Copywriting rates: How much should you charge?

Copywriting rates: How much should you charge?

Post last updated: December 2017

Many Australian copywriters charge an hourly rate but more often copywriters charge a fixed rate for the entire project. Hourly rates range from $50–$80 per hour for new and junior copywriters, $80–$120 per hour for mid-level copywriters and top level copywriter can demand $120–$200 per hour.

But let’s dig in a little deeper.

How much should you charge for freelance writing?


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.

It’s important to set your rate before you send out your first proposal.
In fact I think it’s a great idea to create a rate card before you start marketing yourself as a copywriter.

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’.

In this post I’m going to share some top line tips on how to work out your freelance copywriting rates, but if you’re still struggling when you’re done – you can check out my Copywriting Pricing Course to get all the answers.

After nine 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.

What do copywriters charge?

Copywriter rates in Sydney and across Australia vary, hugely.

A good place to start is by checking out the recommended rates for copywriters in Australia.
Or you can check out the MEAA rates (although personally I think they’re a little unrealistic).

How do copywriters cost a job?

Some copywriters charge by the hour, and some will charge 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.

There are several different ways you can charge:

1. Fixed price

This means charging a flat fee to cover the entire job:

  • Experience level: Experienced copywriters who have worked with heaps of brands and industries can of course charge more than newbie copywriters just starting out
  • Skill set: Copywriters with a high level of skill in a particular niche area of copywriting may charge more.
  • Demand:  If your waiting list is longer than something very long, then you can afford to charge a little more because you’re in demand.
  • Location: Copywriters in big cities are usually more expensive than those in rural areas. This is usually because their rent is higher and coffee is more expensive 🙂
  • Client status: Copywriters may offer discounts to start-ups or charities and charge more to large corporates
  • Turnaround time: Some copywriters charge a rush fee when work is required super urgently or in a short time frame. This extra fee is to cover working late or <shudders> over weekends.

2. Charging by the hour 

Sometimes ad agencies will want an hourly rate – here are some guidelines from the Clever Copywriting School.

  • New / junior copywriter: $50–$80 per hour
  • Mid level copywriter: $80–$120 per hour
  • Top level copywriter: $120–$200 per hour

3. Charging by the word

It’s not a great idea to charge by the word: it’s kind of a hangover from magazine journalism.

  • It turns your writing into a commodity rather than a professional and creative service
  • Per word pricing leads to a focus of quantity over quality – writing more just to earn more money, for example writing 50 words when 10 would suffice – this kind of copy padding makes you more money but makes the copy suck.
  • With per-word pricing writers are incentivised to work quickly, which often leads to poor quality copy

Bored of reading – watch this video instead 🙂

Should you charge a deposit?

Yes. Nearly all copywriters will ask for some kind of deposit ranging from 30–50%.

Many ask for a 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 to decide your pricing

  1. 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.

2. Work out your liveable wage
If you’re intending to make a living from copywriting, the decision will be, in part, about what you need to earn to cover expenses.

2. 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.

4. What can I 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 clients may discuss how much you charged them with one another, so try to be consistent.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

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.

PITA fees

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.

Considering the ‘ick’ factor

Of course it’s not all about the money honey. You also want to consider how much you want the job?

  • Do you get a good vibe from the client?

  • Do you really understand their brief?

  • Are they going to follow your process?

  • Do they seem a little bit need?

How much should I charge for a 500-word blog post?

This is a question I get asked a lot ,and I guess it’s a good measure of your overall rate.
If it takes you two hours to research and write a 500-word blog post and your hourly rate is calculated to be $80 per hour, – then you’re looking at $160 per blog post.

If people order 10 blog posts, you can consider giving them a little discount. But not too much, or you’ll regret it – max 10% – okay?

How much should I charge for editing?

Most Australian editors I’ve worked with like to charge by the page and costs vary from $20 per page for basic grammar corrections and typos to $80 per page for full structure editing and rewrites.

How much should I charge for proofreading?

This depends on how bad the copy is. My proof reader friends estimate that they can review about 10 pages per hour with about 300 words per page.

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.

A photo posted by Kate Toon (@katetoon) on

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?

Did you like this post?

You might like my book ‘Confessions of a Misfit Entrepreneur | How to succeed despite yourself’ – buy it online here.




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Copywriting rates: How much should you charge? was last modified: by
  • charlotte calder

    Great article on a thorny question Kate. Love the vid!

    • Thanks Charlotte. I know the video is classic right?

  • Nicole Leedham

    Great post Kate – and yes, we all struggle with rates. I’ve seen that video a few times, it still cracks me up!

