Pricing per word is $hit

Just Do It – 15p

For sale: baby shoes, never worn – 30p

War and Peace: £29,364.35 (for 587,287 words, thanks Google)

What’s that? Oh, just a few perfect examples of why charging per word is ridiculous.

In my opinion, pricing copy or content on a pence per word model is illogical and completely arbitrary. It moves the focus onto churning out as many words as possible, which often end up being filler or stodgy keywords, simply to justify a higher price.

Imagine if the copywriter who came up with Nike’s famous tagline had earned 15p. You can’t buy a fucking Freddo for 15p.

Take a 1,500-word article as an example. In 2021, the national minimum wage in the UK is £8.91 per hour. If, for whatever reason, you think it’s acceptable to pay 5p per word for a 1,500-word article, that will cost you the princely sum of £75. Or 8.4 hours on minimum wage. Is that supposed to be enough?

There are many, many reasons why people choose to go freelance. But it’s safe to say earning more than minimum wage for a day’s work is one of them.

In 2020, the ProCopywriters annual survey discovered the average day rate for professional copywriters in the UK is £379. Significantly more than £75. And that’s not to mention that a 1,500-word article is going to take even a seasoned copywriter more than a day to research, draft, edit and respond to client amends. And it should take longer.

With more freelancers working as copywriters than ever before, the market is bustling with writers of all abilities and naturally, everyone wants to stand out. But a race to the bottom on price is not the right way to do it.

Pricing and paying per word place the focus firmly on output, not craft or talent. If you want something that cheap and fast, use an AI program or software. There are plenty to choose from, and none of them are particularly good yet. They will be, eventually, but right now they’re pretty inelegant.

Designers aren’t paid per pixel. Builders aren’t paid per brick. There is no logical reason for writers to be paid per word. When there seems to be less focus on the quality of words, simply the quantity dictating the price, why stop at a simple pence per word model? You could get really in-depth if you wanted. You could charge 5p for your basic ‘the’, ‘if’, ‘so’, ‘at’ and so on, and maybe go as far as the dizzying heights of 8p for ‘because’, ‘impossible’ or ‘nonsense’.

Obviously, I’m being facetious. But well researched, carefully drafted, mindfully edited and accurately amended copy takes time. Time and effort that can’t be reduced down to pennies on the word. When you pay for great copy or content, you’re not only paying for the words on a page.

You’re paying for years of experience, skills honed from writing, rewriting, editing and mercilessly killing your darlings. From workshops, practical work and hours of taking notes and learning from peers, editors, creative directors and senior copywriters.

You’re paying for the time it takes to nip into the kitchen and make a coffee, have a sudden eureka moment and dash back to furiously type out an idea before it evaporates like so much steam. You’re paying for the ability to write clearly, accurately, and remember to check for spelling misteaks. Heh.

You’re paying for the knowledge and understanding that it’s actually not that simple to write three small words. Or 1,500 large ones. So I’ll finish here with three more: Just. Pay. Respectfully.

Originally published on

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