B2B Copywriters: Here’s Why You Absolutely Need a Master Fee Schedule

After my laptop, Microsoft Word and my email program, the most important tool in my B2B copywriting business is my master fee schedule.

In fact, I attribute much of my success as a B2B copywriter – including my ability to surpass the six-figure mark in my second year in business – to my fee schedule and the strategies I’ve developed around it.

What’s a master fee schedule? It’s nothing more than a list of projects you work on, along with your approximate fee range for each. It’s your “price list,” if you will.

Benefits of Using a Master Fee Schedule

Among other things, a fee schedule takes away much of the stress and confusion of quoting copywriting projects. It also removes emotions from the process, allowing you to quote projects based on what they’re worth – and not on other factors such as how badly you need the work or pressure from clients to lower your fee.

But that’s just the beginning. Here are other important reasons why you must have and use one if you’re serious about maximizing your earning potential as a B2B copywriter.

  1. It helps clients focus on the deliverable, not your time.

    Many B2B clients probe freelance copywriters for their hourly rate. Even if they expect you to quote fixed project fees, many still want to know what you charge by the hour.

    The problem is that an hourly rate distills your fees down to a number that’s too easy to argue about. Too often, it leads to a focus on price rather than a discussion of the value you bring to the table.

    The hourly rate approach can also easily lead to a debate about how long the project will really take to complete. Most people, even savvy marketers, don’t realize how much time some of these projects require. So when you quote and bill actual hours, you risk losing their trust as they begin to wonder if you’re being honest about the hours you’re investing in the project.

    By quoting a fixed fee or a project fee range from your master fee schedule, however, you can put the focus squarely on the product you’re delivering, not the effort required to produce it. At the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of the finished product, not about how much time and effort you put into it.

  2. It sets the right expectations.

    A master fee schedule allows you to set the right expectations from the beginning. Most clients like to know up front what your deliverables will end up costing. They don’t want surprises.

    When you quote a flat fee, everyone knows what the final number will be from the very start, barring any out-of-scope revisions. The client can make a decision based on a hard number, not a rough estimate.

    (Of course, this also means you’ll have to do a good job scoping out the project and establishing clear terms for how you’ll handle changes in scope and direction.)

  3. It legitimizes your fees.

    When you send prospective clients your master fee schedule (which I often do early on to help qualify them), you are, in a way, legitimizing your fees. You’re not pulling them out of thin air. They’re printed and posted. That’s what you charge.

    This “printed word technique,” as it’s frequently called, is very powerful. That’s because when something is in writing, we tend to believe it more.

    For instance, in real estate, if you need to justify a price to somebody, you can either quote the price verbally … or you can show printed comparable reports from the realtor’s MLS system. Everything else being equal, the printed comparables will hold more weight than the verbal quote.

    It’s no different in B2B copywriting. Naturally, your fees need to be fair and legitimate. The idea is to not fool anyone. The goal is to present your fees credibly.

  4. It increases your earning potential.

    In the long run, working from a master fee schedule (rather than billing hours or quoting best-guess rates) benefits everyone.

    As you work with a client on more projects, you become much more efficient while charging the same fees for the same types of deliverables. You get to know that client’s business at a deeper level, so you can get the work done faster while retaining (or even improving) quality, which naturally benefits the client.

    An hourly rate model, on the other hand, actually punishes efficiency. The faster you get the work done, the less you earn.

    And a seat-of-your-pants approach makes you look unprofessional and can create serious doubt about your abilities and competence.

How to Create Your Own Master Fee Schedule

Developing a reliable fee schedule takes time (although there’s a way to get one started much more quickly; more about that in a minute).

  1. Ask around. You can start by talking to fellow B2B copywriters and asking them what they charge for different types of projects. You should also factor in the feedback you get from clients and prospects when you quote various projects.

  2. Search the Web. Many copywriters will also post their fees for a variety of projects on their websites. You can poke around and get a good feel for what others are charging. However, be careful with those figures. There are hundreds of writers doing work for virtually nothing. That’s not where you want to be.

  3. Compare fees against actual time invested. Finally, you should compare this information with the time you spend on projects. You’ll want to see if the fees you’re charging are aligned with the time and effort you’ve been putting in. You’ll also want to compare how your colleagues’ fees compare to the average time you’re investing in some of your projects. That can reveal areas where you might be undercharging.

I use a tool called TraxTime to record the time I spend on every project. TraxTime works just like a punch clock. Every time I begin work on a project, I clock in. When I take a break or stop working on that project for the day, I clock out. So it keeps a running total of the time I spend on each project. It also keeps tabs on the total billable hours I’ve worked so far every day, every week, and every month.

Every three months or so, I run reports in TraxTime to find out how I’m trending in terms of time spent on different types of projects and profitability levels with each of my clients. This information is invaluable in helping me evaluate and update my master fee schedule.

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Published: April 6, 2009

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