Copywriting rates: Does an hourly rate limit your earning potential?

December 17, 2013 •
Clock and $100 notes representing hourly copywriting rates

This is a question I’ve thought long and hard about, over the last 11 years. My answer? I don’t think it does. Here’s why…

When you quote fixed prices, clients focus only on the cost

Perhaps an hourly rate would have been limiting in the early days, but not anymore. I used to work to fixed prices. Did that for 8 years. But I found there’s a limit to what clients are prepared to swallow for each project. Ghost-blogging is a great example…

For a quality article, I’d usually spend upwards of 3 hours (most likely 5-10). Let’s assume 6. Most clients, big or small, are not prepared to pay much for articles, so I’d calculate a fixed price based on how many hours it would take me, and how much I have to earn for that time to make it worth my while. After 11 years, I know that amount is $150/hr. So if I quote a fixed price on a quality 700-1,000 word article, here’s what I have to say to the client: “Hi John. Your article will cost $900.”

With an hourly rate, they also think about the work involved and the value

If, on the other hand, I quote an hourly rate, here’s what I have to say to the client: “Hi John. Your article will take me about 6 hours. At my standard rate ($150/hr), that’s around $900.”

In my experience, clients are more likely to baulk at a flat cost of $900, because all they see is the cost. When I quote an hourly rate, however, they see the hours that go into it, they consider that my hourly rate isn’t much more than most plumbers’, and they start to think about the value, not just the cost.

Yes, there’s also the uncertainty of the hourly rate to consider. But when the price is this high, I think the other factors, described above, outweigh that concern. (Plus I also prepare a written proposal, and I assure the client I’ll tell them the moment I think their project is going to take longer than expected.)

With the ‘ideal client’, fixed prices are the way to go

Yes, I agree if you quote hourly rates to a client with deep pockets and a true appreciation for the value of copy, AND they want you above all other copywriters, you’re definitely shooting yourself in the foot.

But I don’t get many of them

Let’s be honest. There aren’t many of that sort of client around. So your earning potential is always going to be limited by how many hours you can work. No matter what your pricing model. That’s why I also sell ebooks and software products. They earn money even when I’m on holidays.

Read more about my reasons for switching to hourly rates

Of course, these aren’t my only reasons for switching to an hourly rate approach. Read more about why I switched to hourly copywriting rates…

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Shauna wrote on December 17th, 2013

I completely agree with you Glenn re upfront large costs having the potential to freak clients out. As a relatively new to the game copywriter I've started off with an hourly rate and am finding it works well. I take a similar approach by estimating the time I think a job will take (sometimes it's right on, other times it's way off base) but I keep the client updated as the job progresses as to how much time I've spent writing the copy. They have a rough idea what they're in for at the beginning and can see how it's broken down. I think the difference would be if you stated an hourly rate but then provided no details as to time estimates - and unfortunately the time estimate part is the hard bit (although it's getting easier!). Thanks, great post, very reassuring!

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on December 17th, 2013

Yep, estimating's always the tricky bit. I still get it wrong occasionally, too, so don't worry.

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