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Discount Your Copywriting Rates? No Way! Try This Instead.

copywriting rate discount

Is discounting your freelance copywriting rates ever a good idea. Really?

How many times has this happened to you:

You sweat and slave over a copywriting proposal. Finally, you get an email from the client. Success! They want to work with you!

And then you read, “Your copywriting rates are too high.  We were planning to spend about half that amount. Can you bring your price down?”

Ouch.

Now, you’ve got a dilemma. Should you discount your copywriting rates and get money in the door? Or should you hold fast to your price and possibly lose the gig?

It’s easy to get in panic mode and immediately offer the discount. But that may not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Reducing your copywriting rates reduces the value.  Let’s say that you charge $250 per page – and the client wants to pay $150 per page. If you meet your prospect’s price, you’re telling them, “I was padding my bid by $100 a page. $150 is the true value.” Not the best first impression.

–  An initial rate reduction makes it hard to charge full price later.  After all, if the client got you for $150 a page, why would they pay $250?  Would YOU pay an additional $100 a page if you knew that you didn’t have to? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

– It’s easy to resent your low-paying clients. And by “resent,” I mean “flake out because you have bigger, better-paying jobs.”  The client feels burned because they know that they aren’t a priority — and you feel burned because you’re doing the work for less money. Think this won’t happen to you? It can (and probably will.)

Fortunately, there’s a way to handle this situation so your client feels heard – and you get paid what you’re worth. Here’s how:

– Are you bidding on a large project? Offer a small discount if the client pays the contract up front. This solution is a nice win/win for all.  The prospect gets the discount they want – and you get a big check before you start!

(You DO get a deposit before you start work, right? If not, you’ll want to check out this video.)

– Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement. Rather than reducing your copywriting rates, you could slice a page from the agreement, or reduce the consultation time. This strategy brings down the cost without having to slice your rates.

– Just say no.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is explain to the client, “Because of the time it would take to complete your project – and the experience I bring to the table – I have to keep the cost as-is. Are you sure that we can’t work something out? I have had many prospects come back with, “We want to work with you, so I guess your rate is OK.”  Whew!

And if you do need to walk away, that’s fine. You know you’ll land another client soon – plus, get paid your full rate!

What about you? How do you handle it when a prospect requests a discount? Is there any time when you will offer a price reduction?

Make more money in your copywriting business + have more free time?  Heck yeah! Check out what the Copywriting Business Bootcamp can do for you! Classes start February 11th.

Photo thanks: © Get4net| Dreamstime.com

 

 

10 Stupid Business Mistakes Smart Writers Make

Are you struggling in your freelance writing business and you don’t know why?

Don't burn out. Make more money, instead.

Don’t burn out. Make more money, instead.

There’s nothing worse than working your butt off and feeling tired, burned out and poor at the end of the day. If you’re churning through clients and feeling like you’re making less than minimum wage, you know you have a problem.

Good news, if you’re in this position, you can easily fix it. Bad news, it may mean changing your process, how you spend your time – even how you communicate with clients.

Once you overcome what’s holding you back, you’ll be able to transform a business #FAIL into a fantastic (and profitable) way of life.

And that’s pretty cool.

Here are the ten most common business mistakes I see smart writers make:

Missing deadlines

Never, ever miss a deadline. Period. It makes you look flaky and puts your client in a very bad position. If you know up front that you can’t make a deadline, express your concern or don’t take the gig. I’ve seen writers get fired after missing one deadline. Don’t let this happen to you.

Oops, did I forget to invoice again?

Forgetting to invoice clients

How much would your cash flow improve if you collected everything that was owed you? It’s amazing how many solopreneurs forget to invoice their clients and end up in a cash crunch at the end of the month. Services like Paymo and FreshBooks can help, and they’re easy to use. If you need additional help (or you hate billing,) find a VA who can invoice for you. It’s that important.

P.S. Clients hate it when you send one invoice for three months of work and say, “Oops, I’m a bit behind. Please pay this immediately.” Doing this once could cause you to lose the client forever.

Asking if an invoice has been paid three days after sending it

Your personal finances are not your client’s problem. If you want your invoices to be paid up front or net 15, put that condition in your contract. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for payment like everyone else.

