The Big Secrets No One Talks About

istock_showmeyours“Look. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

I had taken a deep breath before slamming out the words, doing my best to come off sounding boldly confident within the limited abilities of a text world.

I stared at the chat box on my screen, nervously awaiting a response.

…is typing… The greyed-out phrase popped up, nearly making me break out in a cold sweat.

What would she say? Decline politely? Laugh and move the conversation on? Hand me excuses? I prepared my response to all three potential outcomes. ‘No problem,’ I’d type, in a semblance of uncaring smoothness.

Bah. Silliness. Since when did I ever show fear? My fingers hit the keyboard again as I plunged into decisive action. I’d go first, and to hell with the consequences.

“Here. I’ll do it.” I was crazy. “Oka-…”

She beat me to it.

The chat box lit up. There it was in plain sight, intimate details for my viewing pleasure.

It was like candy for starving kids. We both began typing back and forth as fast as we could, sharing all sorts of secrets now that we’d gotten over that first nervous hurdle.

We still both gave each other a warning. “Don’t you dare tell people,” I typed, and she was just as quick with her response. “Right back at you!”

You’d think discussing money would be easier, wouldn’t you?

It’s not. Writers often keep their rates as highly guarded secrets in some secret file well hidden from view. Some writers do post their rates for all to see, but more often than not, standard rates are something we writers prefer not to reveal.

The woman I spoke with confirmed exactly what I already knew: “I appreciate the insight,” she wrote. “Rates are so cloistered, it’s hard to get a handle on what’s realistic.”

She’s right. There are no standard rates for writing, even though a few associations try to offer suggestions. People charge what they want, and many individual factors come into play as well. Economy, location, cost of living, etc.

Even worse, writers who try to find answers go from blog to blog, reading motivational “charge what you’re worth” posts. They find articles that push writers to demand better rates and read websites about how to make a decent living through freelancing… and these blogs don’t offer up much transparency about those rates we should all be aiming for.

(Yes, I include our blog in that group. We’re not perfect.)

Why, though? Anyone could email us and ask about our rates, and we’d be perfectly willing to share the information. That’s business. So why not post rates in plain view?

There are benefits to doing so. Posting rates eliminates unnecessary steps and saves time. It helps weed out tire-kickers and window shoppers. It helps potential clients make decisions. It improves customer service and profitability.

In fact, posting rates is one of the timesaving tips I discuss in the Unlimited Freelancer – and yet I don’t practice what I preach.

I’m not alone by any means. Plenty of writers have the same usual reasons for not posting rates: “I like to give personalized pricing for each project.” “No project is the same.” “It’s hard to standardize rates.” “I want to be flexible.” “Different projects incur different costs.

Those are all excuses. They really are. The true reason writers don’t like to post their rates comes down to five simple points:

  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Fear of losing clients
  • Fear of being overpriced
  • Fear of being underpriced
  • Fear of the competition

There are other fears involved with posting rates, but I’d say that those five sum it all up nicely – and only one has to do with clients. The other four all have to do with the perception of our peer group.

Peers can be nasty. (Remember elementary school?) No one likes whispers behind backs and hearing condescending remarks. No one enjoys being shown up or listening to acid comments fromsnotty people and arTEESTes. No one likes to drop pants in public. No one enjoys justifying personal decisions.

Rates are personal, when you really think about it. We wrap up a ton of self-worth in the prices we charge. We shouldn’t, of course, but we do. Posting rates makes us feel vulnerable and exposed to the people best placed to point fingers, judge and critique.
Not fun.

My views on the subject didn’t sway my decision to post our rates – not yet, anyways. I wanted to see what other writers (and any freelancer) felt about the matter. Am I out there? Think I’m wrong? Nodding your head the whole way through? Drop a comment and let me know how you feel about posting rates, whether you did or not and how you felt about it.

And if you’re feeling really brave (braver than me, that is)… drop your pants. Let’s see what you charge. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all end up going naked with our rates.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Well James I’m normally the shy and retiring type – but what the hell. I’m dropping my knickers!

    For copywriting I charge £200 a day – sorry you’ll have to do the conversion from English pennies. Proofreading or other work will cost a different rate. When quoting for a project I’ll have this rate in mind, work out how many days it’s going to take, and then give the client an all-in price.

    I’m happy to tell my rates to anyone who asks but I won’t be putting them on my website. Why? Because if I post my rates it could scare potential customers off and it takes away a reason for people to contact me. I want the ability to have that conversation with potential clients. Even if we can’t work together now I’ve gained a contact that I can follow up in the future.