  • Maggie

    Great post Kate – thanks so much. Will soon be just starting out and I am truly grateful for your generous advice. 🙂

    • Hey Maggie ah well I wish you luck! And please join our community (linked above) to share the journey with other copywriters.

  • Shauna Maguire

    That video is gold. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so I just shook my head a bit. And then I nodded it a bit as well. I’m still on the rate setting adventure but I think I’m on the right ‘choose your own adventure’ path so wish me luck comrades!

    • Thanks for reading Shauna – yep it’s an adventure for sure. I think experimenting is the only way to learn!

  • Krissy Bradfield

    Excellent post as always Kate. Setting rates was something I really struggled with when I got started. It’s difficult to place a dollar value sometimes.

    • It sure is. Also the market changes so what you charge one month doesn’t work the next. I think prices need regular tweaking.

  • Natalie McNee

    Haha, I loved the video Kate! This is so true, I even had a lady who asked me to work a 40hr a week job for 4 months on a commission basis if her product sold! I kindly declined 🙂 Looking forward to the next post!

    • Wow! I’ve had people give me all kinds of ‘good reasons’ why I shouldn’t charge them. In the early days I listened. No my ear holes are well and truly SHUT!

  • Sad but true, isn’t it, what clients sometimes want from freelancers. Learning to ‘stick to your guns’ is quite a challenge.
    Thanks, Kate, for sharing your wisdom.

    • Thanks for reading my wisdom Desolie 😛

  • Bill Harper

    I’m not sure I’ve actually seen that video yet. Will have to have a look-see when I get home.

    Best work-for-free ad I saw was writing for some religious organisation who said they wouldn’t pay because “God provides”.

    I must try that one day:
    “Where’s this week’s rent?”
    “Talk to God. He’s looking after it, apparently.”

    I talked to a few people I knew well enough to get their *real* rates, then figured out mine from there. I’ve increased it for the first time in two years, and so far I haven’t had too many rejections. (Mind you, my regular clients are still getting the old rate because I get heaps of work through them.)

    • Yep I stick to lower rates for long term clients and also offer a 10% discount on repeat bookings. Good clients are worth giving love to!

  • Heather Mueller

    I haven’t seen that video in awhile. Hilarious. And I love your PITA fee suggestion!

    • Ha, glad you like it and yes PITA fee is a life saver sometimes! But shhh don’t tell anyone.

  • Janmac Creative

    I think your website is brilliant! I have recently established my freelance copywriting business full time and have offered 2 different hourly rates based on what I thought the client could afford. I agree that keeping the same rate for consistency is best, but I will definitely reduce my hourly rate for charity organisations, so I don’t miss out on the chance of working for them.

    I’ve had a friend of a friend suggest I do proposal writing for her and followed up with the excuse that she had no budget and I would be paid on a project win basis. Er no..I’m not a no win no fee lawyer!

    • Thanks! I too reduce my rates for charities. I’m doing a job soon for a youth charity with a 20% discount on my normal rate.

      No win no fee copywriter… I think there’s something in that? Not for me, but for someone! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Llew Dowley

    Kate you are my idol… i see your name everywhere & I love your work.
    I have just kicked off my business and worry I am charging too much as I am only just transitioning from corporate life, but after reading this post – I know I’m on track.
    Thanks again for your wise words & PITA fee. I may apply this to life in general!

    • Ah thanks Liew that’s an awesome comment. Good to see my name is spreading like a rash (I think). Rates are all about experimentation and really they don’t have to be 100% fixed. I go a lot with what feels right. I also sometimes quote. Then go for a cup of tea, stroke my dog and come back and look at the quote again. It if still looks good I send it.

      Best of luck with the transition, exciting times!

  • Marie
    • Erm yes, Marie, those are the two articles I linked to above.??

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  • Shelley F

    Hi Kate, great blog! Looks like it could become worthwhile going freelance after all! I’m trying to figure out how much to charge, especially as I’m new to Sydney!
    Ps. Just to let you know the ‘nifty salary calculator’ link has expired *sad face* Do you recommend any other links / sites?
    Pss The video link is great! So true. The difference is, in a restaurant you’re paying for food that is consumed and gone forever, with copywriting, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. 😉

    • Hi Shelly, thanks for your kind words. Damn that nifty salary calculator, I’ve updated the link to this site
      http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/hourlyratecalculator

      Which is pretty good. So turn that sad face frown upside down!
      Yes so true about copywriting versus food comparison – although some truly awful copywriting can give you indigestion.

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  • Best best post so far. I simply love it. You help me avoid selling myself short.

  • It helps if you are not a hack writer producing generic bumpf for equally dreary people

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