I wonder if you could help me. I recently applied for a social media job. The woman who posted the job emailed me to say that given my journalism and copywriting background, I would be a better fit for creating content for her updated travel website.
I have done a few paid copywriting jobs, but I’m by no means a seasoned freelancer. When she asked me my usual copywriting rate, I frivolously said $15 for 500 words. I regret not giving more thought to my response.
I should point out here that I am currently traveling around Peru and initially thought I could possibly obtain a work visa if this gig worked out; hence the impulsivity. After doing some research, I learned that this gig would not qualify me for a visa.
Anyway, I would still like to take this job as travel writing is the dream, however not at $15 per 500 words. Do you have any advice on how I can explain a sudden price hike to the client?
My current thoughts are to say that $15 was for opinion pieces, however the articles for her site will require research, as most of them focus on trips to various destinations in Peru. With that in mind, do you think $50 per 500-word article is reasonable?
You’ve posed an interesting dilemma and one that’s not all that unusual. Quoting a copywriting job is a little like fortune telling; you have to be able to predict the future in terms of your workload related to the project. Getting it right takes years of experience and even seasoned copywriters often underestimate how long a particular job will take.
At the same time, you want to factor in what you perceive as your client’s ability and willingness to pay. The job may be worth $1,000, but if your client only has $500, you’re not going to land the gig.
With regard to your situation, I recommend you do the first job at the quoted rate. You made a commitment; you live up to it. Think how you would feel if you picked out a $20 shirt at a store and then at the register the cashier said, “No, I think this shirt is worth more. The price is $40.” Chances are, you’re putting the shirt back on the rack and walking out the door.
So write the first article at the quoted rate. Look upon it as an opportunity to demonstrate to the client your copywriting talent. If your work is good, its value will be apparent to the client. Put the finished piece into your copywriting portfolio and learn from the experience.
Presumably, if you’ve done a good job, the client will request a second article. Here’s where your opportunity to renegotiate your rate comes in.
You explain that you greatly underestimated the time involved. Future articles from here on are priced at x.
As for the rate of $50, I think you could go substantially higher as researching and writing a 500-word article takes more than an hour (assuming your rate was $50 per hour). I know for me, drafting an article of that length would take three to four hours, and I charge more than $50 per hour.
But whether the client is willing to pay more is questionable, especially after your initial quote. Think of the shirt analogy again. Hopefully, the client will recognize the quality of your work in that initial article and will understand that x, whatever you choose to make it, is a fair price.
For now, focus on doing the best possible job on that first article. It’s a short-term commitment and completing it successfully will bring you one step closer to achieving your goal of becoming an in-demand travel writer.
Don’t beat yourself up for quoting low. We have all done that in our desire to land a project or client. Learn from the mistake and chalk it all up to experience. I hope this situation works out well for you.
Susan Greene, Freelance Copywriter
I decided to try my luck and said that I would do the 1000 words for $200. This included two edits at no extra cost. Anyway, needless to say, the client pushed back.
I realise this was probably a stupid move and went against your advice. The “negotiations ,” so to speak, are still alive though so I will keep you posted.
Thanks for the update, Alex. I’m still holding out hope you can make this all work out. Keep me posted.
Susan Greene, Freelance Copywriter
A final update. My pitch for doing the copy at a higher price than originally quoted blew back in my face, just as you thought it would. Looking back, I do wish I’d come in at a lower price, but I suppose it’s a lesson learned.