    Rachael´s last blog post…16 errors your brain doesn’t want you to to see

  2. This is weird… I just posted something “secret” too, and based on your time stamp in my RSS reader, we were probably hitting the publish button at the exact same time (insert Twilight Zone music).

    Anyway, you know how I feel about posting rates. They’re on my site but they’re base rates and most of the projects I do these days are customized, so I just use those rates as a starting point.

    Since all the reasons for not posting rates start with “fear of…” you made me feel very brave today, so thanks 😉 Now I’m going to walk around like a little hotshot, heheh.

    Melissa Donovan´s last blog post…Website Copywriting Special: Order Three, Get One Free

  3. I don’t agree that the main reason for not posting rates is because of issues relating to competitors and peers – I think it mostly is a customer-facing thing.

    In my experience, written copy is the sort of thing that people don’t intuitively grasp the value of… they think anyone can do it. If they visit a website before connecting with a professional, and see a rate that is reasonable but seems high to them (since they think a college student could do it), it prevents them from reaching out.

    Whereas after you’ve met with them, discussed the project, and demonstrated value, they’ve come to the point of understanding the value that you’re bringing to the table, and why the fees are justified.

    That’s my two cents. And for the record, I bill $100/hour.

  4. James,

    I predict this will be a hot one.

    I’m coming at it from a slightly different angle since I’m a designer, not a writer, but believe me, plenty of designers of all stripes think keeping their rates a secret is a good idea. I agree with all of your fears as the reasons, but I’ve always rejected that.

    The reason for that is the same reason I give it all away on the blog—out here on the www, there are far more seekers than serious buyers. To me an Internet presence is an information portal. Most people who find VisionPoints or the blog are not, were not, ever going to be prospects. They’re just like me when I’m thinking about a vacation in Haiti… curious. If I shut down curiosity, then the one chance I had for them to bookmark me as a good source of information, and maybe remember me later to someone else, or have their own circumstances change, is gone. So I go for nakedness all the way.

    And anyone I lose because I posted my rates? Obviously, I didn’t speak their language. They were never mine anyway.



    Kelly´s last blog post…The Open Box

  5. My services are online for all to see, and preferably buy by paying in advance 🙂

    The problem with writing and other creative work though is the difficulty changes from situation to situation, so for me writing about blogging comes as naturally as breathing, but I have been asked to write about everything from dental drills to nuclear power stations, which can be tricky.

    I even have to turn work down because a niche is just not suited to me. The other day I turned down a chance to write about sports. Me. Sports. Snort.

    So custom pricing will always be a fact of life where you can’t predict well the gnarly details.

    Chris Garrett´s last blog post…Aweber Popup Email Subscription Form Test Results

  6. I’m a firm believer in not publishing rates. I would never publish my hourly rate because that only tells half the story. I’m a very efficient writer, so that even though my nominal rate is at the high end, the fixed prices I actually charge for the work are usually in the middle to middle-low of the published ranges. Also, I am not looking to get business from people who ‘find’ my web site, but from people whom I send there – tire kickers are already eliminated at this stage. Plus, as a fixed-price person, and since the jobs do vary, I’d have to publish ranges for work, and once you do that you’ve set up an expectation or hope in the reader that their job will be at the low end. Nobody wins on that one.
    Finally, I believe in marketing on value, not price. By posting rates, I would basically be starting the conversation on price.
    In short, I’ve never come across a good reason to publish my rates on my web site.
    On the other hand, if any writer wants to know, I’m happy to share. But remember, comparing hourly’s doesn’t translate into comparing revenue. Efficiency, you know.

    Michael Kelberer´s last blog post…Keys to effective business proposals: #2

  7. I agree that there are no standards, and that writers avoid publishing their rates. I don’t agree that your five reasons are the only ones, though. I publish my hourly rate (AUD $250), but I rarely work to hourly rates, so that’s not very meaningful. I usually work to fixed prices, and I have a formula for calculating the STARTING point of my quote. But I don’t publicise that formula because it just gives me my starting point. From there, I consider all sorts of variables, including the client size (corporate/smb/startup), client type (repeat/new/influential), the deadline, the subject matter, my workload, and the perceived difficulty of the client. Some clients may pay half what others pay, simply because I’ve worked with them before, and I know they’re great. To me, the ability to vary the quote based on the situation is critical.

    Nice post though. We don’t see enough discussion like this!

    Cheers, Glenn (@divinewrite on twitter)

  8. Publishing rates does make things plain and clear; but I’ve done stuff for free (or near enough) that other clients have paid a hell of a lot for… much depends on my relationship to that individual client and, for me, some kind of “moral judgement” on whether I want to do that work at a ‘better’ rate for the client. If I’m talking to snowboard manufacturers about how to better use the internet for customized online retail, then I’ll be hugely excited and practically give away 15 years of e-business knowledge.

