How to Easily Increase Your Income by 30% By Doing More than Just Writing Copy

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Back in the days when I was a project manager with HP, I was often responsible for the pricing of our projects.

We had formulas that we used to determine what we would charge for services, and the goal was always to maximize our profits and limit our risk. More often than not, these projects required us to manage outside sub-contractors, which included taking all the risk for their failure as well as reaping the benefits of their success.

As a web copywriter, I’m often able to apply what I learned as a project manager to increase the scope of a web project and increase my net income by 30% or more. In this article, I’ll explain how you can do the same, converting a simple web copywriting project into something much larger and more lucrative for you.

The Art of the Deal

Perhaps the greatest challenge of any freelance writer is creating a balance between time and money. We’re usually paid for the work that we do, which boils down to an hourly wage. Along with the benefits that come with greater freedom, we still find ourselves as “work for hire”, but without things like paid vacation, sick leave, and getting paid for sipping a latte with colleagues.

The good news is that you can change this scenario and in the process put yourself into a more valuable position with your clients … and make more money for yourself.

Simply become a general contractor instead of a sub-contractor to your clients.

That is, you manage their entire web project.

Sound scary? It needn’t be, and here’s why:

  • As a general contractor for a project, you have much greater control over the end results because you direct web developers, graphic designers, and even other writers …
  • You no longer work in a vacuum, you have more personal interactions with more people, and you become the hub of conversations instead of being the last one to hear about changes …
  • And, you can earn 30% or more without having to do all the work yourself.

How to Become the General Contractor

You’re probably wondering how you might broach the subject of managing the entire web project for your client. It turns out that it’s a lot easier than you might imagine, and you’ll often hear your client breathe a sigh of relief when you bring up the idea.

This process works best with small and mid-sized companies, but can also be applied to larger companies. The nice thing about smaller companies is that the sales cycle can be minutes instead of months, as with larger corporations. However, these smaller businesses can’t afford the higher fees that you might charge a larger business.

Thus, it’s important to find ways to maximize your income without increasing the number of hours you work.

Here’s a 3-Step Process for becoming a general contractor to your clients:

1. Understand the entire project scope.

A recent example will illustrate this step: I was approached by a referred prospect to “write the web copy for their new website.” That’s simple enough, and I could easily provide them with a proposal for doing just that.

A few simple questions, however, revealed what I’ve found to be common amongst small and mid-sized businesses:

  • They don’t have an in-house IT (information technology) staff.
  • They don’t truly understand all the intricacies of web-based marketing.
  • They may have a “web designer,” but that person doesn’t know anything about marketing.
  • They want to use “online video,” but know little to nothing about it.
  • They hold a magical belief that all the freelancers working on pieces of the project will work out all the details amongst themselves.

Here are three questions I ask right away:

  • What do you want your website to accomplish for you? The answer is usually something like, “We want people who see our website to become our customers.”
  • What is your plan for getting people to see your website? They often pause, then answer, “We were hoping you could help us with that.”
  • Who will manage the entire project for you?

If, like most small and mid-sized businesses, their goals are grand, but they have no real plan or strategy, then the door is wide open to broaden the scope of your work with them.

They most likely will not have a specific individual to manage the project, and assume that they’ll “just have to do it themselves.” Rarely do they actually want to do it themselves …

In my experience, both as a project manager and as a copywriter, projects most often fail because there’s either insufficient planning, or the plan is poorly executed because there’s no general contractor or project manager.

It’s the perfect recipe for failure.

However, if you become the general contractor for the project, you’ll increase your income and put yourself into a great position for continuing to work with that client.

I’ve worked with small business owners enough that, while they say they’ll manage the project resources, what they’re really saying is that they’re afraid to lose control. In actuality, few business owners want to manage a web development project. They’d rather have you do it, but they don’t know that you can (or will).

Thus, when you look at the entire project, you’ll often find that there’s no one person to manage the entire process! But, guess who ends up managing the web designer, graphic designer, and other people involved in the project?

You, that’s who … so you may as well get paid for your efforts!

2. Propose what they need, not just what they want.

You’re now aware that, in reality, they need you to manage the entire project from beginning to end. That’s a good thing because it means extra revenue without the extra work.

But, there’s more. Most businesses today can benefit from having video on their website, and most businesses need the web pages to be optimized for the search engines. Plus, they’ll need off-site optimization services, such as link-building and social networking. And, to top it off, they might benefit from “search marketing” (advertising through Google AdWords or Facebook ads).

When you look at the big picture and break down their need for “more web traffic and more sales,” you’ll see that the scope of work goes far beyond simply writing web copy.

Your next question, then, might be: “What’s your budget for the project?”

I’ve found that this question creates a moment of awkward silence, followed by, “Why don’t you send us a proposal, and we’ll work from there.”

That’s an indication that they’re open to what you have to say, but need you to give it to them in bite-sized pieces. So, the proposal I provide is split into several phases, with each phase having an associated cost.

In some cases, I’ll offer a discount if they agree to the entire scope of work, as opposed to paying on a per-phase basis. However, the first phase is always mandatory, and contains the minimum that’s needed to be successful.

{Note: you can learn more about writing proposals by reading my article on project proposal writing}

3. Give them a package deal.

Once you understand the big picture, and the fact that you’re the best person to manage the big picture for your client, it’s time to put the package together.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Make a list of everything that needs to be done, from soup to nuts, for the entire project. This includes all the web design, graphics, video production, SEO, copy, and post-project marketing (link-building, article marketing, social media, social networking, etc.).
  2. For each item, identify the party responsible for completion of the task. I like to put my name by the things I love doing, leaving the other tasks for experts in those areas.
  3. Find people who will do the things you don’t want to do, and get bids from them. Ask around, and you’ll usually find two or three quality web designers, video experts, SEO experts, and so on. If you can do the task, then fine. If not, find someone who will. You want as much control over the subcontractors as possible.  (Inside tip: post ads for the people you need on the Wealthy Web Writer job board! It’s open to members as well as companies needing web writers.)
  4. Put it all into a spreadsheet.
    1. Figure out what you want to get paid for your tasks. Multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours you think it will take you, and then add a 20% “fudge factor” because it will actually take you at least 20% longer than you think.
    2. Decide on your subcontractors, take their bids and add at least 20%. At HP, we’d add a 40% markup, and I once worked as a subcontractor to someone who doubled my price.
    3. Take the sum total of all tasks and add 20% to that. For example, if the entire project comes out to $5,000, then add an additional $1,000. This is for being the general contractor, project manager, and the point person for the project. It’s also because you’re taking on all the risk of project completion.

Do NOT give them a breakdown of the costs, and never let them know what you’re paying your subcontractors. I always give a flat fee for each phase of the project.

When you compound all the figures, you’re making a nice additional profit without having to do an equal amount of extra work.

Even if your client has never used a general contractor for business functions, they can relate to using general contractors for construction projects. Building a successful “Web Business” is in many ways very similar to building a new home or office building.

The project needs an architect (you), a general contractor (you), and a host of experts in their field.

Being a general contractor on web projects is an excellent way to boost both your income and your reputation, and the best part is that you don’t have to be the expert at everything to be successful.

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Sid Smith

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