Besides, if you do send a “please pay me” email, it screams “I’m desperate” – and you’ll turn off your client. Certainly, you should check in if it’s been over 30 days or if the check is late. Otherwise, makes sure you always have enough money in your account to help float any receivables.

Dropping the communication ball

Your clients will love you if you send them quick status report emails and answer their emails quickly. Good customer service is so rare that this one little thing will make your service shine. Waiting days to email because “You don’t know anything yet,” will drive your client nuts and cause them to think about you in cranky ways.

Talking about leads/clients on social networking sites

One of the best business pieces of advice my father gave me was, “Keep your mouth shut.” Congratulate yourself if a big fish comes your way, but don’t talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. I have seen writers kicked out of the running (or fired) because they said a little too much. If you treat everything as confidential, you never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. 🙂

Not having a well-optimized, compelling site

How can clients trust you to do a good job with their site if your is poorly designed, you aren’t positioning for anything, and the writing looks like an afterthought? Richard Hostler, Senior SEO copywriter from Brookstone, recommends new copywriters optimize their site for their name, as well as their other top keyphrases. When clients type your name into Google – voila – your name will pop up in the top spot, and they can read all about you.

This button says it all.

Being afraid to speak up

I’ve chatted with scads of copywriters who say, “The agency gave me a list of bad keyphrases, but I’m afraid to say anything to the client.” You know what happens after that – the page doesn’t position, and the writer gets blamed for sub-par work.

If something doesn’t work, speak your mind! Tell your client why. Back up what you say with data. Your client may choose to ignore you, and that’s their choice. If they come back to complain about their poorly performing page, you can remind them of your recommendations and see if you can steer them in the right direction.

Not keeping up-to-date with the latest SEO news because you “don’t have time.”

There is nothing more embarrassing than an informed client asking a question about the latest Google update – and you having no idea what they mean. Make sure that at least 10 percent of your day is spent educating yourself on the latest and greatest. Yes, it sounds like a lot of time. Yes, it’s that important.

Holding yourself back

Expanding your business is scary. So is taking on larger clients, asking for more money per page or taking a vacation when you know you really need it. Plan out what you want to do and do it. If you “fail” – so what? Pick yourself up and try again. This goes along with…

Not taking care of you

I’ve said it before – if you don’t take care of yourself, you put your entire business at risk. Play with different work/play schedules and see what works for your lifestyle. Laugh with your friends. Eat well. Exercise. Your energy levels will skyrocket if you do. Trust me.

What about you? What stupid business mistakes do you see new and established SEO writers make?

SEO client education: It’s your most important job

Client education is an SEO professional's most important jobIt doesn’t matter if you’re an SEO consultant, SEO copywriter, content writer, or social media coordinator that reads keyword reports – if you are helping clients with SEO, client education is your most important job.

In fact, I’d wager that if you’re struggling in your business as an SEO provider, client education is the missing piece.

Client education and managing expectations go hand in hand.

What do I mean by education? It can take many different forms, but the goal is to help your client get up to speed on what you provide, why you provide it, and how they’ll benefit. It’s not a sales page or a sales call. It’s helpful information that makes them a smarter buyer.

When I’ve had a difficult client relationship in my business, nine times out of ten it’s been because of a big difference between what the client expected and what I was able to provide. For example, as a copywriter, I can’t build your backlink profile or improve your offpage SEO. But I can make it easier for search engines to understand your site – and help your site visitors get where they need to go.

Client education is important in any industry – but it’s absolutely essential with SEO. Search engine optimization is complicated – and it’s always changing. Although the core of the process is growing a bit easier and less fragmented (pick your keywords, create great content and stay social), there is still enough change from update to update and from year to year for clients to get confused.

These changes can be jumped on by less than scrupulous providers to make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, when Panda and Penguin hit, questionable backlinks became the biggest problem. Unless a client has been paying someone to post backlinks to large, spammy directories there’s no reason they should be spending their time and their money on devaluing links when there aren’t many there begin with. They’d be far better off creating some great content and getting social to build genuine backlinks.