    I’m a believer in “value pricing” – what’s the value to your business of what I’m about to do for you, and what is its value to me and my business? That can be a pretty complex formula. If that means I’m going to charge you £40,000 for two week’s worth of coding work, but you’re going to be putting £1 million in sales every day through it, then it was probably good value. Same happens in the retail and social media consultancy that I do – I’ve done plenty for not much at all, and if demand is going up, the price will too – there can be a lot of variables: setting a fixed rate can mean selling yourself short, and on the flip-side missing out on work that you’d dearly love to do or be involved with if only you hadn’t come across as so darned expensive!

  9. James,

    I have no problem publishing my rates. As far as other freelancers go, if they want to get their panties in a bunch about it then I say “fine”. If they want to use that information for some nefarious purpose then I know karma will get them.

    My problem is that every quote tends to be a little different because no two requests are alike. So unless I put together a very detailed rate sheet, replete with “27 8 by 10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows, and a paragraph on the back of each one” (Trivia time! Which traditional Thanksgiving song did THAT come from?) then it’s probably best for me to stay with a “quote per project” scheme.



    Tumblemoose´s last blog post…Self Publishing: The new American Idol

  10. Tumblemoose,

    Alice’s Restaurant.

    Ba da da da da da da dah.

  11. Oh, Kelly.

    You do ROCK!

    Somehow, I knew…

    “It had to be you…”



    Tumblemoose´s last blog post…Self Publishing: The new American Idol

  12. Hehe, thanks.

    Somewhere back in my archives I even did a post using that song. I went to college out there and he captured the area perfectly. Always loved it.

    Oops. Off-topic too early in the a.m. 🙂



    Kelly´s last blog post…What’s Underutilized, Under Your Nose, and Costing You a Bundle?

  13. Great post James. I was going to ask your and Chris (Garrett)’s advice on this on Twitter but discussing it here is much better I think.

    The problem I am facing; just starting out in freelancing I can see that “fixed” rates and pricing is a good way to start. But in order to get that rate it’s going to inevitably be based on how much my time is worth and therein lies the fault.

    Ideally the cost should be based on what the value would be to a client, as Jason points out above.

    As for publishing my rates, I tend to agree with Rachael and the others that view unpublished rates as an entry point to conversation with a potential client.

    Marc´s last blog post…Who Are You Talking To?

  14. Every job I’ve ever done was different, wildly different, so it’s hard to nail down rates.

    For radio copy, I charge $300 bucks for a 30 second spot.
    For creative copy, I charge $750 for a package of one main story and three sub stories.
    For website design and/or wordpress setup I work strictly by barter so I’ve charged two bottles of Balvenye Port Cask 12 Year Aged Scotch, a hand tooled custom leather messenger bag, and a box of Arturo Fuente Partagas.
    For Blog admin I charge $80 a month.
    Start up copy (About, FAQ, etc) I charge $80
    Unique articles about product $150

    Christopher Garlington´s last blog post…My Dreams Come True. I can trade up

  15. When I have a waiting list of people wanting to work with me, I will not publish my rates. I do believe rates are personal; a private matter between client and contractor, relevant only to those involved. All of your reasons stated are good ones, and I look forward to the day I can implement freedom from fiduciary broadcast. For now, I’m growing, and my rates must be posted because my best interests and best case scenario are not yet in alignment.

    One more thing. It isn’t just fear, it’s pride.

    Writer Dad´s last blog post…Building a Bridge

  16. I only “post” my prices during shows. So you won’t be seeing them on my site. Discrete inquiries will net you the fact that one of my large 60″ x 40″ watercolors can be had for around 8,000.00 presently. The size I am working on at the moment , 22.5″ x 30 ” run 2200.00-2500.00. For now.

    I price projects by the project ( like design or custom artist in residence projects) according to time, expenses, and scope; art by the size and comparable sales. It ‘s something carefully managed and always assailed by dealers, collectors, and “tire kickers” wanting an inside deal.

    If you are like some of my best clients who tend to return, yes, there is deal, no question. And in the field , it is customary to grant a “professional 10% discount” to corporate collectors, designers, prestigious placements and on and on.

    But you won’t see prices posted on my site. That’s what the “back room” does. the front room is for appreciation, a chance to connect, maybe fall a little bit in love.

