How much does a copywriter cost?
We all know that time is money, so one of the first questions you’re going to ask is how much does a copywriter cost and does hiring a copywriter represent a good investment?
It’s very difficult to determine the specific value that the words contribute to the success of a campaign. What about typography, design, photography, or any other element? Historically, there’s been little in the way of guidance on pricing or industry-accepted formulae. There are standard rates for related disciplines such as journalism, and this may be a helpful guide depending on your particular project. http://www.londonfreelance.org/rates/index.php
Most copywriters will provide a free no-obligation quote for a project that will be based on one of three formal pricing models: pence per word, an hourly or daily rate, or a fixed project fee. But, the most important one is often overlooked, and that’s when copywriting becomes completely free!
Completely free copywriting!
Every additional sale you make as a result of having professionally written copy on your website pays towards the cost of hiring the copywriter.
Copywriting cost per word
I’m not going to dwell on this for too long as it is too ridiculous to debate. It negates both the craft of copywriting and the writer’s skill and experience. It reduces individual words to a commodity – can you say in 50 words what needs 150 to be explained clearly? Or how many words can I get for £30? It is, however, a typical pricing model used by large-scale content mills to promote their freelancers. I’m not knocking freelancing copywriters who trade on sites like Fiver and PeoplePerHour, as it’s a starting block for many new entrants and university graduates. I never have, and never will, price by the word. I don’t see many other professionals, qualified and experienced writers doing that either.
Copywriting cost per hour or day
Another tricky area as there’s a lot more to copywriting than just writing. With the vast majority of the jobs I am involved with, the writing part is the last piece of a jigsaw. Very few clients come to me knowing what they want or need. Some clients supply a brief and have everything planned, including interviewing sources with permission, brand positioning statements and clear ideas on the specific deliverables. Others are far less clear about what they need and require a significant input of consultancy grade marketing. (If you don’t know where to start with putting a brief together, this article may be a useful read).
Most seasoned copywriters will recognise the following approaches:
“Our website isn’t working as well as it should.”
“People don’t understand our brand.”
“I want a blog…”
Take the website performance; for example, lacklustre engagement could well be due to key messages not hitting the mark. It could just as well be down to incomplete or vague SEO markers. It could be that the calls to action just don’t cut it, or simply that the site takes so long to load that people give up!
In such cases, a copywriter can’t just dive straight in and start writing! They should talk with the client, find out where the problems are, talk about business strategy and marketing goals. They’ll ask about your customers as much as they ask about your business and will come up with a plan. The plan will involve copy. It’s at the root of every business decision and sales message, but it’ll also involve business advice, analysis, research, and other marketing techniques.
- What you, the client needs
- Why you need it
- Narrative approach and strategy
- Deliverables (blog/ web content/ press release etc.)
- Any information the copywriter will need
- The timescales involved
- The quote for the work
Even when the client asks for a blog on a set topic and supplies a few briefing notes, the copywriter will still spend a good deal of non-writing time. Time well spent on topic research, resources and links, SEO, sourcing images, even posting the finished article to your chosen platforms.
Within the scope of hourly rates, there’s a considerable variation. The annual ProCopywriters survey for 2020 showed that the average UK daily rate was £379. Geography plays a part, but more significant are experience and seniority, specialist knowledge, and industry background. Many freelancers have worked in industry, typically in marketing, communications or journalism.
The problem I have with hourly rates and the reason why the industry is trying to move away from this charging platform is that it can disadvantage both the copywriter and the client. The client is at the mercy of the copywriter to log their hours accurately and fairly (having said that, I don’t know any creative who doesn’t give more to the job than they charge out to the client). The client is also led down the dangerous path of ‘the quicker, the better’. For the copywriter, it restricts taking time to craft the copy.
Copywriting project fees
This is the method I and two-thirds of UK Copywriters use according to the respected industry body, ProCopywriters Network https://www.procopywriters.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ProCopywriters-Survey-2020.pdf
A project fee covers everything the copywriter feels they need to contribute to the project. It will consider time and will be based on their experiences of comparable jobs. It will also have other considerations like:
- Communication: how clear is the brief?
- Complexity: how difficult is the work?
- Time scale: how long will the project take?
- Urgency: how soon must the work begin or be completed?
- Value: what results will it deliver for your business?
The project fee is generally a fixed rate or maybe a range price if some elements cannot be precisely costed. Either way, the client benefits from budgeting and knowing the job won’t get abandoned once the allotted time has been used. The copywriter benefits from knowing they have a fixed fee coming in and shaking off time management constraints. They know that the research and admin time is covered and that they can, if they wish, re-write a piece four times to get it perfect with no come back on the client. Providing the scope of the job doesn’t change; the cost quoted is the cost you’ll pay.
How do you know if the copywriter is worth the cost?
You don’t until you’ve worked with them, but that’s the same as engaging any trade from legal services to driving lessons! Look out for testimonials, online reviews, the copywriters’ website and portfolio for guidance, and ask around your network.
Many copywriters will have a no-commitment chat about your enquiry or may offer a free consultation. They will prepare a costed proposal for the work, a sample of similar work they’ve done for another client (in the public domain) and possibly their permission to talk to some past customers. In truth, though, you’ll soon understand if they know what they’re talking about (on your topic) and whether you can work together.
Also, look at their backgrounds.
- A career in journalism or PR demonstrates solid storytelling, interviewing and research skills.
- A previous advertising agency career shows commercial awareness and the ability to work alongside other creatives.
An in-house marketing background can indicate that the copywriter understands the bigger picture and consider any internal impacts or conflicts of interest.
Do copywriters’ costs take value into account?
Sometimes, and in some ways is the honest answer. Some added value can be measured through website analysis or offer take-up or column inches, but most of it is intangible. It is hard to definitively prove the enhancement of a business reputation as a result of publishing good quality content. However, hard information indicating increased sales is a pretty good indicator!
What else do copywriters offer?
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. They’ll also introduce behavioural psychology tricks to push the right buttons.
So, the next time you’re reading a snappy strapline, wondering if you can get one for your business for under £25, the answer is yes, you probably can, but like everything in life, there’s a difference between copywriting cost and copywriting value, and you invariably get what you pay for!