver AND the writer’s ability to deliver. This is what has happened to me lately, and so from here on out, I have raised my prices for new clientele. Far from being too expensive, I’ll now be priced according to the minimum amounts stated by the 2015 Writer’s Market for ghostwriting a single manuscript (roughly $20,000).
Your rate has nothing to do with your value as a person. It’s everything to do with what you need to have in place in your life to do the work, deliver it on schedule, and do so with excellence. Show your prospects the value of your work and how you can help them, and the right ones will hire you. Plain and simple.
(For more, read “Lessons from a Ghostwriter (So Far) – Part 2″)