March 19, 2011Less, but better: How to improve your portfolio by spending longer on your work

This week I got together with Spencer Lavery, the genius behind the design of this site, to update my portfolio. After almost three years, it was time to take another look at how I was presenting my work. And I noticed something. I actually preferred some of the work I was doing a couple of years ago to the work I’m doing now.

How long does good work take?

When I first started freelancing, I’d frequently have time to spend two or even three days on a project I’d quoted a day’s work on. After all, I needed the work and didn’t want to price myself out of the job. But I had extra time to think about projects and more time to recharge in between. My work was better, because I took longer over it.

Since updating my sales pitch to feature “Ogilvy style” persuasive techniques updated for the web, I’ve been inundated with work.

A quick aside for everyone who wanted to know if my experiment with long copy worked

My bounce rate rose by 18.95% — almost immediately. In other words, I was turning more people away — making them think ‘this guy’s not for me’ — yet overall time spent on the page rose slightly and overall time on the site rose significantly, and enquiries via phone and email more than doubled, up to an all time high of 11 a week this month.

In other words, the people who stayed were more than twice as likely to read my sales pitch and get in touch — exactly what Ogilvy would have predicted.





With all the new work, I’ve felt a little rushed.

In other words, when I say you’re getting a day out of me, I mean it. There’s no time to go over your text the next day, because the next client is already demanding their work. Combined with the extra admin time taken by the new enquiries and my foray into social media, I’ve felt as if the quality of my work has suffered.

I know I can produce better work in three days than I can in one. The trouble is, getting clients to think that way. It’s hard work convincing every client that good work takes time. My solution: from now on, I’m only going to take on new clients who are prepared to let me take my time and produce my best work.

Less, but better – a philosophy for good copywriting.

Dieter Rams, the creative director behind Braun’s legendary designs, believed in the philosophy of “less, but better” — he meant it to apply to functionalist, minimalist, high quality products (he’s since said that Apple are the only people today still producing consumer goods according to this philosophy). But I believe it can be applied to copy, too. It’s not just a matter of saying things in fewer words (“less is more”) it’s vital those words are better, too. And good work takes time.

It’s easy to churn out words quickly. But the sign of good copy is taking up the least possible amount of space — long copy is fine, but there should never be superfluous copy.

Badly edited copy isn’t a sign your copywriter is bad. It’s a sign he’s too rushed to do the job properly.

Correspondingly, I’ve raised my copywriting day rate from £200 to £250.

This will probably mean less work, but it will give me more time to do the things I used to do to recharge — go to the gym, go for long walks, take the occasional extra day off. I’ll produce less work. But it will be better.

I haven’t changed my day rate in over two years. Raising my prices will reduce my workload and allow me to concentrate on producing better copy for clients who know good work when they see it.

I still think I’m giving my clients great value for money — in fact, I think by taking on fewer clients I’ll be giving the ones I choose even better value for money than ever before.

For all my existing clients, I look forward to welcoming you back. Don’t worry — long-standing clients have always qualified for discounts. And to all my new clients, I look forward to working with you, spending more time with you, and continuing to offer brilliant value for money.

Less, but better. It’s a guarantee.

Share this article

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 19th, 2011 at 7:55 pm and is filed under Blog, Me and my business, Site Updates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Eddie says:

    It’s being a long while since I have read such a wonderful writing on web. Great work! Amazing writing! What more can I say.

  2. al says:

    Thank you so much!

  3. Alexandra says:

    You are so right. Clients often think that copywriter are like a blackbox they fill with words and we just spit them out in the right order!

Leave a comment

Due to an unusually high volume of spam being left on this blog, please solve this problem before sending your comment .

Site by Spencer Lavery