I’d love your opinion on this. I’ve begun working with a start-up cannabis company. I’ll eventually be serving as their freelance copywriter, writing their web copy, brochures and other marketing materials as they launch and grow their cannabis business. It’s exciting, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the emerging cannabis industry.
They like me to sit in on conference-call meetings that take place a few times a week. I’ve been doing so for the past three weeks. Mostly the calls, which typically include five to ten people, are to discuss start-up plans and changes going on in cannabis legislation and regulations. The calls are interesting enough but only loosely related to what I’ll eventually be writing.
As you can imagine, those conference calls take up a good amount of my time, and I’m currently not getting paid for what amounts to listening to people talk. I could easily be using that time to do copywriting work for other clients and getting paid.
Do you think I could request payment for my time, even though it’s not related to any specific copywriting project? I’m not sure what’s typical or acceptable for freelancers.
I originally quoted the cannabis company a per-word rate for my time, and they agreed, but now, after a half-dozen “free” conference calls, I’m thinking I should come up with an hourly rate and charge them based on how much time I spend on anything related to my work for their company – writing and phone calls included. Any advice you can provide is appreciated.
Yes, you absolutely should get paid for your time. As you noted, that is time you could be spending on paid copywriting assignments whether for the cannabis company or some other client. Where it gets a bit tricky is that you’re dealing with a start-up cannabis company, emphasis on the word start-up.
As a new, to-be-launched company, they’re probably focused on establishing policies, procedures, processes, marketing plans, brand development, etc., all those lovely details that need to be determined before the doors open. Unfortunately, in that stage, cash is only flowing out of the business and presumably is limited.
Having said that, you are not a principal or investor in this company and won’t partake in the profits once this company is established and generating sales. Therefore, you shouldn’t be expected to contribute your time for free. After all, while you’d like to see the company succeed, it isn’t a charity.
In terms of what to charge, let me tell you about a similar situation. I have a client that has me sit in on conference-call meetings once or twice a week. It’s a large, well-established data management company that frankly, can well afford to pay for my time. Plus, the company often works with consultants and freelancers, so I’m sure I’m not the only one who bills for meeting time.
I charge $75 an hour for meetings, and I bill in quarter-hour periods. Because the cannabis company you’re working with is a startup, they may not be willing to do $75, but I think $50 or $60 an hour is certainly fair. My guess is that they’ll suddenly feel it’s not necessary for you to attend the meetings.
You can explain that if the meeting is to discuss a specific project, then the project rate you’ve provided will include the initial meeting. However, if it’s just general meetings to discuss marketing strategy and business planning, then your time is not free.
Thank you! That helps. Even though the cannabis company is a startup, they seem to be well-funded. They’ve hired dozens of people and invested a fortune in equipment, facilities and technology.
You make a good point that since I’m not an investor and I don’t stand to benefit financially from the company’s success, I shouldn’t have to “donate” my time.
I’m going to bring up billing for meetings and see what they say. Thanks for your guidance. I appreciate it!
The fact that the cannabis company seems to have money probably means they have investors, which I understand is often the case with cannabis start-ups. The owners are not spending only their own money, or they’d likely be a lot tighter about running their ship.
My advice would be don’t let them get too far out on any monies they owe you. In other words, if you sit in on a meeting or do a copywriting assignment, bill them immediately. Don’t save up a bunch of charges to then send them one large invoice.
Often investors start tightening the purse strings when they see how fast their investment dollars are being spent, especially in pre-launch phase with no incoming cash. When that happens, frequently it’s the vendors who get screwed.
Plus cannabis start-ups are often banking on being able to obtain certain licenses to sell, which they may or may not get. Legislation is fluid in many states. If a cannabis company doesn’t qualify for the licenses it hopes to get, or the legislation limits their potential profitability by restricting their sales in some way, the business falls apart and again, vendors get screwed. So proceed with caution.
Here’s the reply I get in case you’re curious:
Thank you so much for your follow-up on this. We had always envisioned having you primarily serve as our copywriter but do appreciate your time spent with the team.
That said, I totally understand that as things were launching, there was a need for have you attend some calls, and we definitely want to make sure you’re compensated at your hourly rate. However, I don’t anticipate having the need for you to attend many more calls/meetings as content should be sent to you and you should have a good feel for the vision of the content.
Moving forward, we would like to focus on handling the writing at our agreed upon word rate. However, if in fact you or any of our team thinks you should be on a call because it will relate to a copywriting project, then certainly they will invite you and you can bill at your hourly rate for the attendance.
Exactly as I suspected. As soon as you mentioned billing, suddenly the cannabis company doesn’t need you to sit in on all the calls. Not surprising. At least they didn’t get angry or totally shoot you down.
Going forward you now have a plan and what amounts to a tentative agreement in place. Now with fewer meetings to attend, go rustle up some more copywriting assignments from your other clients, as it looks like you’re going to have some free blocks of time.
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