Since there are so many factors that go into SEO and some scum bags out there that are misleading their clients (either intentionally or unintentionally), your job as an educator becomes even more important.

Here’s how to do it, in three steps:

1. Always start the process with an intake call.

Do you get a lot of emails that look something like this: “Hi – I need some web copy. How much do you charge?”

Delivering a paragraph or two back with a quote isn’t going to have the impact that an official intake will. Start your relationship with a conversation so you can understand their SEO needs and determine if they need you, or another type of provider. This will also help you set the framework for how you are working together and let you explain the specific value that you provide.

2. Rather than being a service provider, think of yourself as a consultant.

It’s a subtle shift but an important one if you want to educate your client and take a more strategic role. When you’re “just a service provider” a client will expect to come to you, place an order and then get exactly what they ordered – no questions asked. These are the clients that will come to you saying “Here’s my keyword list and I want a blog article on X, Y and Z.”

But when you present yourself as a consultant, you’ll leave the door open to explain to them why jumping into blogging without a strategy is a bad idea. You can give them insight into how to make their pages better before they blog, how to create a blog strategy and how to improve their overall presence.

3. Produce lots of content – and then produce some more!

When it comes to copywriters and content, it’s often like the old story about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes. If your work days are filled with work for clients, how will you find time for your own work? Make time!

If you want to provide education for your SEO clients, you need to blog, create white papers and develop newsletters. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but it does have to be there. This way, your SEO clients are prequalified and educated before they reach out. They know the difference between bad SEO and good SEO because they’ve read it on your blog.

What steps are you taking to educate your clients?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing and owner of Six Degrees Content. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on Google PlusLinkedIn or Twitter.

image thanks to Digital Sextant (Brendan Riley)

Scared of prospect calls? 5 confidence-boosting tips for freelance copywriters

Prepare for your freelance copywriting prospect call

You’ve got this! Here’s how to prepare for your freelance copywriting prospect call!

What can be the scariest part of a freelance copywriter’s job?

Picking up the phone and talking to a prospect for the very first time.

Writing web copy? Piece of cake. Sending an email? Easy peasey. Calling a lead to make sure they’re a good client for you?

Ouch. Email seems soooo much easier.

Phone time with a prospect is important. Sure, email is easy and quick – but you often don’t get all the answers you want. A 30-minute phone chat can provide insight into the client’s personality, highlight their real needs (as opposed to what they may say their needs are) and – most importantly – help you decide if you want to work with them.

The secret to successful prospect calls is preparation. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel less nervous. You’ll sound more confident. And you’ll be able to close more sales, more quickly. Even if you have to talk on the phone.

Here’s how to do  it:

– Don’t take calls out of the blue. Set an appointment instead. It’s great when prospects call and want to talk about their site RIGHT NOW. But setting an appointment is your best bet (especially if you have a hard time switching gears between writing and talking to people!) Instead of dropping what you’re doing, email (or call) the prospect back and set a time to chat. This extra time allows you to focus, prepare and do any necessary gear-switching.

– Gather basic information via email before the call.  Whether you’re talking with the client in a few hours – or a few days – try to get some information before the call. At the very minimum, you’ll need the URL. In a perfect world, the prospect shares what pages she’ll want you to write, what her current challenges are and her budget. This doesn’t often happen, but it’s great when it does.

When I’m setting the appointment, I ask for answers for up to three questions before the call. Do I always get the interview responses? No. But I’ve found that the more motivated (read: ready to buy) clients will respond. At this phase, resist the urge to send the client a multi-page questionnaire. You run the risk of the client ignoring your questionnaire – and your scheduled call time, too.

If you’re wondering, my three typical questions are….

Who is your target audience? Do you have multiple target audiences?

What are the top three benefits of your product/service?

What sites represent your main online competition? What are their URLs?

– Review the client’s site . What SEO writing elements are screaming “fix me?”  Do you see keyphrase stuffing? Is the content benefit-statement free? Is the blog gathering dust and there hasn’t been any recent posts for awhile? Make some quick notes – all of these tidbits represent great upsell opportunities. Don’t forget to write down what you do like, too.  It’s always better to tell a prospect, “You’ll want to look at X, but the way you’re doing Y is great,” than focus 100 percent on the negative.

