Many clients don’t realize they are in control of certain costs. A client who understands how writers work generally can save up to 30 percent on ongoing projects. Here’s how it plays out:
Deadlines Can Be Costly
Writers need to meet deadlines. I once wound up writing an assignment from a hospital bed when my schedule was interrupted by emergency surgery. Writers who miss deadlines are just plain unprofessional, but clients need to know when to set tight deadlines. If your project is rush, a writer has to shove everything else aside to handle it. Inevitably, rush jobs will cost you more than non-rush jobs, either in terms of the actual bill or in terms of quality. Don’t set crazy deadlines unless you absolutely have to. Writers can sniff out clients who set fake deadlines just to get the work early. No one likes to be subject to trickery. Bad blood will seep into the writing.
Cash Flow Is King
Writers depend on you for input and approvals. When either is delayed, it holds up the job. Writers understand there can be legitimate reasons for delays. But writers have limited production capabilities and most have to turn down work to take on projects. When a client sits on a job, it is an unnecessary hardship on the writer. Clients who understand and respect this come out ahead. For one thing, most writers work harder for good clients than bad ones. Most writers will also charge good clients less.
Prompt Payers Pay Less
This is related to cash flow, but is worth mentioning on its own. Unless you plan to ditch a writer, don’t be slow about payment. If a writer knows he won’t have to hassle a client to get paid, he will build this into project estimates. Collections are an unpleasant and time-consuming task. Writers are grateful when they don’t have to do it.
Changes May Or May Not Be Billable
Most writers expect to make revisions. If you are working with a writer on a flat-fee basis, two rounds of revisions are usually included. If you are really unhappy with a writer’s first draft, you should say so, negotiate a kill fee, and move on to a different writer. Generally, a kill fee is between 20 percent and 40 percent of the total, depending on the size and complexity of the project. Usually this is covered by the retainer. Some writers, including myself, will return your retainer in full if they have truly failed to hit the mark. On the other hand, changes in direction are a different matter entirely. Changing your mind about the focus of a project midway through a project is not a revision. Nor is “adding a few pages.” Writers will not hold your feet to the fire if you are good client. But extra revisions and work outside the original scope of a project are billable time. Indecisiveness and fickleness are expensive traits. Likewise, muddled direction and unnecessary changes usually result when more than one person provides feedback and direction on a client’s behalf.
Thinking through a project beforehand always results in greater efficiency. Avoiding unnecessary changes saves time and ultimately money.