The rates you charge when you first get started as a copywriter will not—and should not—stay the same throughout your career.
Remember that copywriting is a merit-based career. Regardless of your background, your age, your gender, your race, any demographic difference, if you can write great copy, people will hire you.
And since it’s a merit-based career, that means your compensation is also merit-based. Basically, the better you get at writing copy, the more you can charge.
But, rates aren’t quite that cut and dry. You can also charge more if the demand for your services is high. You can charge more if the client wants an especially fast turnaround. You can charge more if the company is a giant corporation and, frankly, has a bigger budget.
So there are a lot of factors that come into play, but today we’re going to keep the scope narrow: When you should increase your hourly copywriting rates and how you should do it.
Though I say “hourly,” know that we’re not just talking about by-the-hour projects. You’ll use your hourly rate to estimate the time it will take you to complete a project, so your hourly rate also affects your project rates.
So, when do you know that it’s time to increase your rates? Well, to start off, if you’re getting signals from clients that your rates are low, you need to think about increasing them now. And not just one or two clients since some people’s perceptions are skewed—but if the vast majority of your clients are bowled over by how little you charge, it’s time to up that rate.
Beyond that, though, we recommend a yearly check-in and self-evaluation.
Kate, our Head Coach, shared these questions that she asks herself:
“What have I learned this year that allows me to deliver more value to my clients? What have I already delivered this past year to my clients that goes above and beyond my rates? Am I being extra flexible for a client? For example, one client paid me a flat project price of $2300 for a series of emails. But then they gave me a company email address with them and I had to manage that inbox. That ate up additional time and I was delivering a level of convenience for them by using their email, fielding more emails than on a normal project, and delivering emails with a ton of strategy-related questions they hadn’t thought through. Extra convenience equals higher fees.”
So, each year, evaluate how you’ve grown and developed as a copywriter.
Bear in mind that you’re only going to need to increase a price announcement if you’re working with a client on a regular, retainer basis – as in, they’re used to paying you a certain amount and now you’re going to increase that amount.
You don’t need to announce an increase in your rates if you work with clients on a project basis since your rates are baked into your project prices and they never actually KNOW what your hourly rates are.
Here’s what I mean: You may have done a project for a client and priced it out with a $50/hour rate, but what they saw was a quote for $700. They don’t KNOW that your rate was $50. So when you price out projects in the future with a $55 or $60 an hour rate, they won’t know that there’s a difference since each project is unique anyway.
When it comes to raising your rates with regular clients, here’s something I want you to remember: You NEVER have to justify raising your rates. Your rates are your rates and you have the right to charge whatever you want to charge. You don’t have to justify (to them) that now you have more experience, or you’ve been taking more classes, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. If YOU feel that it’s time for a rate increase, it’s time.
Before you send an email to let your clients know that you’re raising your rates, check any contracts you’ve signed. If you’re in the middle of contract work with a client and the rate is in that contract, you’re going to have to wait until that contract is over. But if you’re doing more ad hoc work with a client, you can just send a simple email.
A quick update about rates
I just wanted to send you a note to let you know that my rate will be increasing to $XX/hour as of [DATE]. Please let me know if you have any questions.
I’ve really enjoyed working together and I look forward to our future projects.
Easy, right? And the only thing to keep in mind is that your client also needs to email you back and acknowledge this rate increase; you can’t just email them and increase it.
A few more things to bear in mind: When increasing your rates, you’re most likely not going to want to think in terms of huge jumps ($50 to $100 an hour) but more along the lines of increasing $5 or maybe $10 per hour. (If that sounds little, remember that $10 an hour over the course of a year is $20K+.)
You also don’t NEED to raise your rates every year, we just recommend a yearly check-in. You won’t be able to raise your rates indefinitely. Three hundred dollars an hour may put stars in your eyes, but clients are going to balk if they ask you to write a simple welcome email and you quote them $700 for that email.
As we’ve said before (and will continue to say a million times after this) pricing and rates aren’t an exact science. But, if you take a look at the work you’ve done and the amount you’ve learned and improved your skill, and it’s not reflected in what you’re charging your clients…it’s definitely time to think about increasing your rates.
Your turn! Does this system make sense? When will you plan to evaluate your rates? Let us know in the comments below!