How to Set Pricing for Writing Product Descriptions
Well-Written Product Descriptions Pay for Themselves in Sales
I’m a copywriter like you. I’ve been asked to provide a quote for writing approximately 1,000 product descriptions for a jewelry company. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but I’m sure the client expects some sort of quantity discount. Can you give me a suggestion for how to estimate such a large project?
Your project sounds like it could be a good one but only if the client has a realistic budget. Writing product descriptions in that high quantity is a substantial undertaking.
I recommend you quote a per-item price so that you don’t get roped into writing more descriptions than your initial quote includes. In a project that large, scope creep is always a possibility.
To quote per item, you’ll first need to figure out the approximate length for the descriptions. How many sentences or words should each description be? And be sure to include that specification in your quote so the client is clear on how much writing is included in your quote. Once again, you want to protect yourself from a project that grows in scope but not in budget.
When you know description length, then you can figure out approximately how long it will take you to write each description. How many descriptions can you write in an hour? What do you typically bill per hour? Even if you don’t bill your services by the hour, you should be able to estimate approximately how much you make an hour for your copywriting. Then divide your “hourly rate” by the number of descriptions you can do an hour, and you’ll have your per-description rate.
For example, let’s say you think you can write 10 product descriptions per hour. That’s moving at a pretty good clip, and probably keeping descriptions to 1-2 sentences. Let’s say you typically charge $50 per hour. You’d probably want to charge $5 per description.
Once you come up with that number, before providing the quote to your client, ask yourself these 3 questions:
Is this a reasonable fee for this client? If the client is a startup company or a sole proprietorship, that fee may not be feasible.
How bad do you want this job? If you need the income or if you want a job like this in your portfolio, or if you know the client is shopping around for best price, you may want to adjust your fee to ensure you get the project.
How long will this project take you? If taking on this project means you could have to turn down other more lucrative projects, is it worthwhile? In other words, what is your opportunity cost?
Keep this thought in your mind. Writing 1,000 product descriptions is a lot of work. You’ll hate yourself if the reward for your efforts isn’t favorable. The job needs to be profitable for you. You’re not operating a charity.
In a recent interview with Susan Johnston, a product description copywriter, Ed Gandia, who coaches copywriters, asked about pricing and wrote about the answer he received.
“What kind of fees do these types of projects command?
There are two ways to work with clients:
When Susan started she was paid $3.00/description. Now she is paid as much as $18.00/description. Once you understand the companies brand/voice, you can write quickly and efficiently which can translate into $100.00+/hour when writing multiple descriptions.
With an hourly rate there is no incentive to be more efficient, so charging a per description fee makes more sense for the freelance writer.”
Finally, here are a couple of suggestions to help you land the job:
De-emphasize price. When you provide your quote, whether in conversation or writing, explain that the product descriptions you provide will be of the highest quality and creativity. They are likely to pay for themselves in the sales they generate. Conversely, bad copy is even more expensive than great copy if it doesn’t sell anything
Offer samples. If you perceive that the client is hesitant or might be shopping around, consider providing 1-3 sample product descriptions to demonstrate the professionalism of your writing and the value you bring to the table.
Break it down. Writing 1,000 product descriptions is, as I said, a ton of work. And for the client, no matter how little you charge per description, it’s still going to be a hefty bill if the client is a small business. Consider offering to break the project into 10 batches, or 100 descriptions per batch, or set some other benchmarks that work for you. By breaking the project into bite-size pieces, it’s not as overwhelming for you to write and it’s also not as overwhelming for your client’s wallet. Plus, this gives you and the client the option of reevaluating the situation after each chunk is done. Hopefully, at that time, you’re enjoying writing the descriptions and the client is pleased with how they’re turning out and paying you for the work as it’s completed. Breaking the project up helps to mitigate the risk for both you and the client.
Encourage loyalty. If you think the client is considering having multiple copywriters work on the descriptions to speed their completion, emphasize the benefits of working with one person or one team for consistency and accountability. Here’s what Unamo, a marketing company, recommends to clients for high-volume product description jobs, “Instead of having 25 anonymous, mediocre writers write 2,500 descriptions, it would be better to have 5 stronger and more consistent writers tackle the load together. You want to either source a steady number of writers directly (more involved) or work with a collective/team where you know the same writers will be involved for the duration of the project. It will take longer, but the quality of the work will improve as writers adapt to the project and your expectations and the editor has a chance to get to know the quirks and challenges with each writer (and hopefully correct them).”