A couple weeks back I was in Las Vegas, hanging out at the Palms Casino.
I was attending an event called MicroConf, a get-together for entrepreneurs and startup founders.
And I bumped into an almost-client, a tech CEO named Adam.
Adam had reached out to me last fall about writing a new landing page for the company he runs. He seemed ready to move forward and I even sent over my first invoice… And then he went silent on me. The invoice sat unpaid, and I never heard back.
That happens, and it's why you always want to have several irons in the fire as a freelancer.
I'd actually forgotten all about it, but Adam wanted to explain.
Turns out, he was sold on working with me, but the owner of the company wasn't. She thought my fees were too high, so she instructed Adam to find a writer who was “less costly.”
Somehow Adam ended up finding a “cheap date” copywriter—just $35 an hour.
What a deal!
As I'm listening to Adam's story the red flags are a flyin', for two reasons:
First, I don't know of ANY competent copywriter who bills writing projects hourly. You can expect to pay a flat fee in the several thousand dollar range.
Second, when they do agree to an hourly gig, usually a quick consulting project, the rates are more like $250-1,000 an hour.
But $35 an hour sounded just peachy to Adam's boss, so they hired her.
The first assignment they gave her was a “case study.”
Case studies are great projects for writers because they're easy, yet provide a lot of value to the client. You interview a happy customer, then write up how they used the product to solve a specific problem.
Any competent copywriter can crank these out in their sleep. The whole thing should take less than 10 hours, start to finish.
Well not Ms. Thirty-Five An Hour.
She futzed around, and delayed, and stalled…
Eventually she handed in a skimpy 2-page manuscript. And according to Adam, it was utter GARBAGE.
He wasn't 100% clear if she'd even talked to the client.
What she WAS good at, though, was racking up billable hours—42 of them, to be exact, for a grand total of $1,500.
I winced and told Adam that the going rate for a top-shelf case study writer is $500 per page.
And as for pinching pennies on the copy that can make or break your business—well, you're better off marching up to the roulette table and betting it all on red.
P.S. I'm pretty sure my Uber drivers thought I was the dullest lout to ever haunt the Vegas Strip.
I must have had a dozen conversations that went:
Driver: “Hope you didn't lose too much in the slots tonight!”
Me: “Oh, I don't really gamble. Seems pretty pointless.”
Driver: “How about the clubs?”
Me: “I'm married and quite happy, thanks.”
Driver: “Well, don't get too drunk!”
Me: “I'm not much of a drinker…”
All that aside, MicroConf WAS pretty awesome—met several subscribers and Entreprogrammers listeners. Maybe I'll see YOU there next year!