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How do copywriters decide on their fees and pricing models?

Sarah Monaghan

Connected Copy

PRO

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • how copywriters decide their fees
  • the sales outcomes you can achieve by working with a copywriter
  • what to weigh up when you’re trying to choose the right copywriter for your project
  • how to decide if a copywriter is worth the fees they charge
  • what to do if you’re not clear on the scope of your copywriting project

Whether your business goal is:

  • higher search rankings
  • increased brand awareness
  • fresh inbound links
  • greater social interaction
  • more email opens
  • wider industry credibility

Your success hinges on having quality content that will win what every business needs most: prospects’ limited attention.

Results-oriented copy that actually captures users’ interest is the fuel of today’s digital marketing engine. It’s why copywriters with the valuable skills to hook, connect and convert are in such high demand.

But with companies all jockeying online to publish streams of content, how-to information, benefit-focused offers and other copy across a mix of marketing channels, the internet is awash with a tidal wave of copy.

So how do you – as a business owner, marketer or creative director – stand out? And how do you choose the right copywriter to help you do that?

Where do you find a:

  • writer with the research skills and persuasive flair to write your lead-generating industry white paper?
  • copywriter with the conversion skills to help you build your opt-in list and increase your email open targets?
  • SEO content-writer with the expertise to harness voice-driven keyword search and drive your organic traffic, or secure you that all-important featured snippet?
  • website copywriter who can capture your company’s expertise and get inside the heads and hearts of your customers?

How do you find the right copywriter for your project?

A good place to start is by googling by specialism. You can search for, for example, ‘medical device copywriter’, ‘accounting website writer’ or ‘B2B SaaS copywriter’.

Like their clients, professional copywriters tend to be specialists, usually in either a ‘vertical’ or a ‘horizontal’ niche.

A vertical niche means that the copywriter serves a specific sector. They’ll have the industry knowledge to craft copy that solves outcomes specific to the target customer in a particular business field.

An example might be a pharma and healthcare copywriter. She’ll able to identify the pain points she can reach through copywriting about the value of a complex pharma product to help her client engage with patients and health care practitioners.

Other vertical copywriting niche examples include fintech, architecture, Software as a Service (SaaS) or cybersecurity – industries that also need a high degree of foundational expertise.

The other type of niche is horizontal – when a copywriter concentrates on a style of copywriting.

For example, e-commerce product descriptions, sales page copywriting or SEO content writing. Or video sales letter scripting, email campaign writing, case-study creation or direct response copy.

These two niches can converge. This is when a copywriter supplies a type of copywriting (horizontal niche) for a specific market (vertical niche). Examples might be: onboarding emails for SaaS or white papers for finance companies.

ProCopywriters provides a useful directory of copywriters searchable by industry specialism and copywriting medium.

Junior copywriters are less likely to have settled on a niche. They often present themselves as generalists (or jack-of-all-trades). You’ll find less experienced writers on freelance marketplace sites such as Upwork or Fiverr.

Their prices will be lower because they tend to be newer writers, writers outside the UK, or non-native English speakers.

What should you expect to pay a copywriter?

Most copywriters price their work in line with 3 factors. These are: their level of seniority, their specialist knowledge and their business experience.

This isn’t much different to any other professional services provider. Most copywriters will charge you a flat fee by project (per white paper, per sales page) and not by hour or per word.

They’ll base their fee on their experience of marketing projects with similar scopes. Baked into this, will be these considerations:

  1. Communication: how clear is the brief?
  2. Complexity: how difficult is the work?
  3. Time scale: how long will the project take?
  4. Urgency: how soon must the work begin or be completed?
  5. Value: what results will it deliver for your business?

This works in your favour because once the fee is agreed, it won’t change unless the scope does and it normally includes up to 2 rounds of revisions.

This is regardless of how long the project takes the copywriter in copy crafting, review mining, voice-of-customer research, interviews with experts, brainstorming phone calls or word length etc.

For most copywriting projects, the lion’s share of the work is what happens before the writing begins. This involves research and discovery of who the audience is and the industry context. (Just as preparation is key to success for the trial lawyer in the courtroom.)

How do you know a copywriter is worth what they charge?

You won’t until you’ve worked with them (as you won’t know for sure with the lawyer you engage).

But most experienced copywriters will have reputable testimonials that give a strong clue. They’ll also have a portfolio of work on their websites to demonstrate expertise.

You may not see exactly what you need. But it should be enough to determine if their skills and industry knowledge are transferrable to your project.

Before you decide, take advantage of the discovery call if the copywriter offers them. These are not sales calls. They’re the opportunity for you and the copywriter to determine if you’re a good fit.

You’ll be able to tell by the questions the copywriter asks if they have the ability to fulfil your project. You’ll also get an idea of whether you have a rapport with them. And that’s essential because it’s going to be a collaborative process. Also, look at their backgrounds.

