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How Should I Set My Copywriting Rates?

Am I Undercharging If I Don't Factor in Research Time?


freelance copywriter rates

Deciding how to set your rates is one of the hardest tasks of being a freelance copywriter.

Susan,

I found your copywriting website and wanted to ask you a question regarding setting rates.

I have been writing some press releases and marketing pieces. I’ve been charging a per-word rate. But that rate only reflects the quantity of copy/number of words I produce. How do I charge for the research time?

For example, I recently spent about 7 hours to research a 750-word count press release. I spent quite a bit more time researching a 1,000-word count marketing article (about 1.5 pages). I don’t know how to factor in all that research time.

One copywriter friend told me to charge what my writing is worth to the client regardless of word count. Another told me to find out what other writers are charging. When I think in those terms, I realize how much I’ve been undercharging for my work, but I’m not sure how to make the jump to a different fee schedule. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Walt

Hi Walt,

Setting rates is one of the most difficult aspects of being a freelance copywriter, even for established writers. I count myself in that category. I still often agonize over what to charge. You don’t want to leave money on the table but at the same time you don’t want to lose the job to a competitor over a few bucks.

Ideally you want to charge enough to a) make a decent wage, and b) have your fee be commensurate with the value you provide. If you’re working for what amounts to minimum wage, or even just less than you know you’re worth, you’re going to soon be frustrated. That anger is going to eventually come through to your clients. You’ll also likely find you’re unable to pay your bills.

Billing for less than you’re worth is fine if you’re just beginning your freelance writing career. You can justify the low wages because you’re gaining experience, building your portfolio and establishing a network of contacts and prospects. In fact, some would say all of that is a part of paying your dues. But recognize that operating at a deficit is not sustainable in the long-term as a business. If you want to truly be happy as a freelance copywriter, you’ll need to make a fair and livable wage.

How can you achieve that objective? Here are your three options:

  1. Charge more. In your case that would mean charging more per word
  2. Find better clients. Seek out clients who can afford more and value the quality of your work.
  3. Learn to write faster. The more productive you are, the more you will make.

Now that I think about it, perhaps those aren’t options to be considered individually but rather all are goals to strive for as you progress in your copywriting career.

One more tip for you. Rather than setting a per-word rate, consider using per-project rates. For example, determine set fees for writing a 1-page press release, a web page of up to 400 words, and a tri-fold brochure. Then, when a client asks your rates for any of those types of copywriting projects, you have a standard charge you can easily quote that you know is fair and that allows you to be profitable. No need to agonize or second-guess yourself. State your fee with  confidence. If a client isn’t willing or able to pay that rate, then they’re not a good prospect for you.

Good luck!

Regards,

Susan Greene
Freelance Copywriter

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