How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth

How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You're Worth

A couple of recent conversations got me thinking about setting fees for copywriters.

One was a conversation with James, who commented that many copywriters aren’t good with numbers. Another discussion was with an associate who said he saw freelance projects on Elance with bids of  $50 for sales letters and $5 for blog posts.

Guys, what in the wide world of sports are you thinking? Working for $5?

I know that many writers aren’t great with numbers or comfortable talking about money. Maybe it’s because the world has beaten you down until you think you aren’t worth more than a French Fry Jockey.

But we need to get this straightened out, because if I ever meet you and learn that you’re working for next to nothing, I’ll have to kick your ass. You’re not only robbing yourself, you’re making things difficult for every other writer out there who wants to make a good living.

So let’s go over a few basics for on how to set your copywriting fees.

And just to be clear, I’m talking about setting rates for copywriting, or writing copy for the business market, not writing poems or short stories or even published articles, which are never going to pay much. Copywriting includes writing sales letters, brochures, blog posts for business sites, web pages, etc.

Charge hourly for long or uncertain projects.

When there’s more than a reasonable amount of uncertainty about the time it’ll take to complete a project, it’s in your best interest to charge for copywriting by the hour. The uncertainty can take many forms:

  • You don’t know how long it’ll take you to complete a project.
  • You anticipate that the client will make significant changes during the project.
  • The objectives are unclear.
  • You’re dealing with a project that is inherently vague, like generating “concepts” for an advertising campaign.

Set a project minimum for hourly billing.

Never bill in small time increments, such as a half hour. When you add up the time it takes for estimates, contracts, printing, filling, phone calls, and all the rest, you’ll lose money without a minimum.

For example, I charge hourly for client meetings and set a minimum of 4 hours. Even if the meeting is just an hour, I have to account for the extra time of meeting prep, road time, and returning phone calls I miss while out of the office. Heck, I even have to shave. The horror!

Charge at least $50 an hour.

If you’re used to working for $15 or $20 an hour in a full-time job, you may find it difficult to ask for $50 an hour or more. However, for most freelance copywriting, that should be your minimum. Charge less, and you’ll have a hard time making a living.

Because of downtime, office work and expenses, as well as the uncompensated time you spend marketing, $50 an hour may translate into only $25,000 a year if you’re working full-time. Of course, certain types of work, such as technical writing or editorial, may offer you less per hour, but more steady, longer-term projects add up to more income.

Really, I’d like you to charge $100 per hour or more. Assuming you write full-time (at about 30 hours a week, with 4 weeks off for vacation), that should translate into about $144,000 gross per year before taxes.

Use a project price for well-defined projects.

When you know how long the job takes, don’t anticipate too many changes, and have fairly clear objectives, you’re best off charging a flat fee for the entire content project. Why? Because project fees offer you important benefits:

  • You sell your expertise, not your time. You don’t want clients to look at you as an employee or a hired hand. They should see you as an expert, a valuable resource for special projects.
  • Clients prefer predictability. I have found that clients almost always prefer a fixed price they can depend on. They’re even willing to pay a little more for the certainty of knowing exactly what the bill will be later on.
  • You make more money. If you charge hourly, you make less money as you get better and faster at writing. That’s not fair. A project price means that the better and faster you get, the more money you make even without raising fees.
  • Use the project fee correctly.

    Many copywriters misunderstand the project fee. They consider it a mere estimate, then charge for their time at the end of a project regardless of the project fee.

    Some try to have it both ways, quoting a project fee upfront then charging extra if they put in additional hours. Of course, they conveniently forget to reduce the bill if they finish the project more quickly than expected.

    Here’s how it should work:

    A project fee should be a flat, fixed price for a given piece of work. Once quoted, it should not be changed unless the client significantly alters the project.

    If the work is a bit more than anticipated, make the adjustment on your fee schedule for next time, but stick to your price on that project. If the work is a little less, consider that a bonus for being efficient. Everything evens out over several projects.

    Look at typical fees, and then double them.

    Copywriting rates are hard to nail down, but you should start by looking at examples in publications from Writer’s Digest or the National Writer’s Union. Ask around. Call writers you know. Whatever most writers charge is usually too low, so double it to arrive at your starting fees.

