Good question. How long is a piece of string?! I find pricing really difficult and from speaking to other people who work for themselves I’m not alone.
Copywriters tend not to publish their prices so there’s a limit to how much you can glean about what we charge online, this is probably the most comprehensive guide to pricing in the UK (on the Professional Copywriters’ Network website).
I don’t post my prices because every job is different so I quote ‘per project’ taking a number of factors into account (which I’ll go into), a price online would only ever be a guide and I’m not sure how useful that is.
How much do copywriters charge?
Let’s start with competition.
Competition is only one element of how I charge. If I really wanted to be price competitive I’d have to charge $5/hour to compete with non-English speakers who live in countries where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in the UK.
I can’t compete with them on price and they can’t compete with me on quality so I’m not $5 an hour!
If you compete on price it’s a race to the bottom
– said someone insightful
Like lots of freelancers, I don’t see myself as having direct competition not because I’m an arrogant twit but because I’m the person my clients have met and like, I might be local which appeals to them, or they particularly like my work or what I offer, and they choose to work with me rather than anyone else.
Copywriting isn’t competitive in the same way as, say, children’s books. Last week I bought my Godson some books for his 3rd birthday and while I knew they had to be by Julia Donaldson (she wrote ‘The Gruffalo’ – my Godson’s got very good taste) I could shop around to save myself money. Wherever I ordered them from the books would be exactly the same.
Not so with copywriting.
Levels of experience and skills differ, writing styles differ, when someone can deliver a project may differ, what they’re actually offering may differ too:
- Will your copywriter do SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) research?
- Will they add photos to your blog, upload it and write the meta tag and description?
- Will they do hours of research or do you have to provide all of the information?
- Do they take a detailed brief so they can tailor your copy?
- Can they respond quickly if you’re in a hurry?
As a client you’re not choosing between identical ‘products’.
How copywriters charge:
Let’s do this one first because it will be quick. In my experience copywriters worth their salt don’t charge per word. Yes word length comes into it. All things being equal you’ll be charged more for a 1500-word piece than a 500-word one but the cost won’t be calculated per word.
And what about a 4-word tagline versus a 300-word blog? I can promise you that writing the tagline would take as long as writing the blog, possibly a lot longer!
In my experience charging per word is more common with proofreading and journalism where word count is a fairly reliable way of working out the amount of work involved.
Per hour or day
This method isn’t without its problems either. If you want someone to come in and provide in-house support you’ll probably pay them an hourly/day rate. Or if you want someone to do a few bits for you, like re-write a blog, you might just want them to spend an hour or two on it.
But on the whole people like me, who mainly work on projects, won’t give you a price per hour. We might use an hourly rate to help us work out what to charge but we probably won’t mention the rate.
If you do work with freelance copywriters who charge by the hour, £35 to £100/hour is the going rate (or £250–£800/day) depending on their experience, location (you’ll pay more in London than elsewhere), specific skills or specialism.
And if that sounds like a lot remember that you’re not just paying for the time someone spends working for you, you’re paying for the skills they’ve built up over many years and for the convenience of having them dip in and out when you need them, it’s very different from paying someone £65 an hour 40 hours a week!
This is how I charge (and most copywriters I’ve spoken to do too) based on:
– Research & meetings required: if I need to meet up with a client several times, have loads of calls or do lots of research I’ll charge more. This is another reason why charging by the word doesn’t work. A 500-word article based on information you provide is a lot quicker to write than a 500-word article based on two interviews and a day’s research.
– Specialist skills: be prepared to pay more if you want a writer who has specialist knowledge or skills. Copywriters who have a niche or specialist area – say, they only work in investment – are going to charge more than generalists.
– Timescale: some people charge more for a quick turnaround so you might have to pay a premium if you’re on a tight deadline. I often work late into the evening if time is tight and I guess it would be fair enough to charge for that but for some reason I never have, I must enjoy the pressure!
– Time it will take: I’ve got a pretty good idea of how my skills/experience compare to other copywriters’ so I know what sort of hourly rate I should aim for (based on UK rates) and I use that x the hours or days a project will take to work out an initial price.
– Different types of client: again, some people do this, some don’t – I charge charities less than businesses and if I really want to work with someone (maybe to build my portfolio in that sector) I might offer them a price they can’t refuse to be 100% sure I get the gig.
Conversely, I’ve heard of people charging extra if they don’t really want to work with a client or do a particular piece of work. So if you’re given a very high quote check your deodorant is working!
– ROI (Return on Investment): this is a funny one. Copywriters at the top of their game can charge £20,000 to write a sales letter, which would translate into a pretty hefty hourly rate. They’re using their competitive advantage – their experience, skills, masses of hard work and understanding of how to convert readers into paying customers to put that letter together – to justify that rate.
They’re also taking the client’s ROI into account.
If the letter is sent out to 500,000 homes and results in an increase in sales of £2m, it’s well worth the £20,000 spent on it.
Clayton Makepeace (the highest paid copywriter in the world) earnt $1.4 million in his most lucrative month.
I’ve never met anyone who charges like this and I don’t do it myself but you might come across someone who does. And if they can massively increase your sales you might be happy to pay mega-fees.
But be warned. I’ve seen it done really badly by people cashing in on a brand’s value rather than charging for their unique skills and contribution.
I hope that’s some help in understanding how copywriters charge, we’re honestly not trying to operate under a cloak of obfuscation and intrigue, we want to give you as accurate and fair a price as possible!
If you’ve got any questions about pricing please feel free to ask me below.