    I learned to talk money up front, very clearly with clients, personally. There’s no hidden agenda or anything. It’s just not going up on the walls. 😉

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post…Today Is my Birthday

  17. Great comments everyone!

    I can’t help thinking there’s something not right, though. We all want to work less and earn more, yet we consistently set ourselves up for more work with the ‘it has to be custom-tailored’ approach and the need to weed out the tire kickers. These things take up many minutes in a day, and those minutes add up to hours and weeks.

    What could we all do with those extra hours? Think about that.

    I don’t think there’s any project in the world (and especially in our industry) that doesn’t have a base rate to start from. I really don’t. No matter what we do, no matter how simple it is, there is always a minimum amount of work to put in – and that minimum is our base to jump from. Why aren’t we posting those minimums?

    Custom pricing dependent on the specs will always come in, but it will always be above that minimum, no?

    (Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing here. Help.)

    @ WriterDad – Aye… we writers are an egotistical bunch, are we not? 😉

    I have to add special thanks to those who’ve been brave enough to drop their pants. I’ve reached for the keyboard a few times, and I’m sure I’ll reach the ‘fuck it; here goes’ point myself soon enough. Still working on it – y’all have one up on me in the boldness department 🙂

  18. Yes, there are minimums. There have to be to, um, even start the engines. That is an opportunity to pre-qualify an unknown client. If a new client balks at your mimimum, it’s time to politely disengage and send them out for “40 years in the desert. ”

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post…Today Is my Birthday

  19. I think this hits home for a lot of different types of “freelance” work. As an executive coach, I’ve gone back and forth. Sometimes I have my rates on my site, and then something happens that makes me take them down, and then I get frustrated and put them back up.

    There’s a lot to be said about both sides of the picture. If someone hasn’t talked to me and hasn’t gotten the real feel for what I can do (and how fast I can help them shift!), then can they really understand why my rates are what they are?

    On the other hand, as you said in your followup comment, James, what about just weeding out the tire-kickers?

    For products, we obviously post our prices (duh!). Why not for services as well?

    Part of my answer to that is that my services include a whole bunch more than just the hour-long phone session. But (duh! again), I can and do explain all that in my services copy.

    In any event, my rates right now are $225/session for ongoing work, and $250/session for single sessions (unless you’ve been a client in the past, in which case you get the “ongoing” rate). And there we are: I’m already different from a lot of coaches who require a three-month commitment or other sort of package.

    Phew. I’ve rambled on – and that must mean I was processing stuff! In any event, thank you for this thought-provoking and very pertinent post.

    Grace´s last blog post…Corporate politics and sex

  20. Does the answer I gave the boy in kindergarten count here:

    “I can’t show you mine because mine is more important than yours.”

    Bet the poor dude is still in therapy. 😉

  21. Graham Strong says:

    I disagree that it is a fear thing, James. As Glenn said, hourly rates are not very meaningful unless you know how long a project will take. And as even you yourself pointed out, every project *is* different.

    I’ve posted rates and I’ve posted ballpark figures for “standard” items (new releases, web page content, etc.), but I’ve found that this often confuses matters more than it helps.

    Besides, the only thing clients really want to know is how much it will cost them. And without all the project details, I can’t guess what that quote will be.

    So my approach with my website is to (a) show that I can do it and (b) encourage them to contact me for a quote. That way everyone knows exactly what the score is.


    Graham Strong´s last blog post…5 Steps To Better Brainstorming for the Intrepid Freelancer and Independent Business Owner

  22. I think whether to post or not to post your rates has no right or wrong answer. I know this sounds like a nonanswer and it is certainly that, and that is my answer.

    The spellchecker and I will have to agree to disagree as to whether or not nonanswer is a word. It works for me, so it is a word in my vocabulary. Now, see there I will let it all hang out. But I still stand by my nonanswer concerning rate posting.

  23. I can’t help but think that posting rates might discourage potential clients from contacting a business. James had mentioned in a previous post how some people don’t bother with negotiation once they see a set price. They see the figure, suffer a moment of sticker shock, and then feel it’s way out of their budget. They don’t bother to ask if there’s some way something can be worked out.

    Has anyone else encountered this or considered it?

    I also came across a rates discussion from a designer’s point of view: Should an Artist Charge More Than a Plumber a couple of days ago. Brophy raises some interesting points about how much more goes into figuring out rates for design than just the basic design itself.

  24. Currently I am re-doing my “Professional Writing Sericves” page on my website, but have always posted my rates. I do it in two parts however, I post the blog post rates, the website content rates, etc., with the rights allowed but for other written pieces I say I’ll charge by the hour, the project, etc.