    Keep testing your fee structure.

    If you’ve been getting $1,000 per brochure, ask a new client for $2,000 and see what happens. If clients normally pay $100 per hour for consultation, ask for $150 the next time someone calls. If your minimum project price is $500, increase it to $750.

    Keep experimenting and adjusting with new prices — usually with new clients — so your income is always on the move up. You’ll be surprised how often you get what you ask for without hesitation.

    One smart way to handle this is to use a “fee range.” Set minimum and maximum fees for various projects. You can then easily and fairly vary your pricing per client. Plus, a range with your normal writing rates at the lower end allows you to say to your clients, “I usually charge from $500 to $2,000 for this type of work. For you, I’ll stay near the bottom of my scale. Say $700.” Clients like that. It helps to close sales.

    Be upfront with money matters

    .

    Don’t be shy about discussing money with potential clients. State your writing rates as early as possible to weed out businesses who can’t afford you. Walk new clients through your payment policy. Put everything in writing. Act like a pro and you’ll be treated like one.

    Don’t apologize for high fees.

    There are those who try to make you feel guilty for making money at copywriting. They may be frustrated freelancers themselves or the kind of people who can’t stand to see others profit, even though the work you do benefits them.

    You may even have friends and family who don’t understand the value of your work. Ignore all of this. Set your fees and stick to your guns. If you’re losing work because of your fees, it probably isn’t that you’re charging too much, but that you’re pursuing the wrong clients.

    Always get a signed contract

    .

    While most people are honest, some take advantage of you, especially if you are not businesslike. You should make it your firm policy to have your client sign a contract outlining the work you will perform, the date it is due, how much will be paid, your terms for payment, and all other details of the project.

    You should ask for a 50% retainer upfront, as least for a first-time project. This usually weeds out those people who don’t have the money or want to squeeze free work out of you. It makes you appear more experienced and businesslike and sets the tone for a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Never discount your writing rates.

    If a client complains about your rates, your first reaction might be to say, “Well, I’m flexible.” That’s a mistake. Not only does this eliminate your chances of getting your asking price, it sends a message that your prices aren’t real to begin with. Plus, it shows you’re hungry.

    A client senses this weakness and weasels a lower price out of you. You lose respect and money. If the price is really too high, let your client say so, then look for ways to adjust the amount of work you do. Never back off on price.

    Don’t sell based on price

    .

    You are not Wal-Mart. You should not compete on price with other writers. That only cuts your profits, since most writers charge far too little. Clients who work with you only for a low price leave you for a better price.

    Seek clients who want your expertise, experience, and skill. They’re more loyal and less stingy.

    Give your copywriting rates value.

    When clients can only see your finished copy, they sometimes can’t justify the high fees you want to charge. So make sure you show your clients the value you give them for their money by specifying all the individual tasks you must perform “behind the scenes” to finish their project.

    In your estimates, proposals, and invoices make sure to spell out everything you do in the course of your project, from start to finish, such as research, phone calls, travel time, design work, reports, surveys, interviews, organization of files, reading background materials, meetings, investigating the competition, outlining, writing, editing, proofing, revisions, and putting up with the jackassery of the client.

    Okay, don’t include that last one. But you have to figure that in anyway. I call it my secret PITA (pain in the ass) upcharge. Some people are simply harder to work with than others are.

    And remember, I will boot your buttocks if I learn you’re charging silly low fees. So work up a professional fee schedule and start earning what you’re worth. Okay?

Post by Dean Rieck

Dean Rieck is one of America's top freelance copywriters and publisher of Pro Copy Tips, a blog that provides copywriting tips for smart copywriters.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. It’s really good that you are able to set a good number on how much you charge, but of course you should also know what you are worth. If you are not that good then you will have to ask for lower, it’s only natural.

    • If you’re not that good then you should be doing something else.

      The point this post is trying to make is that if you think you are good enough to write for a living then you need to charge accordingly. By underselling yourself you indirectly undersell everyone else in the same industry.

  2. Thank you Dean. You just made me feel a whole lot better.
    .-= Sally B´s last blog ..Turning a negative into a positive =-.

  3. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I had a potential client tweet me earlier today that they’ll call on Sunday (which is the first day of the week in UAE)to talk about a project he wants me to work on.

