This week on HDIPT, a question from Kara about turning hourly rates into a flat monthly pricing:

The client is looking for a flat-rate fee per month rather than an hourly charge to add listings to their real estate website. There’s some variability — spring and fall are the big real estate markets in their area. Some weeks — and months — have more demands. The client says it tends to even out over time.

Setting Up Client Retainers

It sounds like the client wants a retainer, which does provide stability and predictability for both client and contractor. I don’t love the variability of the workload even if it does even out as the client claims. Having worked on the administrative side of real estate, I know that spring was absolutely bonkers but in that particular market the only truly slow time was around the December holidays. If you go the retainer route, I would:

  1. put a hard cap on the number of hours available per month
  2. stipulate that those hours are use ‘em or lose ‘em, or allow at most a month’s rollover, to prevent getting dumped on with 75 hours of work in a month
  3. require payment at the top of the month before you start work (because they’re paying you to keep that time available, not for what they use)

Retainers are not my favorite thing even though they do ensure a consistent income stream. In my experience, retainer clients sometimes start coming up with busywork (like HOURLONG PHONE CALLS) to “get the most” out of the time they’ve paid for. Retainers can certainly be workable, just make sure you set boundaries on the time and scope of your work. (I worked for a realtor who had me at her house addressing Christmas cards because she was recovering from surgery and couldn’t come into the office. Prooooobably beyond my job description, but I was 25, what did I know?)

Value-Based Pricing for Data Entry

Charge according to the value you provide. Click To Tweet

I tend to say charge according to the value you provide. In this case, the valuable thing you’re doing is putting their listings up so they can sell them. I would suggest charging a per-listing fee, based on an estimate of how long it takes you to do and your baseline hourly rate. Round up your time and add on at least 25% to cover taxes and overhead. 

I might also argue for a sliding scale again (like I did in this copywriting pricing scenario) because in real estate, the realtor makes more commission from more expensive listings. There’s probably less of a case for charging more to enter a more expensive listing because there isn’t a whole lot more work involved, unlike writing a description for a pricier house where you might have to work harder to sell the benefits and features. But it still might be worth thinking about. 

Let me know what you end up doing!

Auntie JDF

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