All freelancers run into scope creep now and then: a project takes a lot longer or needs considerably more work than originally agreed to with the client. If you’ve agreed to a fixed fee or a cap on number of hours, you end up missing out on what you should have charged.
For instance, you agreed to a project fee that was based on 50 hours for a moderate copyedit. But after getting into it, you end up with a heavy edit that takes 70 hours. If you are locked in to the project fee, you just did 20 hours of work for free.
A developmental editor might be involved in a long-term project for many more months (or even years) than was originally anticipated.
If this happens frequently, you can work yourself into the poorhouse. How do you protect yourself from giving out free work?
Freelance fees are generally renegotiable, especially if the scope of the project changes, which is one of the most common reasons for renegotiating. A project sometimes requires a greater scope of work or longer duration than anyone originally envisioned, even for seasoned freelancers and clients.
We recommend using a contract and not only spelling out the option to renegotiate but also pointing out that either party may make use of it. If both freelancer and client are aware that revising schedules or payment terms may become necessary, renegotiation can be a smooth process.
Freelancers who establish long-term relationships should not be shy about requesting a rate increase as time goes by. Employees typically receive raises on an annual basis, and clients should not be surprised that freelancers also need, at a minimum, cost of living adjustments. Bear in mind, however, that the client has no incentive to offer an unsolicited increase. The freelancer will almost always have to initiate the conversation and should have a new rate in mind before broaching the topic.
Try framing your request as a percentage of the existing rate. That seems to come across as more reasonable than a seemingly random monetary amount. Back up your request with data about going rates, and be prepared to show not only the value you have brought to the work but how it has increased over time as well.
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