Award-winning copywriter and freelance business adviser Chris Marlow gets results. More to the point, her success translates into performance bonuses, campaign royalties and other creative compensation schemes.
In an Aug. 10 teleconference for SF/IABC independent communicators titled, “Get Paid What You’re Worth,” Marlow shared her secrets of success as a well-paid independent copywriter, consultant and publisher.
Build profit into fees
Research how much employers pay people who do what you do at sites like Salary.com. Establish a target income based on how hard you want to work. Add overhead costs, retirement savings (10% of gross) and tax liability (25% of gross). Then add 10-20% more for pure profit—your compensation for taking the risk of being self-employed.
Price projects, not hours
Figure an hourly rate based on target gross income and use that to estimate flat-rate project fees. Negotiate bonuses based on achieving target metrics, such as X% response or Y% sales increase on a direct marketing campaign. Educate clients about how to pay for your services. And never quote an hourly rate -- except an exorbitant rate for change orders.
Dominate a niche
Define an area of expertise that differentiates you from your competition. Establish a vertical industry niche based on your work history and/or a horizontal skill-set niche based on your unique talents. Then go out and find the people who can’t survive without the services only you can provide. Look for high-paying clients in growth markets.
Market yourself hard
Make a list of the companies you want to work for and identify their pain point. Put together a “killer offer” that will get the decision-maker’s attention -- a free phone consult, tip sheet or white paper to heal the pain -- then follow-up by phone. Speak at professional meetings, write advice columns, offer teleseminars (up to 100 callers free at www.freeconference.com) -- whatever it takes to establish you as the go-to expert.
Pick the best clients
Just say no to prospects who balk at your fees. When you have special expertise, you’ll be in demand. People who value your work and the results you achieve will be willing to pay more for it. If you need to prove your worth, do one job at a reduced rate, contingent on performing subsequent work at your usual, higher rate.
Protect your interests
Qualify prospects by asking about goals, target audiences and success metrics. Uncover the value you’ll deliver and charge accordingly. Be clear about a project’s scope of work and detail it in writing. Ask for 50% payment up front, and don’t start work until you get it. Negotiate a rate for change orders. Don’t give discounts. Resolve disputes at your location, not theirs. Get permission to use samples in your marketing and promotion.
Show me the money
Marlow’s annual Freelance Copywriter's Fee & Compensation Survey* reveals just how much independents can make when they’re good at what they do:
24% charge less than $50 per hour
32% charge $51-$75 per hour
20% charge $76-$100 per hour
8% charge $101-$125 per hour
16% charge more than $125 per hour
At these rates, gross earning potential is huge:
34% earn up to $50,000
39% earn $50,000-$100,000
9% earn $100,000-$150,000
6% earn 150,000-$200,000
7% earn more than $200,000
Marlow advises: You can’t live on less than $50 per hour. Discover the average rate in your area, then charge more.
In a break from tradition, SF/IABC chapter members teleconferenced with Marlow, who spoke to the gathering from her home in Palm Desert, CA. The format drew mixed reviews -- good to dialog with a national expert, bad to listen to sometimes unresponsive patter. Stay tuned as we shake up our ICR programs to include more interactive discussions with both Bay-area and national experts.
*The Survey Report carries a disclaimer: Percent data may not always add up to 100% due to rounding, the elimination of insignificant data, or options to check more than one answer.”