    I was fretting over what prices to quote when I opened up my Reader and there was this post. Love that you actually gave figures.

    Thank you.
    .-= Samar´s last blog ..Are you sabotaging your productivity? =-.

  4. I’m not a copy writer (yet, still considering – have my own blog and I’m starting a freelance business for graphics/3D stuff, so we’ll see), but there’s some pretty sound advice in there for just about any web worker really. Thank you!

  5. What a great post! I”m not a copywriter, but your points can apply to all freelancing professions. Don’t sell yourself short. Or be afraid to quote what you are worth.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..“What should I do?” – New Series – Social Media Mindmeister =-.

  6. Dean,

    I am delighted that someone is dealing with issues. I look at some of the writing contracts and see how low paying they are and I shudder. Can you imagine $1 for a blog post? I have over 15 years research experience so what I write you can sink your teeth into, I do not do fluff.

    Over the past five years I have been using a project fee because that’s what clients prefer. Sometimes I have discounted my fees after assessing the situation but on the invoice it’s clearly stated that it’s a discount, so it cannot be disputed later on.

    In terms of project fee, after getting into one project it was substantially more time than we expected, I talked to my client and explained the situation and they were happy to provide additional funds. I didn’t try to sneak it in, we talked about it. Most clients are reasonable. Fortunately for me I had a great relationship with the client.

    I am learning to walk away from projects. Earlier on I would take on projects that didn’t pay very well and I felt like I had worked for free, not a good feeling.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Avil Beckford
    .-= Avil Beckford´s last blog ..The Invisible Mentor Career Corner =-.

    • Hello Avil, I am a copywriter. just curious–when you send a project quote to a new client, do you list all the particular tasks involved (i.e. meetings, proofreading, transcribing, etc.) but do NOT specify the time involved? Are your clients willing to accept a project fee without you actually specifying an hourly rate or the time involved? If so, congratulations on finding a system that works :) Value-based pricing is always best.

  7. @Avil – We don’t have to imagine 1$ gigs. We see them every day all over the net :)

  8. Fantastic advice, Dean. My greatest strength in negotiating fees has been the knowledge that I can walk away. Sometimes I will ask what the client’s budget is and say what I can offer for that budget.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog ..The Evolution Of A Freelancer =-.

  9. Thanks for the advice, Dean. I want to get into freelance writing, and deciding what fees to charge for services has been very confusing. This helps a lot.
    .-= Eric S. Mueller´s last blog ..The Return of Micro-MAN-ager =-.

  10. Great post, Dean. As someone who’s new to the whole freelancing thing (slowly moving away from being a corporate desk jockey), I had trouble setting my hourly rate. It seemed way too high–almost double what I’m getting at mu “regular” job.

    But as a friend of mine said, at a regular job you’re being paid no matter what happens. You can surf the Internet and all day and still get paid (well, right up to the point where you’re given the sack). But when you’re freelancing you’re only paid when you do the work, and you can’t guarantee you’ll have work all the time.

    *phew* Glad I made the right decision in the end.
    .-= Bill Harper´s last blog ..Overbooked =-.

  11. Hello Dean,

    Thank you very much for this excellent post. I’m especially appreciate of the “you’re making it difficult for every other writer out there who wants to make a good living” comment. It’s so true.

    I smiled at your PITA upcharge. I have one too but I’m not very secretive about it. A prospective client called me today looking for a copywriter to develop content for their new website and blog. I was warned the graphic designer I would be working with was a “Nazi”. (Their term, not mine.) My immediate response was “That’s going to cost you extra.” The woman laughed and then I explained to her I wasn’t kidding. I got the work.

    I’m forwarding this post to an acquaintance looking to start a freelance copywriting business. It should be required reading for anyone starting out.

  12. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Great article Dean.

    Loved this line, “You don’t want clients to look at you as an employee or a hired hand. They should see you as an expert, a valuable resource for special projects.”

    You have shown us why you are an expert, a professional, a valuable resource… Well done.

