As promised a while ago our writers have crossed swords for the first time in order to start their announced Dueling Writers Series. This first post is about the old, but evergreen topic of whether to publish your rates or not on your website. Both George and Mark share some great points in their respective views and I’m sure you’ll love their first duel.
Rate transparency by George or why displaying rates are a must:
Rates need to be transparent.
“Hello, sir. May I take your order?”
“Maybe. Hey listen, how much is the triple bacon cheeseburger? I don’t see any prices on your menu.”
“Well, that depends. When would you like that burger? Also, do you plan on being a regular customer? It is your first time here, right? Do you want everything on it or will no frills work for you?”
Customer stares. Blinks.
“Geez, I don’t know. I was just looking for a burger but I’d like to know how much it’s going to cost me. You see I’ve only got so much money…”
“Sure, I understand. Tell you what. You let me know in detail exactly what you’re looking for and I can have a quote out to you by the close of business.”
“Mmm, that’s okay. I’m not really all that hungry anymore.”
If this is how you are operating your freelance writing business then you may want to memorize the above script. Chances are you’ll be taking burger orders soon.
Customers come to your site through referral or search engine and when they arrive there are a few things that they expect. They expect that you will clearly state the types of services that you provide and they may expect to get an idea about cost. With that said, I know that freelance writing is service – not product – oriented. You can’t just put up a picture of your widget with a blazing red sale price underneath.
As well, different projects lend themselves to different rate structures. Sometimes it’s best to have per word rates, sometimes per hour. Sometimes per page and sometimes per project.
Even taking all of these variables into consideration, there is no reason for not being transparent in your rates or rate structure. If you’ve taken the time to put financial goals in place then you know how much you need to make per word, page or project.
Being transparent does not mean you can’t give discounts or incentives for new or returning customers. For that matter it doesn’t mean that you can’t charge for add-ons or special situations. Publishing your rates just means that you are giving your potential customers an idea of what may be in store for their specific need.
Publishing your rates creates kind of an instant trust with your customer. It means that you are a professional and that you know your rates are worthy of publishing.
So, put it all out there. Annotate your rate page with language about discounts or add-ons. Be real with your customers and they will likely return the favor.
Damnation by Mark or why displaying your rates sucks:
Publish (your rates) and be damned.
When I drove a taxi for a living, I would sometimes arrive at a house and be asked if I minded them bringing their dog along. Yes, too right I did. It’s only little, they would say, I’ll keep it on my lap. Oh, okay, then.
They would then go and retrieve some monstrosity that resembled Satan’s rabid pet Shetland pony with pointy teeth. It’s not much fun driving down the motorway with a Rottweiler changing gear for you.
My point is this: given half a chance, some people will not be entirely honest about what a job entails. Either that or they simply won’t realise the work involved. I did a copy edit of a holiday rentals website recently. It had been inherited by a friend of mine and it looked like it had been written by a dyslexic six-year-old over here on an exchange trip from Mars. It took more than thirty hours to sort out. There’s copy editing, and then there’s copy editing that’s actually a complete re-write. I charged by the hour on that one.
You can’t quote on a job you’ve not seen yet. It’s like a decorator quoting $200 for a room. What room? A toilet? A living room? A grand ballroom? Oh, you’re not doing the conservatory? We always considered the conservatory to be part of the living room.
What if your rates quote for a 10-page website makeover? Your client gets a price in their head, and it’s agreed. The fact that the site has 40 pages is conveniently overlooked. No, they’re not pages, they’re sub-pages. In that case, I will sub-tract them from the job. Seriously, do you edit 10 and leave the rest untouched, or do you quadruple your price? It’s certainly fair to quadruple your price, but that wrecks the client’s expectations. You can’t be arguing about money at the start.
I’ll use another taxiing analogy. You pick up a guy to take him from A to B. He’s organized a set fare with the booking office – cheeky sod. As you set off, he says he wants to stop in at several places along the way. The starting point is A and the final destination is B. But he’s going via D, M, S, L, Y and P. So you tell him bollocks to the set fare, it’s all going on the meter. You end up having an argument, throwing him out and leaving him stranded in the middle of the countryside at midnight in the torrential rain. Yeah, I did that. It happened.
I suppose there are ways around this. You could quote an hourly rate, or a rate per word. But how does a new customer know that your hours are genuine? You could be charging them for the couple of hours you spent guzzling beer at Hooters with the guys. And does the per word rate include any rewrites you do because the client changes the brief halfway through in a blaze of mind-numbing fickleness?
There are so many variations; so many factors at play. To cover all the bases, your rates page will have to look like an Einsteinian theory in genesis.
Just publish your portfolio of work. If it’s good, you’ll get the inquiries. Then you can talk about what the client requires – in exact detail. Then you can talk about rates.