The other day a client, JM, suggested that, instead of my usual flat fee for copywriting, he would compensate me based on performance. Specifically, I would get a royalty based on sales.
He explained, “If you are paid based on results, wouldn’t you be incentivized to work harder and do a better job?”
I told JM the fallacy in his thinking: It implies that, for clients not paying a performance-based bonus, I do sub-par work.
“And that’s ridiculous,” I told him. The truth is: I write the absolute best piece of copy I can on every job I get, whether the fee is flat or royalty-based, high or low.
Why do I pull out all stops on every copywriting assignment I get, regardless of method or amount of compensation? For 3 reasons.
First, to do otherwise would be irresponsible, unethical, and, in my opinion, cheating the client.
Second, the better the copy I write, the more repeat business and referrals I get. And it helps build my reputation.
Third, when my copy performs well in the marketplace, clients give me great testimonials and speak well of me to their colleagues, many of whom also need copy written.
Yes, I know a few writers who say they are only happy if they are getting a royalty based on sales or another performance metric.
The flat fees I charge are not outrageously high, but they are not cheap either. So I feel well compensated working for the fees I earn. I may not be getting rich, but I earn a comfortable living.
Here is the primary situation in which I think a royalty makes sense: the client will be testing and tweaking the promotion on an ongoing basis, and they want me available to help with this.
That tweaking and ongoing testing is not covered in the flat fee I charged to write the copy.
So the client would have to pay more money for additional copywriting they require.
Except, if the promotion is paying me a royalty, I have an incentive to tinker and tweak—split testing headlines, leads, offers, visuals, form placement, etc.—for no fee, since the royalty compensates me for doing the extra work.
But in most instances, a flat fee is the best deal for the client and fair to both of us.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.