  13. It’s interesting that James chose this moment to publish this article, because I recently wrote about a “contest” site where writers are asked to “compete” for pay. This is the sort of thing that hurts all writers. http://www.procopytips.com/crowdspring-work-for-free

  14. These are really good tips! A lot of small companies, at least when they are first starting out, try to gain market-share by charging very low prices, just to punch in to the market. And that’s fine, as long as you get your rates up before you gain a reputation for being “cheap.” We went through the very same thing.

    The nice thing is, these suggestions just don’t apply to copywriting. One could apply these tips to any business.

    I’m definitely going to share this article with a few of my business partners.

    Cheers!
    Chris
    .-= Chris @ AB Web Design, LLC´s last blog ..FastStone’s Screen Capture Software =-.

  15. It has been very discouraging to see such low rates quoted around the web and to find people who want to be writers selling their souls because they think that it the way to get work.

    They also spin those nasty things they call articles and so get more mileage.

    Lately I’ve been happy with project quotes. So happy in fact, that the hourly rate went down for one of my main clients. Now she sends more work–life is good!

    If I want to give more I can and if I get done in less time–I get a bonus.

    Like the PITA rate (LOL), I have the AGGRO rate.

    The more aggro I experience, the more likely they are to pay more. Sad to say established clients usually don’t want to leave so if I have a problem child (calls incessantly, mico-manages, buries me in files or notes) they usually get fired.

    Normally I weed out trouble in the pre-interview on the phone…

    I recently had a past client argue with me after I told her “no” over and over again.
    She thought she could change my mind.

    Geez.

    I usually use Writers Market to set rates. It is a good guideline and keeps me from being too low or high.

    Thanks for the pep talk and article. I’ll have to jump over and take a look at your blog.
    .-= Guerrero Ink´s last blog ..Become A Blogger Roadmap & Premium Program =-.

  16. Love, love, love this article. I’ve been freelance writing part-time/full-time for about 2 years now. Good to know my hourly rate won’t get my you-know-what kicked, but thanks SO much for the other info. Wasn’t sure if others charged for those things as well, so it’s good to know. We all have to stick together and fight off the low-balling that’s going on in our industry. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and gosh-darn it, we’re worth what we charge!!
    Thanks again!!
    Jill

  17. Dean, I have a question for you.

    What do you feel that a part-time and/or beginning copywriter needs to provide a prospective client to prove that they’re worth that professional fee? How big or spiffy a portfolio? How many testimonials? What kind of training?

    Or are we just supposed to ask anyway and let confidence (faked or not) carry us through?
    .-= Beth Robinson´s last blog ..Target Audience: Manufacturing Supervisors =-.

  18. I too am not a copywriter but I do earn my living as a freelance interim manager. Your points are very valid thanks for sharing.

    The important thing that clients need to understand is that there is a world of difference between price and cost.

    A successful freelancer will sell their services not on price but in terms of value. If I could earn $10k from the work you do for $1000 that’s a great deal. The mistake the client makes is paying $500 and getting $2k in return.

    You need to show the clients the difference you will make to them.

  19. I’m going to get in line and help you kick a few people – not just the copywriters, but the people who have the audacity to question those fees. I actually charge the fees I do for copy-writing because writing is mentally taxing and requires far more effort than the average person realizes. I don’t have time to work for peanuts, I’ve got too many projects going, and most importantly I’m not an elephant :)
    So I blurt out the highest price for copy-writing that I can think of, that way I only get serious offers by people who are serious about their business – and then it’s worth my time and effort.
    .-= Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter´s last blog ..5 blogging niche ideas you should run from =-.

  20. Our company trains tens of thousands of new entrepreneurs a year so I understand the pain of the freelance world. I am also a writer so I can relate. The advice presented in this post made me smile, because it is so appropriate.

    One additional piece of advice I’d like to offer concerns pricing. I highly recommend the ‘good, fast or cheap’ method for freelance writers.

    Every client wants the job done ‘good, fast and cheap’. Tell them they can have two. For example, if your written work must be good and fast, tell your customer that you must therefore displace other, well paying customers, work
    overtime, miss seeing your family and therefore charge a premium.

    If they want it cheap and good, guess what? It won’t be done fast because you must attend to other, better paying jobs.

    You get the idea. The customer will always
    demand good, fast and cheap together…but time,
    money and quality are usually opposites.

    As a paid writer and as one who pays writers, I try to respect this service matrix.

