Finding the best way to pay your copywriter can be puzzling to business owners. After all…
- Most people have never hired a copywriter..or even imagined themselves hiring a copywriter.
- Many business owners believe they should hire copywriters after they’ve paid for design and tech. By this time the budget starts to feel tight and they’re worried about spending too much on what they see is the last piece needed to complete the project.
- Most business owners have no idea of the going rate for copywriters, let alone what they can expect from a professional copywriter. They believe they’re paying someone to sit down and produce words.
They’re all caught up in following these basic beliefs so they choose the default option: paying by the word or by the hour. When you do this, you’re ultimately rewarding the laziest writers…and many professionals (who could ultimately save you money) won’t accept the job.
If you’re considering hiring a copywriter, or you’re concerned about the copywriters you’ve worked with, here are a few tips to consider.
(1) A professional copywriter doesn’t start with wordsmithing. She’ll begin with your goals for the project. Sometimes a true professional will advise, “You don’t actually need this for your business.”
Recently I worked with a client who was in startup mode. He asked for two websites, one for each segment he would be targeting.
In reality, this client needed at most one website – and he didn’t need it right away. He would be getting most of his business from networking and referrals. He needed a place to send prospects: a single page with a simple design and a clear, persuasive, targeted message. The topic of his lead magnet would be critical to his success.
How many words did I write? Zero. How much value did. the client get? Considerable!
(2) When you pay by the word, you reward copywriters for creating messages that like trees falling in an empty forest. Nobody hears them.
You may have heard the saying, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter” (attributed to Mark Twain and many others).
Professional copywriters have been taught maxims like,
“Every word must earn its right to be on the page.”
“Use all the words you need, and no more than you need.”
They spend more time revising and tightening than writing the original.
(3) Paying by the hour rewards slow copywriters…and can result in a big surprise bill.
You’ve probably heard the story of the plumber who comes in, turns a knob, and says, “That will be $90.” When the customer complains, he says, “It’s $5 to turn the knob and $85 to know which knob to turn.”
A potential client once said, “I should pay you less because you know my industry. You can write the copy faster.” Needless to say, I had no turning down that job.
Why should you care how many hours your copywriter spent on the job? Suppose I spend a hour and you make $5000 from my copy. A competing copywriter charges half as much and you only make $1000…or nothing.
Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but you can see how hours don’t translate to outcomes.
Even worse, I’ve met a lot of business owners who were thrilled with a low hourly quote.
One entrepreneur became visibly emotional at a networking event, some years back. “My web designer charged $30 an hour. My site ended up costing $4000…and that was just for the design”
If I’d quoted her $2500 for copy plus a sub-contracted design, she’d have said no. It sounds a lot more expensive than $30 an hour.
When pressed by a client, I like to say, “Website copy starts at $1500. That’s 50 hours at $30 or 10 hours at $150. I can quote either way. Your final bill will be the same.”
Pay by the project.
These days, I won’t pay hourly for anything. When I hire an errand-running service to pick things up, I get a range of how much time they’ll need. Otherwise I’d pay a small fortune for a simple grocery run.
Copywriting, design, and tech should work the same way. Recently I asked for a design quote on behalf of a client. An hourly rate of $20 sounded too good to be true…and it was. The project quote was closer to $2000. And I know it doesn’t usually take 100 hours.
Ask, “What’s my expected return?”
Suppose you’re selling a new course for $97 and expect to sell 10 copies just by announcing the offer to your list. You don’t need to pay a copywriter to earn the $970.
Now suppose you want to create a sales letter to share with affiliates. With the right copy, you believe you could promote widely and sell 100 copies.
Now it may make sense to spend $1500-$2000 or more on copy for a sales letter.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Copywriting brings results only if your market wants your product.
Consider hiring a copywriter to coach you for DIY.
When your budget feels tight, or you want to write your own copy, you still have options. Many professional copywriters (including me) will work with you to craft your own copy.
You not only get solid copy for your current project; you learn tools and techniques that will help you later. It’s the old, “Teach me to fish” thing.
Getting coached by a pro will be more likely to help your bottom line than hiring a cheap hourly copywriter. Often you need just a few tweaks to transform so-so copy into something that sells.
Many business owners do not realize that copywriters help their bottom line even if they never write a word.
You can download this free guide:
“3 Big Ways A Copywriter Can Help Your Small Business…Even If She Doesn’t Write Any Copy.” Click here to claim yours.