How do freelance copywriters actually charge for their work?

Peta
As a freelance copywriter, I am always monitoring the fees charged across the market. I don’t want to price myself out of work, but I don’t want to undercharge for my skills. It’s a balancing act and, with a fluctuating freelance salary, getting invoicing right is vital.

If you are looking to hire a freelance copywriter, it’s even harder to know what fees are fair for a good, professional job that fits your requirements.
So, before you contact a copywriter, be clear about the work you want done. The clearer the brief, the easier it is for them to quote accurately.

There are three main ways in which copywriter’s charge for their services:

 

By the hour

There are many copywriters that charge this way, I don’t. Not because I am against it, but it can often create issues with clients when it comes to billing as they may dispute how long the work took. Sometimes, I am in the writing zone and words flow easily; other occasions, I have writers block and words come slowly - but that is not the clients fault. This is why I find it hard to charge this way. Also, clients do not fully understand how much time cleverly crafted copy can take.

For example, Shorter copy = shorter time? Right? WRONG!

I have clients who want, for example, some 60-word copy – not a lot of words, so easy right? Often trying to get the key messages and words, information and call to action across in an engaging way using a very short word count is tricky and can take considerable time. It is actually harder than when you have more flexibility with the number of words. I have spent a couple of hours on a 60-word paragraph to get it perfect for the client (I can get quite obsessive at times) but many clients would not appreciate that translated into an hourly invoice!

Per word

This is another way that I find hard to charge by, but it works for some. You are invoiced for the number of words written e.g. $0.25 per word or $1 a word, whatever.

I find it hard to work in this way. It’s fine on occasions where you know the exact word count but if you have a range of between 1,000 – 2,000 words then you are going to get varying final costs.

Also, I have written copy for slogans – only say 6 words long so charging per word would leave me considerably out of pocket. Slogans are more than just the words – it’s the power they evoke, not say $6 ($1 per word for something that took over an hour to craft!).

Conversely, I don’t want to spend hours on a 1,000-word copy only for the client to request it is cut down to reduce the cost for them, even if it negatively affects the power of the words; or for a client having to pay for unnecessary words.

So, how do I charge?

 

By project

I work out how much time it is going to take, including research, the needs of the client, the subject matter, where the copy is to be used and then give a clear figure with exactly what that quote includes. The fees are evident from the outset and if the client is not agreeable, they can decline. No one can come back after the work is done and disagree. It means we both agree on an suitable fee for both sides and the client is clear of their financial responsibilities from the start. If they do not like the figure, they can at least have a conversation before the first letter on the keyboard is pressed.

The charges for a freelancer seem very high? You many feel freelancers are overpaid but considering we:

  • Don’t get sick leave, holiday pay etc
  • Have variable work patterns as jobs are never guaranteed or regular
  • Spend hours in meetings that are not always billable - in a salaried job you are paid to attend them
  • Provide professional skills and experience without any overhead, training and management costs
  • Are being paid to do the work you don’t want to do, can’t do or just don’t have the time to do - that is worth its weight in gold!

So, next time you need to quote to hire a copywriter:

  • Be clear and upfront about what you need
  • Ensure you are 100% with how they have structured their fees
  • Be aware of what the fee includes so there are no hidden charges
  • Ask for a discount, if you feel it necessary, but don’t be offended if it is refused - either, what you are asking them to do is too much for the cost they will earn (and earn elsewhere) and they have bills and payments they need to make too.

If you really don’t want to pay out then try an online source like Fiverr but be careful – quite often you get what you pay for and as the saying goes “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”!

Whatever you decide, hiring a freelance copywriter can be a very good use of your budget – saving you hours of frustration as you try and craft the words yourself. Time that could be spent in other areas of your business more productively. Just ensure you are happy with who you have contracted, the standard of their work and, more importantly, the fees they are charging!

 

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