    Amp up your bucks and take reasonable control of the customer relationship. Your words are worth it.

  21. Great article Dean, this is also helpful for developers looking to purchase these services and what they can expect. Especially for anyone new or looking to use copy services for the first time.

  22. The best way I find for copy writers to really standout is to not just write but write for the web and SEO. I’m working at The Scientist and we use so many “click here”, “see more”, etc that it dilutes the links value. I’m working with the editorial team to train on SEO writing. I think it will benefit the entire staff throughout their careers as print moves to web.

  23. TheSilverHammer says:

    I knew I liked you guys from the first time I met (read) your stuff…now I REALLY like what you had to say this time around!

    This lo-balling goes on the the photography industry of which I am a part of as well.
    $5 bux a pop- Meep. Those third world losers are so burnt toast in my book. We need to unplug their Bill Gates donated internet connections and…poof! -no more Nigerian scammers and Paki-Indian lowballing trolls, at least in an ideal world, hahaha.

  24. Thank you for all this timely, useful information. Have bookmarked to read again…and again!
    .-= Marisa Birns´s last blog ..Frater =-.

  25. I’ve got a question for you. I’m about to put together a proposal for a new client and I’m not quite sure how to bill for this. I think it’s going to have to be hourly because unlike most of the work I do, this gig involves being on site at the company and providing coaching and advisory work. Hard to say how long it will take, so I plan to bill hourly. My question is how do I handle travel time when I’m billing by the hour? This is about a 45min drive each way plus gas too. Is travel time worth less than actual consulting time or do I just tell them I’ll add 1.5 hrs for travel at my going rate?
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..Dish Network: A Profile In Poor Marketing =-.

  26. You definitely get what you pay for in terms of copywriting. As a client, if I want crisp copy that I don’t have to rewrite and has no typos then I have to pay a copywriter rates of $50 upwards an hour.

  27. I think it’s really good to know what you’re worth and don’t short cash yourself if you really have the talent. It’s a nice tip and a nice read. I’d be sure to price myself more.

  28. I think there isn’t much to say, except that if you’re good in what you do, it still takes time to build a rate for yourself. This may take a couple of years.

  29. This is one of the best articles I’ve read about pricing, forthright and candid. Excellent! Thank you.

  30. Hi. Just read this article and one you wrote on another site about pricing. In the same search (copywriting fees) I did to learn what to charge, I found this ad:

    “Hire Copy Writers $15/hr” — from Odesk

    I was shocked to find people on Elance and Odesk charging as low as $1.11 an hour. I thought for sure I wouldn’t find work there. I just put in a bunch of bids and got one response almost immediately with a charge of $45 an hour. I know that’s probably low and I plan to raise it. It was just all of those low ball quotes that blew me away!
    Thanks for writing!

  31. Writers who charge .005-.01/word do the industry a great favor. They weed out fake clients.

    These writers do a hard job for too little pay, and far too little appreciation. But we all have to start somewhere.

    “You get what you pay for.” Credible businesses are probably aware of this. But it’s up to the provider to educate the client on the lay of the playing field – why a $50 (experienced native-speaker-written) post differs from a $5 (keyword-stuffed detached-voice) one. How a $2000 custom website compounds far more profit than a $90 (mass-produced) WP template. How the credibility and substance of a business’s presesntation directly affect perception, and profitability. Are you serious about business or not?

    It’s an old model: those who create a credible market, and those who infiltrate that system to game it with misery, manipulation, and violation of its raison d’etre; (and believe they offer equivalent value to credible producers, without whom, those barnacle industries wouldn’t even exist. But they’re gonna compare; I guess they’ll fake credibility any way they can).

    Low-balling occurs when one truly cannot compete in the genuine market. You can’t add value when you are incapable of valuing yourself.

    If businesses choose to emulate 3rd world commerce, they’ll surely reap what they sow!

  32. “You don’t know how long it’ll take you to complete a project.”

    In most cases, a good copywriter pretty much knows.

    And no matter what, he should charge per project, job.

    “You anticipate that the client will make significant changes during the project.”

    *shrugs shoulders* So what? I’ll just give me another price on the new project.

    “The objectives are unclear.”

    Like a good copywriter, he should make them clear.

