One of the toughest decisions a copywriter has to make is how much to charge.
When you’re just starting out as a freelance copywriter it can be nerve-racking trying to set a rate. Yes, you need to earn enough to live on, but you don’t want to scare off potential clients.
Even as an established writer, every estimate can feel like a gamble: too much and you’ll lose the job; too little and you’ll kick yourself when they say ‘yes’.
What do copywriters really charge?
Copywriter rates in Sydney and across Australia vary. Now is probably a good time to check out the recommended rates for copywriters in Australia.
How copywriters cost your job
Some writers charge by the hour, and some will charge you a set project fee with no hourly breakdown. Most will give you an upfront fixed cost of some sort with an outline of what that includes in terms of versions, proofing, meeting time, etc.
Nearly all copywriters will ask for some kind of deposit ranging from 30-50%. Many ask for 100% deposit if the job is under a certain value and you’re a new client.
The majority of copywriters will have 7- or 14-day payment terms for invoices. As sole traders, for copywriters, late payment of invoices is the bane of their lives.
How much should you charge?
After five years running my own business I’m finally comfortable(ish) with my copywriting rates, so here are some pointers to help you decide what to charge.
Do your research
Everyone advises that you check out what other writers are charging before you set your rate, but it’s not that easy. Many copywriters (including me) have fake rates pages that don’t actually tell you what they charge. The truth is very few writers actually quote their rates on their website. So, apart from posing as a fake client and requesting a quote (don’t do this), a lot of it is guesswork.
Think about your experience
If you’re a newbie with not many clients under your belt, it’s going to be hard to justify charging a high rate. As you build your reputation, client list and number of testimonials, so you can increase your rate.
What you can get away with
Many writers base their quotes on a principle of ‘what they can get away with’. They increase rates for larger clients and reduce them for smaller ones. I find that this is an exhausting way to approach estimating. Having set rates reduces the time quoting takes and just seems fairer. The industry is small and your client may discuss how much you charged them, so try to be consistent.
What your client can afford
Although it kind of negates the point above, it is sometimes okay to change your rate on a case-by-case basis. If you feel a client can’t afford your rate or if they’re a charity, you may want to reduce your rate for the job. As long as you can justify it to yourself, that’s fine.
The fun factor
I occasionally charge less for jobs that I really want to get, because they seem fun or they offer a creative challenge. Again, this is your call and part of the joy of running your own business. You decide.
Supply and demand
One of the key reasons I increased my rate was simply due to demand. I currently receive lots of new leads a week. So I’m lucky enough to be in a position to charge a little more. I believe I’m worth it.
Working on retainers
A great way to secure regular income is to work on a retainer. This means agreeing a monthly fee with a client (paid up front) for a set amount of work. It works well if you’re writing regular blogs or newsletters. Obviously you can offer your client a discount for ongoing work to sweeten the deal.
SHHH! Insider copywriter trick of the trade!! If there’s a job you really don’t want to do, but don’t feel you can tell your potential client, it’s common practice for copywriters to add a PITA* fee. That way, if you don’t get the job you don’t care and if you do, you’re happy because you’re being paid ‘danger’ money.
*PITA = Pain In The Arse.
What to do when clients get cheeky?
Once you’ve set a rate you’re comfortable with, try to live with it for at least three months. When you’re asked for a quote, give it and stick to it.
For example, say I’m given a quote for $2,000. I contest it and the quoter is immediately willing to drop it by 10%. Well then I wonder why they didn’t give me their best price in the first place. It’s off-putting, unprofessional and often a slippery slope.
Give an inch to your client (for no obvious reason) and they may take a mile in terms of expecting freebies.
Some examples of ‘offers’ clients have made me are:
- Do this job free of charge and I’ll give you another
- Write the copy free of charge and I’ll give you a cut of the profits later down the track
- Write this copy for a reduced rate and I’ll give you lots of exposure
Sorry guys but I have a mortgage to pay and small human to feed. If I do the work, you pay my fee. It’s really that simple
The video below gives a few choice examples of client cheekiness:
In summary: If you’re a copywriter who’s struggling to set a rate, know that you’re not alone.
Over to you
What do you think? How did you decide what to charge and do you feel you’re charging enough or too little?
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