As a feature of the ongoing business/tools thread, we started in February and continued last week (link) this week I’m bringing back a post and a tool from last year, an hourly rate. Overall, I don’t believe the principle has changed. In fact, with the economy where it is and in view of our current discussion, knowing your “hourly” is probably even more important, even if you rarely work on an hourly basis. It’s a valuable decision tool.
Hourly rates for non-hourly people
There are those that’ll tell you the hourly wage is for blue collar folk. And, the hourly wage might be, but the hourly rate is for anyone who values their time. Actually, that’s what setting an hourly rate for yourself does: it assigns a minimum value to your time.
Once you’ve set a value on your time, you can use that number for decision making. No, it doesn’t mean you have to punch a time clock. What it means is you can estimate how long a project or process will take, and then use that information to decide, like how much money to ask for in a bid, or decide whether that project is worth hiring out or doing yourself.
As writers, we know this won’t work for novels (in a complete sense). But what about hiring an editor? What about editing gigs of your own? Reviews? Ad copy? Estimating based on an hourly rate will never work for the big labor of love projects (we do those for things other than money), but for the other projects, the ones that pay the bills in the meantime, it can be helpful.
Knowing how we value our time helps us make other decisions too. “OK… My favorite drink is on sale for fifty cents less at the store across town. I’m in the market for two cases… Is it really worth my time to drive all the way over there or should I just buy it here?” If you know what your time’s worth, you can make the best decision.
In my situation, it’s probably not worth it, unless I’m planning to go that way anyway…
We can use this process for more than snacks and drinks too…
Time investments and when to call for help
There are a lot of factors that go into deciding to hire an editor or a book designer (or a plumber, or a mechanic, or…). Do you have the knowledge to do it yourself? Do you have the tools? How long will it take you?
My car’s last oil change cost me about $40.00. It takes my oil change guy 10-15 minutes. It would take me longer. I don’t have a garage so I’d be laying out in the street. And, I’d have to buy some extra tools. That one’s a “no kidding” I’ll hire it done for many reasons. I’m better off paying someone to do it.
I also enjoy eating. Specifically, on ‘big project days’, I like to order from a Chinese place about five miles from the house. I figure I’d have to stop working, drive the 10-12 minutes to get there, order, wait for the food, and then drive another 10-12 minutes to get the food home, where I can resume my bad habit of eating while I work. I could do that. Or, I could pay a 15% fee and have the food delivered (maybe three bucks at most on my usual order). I don’t need any new tools. I’m not stuck lying in the street. But, my time’s worth more that the service fee. So, unless I need a break, I guess I’m having it delivered.
These decisions can get really important in writing work. Not necessarily from a money saving stand point (though that can happen), but from a time saving one. And, possibly, from a quality of work standpoint.
Depending on what’s needed, a freelance editor’s typical rate is about the same as mine. So, hiring one won’t save me money, but by having the editor edit one piece while I’m writing another, I’m getting a lot more done in a day.
Would you like to see the money come in this year, next year, or a few years down the road? Paying the price to hire an editor can speed up when you get paid. Hiring a cover designer can save you time and software fees, and give you a better product than what you might create yourself. Hiring a proof reader might be cheaper than doing it yourself (on a time spent basis), and spot that typo that you’ve gone blind to (We alll have tham).
An hourly rate isn’t just for “work a day” labor types. An hourly rate is a tool we use to help us decide what we’re working on, how we work on it, and sometimes how much to charge for what we’re doing. It’s a planning tool, not a limitation.
Think about your hourly rate if you have one. Think about setting one if you don’t. And, I’ll see you next post.