    “You’re dealing with a project that is inherently vague, like generating ‘concepts’ for an advertising campaign.”

    Like a good copywriter, he should make sure that it isn’t.

    “If you’re used to working for $15 or $20 an hour in a full-time job, you may find it difficult to ask for $50 an hour or more. However, for most freelance writing, that should be your minimum. Charge less, and you’ll have a hard time making a living.”

    Huh? You mean that one cannot make a living from, say, $25 an hour?

    I know I could! After taxes and insurance, it comes to around $800 a week.

    And how would you know our living expenses to say such a thing?

    “For example, I charge hourly for client meetings and set a minimum of 4 hours. Even if the meeting is just an hour, I have to account for the extra time of meeting prep, road time, and returning phone calls I miss while out of the office. Heck, I even have to shave. The horror!”

    That’s one of the best ways to lose potential clients.

    If one did that to me, I’d say, “bye.”

    Many business people would say the same thing.

    If it takes me, say, just 20 minutes to drive over there, it would be ridiculous to charge for that time.

    Now, of course, if we are talking much longer than that….

    As a copywriter, I do not charge when talking to a potential customer via e-mail, chat or when on the phone on what he needs done. Even if I have to go over to meet him somewhere. To charge him for that is, well, yeah, ridiculous.

    You had a few good thoughts tips in your article, but these….

    • Hey Perry,

      I’m glad you’re feeling so confident about your services and business and that you’re doing well with it!

      Many writers aren’t at that place yet, and those are the people Dean’s article spoke to – the writers who feel unsure about which clients to pick and how to work their projects and which rates to set.

      As for making a living on $25 an hour (or your example of $800 a month), many people can’t, no. In some places, that rate leaves you in the low-income group and you wouldn’t be able to pay rent – for example, in Montreal, rent is frequently over $800 a month for a small one-person apartment. And you haven’t eaten yet. Or paid utilities.

      Add kids to that, and you’re screwed.

      It’s always good to remember that what we live isn’t necessarily what other people live, and we feel that our job here at Men with Pens is to share our knowlege, tips and tricks to help them get ahead.

  33. Excuse my last comment on meeting time. I thought you meant for the ones who are not yet clients. Or, did you???

  34. $800 a week, not month.

    • Well that doesn’t seem to make sense… That’s a 45 hour workweek… and that’s billable hours. You’d be working about 60+ to make that after-tax $800/week, no?

      Then again, I’m not an accountant…

  35. $25 an hour X 40 hours = $1,000.

    Take out taxes and insurance, and it comes to around $800.

    Of course that is just an example.

  36. I really appreciate finding posts like this that are so specific in their advice. For those of us starting out in performing freelance work, this is invaluable.

    I admit, I do fall into the category of people who feel uncomfortable asking for so much. This is largely because I’m new to freelancing and it’s so much more than I would get or expect as an employee and, while I’m confident that I’m a good writer and do have some experience (about 3 years, primarily at one company), I recognize I’m not as experienced as some out there.

    I’ll be bookmarking this as a reminder not to second guess my worth and remember the going rate for copywriting services. Thanks.

    • I too love the fact this article throws out hard numbers! I needed to come up with a quote today for the first time ever, and bang, I had good guidelines thanks to Dean.

      Oh, sorry to revive this old article, but it came up very high in Google, so…

  37. I started writing professionally a year ago just before my husband’s first back surgery. It’s been a real struggle ever since, but I refuse to quit because I just love what I’m doing, and I’m great at it! Pricing has been a real issue, though, because I didn’t know where to start or how to price. I don’t work by the hour because my schedule has to be so very flexible, and I believe people prefer a fixed price (I do, anyway). This article may be more than a year old, but the info in it is invaluable to me! Now I know where to go with my prices, and I wish I’d been able to find this a year ago when I first started. Thanks, Dean.

  38. This was a great post! I’ve been doing lots of writing projects and I just finished reading a great book on copywriting. Unfortunately at my local library, they only copy they had was from 1985. Interesting how LOW the rates have become since then and everyone is prostituting themselves out for a $5 Blog post. Believe me, I’ve looked at those Elance writer’s and thought: WTF? WHY would anyone pimp themselves out like that?!!! Then people say to me- “Well I can get a Blog post for $25.” I say, “Good for you, but you won’t get it from me!”