    I like being open and honest with the rates I feel for mine and my family’s needs as opposed to being mysterious or embarrassed and not posting. In posting rates I have no fears just maybe undecided on the other writing rates not posted yet. I do read other blogs on what to charge and the industry standards too, but I’m still in limbo.

  25. Well, my consulting rates are in plain view, so that’s no secret. I’m also as open as I can be about my earnings from things like Adsense (Google doesn’t want you to know the WHOLE story).

    I’m fairly open about just about anything. Want to know how much money I made last year? If you have a reasonably good excuse for prying, I’ll tell you.

    Harry’s comment about “some people don’t bother with negotiation once they see a set price” is easily dealt with – just SAY that. For example, although I charge $30 for a simple quick email answer to any random question, the page that says that also says “If you can convince me that you really are a starving student or otherwise unreasonably burdened by this very affordable charge, I may waive it.”

    Graham mentioned “hourly rates are not very meaningful unless you know how long a project will take”. That’s true – so my answer to that is not to do projects – I ONLY do hourly. Yes, some customers refuse to do business on that basis, but I find plenty enough that will. As the old saying goes, you never know what you can get if you don’t ask for it.

    You’d be surprised by how many emails I get that mention “starving student” in the Subject line 🙂

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Microsoft Fans can be touchy

  26. This is a great discussion! I agree with James that it’s possible to put a minimum fee on a particular type of project. My concern is that the client will see that number and subconsciously internalize that figure. When the final fee is inevitably higher than the bare-bones-minimum fee posted, it could create some tension.

    But frankly, it would be a relief to post my fees and therefore have any leads “pre-qualified” – it would take an immense amount of pressure off feeling the need to justify my rates.

    It would also be very helpful to have transparency among freelancers – it would enable us to be competitive without over/under charging.

    I’m all for dropping your pants – but who’s gonna go first? 😉

  27. Ah, but if you post your minimum, every person you ever give a quote to is going to ask why they weren’t quoted the minimum … what makes you want to charge them MORE than (presumably) everybody else?

    Maybe the better strategy would be to post an average rate?

    (Of course, frankly, I’m still trying to find any customers of any kind at all–I’ve gotten queries but no actual clients. So, really, who am I to talk?)

    –Deb´s last blog post…Spinning Words

  28. Great post! Interestingly enough, this very question was being asked on a forum I frequent today.

    I’m a big advocate of posting rates and have had mine posted for a long time now. However, for more complicated projects I do give customized estimates.

    I read somewhere (I can’t remember where, maybe even here on this blog), about posting rates by levels of service. I haven’t converted to that method, but I am thinking about it.

    The great thing about having my rates posted openly is that it makes most quotes really easy. It also does prequalify the contacts. While I still get a few inquiries from cheapskates, for the most part those who contact me are willing to pay what I ask.

    I even had one client tell me that he was willing to pay much, much more for good writing and another tell me that he was sending his friend my way because my rates were reasonable.

    Great discussion!

    Laura Spencer´s last blog post…Beyond Blogging Giveaway Winners!

  29. Wow – I’m surprised by some of the hefty fees. For those that charge upwards of $100/hr…How long have you been in the business? Where do you find your clients?

    I’m transitioning from being a general copywriter to a sports copywriter. With that in mind, I still have quite a few “general” clients that I charge $40/hour. In fact, I even have some older clients that I charge $25/hour – but don’t mind keeping this rate since it’s pretty enjoyable work.

    For Sports Copywriting, I charge a $50/hour fee for anything that isn’t covered by my per project rates:

    For Website Copy: $200 for 1st page, $100 for each additional.
    For Web/Print Salesletters: $200 for 1st page, $100 for each additional.
    For Brochures: $100/page
    Auto-Responders (~300 words): $100/page on their own, $75/page if paired with another project.

    I charge a bit more for the 1st page due to the research that needs to be completed up-front. Once I know the project, target market, and guidelines it’s easier to keep the rest going.

    My fees also include a free set of revisions, but I’ll always offer more if the client is unsatisfied.

    With all that said…I’M SCARED TO DEATH ABOUT MY RATES.

    I always wonder if they’re too high or too low. I definitely lose projects because they’re “too high” at times, but perhaps I don’t always position my services correctly…or maybe I’m not always targeting my true market.

    I’m going to put together a package to send well-established sports businesses in the area.

    Big question: If they saw my rates (remember, some are big companies) – do you think they would find them unreasonably high? Low?

    Obviously positioning has a lot to do with it – and I’m still working on putting together my samples and testimonial pages (but after a recent transition to sports/fitness copywriting, I definitely need a larger industry-specific portfolio before I target the big-boys)…but what are your thoughts?

