How to Quote Your First Project and Get the Job

Pricing an e-Newsletter So You Get the Gig & Make a Tidy Profit

posted under Advice for Aspiring Copywriters

I received the following email from a new freelance copywriter quoting on her first project, an e-newsletter. I thought I’d share her questions and my responses in the hope it might help others embarking on their freelance writing career.

— Susan Greene

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Hi Susan,

I am doing research on what to charge a potential client to write an e-newsletter and was impressed with your website. I have a lot of business writing experience as an employee but am new to freelancing and don’t have a good feel yet for what I should be charging.

Ranges in books like The Writer’s Market are so general, and what I’m finding on the web is all over the place. Would you be willing to share your rates or at least share with me your thoughts and experience on a rate that might make sense?

The project is 300-400 words, 3-4 articles per e-newsletter, 15 newsletters a year. The client is a non-profit organization.

I was thinking of proposing $500 a newsletter since I would be doing all the research, project managing the whole thing and writing some articles from scratch (including interviewing, etc.). Do you have any sage advice for this newbie since it looks like you’ve been in this game for awhile?

Thanks in advance,

Carol

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Hi Carol,

Nice to meet you. Congratulations on starting to do freelance copywriting. It can be a great side business or full-time career. I have some thoughts regarding your newsletter assignment, some of which might be applicable to other future assignments too as you grow your venture:

  • $500 per newsletters sounds a little low for all that you’d be doing but fair if you are new to freelance copywriting and if at least some of the articles in each newsletter edition don’t involve research and are easy to write. For the ones that involve interviews, be sure those interviews can be done by email or phone. If they’ll involve actual meetings, you’ll be investing too much time for that rate.
  • Ask yourself what your client is willing and able to pay. This concept would apply for the e-newsletter or any project on which you’re quoting. If $500, or whatever amount you decide to charge, is not within their budget, then regardless of how fair is the rate, you won’t get the job.
  • Will you be doing any graphic design or photography for the newsletter? If so, then your rate is not enough to compensate you for your time. Always be aware of scope creep, when the client asks you to do one task but assumes you’ll do other tasks as well without additional compensation.
  • You are proposing 15 issues a year. Is this realistic? Are the stories interesting enough that readers will enjoy them with that level of frequency? Also, is the client fast about approving copy or do they make decisions by committee or with multiple chains of command, in which case getting 15 issues approved could be a nightmare. You always want to try to get a sense of how easy or difficult the client will be. Tough clients can not only eat up your time but also be emotionally draining.
  • What is the client’s purpose for doing the e-newsletter? What is their objective? Is the e-newsletter likely to meet that objective in a clear, measurable way? If not, then it’s conceivable you could do just one or two issues and then have management decide to pull the budget for something more pressing.Because your rate reflects a quantity discount based on doing 15 issues a year, you might want to put a kill-fee clause into your contract just in case your client doesn’t fulfill the whole contract.
  • Why is the client doing an e-newsletter? Might a blog be a better platform? With a blog the copy would be posted online and could serve to the give the organization more of an online presence, which might help justify the expense.
  • If you commit to doing 15 issues of this newsletter for $500 each, what other opportunities might you have to decline over the course of the year? Could any of those other opportunities potentially pay you better, help you build your network of contacts, or provide you with new, exciting experiences? You’ll want to ask yourself these types of questions whenever you take on a long-term project.

Hope that helps, Carol. Let me know how you make out.

Susan

* * *

Hi Susan,

So nice of you to write me back, and you’ve given me a lot to think about.
I have answers to most of the questions you raised above. After you read the information below, please feel free to offer any other words of wisdom or advice. I’m all ears, and I am eternally grateful!

Gathering information for the various newsletter articles may involve onsite interviews. I’m guessing that at least some of them will. The client will provide all other research and raw data. Each article will be 300-400 words.

The client says a budget hasn’t yet been determined. I know they have worked with freelancers before on editorial content but wasn’t able to get exactly who it was in our area. I have seen another freelancer’s website in this area who says he would charge $600-$1,200 for an e-newsletter so my rate of $500 would be low, but he has a lot more experience than I do.

The client is the one who came up with the quantity of 15 newsletter issues per year. They are asking for three newsletters, but five different versions of each, covering different aspects of their business.

My primary function would be as a copywriter. I’ll just be responsible for the written content. They will provide a template, handle any necessary graphic design, post online and distribute to their database.

The goal of the newsletter is to increase awareness of their products and ultimately generate sales.

They asked for e-newsletters specifically. Producing a newsletter is something they have been meaning to do for a while but haven’t had time to accomplish. I would be filling a void. They already blog, so they don’t want to go that route for this marketing effort.

The client is a major player in their industry and would be quite impressive as my first freelancing gig. It would also undoubtedly lead to more work with them and possibly others in the field should I want it.

Carol

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Hi Carol,

You’re very welcome. Glad you found my responses helpful.

My concern is that your $500 rate is based on best-case scenarios. The client provides you with good research and doesn’t overwhelm you with meeting requests, excessive revisions, a lengthy approval process, etc. In essence, you hope they’re a “good client” and not a “PITA (pain-in-the-ass) client.” If that’s not the case, you may find you’re working way too hard for your money.

On the other hand, if they’re a non-profit organization, anything higher than $500 might not be within their budget or might not provide enough value for them to justify the expense.

Often when I’m pricing projects, the amount isn’t determined solely by how many hours I’m going to put in but rather what the client is willing or able to pay. If I don’t fall within the range the client expects to pay, then I won’t get the job, regardless of whether my price is justified for the amount of work.

So, it’s a bit of a guessing game.

Here are two strategies to consider as a means of hedging your bet:

  1. Propose that you do the first newsletter at the $500 rate. Explain that this will give you an opportunity to accurately determine how many hours are required per issue (research, interviews, meetings, revisions, approval process), and will also allow them to decide if they enjoy working with you. After the first newsletter is complete, then you’ll provide a proposal/quote for a year’s worth of future issues.
  2. Propose a range. Tell the client that each newsletter will cost between $500-$700. Final rate will be determined for each edition individually and will be based on how much research and how many interviews are required, particularly if any need to be done in person. Another pricing factor will be how many revisions you’re asked to do. By giving a range, the client has an incentive to provide you with the research and limit the demands on your time for each edition.

Good luck!

Susan Greene
Marketing Copywriter

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You hit it out of the park!

Once again, Susan, I think you hit it out of the park. Your article for The Coleman Report is spot on. I even caught myself reading a few of those lines in Sundip’s {CEO} voice in my head!

I will go ahead and send out to Sundip and Ailleen for review. This is really good work!

Anish Dhanjee
Marketing Associate
AVANA Capital
Glendale, Arizona

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