The recent articles and blog posts I’ve written about Copywriting Rates have generated responses bordering on the viral! Here are some of the key themes to emerge from around the world:
“COPYWRITING AS A COMMODITY”
Copywriting is now seen by many clients as a ‘commodity’ and, as such, price is the over-riding factor in selecting a copywriter. For many online projects, it’s all about sourcing a writer who is vaguely competent but is compliant enough to work for rock-bottom rates.
“COPYWRITERS SHOULD SELL THEMSELVES BETTER”
Copywriters should see themselves as a ‘brand’ and sell themselves accordingly. This is one way to differentiate yourself as a copywriter from the mass of competition that’s out there. Adopting an assertive stance and emphasising a unique combination of quality and value will win over a percentage of those who would otherwise adopt the ‘price only’ selection process.
“COPYWRITERS CAN BE REASSURINGLY EXPENSIVE”
This variant on the Stella Artois advertising theme can sometimes win over the doubters. When confronted with a world of choice, sometimes it’s easier to choose those with a good reputation. The key to succeeding with this kind of market positioning lies in having plenty of powerful testimonials. If you win clients using this philosophy, you can charge more and you will win more respect. The downside is that you may lose a string of potential clients who prefer to take the cheap and cheerful route.
“CHARGING BY THE HOUR OR BY THE DAY IS A BIG MISTAKE”
Some say this policy immediately ‘commoditises’ a service that should be based on ‘quality outcomes’. In some circles, this attitude would be seen as risible and hopelessly out of touch with today’s economic realities. Quoting a ‘ball park’ figure is where many new business enquiries stand or fall. To say: “I’ll think about it and get back to you tomorrow” may sound commendable. You are after all prepared to treat their business with the respect and seriousness it deserves. The problem is: for the vast majority of online enquirers, tomorrow is too late. They want a price now – and the price had better be good! No matter that you have a string of creative awards and that you’re widely respected among your copywriting peers. That brand of thinking transferred into the online arena smacks very much of ‘Yesterday’s Men’ that bears no resemblance to the 1960s glories of Mad Men.
One solution is to propose a flat rate for the job. This doesn’t circumvent the ‘commoditisation’ issue but it does have the virtue of appealing to the price-fixation implicit in the majority of online enquiries. At the end of the day, clients don’t care how many hours or days a job will take. Sub-consciously or otherwise, they will have a price in mind. Taking things to the next level depends on how far you can persuade them that your rate provides good value for money.
“IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEIVED VALUE”
This scenario often emerges after a copywriter has completed a project. Whatever price had been agreed at the outset, the likelihood of the client using the writer again will obviously depend on the quality of work and the value it represents. This is subjective and in many cases depends on a client’s expectations. Where the copy is in some way response-related (with a sales letter, for example), value can be measured to a certain extent, although there could be a host of external factors, apart from the copy, that could impact on response rates.
“CHARGE MORE TO WORK LESS”
On the face of it, this sounds like a good move – but it’s a high-risk strategy. It’s fine wanting to retain your integrity and professional pride. However, sitting around waiting for the phone to ring will never offset the feelings of desolation that come from knowing how talented you are – if only someone, somewhere, would acknowledge the fact!
“WORDSMITHS ARE NOT COPYWRITERS”
The ability to string a line of words together doesn’t make anyone a copywriter. Effective copywriting must come with a hard commercial edge. To achieve that, a copywriter must understand consumer psychology so they can persuade their target audience to co-operate. Copywriters need the ability to get under the skin of the business and the product or service they are writing about. Does this warrant charging more? Is it possible to explain to a client the difference between a wordsmith and a professional copywriter? We’re getting into the argument here about the validity of ‘content writing’ as a skill that can be described in the same breath as copywriting.
“IT’S THE CLIENT’S FAULT, STUPID!”
It’s been said before – there’s nothing revolutionary about it: the paradox is that clients often have more respect for someone who charges a higher price. A client will also respect a writer who can add value to their proposition by introducing handy hints as part of the solution or by joining in the sales conversation by contributing a measure of strategic thinking. If a client cannot see that a truly professional copywriter can bring extra inputs to the table, there’s probably a mis-match in expectations from the outset, and the relationship (even if it gets off the ground) is doomed to failure.
“ANYONE CAN WRITE – THIS IS THE PROBLEM!”
Many clients cannot understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to copywriting. They can write perfectly well thank you very much – it’s just that they have far more important things to do. Get my drift? Why should they pay you what they see as ‘silly money’ to rattle off a couple of hundred words? How can there be a measurable return on even a modest investment? Where’s the value?
I don’t necessarily agree with all the points listed above, but suffice it to say that there’s a wide range of views on how copywriters should decide on their rates – and how they can justify whatever approach they use. It seems like everyone has their own take on this topic – or a memorable anecdote that illustrates a point or two. If this chimes with your own experiences or thoughts, we’d love to hear from you!
Nice collection — I think you’ve captured the essentials.
I notice, though, that there’s a thread of fear here. What if no one will pay well for good writing? I don’t think that’s a reasonable fear.
There are always customers at all price points. The $5 article is a different product from the $100 article, which is a different product again from the $1500 article, and all three products are wanted in the marketplace.
Those who can produce work that’s worth a higher rate have plenty of work, so it doesn’t make sense to work more for less money. Those who truly can’t see the difference between their own poor quality writing and professional writing (and there are plenty of them) will never be happy paying for copywriting. They want cheap words.
Writers just need to be able to make an honest assessment of their product and price it accordingly.