    Thanks guys!

  30. @Chad Kettner

    You are very unusual. Nobody else ever worries about their rates..

    No, I bet just about everybody does. I don’t worry a lot, but then again I’ve been doing this since 1983 so I’m comfy and confident. Still, even after all that time I can’t help myself from sometimes thinking “Would it be better if I did..”

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Microsoft Fans can be touchy

  31. @ Tony / Chad – There are very few things that I’m not comfortable about in business. But rates? Man, I laughed when I saw Chad’s comment. I hear that! Not my rates per se – we charge what we feel is right for us, but it’s the REST that comes into it!

    @ Laura – Yeah, you’re one of the ones who posts, so I’m glad you came over to comment!

    @ Deb – If you have a minimum and people ask why you didn’t charge the minimum, you should be able to justify you rates with back-up reasons and clearly explain that to clients, yes?

    @ Deann – You 🙂

    @ Lawrence – That’s no fun at all. It’s a great answer but you didn’t unbuckle your belt, even. Cheater!

    @ Harry – Jesus crikey, $200 an hour for a plumber? Where I live it’s $60/hour and that’s right up with the tops! (Then again, QC standardizes its construction rates so that consumers don’t get screwed.)

  32. (Oh man, just read that post on plumbers versus designers… arTEESTe warning in a major, major way.)

  33. @James: Even I had to read that twice, but thinking back to the last time we had a plumber make a house call, the bill was over $100 for an hour or so of work.

  34. Definite “aT” warning on that one, no argument there.

  35. Artist buffs her nails… like I am going to fall for that bait. Do you know how much my comment rates are darlings? Much , much more than installing a spa.

    There’s the cost per letter, the time it takes to delete, the witty comeback and customized phrases just for you. Nope. Artful comments take time and research. MUCH more than just what you see right here.

    Rule of thumb. If you have to justify your rates…uh…check your positioning.

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post…Today Is my Birthday

  36. @ Janice – I haven’t sent you the bill yet for basking in my glory… 😉

  37. c..c.. an’t …t…ype… LMAO

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post…Today Is my Birthday

  38. Wipes tears away … James is in his Jeff Koons phase….

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post…Today Is my Birthday

  39. I’m surprised noone has mentioned the PITA (pain in the ass) factor. If you post your rates, then you have no flexibility in pricing work for a client who is particularly demanding.

    Sorry, but if a client likes to agonize over every word and change course mid-stream through projects, he/she gets a different rate than the client who simply approves everything I write with a smile and a thank-you.

  40. @ Susan – Wouldn’t revision request limitations and policies nip that one in the bud?

  41. I suppose establishing specific policies on revisions would help, but I always want my clients to be really happy with their copy, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there, even if it’s way beyond what’s reasonable.

    A better example of a client “deserving” a PITA fee might be one I had recently who requested 22 pages for a website and provided almost no background information. In our phone conversations, she deferred most questions and instead repeatedly suggested that I look at the website of her biggest competitor and do something similar.

    Unfortunately, when I checked out that site, it was nearly all pictures with no copy. And the same went for most others in that industry. In this client’s case, my so-called hidden PITA fee covered a lot of the research I had to do before I could start writing.

  42. Karen D. Swim says:

    Very interesting discussion! I have resume rates on my site and do have a standard rate file that I provide to clients for other services. I have not yet put those rates up on the site but should. I only customize pricing for my retainer clients, other than that it goes by my rate sheet, which by the way keeps me accountable to myself too. I charge $100/hr for most writing services, and $250.hour for marketing/communications consulting. I have fixed rates for press releases, web content, corporate profiles, expert interviews, advertorials and fixed per page prices for brochures and booklets. I have always been open with other writers about my rates and methodology and am all too glad to share. My philosophy is that when a client is meant for you, it’s yours so I don’t feel the need to keep everything so close to the vest.

  43. Karen,

    My philosophy is that when a client is meant for you, it’s yours so I don’t feel the need to keep everything so close to the vest.

    Exactly how I feel. Zen and the art of the new client. 🙂



    Kelly´s last blog post…Tip of the Week: Don’t Discount

  44. “My philosophy is that when a client is meant for you, it’s yours so I don’t feel the need to keep everything so close to the vest.”

    Karen & Kelly,

    Wow! That sounds so passive. Do you really leave so much up to fate? I attribute a large part of my success to my ability to sell. I don’t believe certain clients are “meant for me.” Yes, some are a better fit than others, but I want a shot at them all. I don’t want their decision to be based on my prices. I want them to talk with me and realize the value of the services I provide.

  45. “Wow! That sounds so passive.”

