Surfing through Fiverr the other day looking for logo design gigs, a $5 blog writing gig caught my attention. I couldn’t believe it. As I curiously opened the gig, the one thought zipping around in my head was, “Is that like a 50-word blog post?” Surprisingly, it turned out to be a 500-word blog writing gig.
That doesn’t make sense, I thought. How does one make a living charging $5 per 500-word post? I poked around a little more and discovered there are tons of similar writing gigs. My annoyance with the whole thing was what prompted me to write this post.
First, I have to say this, “Writers, please stop underselling yourselves. When you do so, you’re not just making life miserable for you but are also ruining things for the rest of us who actually want to get super rich doing this.” Yes, my optimism might border on insanity but it’s attainable.
So what should you charge clients for your writing?
Make no mistake. I’m talking about copywriting. Not fiction writing. You can ask J. K. Rowling about the latter. Copywriting entails writing web pages, business blogs, brochures, sales letters, proposals, product descriptions, profile text, and so on.
For starters, decide how you charge
- Per hour?
- Per word?
- Per page?
- A flat fee per content?
Each one of these pricing models come with their advantages and disadvantages. You just have to figure out what works for you. Generally, the way to go is to mix up the options depending on the project types you undertake.
Here is what the hourly vs per word pricing model would look like, depending on your level of expertise.
If you noticed, even an entry level copywriter would make at least $15 per hour. The above, in my opinion, is within acceptable rates. But I have certainly charged much more for a project.
When is hourly ideal and why?
When there’s a moderate air of uncertainty surrounding a project.
- For instance, you are uncertain about how long it will take you to complete the project.
- The brief and goal of the project aren’t clear.
- The concept is vague.
- You suspect the client will make drastic changes as the project progresses.
Charging hourly under these circumstances basically protects your best interest. The last thing you want is charging per word or per page, only to realise in the end that you have spent five hours working on the project.
It doesn’t end with charging hourly. You need to specify the minimum number of hours per project.
Simply billing in small time increments will only work against you. Because you spent an hour and a half writing a piece doesn’t mean you should charge that. Certainly, you want to factor in time spent on phone calls, contract, filing, and so on. So what do you do?
- You charge an hourly rate. Say, $50 per hour.
- Set a project minimum for hourly billing. Then put the minimum number of hours per project to, say, 2, 3, or even 4 hours, depending on your level of expertise. That way, even if a project takes you an hour to complete, you still get a 2, 3, or even 4 hour rate.
For instance, I charge $50 per hour and the minimum number of hours I undertake is two hours. Which means, the minimum I charge for any project is $100.
Don’t go below $50 per hour
This is for the pros. Not for entry-level writers. However, it doesn’t mean that the latter can’t charge $50. It means that if you are a pro, are very confident in your skills, and have a stellar portfolio to back them up, never go below $50. Otherwise, you aren’t going to make a living doing this.
Just think about it. Factor in dry times, expenses, the time you spent promoting yourself, and so on and you begin to see that $50 is even poor. A writer working full time at $50 would only make $25k a year.
I’ve certainly charged clients much more. I’ve done $200 an hour for a project in the medical niche. I hope to top that before the year runs out.
When to use project price
I imagine you must be asking, “Why use project price when I can charge hourly and make more money?” The truth is that you grow as you write. You become faster and more efficient. This means that projects that took you three hours to complete last year would probably take you two hours or less today. Charging hourly for such a project would translate to a depreciation in your income. So what do you do?
Now that you have worked out the kinks and hoops of certain project types, you have become better equipped to stick specific price tags on them without losing money in the process.
Be careful with using flat rates for projects. The last thing you want is realizing halfway through the project that you undercharged the client. Still, should you find yourself in this dilemma, don’t go trying to modify the fee. A project fee is a flat, fixed price per piece. It can’t be changed once quoted. Learn from the mistake and amend your rates for the next client. The only grounds for altering a project fee is when the client significantly alters the project.
Set. Rinse. Repeat
Never stop testing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new prices. Certainly, you want your income to appreciate gradually with time. You don’t have to be aggressive about it. Just throw in reasonable higher prices once in a while. For instance, if you usually charge $1,200 per ebook, you could ask a new client for $1,500 or more. The client will obviously want to negotiate. So factor that in as you set your new price so that you will still be above your previous rate after negotiation.
Act like a pro, get paid like a pro
The impression you give your clients matters. Any slightest display of incompetence will undermine your value. Hence, you want to make sure you have a foolproof means of onboarding clients.
- For instance, have a contract ready and always get your clients to sign it before starting the project. Not only does this show that you know what you are doing; it also protects you interest.
- Be firm about money matters. Mention your rates from the onset. Put it in the contract. Also detail down terms for payment in the contract.
- Always ask for a 50% retainer upfront. Or perhaps for first-time clients. This will help you get rid of dubious clients who might want to pull a fast one on you.
Improve the value of your copywriting rates
Many times, simply delivering finished copy doesn’t justify your pricing to clients. In fact, a typical client would underestimate the amount of work you’ve put into the project if the finished copy is all you deliver.
Get the client involved every step of the way. Spell out everything, including the research done, meetings, writing, outline, proofing, interviews, editing, and so on. That way, the will get to see the value in your price.
Alright, that’s it. No two copywriters are the same. Everyone has what works or doesn’t work for them. Please comment below with your pricing strategy. Would be glad to hear about your experience.
This post also appeared in Macaulay Gidado Medium Publication.