From The Golden Thread Mailbag …
Hourly Billing

Hi Pat,

I have a question that I would like your opinion on. I’ve been working as a copywriter part-time for the last 2 years, charging by the hour. I’m still not completely confident which kinds of hours I should be charging for. There are actual writing hours, research hours, talk-to-the-client-on-the-phone hours (which can sometimes add up). Which hours do I charge for? Is charging by the hour even the best way to structure my fees?

Lisa A.

Hi Lisa,

That’s a great question.

As you pointed out, it can be difficult to know exactly which hours to charge for. That’s one of the main reasons MOST copywriters charge by the package (a flat fee and/or royalties) and NOT by the hour. Those few professionals who do charge by the hour, charge somewhere between $75 and $100 per … and they typically charge for all time spent on the project with the exception of time spent speaking to the client.

When determining your package rates, keep in mind that, as a freelancer, you’ve got a number of expenses that salaried employees don’t have – things like supplies and equipment for your home office, your business phone, Internet service, and so on. So, in order to make a good living, you need to not only estimate how long a particular project is likely to take but also cover those expenses.

Hey Pat,

Well, I finally started studying the AWAI copywriting program that I ordered so many months ago, and I’m enjoying it very much. I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit in a short time, but I recently hit a snag in Part IV, and I could use your help.

The problem I’m having is with promise vs. picture. I thought I understood the explanation, but when I tried to mark the tai chi letter, I got almost all of them wrong. Even the pre-marked ones were confusing to me. I know I’m missing something here. I would really appreciate anything you could tell me in addition to what’s in the lesson.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you as I don’t want to lose my pace now that I’m finally off and running.

Ben H.

Hello Ben,

Not to worry. A lot of people have trouble with the promise vs. picture distinction.

You might be trying to read too much into it. Look at it like this:

The picture delivers the big promise. Every promotion needs to convey a major benefit to the prospect (as well as several smaller benefits) – a benefit that hooks him on a deep emotional level. That’s the big promise.

The picture is where your prospect sees himself reaping the benefits of that big promise. For example, being free of debt … no longer being stuck in the rat race … “working” from a deck chair on the beach … watching his friends envy the big new house he’s going to be able to afford.

There are plenty of specific examples in the Hall of Fame book. Read through it with “promise” and “picture” in your head, and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s it for this week. Good luck and thanks to one and all. Keep those emails coming!


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Published: October 30, 2006

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