I just posted this in response to a service provider who commented on my earlier post, Ebook Madness: Don’t Confuse Ebook Conversion With Ebook Formatting! In his comment on that post, this gentleman said he only charges $40-50 for the typical formatting AND conversion job, and asked if he’s not charging enough.
My answer was an emphatic YES, and I’m reprinting the full response here because I think both service providers and those who seek their services need to get a better understanding of the economics involved. Here’s my response, in full:
Yes, you are most definitely not charging enough to either do a thorough job or earn a living wage, though I’m sure you don’t realize it.
Let’s assume you begin with an MS Word file containing 300pp, which is the typical length of a typical novel. Let’s say you charge your higher end estimate of $50 to do the formatting and conversion.
You can take $22.50 right off the top for self-employment taxes**, leaving you with $27.50. But you still have to pay income tax on that income, and even if we assume you’re in a very low bracket, say 25%, you’re losing an additional $6.88 in income tax, which means you’re really only earning $20.62 for the job—and that’s before taking out your expenses, as you should be doing before figuring your net income.
**UPDATE – several have questioned my math on the taxes, and since I know math is not my strong suit I’m willing to defer to their judgment. But even if the taxes are only $10 per $50 you get paid as a freelancer (and I’m pretty sure they’re quite a lot more than that), you’re still only earning slave wages by the time you take all the expenses, weekly hours you don’t have booked with paying work, and weekly hours you spend on non-paying but necessary stuff like billing and promotion into account.
Your electricity, internet access and software aren’t free. Neither is the cell phone you probably use sometimes for communicating with clients. But I’m fairly certain you’re not taking these items, or the taxes, into account because if you were you’d realize you’re barely earning minimum wage on each job.
Getting back to those 300 pp…let’s assume you spend two hours reviewing the MS Word file and making your formatting changes. Even if you use a bunch of scripts or other automated processes to do the formatting changes, you MUST at least LOOK at every single page to be sure you haven’t missed anything that needs to be reformatted to be ebook -compliant. Two hours only allows your 120 minutes total for the job, or 24 seconds per page to review each page AND make any additional formatting changes as necessary. If the MS Word file you’ve been given is filled with lots of funky and inconsistent Styles and/or formatting, the job will take even longer but again, you have to at least look at EVERY SINGLE PAGE to know if this is the case.