Why I’ve stopped charging by the hour, and how that’s better for you

When I first started InkHouse, I thought the best way to charge clients would be to do it on an hourly basis.

But two months in, I realised charging by the hour wasn’t going to work. I did some research and realised the majority of copywriters agree with me.

ProCopywriters did a survey with 420 copywriters in the UK and found only 36% prefer to charge a daily or hourly rate. In comparison, 63% prefer to charge by the project, meaning they set a fixed fee.

After lots of thought and research, I’ve decided to stop charging by the hour and start charging a fixed fee for every project.

In this post, I explain how I came to this decision, and why it’s better for you.

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1. You won’t get any nasty (invoice-related) surprises   

When I’m charging by the hour, I can’t tell you how much the project will cost until I’ve clocked all my hours and finished all the work.

I could take a wild guess, but I’m guessing your accountant doesn’t like wild guesses. I know mine doesn’t.

You might think it should only take me an hour to write a web page, but it actually takes hours (lots of hours). Exactly how long depends on lots of things, like the complexity of the topic, the length of the web page, and the number of edits you want after I’ve submitted the first draft.

When I charge hourly, you don’t know whether your invoice is going to be £500 or £750.

But when I charge a set fee based on the project, rather than on how long it takes me to do it, you won’t get any nasty surprises.

You’ll know the cost of the project before I start working on it. In fact, you’ll see the invoice before I even start writing.

The great thing for you is, even if your project takes longer than I thought it would, you won’t pay a penny extra.

2. Your focus is getting quality copy

My experience has shown that when I’m charging hourly, you’re (understandably) concerned about how long I spend on your project.

This takes your attention away from the quality of the copy, and whether the copy does what you need it to, because you’re worrying so much about your budget.

I want to shift your focus away from the amount of time I spend on your project (i.e. the cost) to the quality of the copy.

By charging a fixed, project-based fee right from the get-go, you already know the cost, so you’re not worrying about it.

That means when I send you my first draft, you’re thinking about the copy rather than your budget.

I want you to be completely happy with what I’ve written for you. I don’t want you to leave with copy you don’t love, simply because you needed to stop my ticking clock.

3. My focus is delivering quality copy

It’s important to me that I offer rates that are fair to both me and my clients.

So when I’m charging by the hour, I worry about the ticking clock too – especially if you tell me your budget means I can only spend X amount of hours on your copy.

Instead of focusing on delivering quality copy, I’m watching the clock, trying to finish your project as quickly as possible, so I’m not footing you with a bill you think is insane.

But, when we’ve agreed on a fixed rate before I start writing, I go into the project with a lot less pressure on me.

I’m not worried about how long it takes me to do the job; my only focus is doing a great job.

In the end, a set rate means you get the best out of me.

4. You get thought-out copy

Before I even put pen to paper, copywriting requires me to think – a lot.

I have to think about who your audience is, the purpose of the copy, the best way to present the copy, your brand’s tone of voice, the features and benefits of your product or service, which copywriting technique will work best for your project – and then I have to actually write and rewrite until it’s as close to perfect as can be.

But if I’m charging you by the hour for thinking time, I have to limit how much thinking and planning I do, because a lot of clients don’t understand that this thinking time is just as important as writing time.

My planning stage is most productive when I don’t have to watch the clockSet rates allow me to take all the time I need to work on a strategy.

I go for long walks so I can think in the fresh air; I draw mind maps over a hot chocolate in Caffe Nero; I create character profiles for your ideal audience; I scribble furiously on my whiteboard; and I research until I’m satisfied that I know everything I need to know.

When I have the planning time I need, I guarantee your copy will be a hundred times better.

It’s a done deal

The changes to my rates came into effect in November 2018.

All my clients will now benefit from having a fixed, project-based fee that they agree to before we start working on a project.

I guess you’re wondering how I’ll come up with these fixed fees?

In most cases, I come up with a tailored fee based on the following considerations:

  • How long a project will take (the difference being this is no longer my only consideration).
  • How much planning and strategising I’ll need to do.
  • The size and scope of your project.
  • The complexity of your project.
  • How much value this project will provide to your organisation (i.e. is it a one-off piece or will you be able to use it forever?).

To get a better idea of what I charge, get in touch!

Over to you

What do you think about these changes? Do you agree that fixed rates are better than hourly rates? Comment and let me know.


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Eman Ismail is a UK-based copywriter and the founder of InkHouse. She works with businesses and non-profits across the world, writing marketing materials and content that increases their exposure and attracts their ideal audience. When she's not writing or delivering copywriting workshops, you'll find her glued to a podcast in the corner of a cosy cafe.

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