  39. A really good article, and throroughly deserving of getting comments after nearly two years. Should be required reading for every freelance copywriter.

  40. This is a dog-eat-dog world and I agree one should charge as much as one possibly can. Like many other writers and translators, I am sick of the ‘globalisation’ con. Clients think that because some poor bastard living in a shanty town on the outskirts of Manila is willing to cobble a badly-written text together for next to nothing, the rest of us should work for peanuts. Unfortunately, the brainless cunts who work in most companies fail to appreciate: (1) human skills vary; (2) they are not buying widgets; (3) there are no economies of scale worth talking about (as Arthur Andersen found to its cost in the auditing field—another labour-intensive activity); (4) ‘market’ type web sites are a con. The wankers who run them could not care a toss about quality or realistic rates (most use the ‘Dutch auction’ approach) – they are only interested in taking a cut and the bigger the volume, the better.

  41. Nice to find somebody who says it like it is! My take on the issue is that birds of a feather flock together. Rubbish businesses will always be content paying rubbish money to rubbish writers to promote their rubbish products. Not very sustainable, now is it? But here is the thing. They don’t mind being unsustainable. Like locusts, these businesses swoop in, nibble away at a few gullible consumers’ cash and fly off only to resurface under a different guise somewhere else. My perspective on the matter is that reputable writers should avoid these cyber-pests like the Plague and concentrate their efforts on building long term relationships with reputable businesses instead. Although it will take longer, it could be worth their while in the end.

  42. Gosh, what a much-needed pick-me-up! Living in Malaysia where most local talents have no value regardless of capabilities, my dream to write has been dashed and drugged so many times by the very culprits you all speak of. I cannot even begin to share how discouraging it is to be told that proper English does not matter. Most clients actually believe that good/awesome writing doesn’t require human intervention. Sad.

  43. Kevin Clarke says:

    I LOVE this guy! He really IS a writer! Plus he’s spot on! Excellent advice and good numbers, which are hard to come by in these columns. Will definitely apply these concepts as I embark on my ad copywriting business.

    Thanks, Dean

    P.S. Don’t worry, you won’t have to kick my ass!

  44. I am about to send out an email to a friend who is bringing me along for a copywriting job as a subcontractor.

    I’m a bit nervous to lay out my prices based on the scope of the project because it’s going to add a huge chunk to the bid she’s going to set for them.

    I googled how to set prices for copywriting and ran across this article.

    Long story short, this renewed my confidence that I am worth a high ticket prices. I’m not just selling a few words, I’m selling expertise, confidence, experience, and knowledge her client needs.

    Just wanted to let you know that this article helped me feel at ease. Hitting send with the numbers I know I’m worth makes me happy.

    Thanks for this.

  45. Help me out here. Either my math is off, or yours is:

    “Really, I’d like you to charge $100 per hour or more. Assuming you write full-time, that should translate into about $50,000 per year. You deserve at least that much.”

    100 per hour would equal more like 200K a year – no?

    Love this article. Love that you threw out hard numbers.

    • Well, in Dean’s defense, we writers aren’t known for being math whizzes. (That’s why we’re not accountants!) Let me give it a shot, though:

      $50,000/year = $961 per week.
      $961 per week = $137 a day.

      At $50 an hour, that’s about 3 hours work time per day. Right?

      Okay, let’s do 6 hours a day at $100. That’s $600 a day, 365 days a year, that’s…

      Yeah. Writers were never meant to do math. You win. 😉

      • Well, in reality, $100 an hour is nowhere near $200k a year, simply because nobody but nobody works seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Or even five days a week, 52 weeks a year…

        ..or even five days a week 48 weeks a year.

        Why? Well, first off, everybody needs a holiday. Secondly, you need time to do stuff that isn’t work. Tax returns, for instance. Or moving house. Or getting the boiler fixed. Or being ill (cos you’re working too hard!)

        If you can seriously pull in enough freelance work so that you’re busy for 48 weeks a year, 7-8 hours a day, AND you can continually charge $100 an hour without any variation, then you are probably in the top 0.01% of all freelancers the world over. Most people have dry spells, however brief. True, those are often counterbalanced by periods of stressful hyperactivity on the workflow front, but still, I have never met a freelancer who works as much as a permanent employee.