Review the prospect’s interview answers.  Look for red flags like, “We don’t have much of a budget” or “We want to be #1 in Google for our search terms.”  If you’re a new freelance copywriter, a small budget could be OK – but if you’ve been freelancing for awhile, you may want to discuss pricing sooner rather than later. Additionally, if your prospect has unrealistic expectations (like #1 rankings for all their key terms), be prepared to provide a (gentle) reality slap.

Important note: If you feel the prospect isn’t a good match, send them an email and let them know. There’s no reason to hold a call if you know you can’t help them. It wastes their time – and it wastes yours, too.

Write down your talking points. Do you have a testimonial from a client in a similar vertical? Have you handled a similar situation before? Write down what you want the client to know. Forgetting to bring up an important point during the call is easy to do (trust me!)

You’ve reviewed the site, made some notes and gathered all the information you can. Now, it’s time for the sales call!  I’ll provide some of my favorite “how to sell to prospects” tips next week. Stay tuned!

Get advanced SEO copywriting and business-building training – plus, receive my SEO Copywriting Certification training for free. Sign up for the in-person training May 22nd. Hurry, early bird pricing ends April 30th at midnight!

 

How to Raise Your Freelance Copywriting Rates

raise your freelance copywriting ratesYou know it’s time.

You’ve gathered some great case studies. You have fantastic testimonials. You’ve studied your craft, taken classes and honed your skills.

So, why is it so hard to tell your clients, “I’m raising my freelance copywriting rates?”

I get it. I really do. The good news is – your clients (probably) won’t tell you to jump in a lake. The bad news is – you may lose some folks, especially if you don’t raise your rates the right way.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of raising your copywriting rates.

1. Should you raise your freelance copywriting rates? Or change your target market?  Are your current small business clients paying you $75/page – and you think your rate should be closer to $400/page?  There may be a disconnect there. You may be worth every penny – but your small business clients probably won’t be able to afford you. If you’re looking at a major rate hike, carefully consider your current niche. Will it be able to generate the income you need? Or is it time to consider a new target market with deeper pockets?

2. How much more do you want to get paid? Clients tend not to care much about small, graduate rate increases. If you want to raise your rates 30-50+ percent, you may receive some kickback. That doesn’t mean that you would never get a 75 percent rate increase. It does mean that will need to clearly demonstrate your profit-driving expertise – and how you’ve made your clients’ lives easier.

3. Ask yourself – would YOU give you a raise? If you’ve missed deadlines (even if you had a good reason,) had repeating quality issues or had any weird “stuff” happen, a rate raise will be touchy. In this situation, your client will not remember all the wonderful things you’ve done for them. They will remember exactly how and when you’ve screwed up. Best case scenario, you ease into a rate raise very slowly and have a few glitch-free months under your belt first.

4. Consider who you’ll lose. You may have a wonderful small business client that you love with all your heart. But, their micro budget can’t pay your bills – and you honestly can’t afford to work with them anymore. It’s always hard to “fire” a client that can’t pay your new fee. But know this –  you’ll have to let them go if you want your business to grow.

5. When would the rate raise become effective? Never send a client an email that says “Just so you know, I’ll be raising my copywriting rates next month by 25 percent.”  No client likes a rate raise (even if they think you deserve it!). They’ll like it even less if you don’t give them time to plan and budget.  It’s good to give your clients three months notice before your rate change becomes effective. (Working with a new client? Why not charge them your new rate now?)

6. Keep your “I’m raising my rates” email professional.  You may have a huge IRS bill, need more money to make your bills and have tons of child-related expenses. Don’t use your personal life as the reason to raise your rates. Your clients won’t care – and bringing that stuff up makes you look extremely unprofessional. And for goodness sake – don’t beg for a rate increase or say, “I really need the money.” That’s a sure way of getting fired…for good.

When you’re ready to take the plunge, write a very straightforward and friendly email. Recap your successes, outline your new copywriting rates and when they’ll take effect. Will you lose some clients? Sure. Will it be OK? Yes.

As my father used to say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Isn’t it time to finally make the money you deserve to make?