Hourly Vs. Fixed Jobs: The dilemma of unpredictability

My decade long experience in commercial writing hasn’t been able to help me fight this dilemma. The decision of accepting project contracts governed by hourly rates or fixed price payment terms.

While fixed price job milestones shouldn’t usually stretch beyond infinity or doesn’t involve countless revisions, the hourly jobs often lead to contradictions with clients. Quantifying your effort and productive output within a (billed) time-frame could lead to contradictions with customers.

Unlike mathematics, a creative work lacks specific acceptance criteria.

A mathematical equation always yields a specific result and hence defines a well-defined acceptance criterion.

If X=2 and Y=3, then X + Y would always unmistakably produce 5. The same doesn’t hold true for creative work such as writing. The acceptance of a certain work largely depends upon individual perspectives and views.

Fixed Price Jobs hardly accommodates the Layers of “Evolution”

I personally came across clients, who wanted to see the article “evolve” through infinite revisions and dramatically changing requirements. A $100 fixed price milestone stretched well beyond one and half months. Eventually after a persuasive nagging, the client reluctantly paid up the milestone. Understandably, he wasn’t “happy” with my services. Probably because the client wanted to tweak and try various flavors of the same article to eventually create a masterpiece that aligns best with his business objectives. This approach doesn’t work well for fixed price engagements.


Fixed Price Jobs should have clear Requirements and Expectations

Continuously evolving requirements aren’t suited for fixed price jobs. So, asking the right questions before committing to contractual milestone agreement is of paramount importance.

  • How many articles for a fixed price? Approximate word count per article?
  • Any targeted demography or geography?
  • Call-For-Action / Salesy pitch / Push marketing? Or pure informative narration?
  • Any backlinks to product pages or Business websites?
  • Need for source referencing? Any particular referencing style? APA / Harvard?
  • Business Blog or guest posting for authority websites?
  • The writer would be responsible for contacting (authority) website owners?
  • Writer would tweak the article to meet authority website standards and formats?
  • What if the (authority) website owners doesn’t respond on time?

No: I am not Against Revisions

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against revisions. However, there needs to be some tangible and well-defined acceptance criteria when we call it “complete”. I find it severely unjust to expect a freelancer to read through pages of your existing website, feel the pulse of your business, watch product explainer videos, joyfully participate in weekly “brain storming” calls and work through dramatic revisions unless your iterative whims and fancies aren’t fulfilled, to finally create an article that promises to go absolute viral, break the internet and revolutionize the business profitability of your existing sunken business. All for an amount of $100.

Obviously, these are merely circumstantial decisions. All of these would sound perfectly fine if:

  • The client was willing to award me with considerable amount of work every month, which would compensate for the substantial effort that goes into understanding the operational objectives of a certain business.
  • This was an hourly job and the client was paying off weekly timesheets. I would be happy to invest long hours diving deep into his business, writing, editing and revising as many time as he wanted.

We are Essentially Freelancers

The clients need to understand that we are essentially freelancers. We provide premium writing services to multiple clients simultaneously. Most clients are start-ups and have an average budget of $300-$350 which would definitely exhaust in no time. So in a mere attempt to keep our business moving, we need to continuously interface with multiple clients and accustom ourselves with their businesses. So if you want me to function as a core team member working coherently with the design and management teams, abide by your tailor-made business processes, tune myself to your visions, ideas, and organizational evolution, the engagement needs to be more long-term, adequately compensated and mutually beneficial.

 

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