        That’s why I agree that, in reality, $100 an hour translates into nowhere near $200k a year.

        Ashley

  46. It is hard for a writer to place value on her work, when rejection is such a persistent part of the “business”.

  47. Good GOD, you said it. I’ve never felt so synced with another freelance writer. Low-ball pricing destroys our ability to make a good living and turns our unique product into a commodity. Project pricing … the PITA fee … raising your prices to find the ceiling … never discounting. YES! If you’re good at what you do, you deserve every dollar you earn and probably more. Thank you for taking the moral high ground and setting the record straight.

  48. This is really helpful thank you. I have been working for a pittance lol!

  49. Amy, you’re not kidding. I like to think I’m charging what I’m worth. Then something like this happens: I quote the copy side of a website. A digital designer quotes the design and development. I’m at $700; he’s at $4800. Both of us are accepted by the client. What just happened here? Is the design worth seven times more than the content creation? Hell no! We need to value ourselves as much as we expect our clients to value us.

  50. I loved the part about not apologzing for higher fees. As a copywriter, clients will occasionally try to beat you down on price, but at the end of the day you have to know what you are worth, and stick to your guns.

    I’ve found that whenever I try to discount my prices, it just makes it where I am viewed more as a commodity as opposed to a trusted, strategic partner. Higher fees are better for a variety of reasons!

  51. Needed to reread this today. I believe I found your blog back in 2011 when I was just starting out as a freelancer–4 years later I’ve earned more and worked with a wider variety of clients than I could have ever imagined. I’ve always tried to be honest and unapologetic about what I’m worth, and I know it’s made all the difference in my success. I also take more satisfaction from my work because I’m not undermining my own value. In the last week I’ve had two different potential clients question my rate, and I started to doubt myself…reading this again renewed my confidence. Thank you!

    • Ah, I’m glad the article helped, Katy. It’s so easy for many people to start to have self-doubts when others begin to question them – the key to keeping your confidence (and your cool!) in those situations is having a darned good answer on why your rates are what they are. Your skills have value, and so does your experience, so feel free to mention that!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Two: Men With Pens has a great article today on how to charge what you’re worth. It’s aimed at writers, […]

  2. […] How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth […]

  3. […] How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth […]

  4. […] one rate to rule them all and one rate to bind them. No more undercutting the competition with the lowest rate. No more discounts to fill up those lulls in your schedule. No more volume-based tier pricing or […]

  5. […] How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth How to Write an E-Book in Just 14 […]

  6. […] got a bit of a reality check today while catching up on some blog reading. In a very pointed and interesting post, Dean Rieck calls us […]

  7. […] How to set your copywriting fees and earn what you’re worth […]

  8. […] How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth […]

  9. […] How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth […]

  10. […] writing, that should be your minimum. Charge less, and you’ll have a hard time making a living. How to Set Copywriting Fees, Men With […]

  11. […] is why freelancers need to charge at least $50 per hour. This is why I can work “part time” (that is, less than 40 billable hours per week) and […]

  12. […] Men With Pens: “How to Set Your Copywriting Fees and Earn What You’re Worth“ […]

  13. […] in joy to receive an assignment that paid $35 an hour… which is great for a PT job, but DEATH for a freelancer!). But when you get a little into — a little more skilled, a little more confident, a little […]

  14. […] had in the past, this was an excellent rate. However, the reality of the freelancing system is that anything less than $50 per hour will not allow you to sustain a business […]

  15. […] If you need to make ends meet after a layoff or you want to feel out what it’s like to run your own freelance writing business, figure out your bottom line and build an hourly around that. Men With Pens writing expert James Chartrand insists that the minimum hourly rate freelance writers should charge is $50. […]

  16. […] If you need to make ends meet after a layoff or you want to feel out what it’s like to run your own freelance writing business, figure out your bottom line and build an hourly around that. Men With Pens writing expert James Chartrand insists that the minimum hourly rate freelance writers should charge is $50. […]

  17. […] should never charge less than $50 an hour for their services. And I’m going to take it a step further and say that $50 an hour is the […]

Leave a Comment

*