Hiring Solar Copywriters, Part 1 – Paying by the Hour

Hiring Solar Copywriters - Paying by the HourAs you shop your next solar marketing project around with different copywriters, it’s easy to get confused by all of the different payment systems out there.

Some copywriters charge by the hour, others by the word, and still others by the project.  This can make comparison-shopping a real challenge.

But in truth, most payment systems are fairly interchangeable.  I generally charge by the word, but if you need a per-hour rate, I can easily do the conversions and come up with a time-based quote.

You might be asking yourself, “If all the systems are interchangeable, then why does it matter?  Comparison-shopping shouldn’t be difficult at all.”

In a way, you’re right.  It doesn’t really matter.  But each system has its own pros and cons – issues that you need to factor in when selecting a payment system that suits the needs of the project.

In the next several posts, we’ll explore these advantages and disadvantages:

  • Part 1 looks at charging by the hour
  • Part 2 focuses on charging by the project
  • Part 3 explores per-word rates
  • Part 4 tackles performance-based pay
  • Part 5 deals with communicating your requirements and selecting the best system for your needs

Let’s begin.

Paying Solar Copywriters by the Hour

Hourly rates are pretty common within the copywriting community.  I personally have mixed feelings about them – the pros somewhat outweigh the cons in my book.  But let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of this pricing system.

Advantages of Paying by the Hour

  • Familiarity

Hourly rates are familiar.  Car rental agencies, lawyers, wedding cover bands, and most of the corporate world bill their clients by the hour.  There’s no learning curve required – no education needed for either party.

  • Background Research

Hourly rates make it easy to factor in non-writing activities like research, formatting, proofing, and editing.  There’s a lot of footwork that goes into producing a quality document, and hourly rates help compensate for this.

  • Expanding Scopes

Hourly rates make it easy to address changes in direction.  What begins as a simple white paper on solar financing can easily grow into a 50-page eBook on financing, incentives, rebates, and project payback periods.

If you’re paying by the project, you need to constantly reassess deliverables and timelines.  But if you’re paying by the hour, you simply factor in whatever additional time is needed to complete the newly defined deliverables.

The same goes with project scopes that become shorter.  Some clients need to halt or reduce a writing project.  With hourly rates, this usually isn’t a problem.  The copywriter can just bill for whatever time has already been invested.

  • Ongoing Deliverables

Hourly rates are great for ongoing projects (like SEO or AdWord campaigns).

Perhaps you want your solar copywriter to invest 2 hours a day distributing content to partner sites and checking Google Analytics.  It’s very difficult to assign a per-word or per-project rate to these types of activities.

Those are just some of the main benefits of paying by the hour.  Let’s look at the downsides.

Disadvantages of Paying by the Hour

  • Penalizing Efficiency

A less experienced solar copywriter will usually take longer to produce the same level of quality as a veteran writer.  And yet, the novice earns more because he’s billed more total hours.

This same problem manifests in other ways as well.

One of the benefits of being a “solar energy” copywriter is that I specialize in just one industry.  All things being equal, I’ll require less research, fewer hours, and less preparation than a generalist would for the exact same project.

The quality of the writing may end up being the same, but because of my more specialized focus, I actually make less than a generalist would if we both charge the same per-hour rate.

  • Monitoring

Hourly rates are harder for clients to monitor.  Whereas a per-word rate or per-project rate is easy for both sides to assess, hourly rates require a greater level of trust.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the next copywriter payment system in the line-up – paying by the project.

Hiring Solar Copywriters, Part 1 – Paying by the Hour
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