    I can’t speak for Kelly or Karen, but for me it just means that I don’t fret over the ones that get away. There’s always plenty enough down the road.

    If I weren’t a rabid atheist, I’d also say something like “God will provide”. From my point of view, it’s that there is ALWAYS opportunity and I just have to be alert and able to recognize it when it comes.

    i often say that I have no idea where next months income will come from. That’s absolutely true and I suppose it could be a very frightening thought. However, I’ve been at this for over 25 years and it always HAS come, so it’s a pretty god bet that it will again.

    I don’t think that’s “passive” but it can look like that..

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Microsoft Fans can be touchy

  46. Susan,

    No, not passive, and definitely not waiting around. I aggressively hunt down/ seek out my prey. But I let them shoot themselves.

    & like Tony said. No worries.



    Kelly´s last blog post…Inspiration Points: Reality Is Not on a TV Show

  47. Rate sheets are essential, but price is only part of the package. Of course Kelly and Karen have them clearly stated and available. But PASSIVE is not a word that would ever come up in relation to them. They know their client base well. Know that those clients are about business and clarity. Someone who wants to work with them wants to work with THEM. They are buying the whole package. Posted or no.

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post…Today Is my Birthday

  48. Karen D. Swim says:


    Tony and Kelly echo my own thoughts – not at all passive in seeking out and selling to my ideal clients. However, I don’t have the “swimming with the sharks” mentality when it comes to colleagues and competitors. I can celebrate the wins of my competitors because it’s their win. I don’t begrudge the success of others and when a client does not choose me, I am not destroyed over it. Some clients are price shoppers, they don’t happen to be my market. I still believe when you win on price you also lose on price, and it’s not the way I personally choose to do business. It’s funny that we don’t reveal prices for fear it will turn people off, yet with every other type of service the prices are on the menu – physicians, airlines, spa services, you name it. If budget is an issue we move on because we can’t afford it. My price is not going to frighten the customer that wants and can afford what I have to offer.

  49. Karen,

    What if you could find a way to still make a buck off those clients who can’t afford your services? Instead of losing them because of price, you could sub-contract the work to a freelancer just starting out who wants experience and charges less, pass the work to an employee whose billable rate is less than yours, or simply refer the work to another copywriter with lower rates who is willing to pay you a finder’s fee.

    You’re right, not every client can afford the talent and experience you bring to the table. So why not offer an alternative that still gets the job done, helps another writer and generates a bit of cash for you. Win-win-win.

  50. Susan, one of the key issues that I find when working with new business owners is fear of missing out on business that leads them to the false belief that “the world” is their market. I have worked long and hard to develop my client profile and to consistently update it. Make no mistake, I do refer business to many other professionals no finder’s fee attached. I also have partnerships where work is shared but I am not trying to be everything to every client.

    Karen D. Swim´s last blog post…Love is Not on My List

  51. “Instead of losing them because of price, you could sub-contract the work to a freelancer just starting out who wants experience and charges less, pass the work to an employee whose billable rate is less than yours, or simply refer the work to another copywriter with lower rates who is willing to pay you a finder’s fee.”

    Or do what I do: GIVE it away to someone else.

    I think it’s funny that most of the blogging world agrees that success in social networking doesn’t come from tit for tat but rather from being generous – you give and you will get.

    I’ve given away all excess and unsuitable work since the day I started. I ask nothing in return, and sometimes that’s just what I get. More often I get much more than I ever would have gotten from subbing it out or asking for a referral fee.

    Try it – you’ll feel good and it can pay off big.

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Microsoft Fans can be touchy

  52. It’s helpful for new freelancers to see what others are charging. It can be the key to having the confidence to charge a fair rate.

    Terry Heath´s last blog post…The Emperor’s New Blog

  53. At the pinnacle of the direct response copywriting universe, the ex-King Kong of the industry, Gary Bencivenga would charge a flat fee of something like $25, 000 for a package (usually a magalog).

    He wouldn’t negotiate. You agreed to pay this or you didn’t work with him.

    This mindset seems to have leaked onto Bob Bly. He lists his fees for everything from writing an email to writing a book-a-log to writing a full blown taguchi tested website sales page package.

    His thinking is that if some of his gigundo prospects don’t see his rates they might think he’s gouging them when he quotes his asking price.

    Then you have Dan Kennedy who refuses to be listed in the publication “Who’s charging what” because he wants to be in his own class.

    He considers anytime spent talking business with you as consulting time so only after you and him have gone through a diagnosis of what your business needs and you’ve paid him his phone consultation fee will you ever get a fee from him.

