A common question about freelance copywriting is ‘What’s a fair price?’
Business people are often unsure of what they should pay for freelance copywriting services provided by freelance copywriters.
New copywriters might not know what they should charge for their freelance copywriting services.
In this post, we’ll look at the issues businesses face when they need freelance copywriting services. It will also help freelance copywriters charge fair and competitive rates for their copywriting.
We’ll begin by looking at a hypothetical copywriter and her experience of moving from being a full-time employee to working in freelance copywriting.
The Story of Ms Copywriter
A writer, we’ll call her Ms Copywriter, works as an employee for an Australian company. She hears that she can charge $70 per hour if she becomes a freelance copywriter. Ms Copywriter works for a good company. She has job security, but she’s tired of commuting to an office every day.
Ms Copywriter calculates what she could potentially earn as a freelance copywriter. She figures she’ll earn $2,800 per week from freelance copywriting if she works a 40-hour week.
She calculates the yearly income she can earn from copywriting.
“Wow,” she says to herself. “I’ll be making $134,400 if I only work 48 forty-hour weeks each year.” (48 weeks x 40 hours per week x $70 per hour)
Ms Copywriter is on a salary package of $70,000 in her current position. She thinks about the larger salary and the freedom that being a freelance copywriter will bring. She finally summons enough courage to resign from her position. Her family and friends tell her she’s crazy for quitting her secure copywriting job to become a freelance copywriter, but Ms Copywriter tells them she will substantially increase her income by becoming a freelance copywriter.
Note: The salary amount above is typical for a copywriting position in Australia. The figure will vary by country but the general concepts still apply.
Ms Copywriter Learns the Sad Truth
A few months later, Ms Copywriter has had some success getting freelance copywriting work. She feels busy but she’s not making the income that she expected. What’s the problem?
The answer is billable hours.
When Ms Copywriter first thought about becoming a freelance copywriter she mistakenly believed that she would be able to bill for all of the 40 hours she worked each week.
Freelance Copywriting is a Business
To be successful, freelance copywriters need to treat freelance copywriting as a business – not a hobby. Besides copywriting for her clients, Ms Copywriter needs time for sales, marketing and administration activities. Experienced freelance writers realise this.
Michael Meanwell, author of The Wealthy Writer, has been a freelance copywriter since the early 1990s. He writes that only around half the amount of time freelance writers spend in their businesses is billable. The rest of the time is spent on administration, sales and marketing, and other activities needed to run a business.
In the case of Ms Copywriter, she’s probably only able to bill for 20 hours of work each week if she’s working a total of 40 hours per week. In reality she’s making $1400 per week (20 hours x $70 per hour). This isn’t taking her business expenses into account.
Even if she works from a home office, she will still need to advertise, drive to meetings, make phone calls, create a website, have stationery printed, etc. If she keeps her costs low – we’ll say $200 per week – she will be spending $10,400 each year.
Let’s look at the overall profit Ms Copywriter will make in a year.
Profit = (48 weeks x 20 billable hours per week x $70 per hour) – $10,400 = $56,800
So she’s now making $10,200 less per year – but she’s working the same number of hours as when she had a full-time job as a copywriter.
To make what she earned in his previous copywriting job, Ms Copywriter will have to charge $83.75 per hour.
Profit = (48 weeks x 20 billable hours per week x $83.75 per hour) – $10,400 = $70,000
Although this may sound expensive to some, it’s a fair price for copywriting based on a comparison of what a copywriter can earn as an employee.
If Ms Copywriter decides to work 50 hours per week, she might only be able to bill for 25 of them. In order to earn is much as she earned when employed as a copywriter, she would have to charge $67 per hour.
In addition, by offering freelance copywriting, Ms Copywriter will forgo many of the benefits she received as an employee – for example, personal development and training events to develop skills. Ms Copywriter will need to pay for these types of activities, so they need to be factored into the amount she charges for copywriting.