  1. A successful journalistic career often demonstrates that the copywriter will have solid storytelling, interviewing and research skills. They’ll also have the ability to write for diverse audiences and the versatility to handle a complex brief.
  2. A previous advertising agency career may show that the copywriter is commercially sensitive. They’ll be used to playing a team role in campaigns alongside other creatives such as designers and media planners.
  3. An in-house marketing background can be a sign that the copywriter understands the bigger picture. They’ll know the interlinked role of a company’s departments such as sales, business development, strategy, finance and product management etc.

Take note of any professional copywriting or marketing training the copywriter has completed. It shows that they take their craft seriously. The online selling environment changes so fast that copywriters have to keep up to date with developments and their constantly improving their skills.

They need to understand all the moving parts that are involved in writing, for example, a launch funnel or the importance of SEO for content writing.

Are copywriters’ rates in keeping with the sales outcome?

Some of the ‘outcome value’ (more leads, more sales, more inbound links) a copywriter can show will have measurable KPIs, but not all.

A company selling a £50,000 SaaS product might commission a research-driven white paper. It uses it as marketing collateral to frame discussions with its prospects. The white paper leads to 7 added sales (totalling £350,000) over the next year.

Say the client paid, for example, £5,000 for the compellingly written white paper, then there’s a clear measurable value. In this case it’s £345,000 for their copywriting investment.

A skilled copywriter might help a business with the re-brand of its website. He crafts high-performing website messaging based on user and voice of customer research.

The new copy results in an uplift of 22% in enquiries to the client’s website. This translates to a measurable value of 37% increase in profits for the business.

Other measurable copywriting outcomes might include higher search rankings or email opens.

Less quantifiable but no less valuable is ‘reputational outcome’ through media exposure or industry credibility. This could come, for example, from a powerful thought leadership article series that provides a company with greater perceived authority within its sector.

Often copywriters provide this material ghost-written (bylined to the CEO or other company figure).

What extra value can copywriters offer?

Some clients will supply a detailed brief and have everything planned, from the brand messaging to the interview sources. They simply want the copywriter to deliver the goods.

Others may be less clear on the scope or what they need. In this case, experienced copywriters will be more than order-takers. They’ll roll up their sleeves to offer their clients a marketing consultancy value too.

They’ll understand that you don’t just want a project-writer. You really want a partner who can provide strategic direction.

So they’ll also not be fazed if you come to them saying something like: “We need to improve our marketing”. When what you really mean is …. “We’re not sure how to approach it or if we need a white paper, a revised landing page, or six keyword-focused blog posts a month.”

Or:

“We need a website refresh”. When what you really mean is… “We don’t know how to improve our key messaging. Nor how to change the content architecture. Let alone where our copy is causing friction. Or what SEO objectives to meet or which CTAs to prioritise to meet our business goals.”

In this case, an experienced copywriter may propose a stand-alone road-mapping engagement. This will help you clarify strategic objectives and define your outcomes before the execution of the actual work. So you’ll have a clear plan to work to.

To do this, they’ll take a practical stance, just as a landscape gardener would. He wouldn’t arrive at your home with a van-load of plants and start digging holes. He’d take pictures and measurements and plot out the big picture first.

Your copywriter will start at ground zero too. He’ll discuss your business strategy, positioning and marketing goals. This ‘spadework’ serves both of you because the end result will be a blueprint to work to.

Otherwise, you’ll be band-aiding your marketing challenges piecemeal. He or she will make recommendations for an action plan that will cover:

  1. What you as the client need (big picture)
  2. Why you need it (business and marketing rationale)
  3. A recommended editorial approach or strategy
  4. The copywriting deliverables they’ll create
  5. The resources the copywriter will need. (Competitor information, customer interviews, analytics data, discussions with subject matter experts, etc)
  6. The proposed timeline or editorial calendar
  7. The quote for doing the work

How much do copywriters actually charge?

The answer to this is, it depends.

Unlike other industries, copywriters aren’t selling tangible products with widely accepted market price ranges. They’re not selling sofas, cars, bulldozers or condenser coils. They’re selling custom services that depend on the specific context and requirements.

An accomplished writer will provide you with the creative and analytical skills needed to frame the messaging for different states of awareness across your customer journey.

The analytical component is the use of psychology (aka persuasion) and the understanding of your data (your website clickthrough rates and bounces etc or email open metrics) to know what is or isn’t motivating your prospect.

The creative component is the ability to meld language – using yes, literary devices, such as rhythm, metaphor, alliteration and assonance – for the crafting of connection-weaving copy that, ultimately, gets the ‘yes’ to earn the all-important click, download or buy now.

And there’s the reason F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salman Rushdie, Dorothy Sayers, Don DeLillo, Joseph Heller and Helen Gurley Brown were all copywriters before they became authors.

Looking to understand more about rates? Check out Procopywriters’ Suggested Rates for Hiring Copywriters or the AWAI State of the Industry 2020: Copywriters’ Rates.

This article was first published on: www.connectedcopy.co.uk

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