Public Relations practitioners are a dime a dozen, or so I’ve heard. Who’s not a dime a dozen are really good practitioners who bridge business and marketing with public relations (ok, here’s a plug, close your eyes…like Jayme Soulati).
Of late, more small business owners are asking me for hourly rates, and the answer is not one I ever provide immediately. Here’s why:
1. Hourly rates vary per client, project, budget available, deadline, and other parameters.
2. Marketing and public relations practitioners do not bill like lawyers. If someone in our field is billing $300/hour, that is extraordinary, and the small business is likely looking too far up the ladder or in an agency for a business partner. (By the way, even lawyers are getting slammed for hourly rates; more clients are demanding alternative fee arrangements.)
3. Independent practitioners should recognize that if a business owner is asking for an hourly rate, there’s an opportunity to sell a project or a retainer that becomes a long-term partnership versus a one-off hourly gig.
3. Before sharing an hourly rate, schedule a call (call it a “free consult”) with the small business owner to ascertain what the needs are or what project is looming that requires some marketing help.
4. After listening, assess the project duration. If you’re still tied in with the traditional ways of accounting, then multiply the hours to complete the project by an hourly rate.
A typical press release, for example, should be billed at about $500 (this includes research/interview, writing, approvals, publishing). That happens to be a project fee and not an hourly rate x 5 hours — why? Because senior practitioners who know their stuff can write a press release faster than it takes to engage on social media every day. Why should that expert penalize her expertise with an hourly rate to accomplish something more efficiently?
5. When someone asks for an hourly rate, push back and say, “how about a phone call?” Assess what the needs are. If you don’t do this, you’re worse off than if you provide an hourly rate. People are fishing and comparing notes — well, Sally in Miami is $250/hour and John in Little Rock is half that, guess John gets the business!
6. If you provide an hourly rate, you get no chance to sell your expertise. This is the clincher, so let me repeat…if you think that informing people of your cheap hourly rate is going to earn you business, you’re sadly mistaken. Don’t denigrate your expertise just to win a project for a few hours; you’ll find yourself backtracking and expending too much time for too little money.
7. Those business owners seeking hourly rates are likely shopping amongst a cadre of practitioners (because there are hundreds seeking work today) to find the cheapest labor. Remind yourself “people get what they pay for.” When you as a practitioner refuse to play that way, you’re doing yourself and your profession a huge favor. Be mindful of that.
If your response below happens to be, “yes, but it pays the bills.” I’ll argue and say, “I beg to differ, respectfully.” When you realize your valuable time is being eaten with a gig that went south, you can do nothing about it but lose money and deliver on the plan to save your reputation.