Discussing rates or salaries is uncomfortable for most people. Of course, how to price copywriting services has another layer of discomfort because you can charge for copy projects in a couple of ways. Do you charge by the word? By the minute? Something else? (Spoiler: It’s something else. Copywriters charge by the project.)
In fact, charging by the word will mark you as a complete amateur. It can be downright confusing to price your services when there are a lot of differing opinions on the matter. Nervous yet? Don’t be—we’re digging into the ins and outs of project pricing.
Why Copywriters Never Charge by the Word
First, a quick, short answer: For freelance projects, you should only ever be charging by the hour and by the project. (And by the project is better—we’ll come back to that.)
Other types of writers—editorial writers, mostly—do charge by the word. But copywriting is very different from editorial writing. In fact, you’re often trying to take a long message and condense it into shorter, easier-to-remember copy. If you charge by the word, you’ll penalize yourself for being good at copywriting.
At the same time, too, a lot of what makes you valuable as a copywriter is the thought you put into the concepts and copy. If you charge by the word, you’re not making anything for that at all!
By-the-Minute Pricing Will Mark You As an Amateur
By the minute? Well, you could try to charge by the minute…if you want to make yourself crazy. Really: Imagine trying to track what you do on a minute-to-minute basis. Doesn’t the very idea of it just make you want to slam your head on the desk?
So, to recap, don’t charge by the word or by the minute. Doing either one of those will mark you as an amateur immediately. And that, of course, is a problem because, first, companies and clients don’t want to hire amateurs and, second, because some unscrupulous clients may even try to take advantage.
How to Price Copywriting Services: By the Project
Now, back to by the hour or by the project. You can charge for copywriting services by the hour when the project is on-going and you can’t really tell all of what it will entail. (Just make sure your hourly rate is calculated to cover any extra nuisances or work.)
But when you’re offered a project—a task with a definite beginning and end—it’s much better to charge by the project. Charging by the project involves you calculating how many hours it’s going to take you to create the project and then lumping that together into one sum.
Here are three key reasons why this is the route most professional freelancers take.
1. You Can Factor in All Project Elements
You need to factor in the things you need to get paid for…without clients raising eyebrows.
For example, you should be paid for meetings and quick calls and all of the other little things that happen outside of actually writing (not to mention concepting and editing). But clients tend to feel a little nickeled and dimed if you report those in your charge-by-the-hour invoice. Project pricing just means they never have to see it.
2. You Can Account for Hassle
Now, I’m not suggested that you should rip off your client. But if you can tell that a client is going to be extra difficult, if it’s a rush project, or if this work is going to prohibit you from taking other work, you might want to factor that in.
3. You Can Invoice Faster
Instead of having to go through all of your notes and calculate all of your hours at the end of a project, billing by the project makes it quick and easy to send out your invoice.
You should still, however, track your time. Too often copywriters don’t hit their financial goals because they’re not tracking where their time goes. Suddenly a 20-minute email becomes something “free” you did for your client because you weren’t factoring it into your rates. Track your time so if you need to raise your rates on the next project, you can do so with confidence.
Now, if you’re freelancing, you’ll probably have the ability to charge by either the hour or the project. If you’re contracting, though, it’s more likely that the company will only be open to paying you by the hour. And that’s fine. But if they start suggesting that you charge by the minute or the word, run for the hills!
Calculators Can’t Tell You What to Charge for Copywriting
We know pricing your copywriting services isn’t fun. But you need to do the work. There are online calculators purporting to tell you what to charge based on the project and your experience.
Here’s the thing: Online calculators are wildly inaccurate (one told Kate, based on her experience, to charge $13,800 for a homepage).
In the same vein? Online pricing guides. These guides mean well, but often draw on limited data from a handful of copywriters who have self reported their income and what they charge for services. (There was once a copywriter who purported to charge $10,000 for a single webpage…that page no longer exists. Just because you can “charge” a price doesn’t mean clients will pay it.)
And the “gurus” that say double your rates and then double them again? Sure…but at a certain point the market certainly won’t support that.
Now, you want to value your services accordingly. There is no need to short change yourself. Comprehensive Copywriting Academy students, you have an entire course on how to price your services in the CCA. Do the work of factoring in your experience looking at salaries in your area, asking recruiters, and, of course, adding to that rate if you plan to freelance versus work on staff.
More Tips on How to Charge for Copywriting Services
On episode 17 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate dig deeper into how to price your copywriting services.
Instead of relying on faulty online calculator math, they share the types of questions you need to ask clients before pricing your services, plus other factors you need to consider, such as experience, location, rush time, meetings, and more.
How do you usually charge for your copywriting projects? Have you ever had any unusual experiences with it? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on October 27, 2023