    In his thinking his vision see’s further than most of his clients who are less savvy than he is when it comes to marketing. They might get on the call with him just wanting a brochure but soon they see that a brochure is only a teeny piece of what Dan calls an effective sales system.

    These people come to realize having the direct mail piece, voice mail broadcast scripts, postcards, a squeeze page, a long copy sales page, and a script for a DVD would serve their purposes much better than a mere brochure, what they thought they were going to invest rises.

    But all the tire kickers get weeded out long before they’ve even had the chance to speak with him because of the hoops he makes people go through to get to him. After finally gotten a phone appointment with him, and paid $800 per hour phone consultation fee, you’ve already got in your mind this ain’t the dollar store.

    He says he’s been using this “Take Away” selling approach since they beginning, before he was the big shot he is now.

    His posture puts clients in the position of chasing him and feeling blessed they might have the opportunity to do business with him. All of the marketing of his books and business massively support this posture. And the fact that he is busy and he does get results doesn’t hurt either.

    Kennedy bases his fees on how many hours (writing days) he thinks it will take him to finish a project. Then multiplies that by his per day $10 or $12,000 consultation fee and there’s your price. Plus, he gets a piece of the gross sales.

    I follow Kennedy’s and Harlan Kilstein’s (who learned from Kennedy as well as people like John Carlton) modus operandi.

    My Jay Abraham training has also helped me to keep in mind at all time what’s in the best interest of the client.

    If they come to me saying they just need a #10 letter and after digging into their business I discover they’d be leaving all kinds of money on the table because they don’t know about the power of a sales system, I’d be cheating them out of getting the highest and best results if I didn’t at least bring to their attention what would better serve their purpose of sending the letter.

    I like Kilstein’s approach to a client saying your fee is too expensive. He just starts asking them what parts of their sales system they’d like to leave out.

    As of this weekend I’m doing an evaluation like this and on Tuesday I might have to use this phrase. Maybe not. But like Tony and few other people here, I won’t fret if they can’t afford the fully loaded package.

    I know as long as don’t studder and stammer when quoting my fee, I’ll be just fine.

    Talk to you and Harry again soon,
    Note Taking Nerd #2

    P.S. Magnificent slide from your opening into your topic James. That for me, was a joyful experience.

    Note Taking Nerd #2´s last blog post…If I Could Hear The Questions You Ask Yourself Would I Think I Was In The Presence of a Leader Or a Victim?

  54. I’m glad that you revealed the secret, James. I enjoyed your article very much!

    wilson´s last blog post…Your Body Type Determine Your Healthy Condition

  55. “By posting rates, I would basically be starting the conversation on price.”

    Actually Michael, I think posting your rates steers the conversation AWAY from your price. If they don’t know what you charge, isn’t that one of the their biggest questions when they approach you for work?

    Chad Kettner – Sports Copywriter´s last blog post…Which 2009 Super Bowl Advertisement “Sold” You?

  56. Always intriguing how the whole ‘money’ thing can bring people out in a cold sweat.

    Even if you’re confident in your service and know that you’re bloody good, a huge number of people find it awkward to talk about money, rates or pricing.

    This is about peers, as you point out, but it’s about what judgements you fear they’ll make about you as a result of your rate. Sometimes, it’s about what you expect people to judge you as – which, of course, is pretty much pure fiction.

    I’ve just realised that I don’t have my rate on my site, simply because there’s no logical place for it (which gives me a job to add to my list!), but it’s £100 for 50 minutes.

    There, I said it. Judge me.

    Steve Errey – The Confidence Guy´s last blog post…Is There a Hero Inside You?

  57. I’m still relatively new to the freelance writing world. I don’t want to under charge or over charge. But I do want to make a living. This is a great article. I need to focus on rates for future client projects.

  58. Cleverly written, well argued. Thanks.

    Richard Skaare´s last blog post…A Preposterously Sensible,Workable Reorganization of Communication

  59. I don’t post my rates on my site either. If I’m honest, I do partially agree with most of your reasons why I do this – insecurity about competition and over- or underpricing.

    But, more than that, if someone has never outsourced a writing or editing project before, or used a freelancer, they probably have a misconception (in most, not all, cases) about how much it costs – as outsourcing might initially seem like the “cheap” option. I like to know exactly what the project is and provide the client with a written outline/breakdown of what I’ll deliver, how I’ll deliver it and when I’ll deliver alongside my rates. Not just the rates by themselves – without context.

    Nine times out of ten, that gets me the gigs. Still working towards converting that to 10 out of 10.

    Iris Jumbe´s last blog post…How to send me scurrying your competitors’ arms


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