Freelance copywriting is a professional service
Copywriting is a profession. Many years of study and hands-on experience are required to become a proficient copywriter. If Ms Copywriter charges around $95 per hour for her services, she’s charging much less than other professionals, such as solicitors and accountants, charge for their services. If she’s a good copywriter, she can potentially increase sales of her customers by millions of dollars.
Another point to consider is the premium that freelance copywriters should earn for taking the risk of being in business. By leaving her secure job, Ms Copywriter has taken significant risks. What if she can’t find enough work for extended periods of time? What if a few clients don’t pay her? To justify the risks taken to move into a freelance copywriting, Ms Copywriter should earn more than she earned as an employee. This premium needs to be added into her hourly copywriting rate.
The Cheapest Freelance Copywriting is Not the Solution
Some businesses will search for the lowest price to get their freelance copywriting done. They usually get what they pay for.
One strategy is to get the work done overseas in countries such as India and the Philippines. Although there are many intelligent and educated copywriters in these countries, cultural differences make it difficult to get satisfactory freelance copywriting from them.
To be a copywriter, you need to live in the country and understand the cultural and linguistic nuances. I have lived in Australia and the United States and feel comfortable writing for these markets, but I don’t feel that way about writing for UK readers in the UK.
You probably have experienced this cultural gap when you have received calls from overseas call centres. The people are friendly and most can speak English well, but there is a communication gap. This same communication mismatch arises when outsourcing copywriting to overseas copywriters.
Although these overseas writers charge much less per hour for freelance copywriting, I have heard that it often takes many more hours for the same amount of work due to cultural and communication issues. Plus there are extra costs involved in communicating with overseas copywriters. So in the long run, outsourcing freelance copywriting overseas won’t save any time or money. If you do save a bit of money, you probably won’t get return on investment due to lower quality.
The main reason people select offshore freelance copywriting is price. But price shouldn’t be the main factor when choosing a copywriter. Would you select a dentist, doctor, accountant or solicitor based strictly on price? If you had a toothache, would you go to someone working out of their backyard shed and charging $5 to fix it? You wouldn’t. Yet some businesses entrust their reputation and image to offshore copywriters charging ridiculously low fees.
Contracting with a Freelance Copywriter to Work In-house
Hiring contract copywriters to work in-house is another option. But by the time the business pays the hourly rate plus benefits and employment agencies fees, it will probably be less expensive to hire a freelance copywriter.
With a contract copywriter, the company needs to find desk space, a computer and other resources. These are a hidden costs that might not be considered.
A contract copywriter working in-house probably won’t be as productive as a freelance copywriter working offsite. Most business are lucky to get four or five productive hours per day out of their employees. A large portion of most working days is taken up by employee interaction, staff meetings, tea breaks, etc. A contract copywriter can quickly fall into this routine of low productivity, so they will end up costing more when compared to a freelance copywriter working offsite.
Another hindrance for the contract freelance copywriter working in-house is the open plan office setup found in many organisations. Whether writing a novel or business plan, good writing requires silence and solitude. Most modern offices don’t provide the distraction-free environment required for quality copywriting.
Lessons for Copywriters and Companies Hiring Copywriters
The aim of this post is to enlighten both copywriters and organisations purchasing freelance copywriting services.
Freelance copywriters need to realise they are in business. It’s common that billable hours are only half the total time spent each week in the business.
Organisations hiring copywriters need to realise that copywriting is a profession. Choosing a copywriter strictly based on price is a mistake.
Although most copywriters don’t charge as much as solicitors or accountants, they are professionals who have spent considerable time and money developing their freelance copywriting skills. This must be taken into account when paying for freelance copywriting services.
About the author: Michael Gladkoff is a copywriter, speech writer and editor. His company, Word Nerds, provides copywriting, business writing, speech writing, editing and proofreading services to a wide range of businesses.
This article may be reproduced on other websites as long the author is credited and the source website, www.wordnerds.com.au, is included.