If we can, we get into certain lines of work to pursue our passions. But, of course, with those pesky costs for housing, food, and other necessities, we also work to pay our bills. So, one of the first questions you may ask as you dip your toes into copywriting is, “how much do freelance copywriters make?”
When it comes to how much money you can make in any profession, including as a freelance copywriter, there is no straightforward answer like, “you will make $100,000.” (And anyone giving you that answer is full of b-s.) You can absolutely make six figures once you have experience and contacts. You may even be able to hit the multiple six figures mark (keep reading for more on maximum copywriter salaries). But there are a few factors that will influence your income.
5 Factors That Impact How Much Freelance Copywriters Make
It’s no secret that copywriting is the very best way for a writer to earn a living. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly lucrative to be a journalist, a novelist, an English professor, or even a magazine writer. It’s an utter shame, but it’s true.
Exactly how much you make as a copywriter depends on a few different factors. For example, whether you work full-time, part-time, on-staff, freelance, or as a contractor can change your annual income. Contractors and freelancers usually make more per hour than the hourly equivalents of their on-staff counterparts since, at least in the United States, they have to pay for their own health insurance and self-employment tax.
How much money you can make as a freelance copywriter (that is, work-from-home freelancer) depends a great deal on the writer’s willingness to network, drum up business, and take the steps they need to take to land work. That said, unless they’re taking low-paying work to build up their portfolios, freelance copywriters are making hourly equivalents of contractors.
Overall, the amount you make comes down to:
- Whether you’re working part-time, full-time, on-staff, contract, or freelance.
- How good you are at what you do.
- How pleasant you are to work with. (No one wants to work with a jerk, after all!)
- Whether you live in or near a relatively busy city. (Note: It is possible to have plenty of clients that aren’t in your area, which may impact rates. Inevitably, different areas have different costs of living, which impact the going rate for a copywriter just like any other job.)
- How much you’re willing to take action to find a job or to find clients.
If you’re willing to take the actions needed to get trained, network, and land work, you will do well. (If you’re not willing to take action, good luck finding success in any career though, right?)
How to Figure Out Your Freelance Copywriter Salary
Because it can vary so much from city to city, and experience level to experience level, there’s no one ballpark for how much you’ll make for a salary. But here’s how to figure out a freelance copywriter salary that works for you.
Do Not Rely on Online Calculators
First, you can skip those “online calculators.” Even from the most reputable sources, they’re often grossly off-mark. Our head copy coach Kate used one recently to get a sense if these calculators are anymore accurate today than when creators first developed them. The calculator, taking into account her years of experience and number of homepages she’s written, told her to charge $13,000 for a homepage. (Anyone who says “charge $13,000 for a homepage” without knowing what that homepage project entails doesn’t know what they’re talking about.)
Even annual “surveys” that purport to gauge average costs by project are wildly off. For example, reports that say copywriters charge anywhere from $200-500 per email are wildly useless.
First, that’s a giant range. Again, without knowing what the project entails, how can you even have a range? What one client needs may be completely different from another client. (It’s why we don’t recommend you list prices on your portfolio site.)
Second, copywriters are reporting these numbers based on their last recent project. (I just received an email to participate in one of these surveys.) The surveys do not include room for additional context. As you can imagine, there is a lot of variability in each and every email project!
Look at Job Listings for Copywriters in Your City
Second, check the listings for jobs in your city (and nearby cities) that match your level of experience (or the level of experience you’ll be at when you finish your training). Some job listings won’t offer salary information, but many will. Just be aware that non-profits and universities tend to pay slightly less than average.
Talk with Recruiters About Copywriter Salaries
Third, check with recruiters. Once you’re ready to start looking for work, you should be getting registered with recruiters. So, now’s a good time to research which creative recruiters are operating in your city. All you have to do is put in a phone call, send an email, or even just connect with a few recruiters on LinkedIn and ask what the average salary range is for your level of experience.
Know Your On-Staff Rate and Your Freelance Rate
If you want to figure out how much you should charge for contract or freelance hourly rates, take an average of the salaries you find, divide by 2080, (40 hours a week at 52 weeks a year) and then multiply by 1.5. Again, that extra 0.5 is to account for the extra things freelancers and contractors have to pay for that on-staff copywriters don’t.
Now, again, all of this is really kind of a ballpark. You’ll find clients and employers who are willing to pay more and, of course, those that are willing to pay less. Also, you may decide to take work for lower fees to build your portfolio and client list—but you’ll probably also soon find a rate that you’re not willing to work below.
I know that’s probably not the exact numerical answer you were hoping for, but it will help you come up with numbers that are specific to you, your experience level, and your area. But again, I think you’ll be pleased with the numbers you come up with. I know that I’ve been.
Is Six Figures As a Copywriter Really Possible?
The short answer is yes. It won’t happen overnight. And it requires you have real copywriting training. Writing blogs is not the same as a copywriting (it’s content writing). And while you may opt to take on some content writing projects for your copywriting clients, you will have a much harder time hitting six figures as a blog writer than a copywriter. Learn more about why right here >>
Let’s dig into the math of how it’s possible for a copywriter to hit six figures.
It’s perfectly possible for a copywriter to make six figures once they’re scaled up and working full-time. $50/hr is a reasonable starting rate. Here’s the math:
$50 x 40 hours a week x 50 weeks a year (take at least two weeks vacation!) = $100,000.
And that’s only your starting rate. Many copywriter bump up their rates by $5 or so as they get more experience.
Lots of people are (rightly!) skeptical that copywriters can earn six figures. After all, how many times have you heard “you can’t make money as a writer”? (We’ve stopped keeping tracked.) Nicki and Kate, both six-figure copywriters, are digging into where this skepticism comes from and why it is truly possible to hit your financial goals as a copywriter.
What’s the Maximum Copywriter’s Salary?
As a copywriter offer one-to-one services (as in, you offering services to your clients), there will come a point where you find the cap on your income. Generally, that’s because you simply have no more hours left in the day to devote to copywriting!
It’s absolutely possible to hit six figures as a copywriter, if that’s your goal. If you’re looking to hit multiple six figures ($200,000 and above) or even seven figures, it’s also possible. But you will need to grow your business. It’s going to be extremely hard, if not impossible, to hit multiple six figure numbers without outsourcing work to other copywriters. We’ve had some Comprehensive Copywriting Academy students do just that, as they look to build their own agencies.
Our head copywriting coach, Kate, shared her actual freelance copywriting income over the course of several years on the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast. She hit a very impressive number (in the midst of the pandemic, no less!).
But all of this, of course, only comes into play once you actually know how to write copy. Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they know how to write, they know how to write copy. (But just because I know how to drive doesn’t mean I know how to drive a Mack truck, right?) You need to get training—a real training that not only covers how to write copy, but how to get experience and build your portfolio, too. There aren’t a lot of copywriting trainings like that out there…which is why we created our own.
Your turn! When it comes to how much do freelance copywriters make, what information have you found? What other tools do you use to calculate salary? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to get started in copywriting? Here’s more info to help:
- Confused About Where to Start? This One’s for You
- Why People Tell You “Copywriting is Hard to Get Into”
- The Best Backgrounds for Getting Into Copywriting
- How Soon Can You Start Making Money?
- The First Step in Changing Your Career
Last Updated on November 15, 2023