I Charge Too Little for My Copy!

September 16th, 2010 by Bob Bly

An article on DirectCreative.com confirms my worst fears: I charge way too little for my copywriting services.

The article gives some ballpark fee ranges for typical professional-level freelance copywriting projects.

News releases are listed as $500 to $1,500. I can’t ever recall getting anything close to $1,500 for a press release, nor do I think my clients would pay it.

Print ads are listed as $1,500 to $5,000+. I’d like to meet the client who pays more than $5,000 for copy only for a one-page ad.

Blog posts are $250 to $500 each. I don’t write blog posts as a service, but $500 for a single post seems like quick, easy money.

Fees for other projects are more in line with what I think the market will pay, including:

–Website — $500 to $750 per page.
–Online sales page — $1,500 to $5,000+.
–Small brochure — $500 to $1,500

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2010 at 5:06 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 responses about “I Charge Too Little for My Copy!”

  1. Amy Spreeman said:

    Yipes! I don’t get that much either, Bob. I’m sure my clients need to see what a great value they’re getting!

  2. Bojan said:

    I’m not ever sure whether such lists contain wanna-be-prices, charged prices or real paid amounts. I don’t know but “slightly” exaggerated prices are maybe used purposely to keep up the price level. Which can be useful in times of economic winter …

  3. Fern Dickey said:

    I agree with Bojan. Even larger companies are hurting and trying to get vendors to cut prices. One of my big clients (in cosmetics) cut off her PR person and asked me to lower my rates. I know she had to sell her luxury apartment – so I believe her. And I’m hearing stories like that every day.

  4. Weekly Tweet Matsuri 2010-09-18 | SamuraiWriter.com/blog said:

    [...] @Robertbly New blog post: I Charge Too Little for My Copy! http://bly.com/blog/general/i-charge-too-little-for-my-copy/ in reply to Robertbly [...]

  5. Paul Hassing said:

    Wow, Bob; your post resonated so strongly, the springs in my chair are still vibrating!

    If YOU can’t pull what you’re worth, what chance have the rest of us?! Best regards, P. :)

  6. Loren Woirhaye - direct response copywriter said:

    A lot of of goofy figures get thrown around by marketers promoting bigger-ticket copywriting courses to make it seem like a quick ticket to riches.

    The question is whether you’re a hired gun, brought in to execute a specific job that supports an already well-defined strategy (client has it together and know what they want) – eg. they’re hiring you as the talent – or if you’re being brought in to design and consult on issues of the offer, positioning, delivery, sales process, yada-yada that add value to the equation. If you’re perceived as some sort of white knight (tricky role to play) you may be able to get fatter-than-normal fees, but the problem is the client themselves may have incompetencies that undermine the success of your work.

  7. Victor Mireles said:

    In places like El Paso, where I live and work now, writing is taken for granted, whether it’s for advertising, newsletters, or the web. Clients with a couple of years in college and English majors feel they are qualified to write their own copy. Their claim is that all you need to know is good grammar, spelling, and punctuation, nothing about effectiveness and basic marketing. For that reason, rates are terribly low in towns like mine. The selling proposition for writing good copy is creativity and provocative ideas, not cute and clever blurbs.

  8. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    Frankly, I think the writer in question pulled those fee ranges out of his butt. I’ve been writing and speaking about the finances of freelancing almost as long as I’ve been a freelancer and if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that no one knows for sure how much freelancers charge for various projects or how much they earn in a year.

    This is not to disparage the good work and service provided by Bob in listing typical fees in his “Secrets of a Freelance Copywriter,” or Chris Marlow’s copywriter fee survey (that costs a pretty penny to buy), or the figures reported most years in the annual Writers Market, or those in Creative Business newsletter or any pace else. It’s just that every survey I’ve ever seen is flawed in that (1) they all depend on writers finding out about the survey so they can self-selectively participate and (2) they rarely separate out full-time serious freelance businesspeople from the part-time dabblers.

    All that being said, I have earned fees in the ranges described above, but certainly not the top of those ranges. I post my typical fees on my website. Some writers say that’s a bad idea because it can keep away potentially good clients who find the fees too high. I think clients whose budgets are below but close to my posted ranges will call to see what they can work out. I’ll talk with them. But I’d just as soon have the tire kickers look elsewhere.

  9. Dianna Huff said:

    Victor, I would say that the “selling proposition” for getting top fees for copywriting is to get results versus creativity or provocative ideas.

  10. J.M. Lacey said:

    The fees should reflect the expertise of the writer and any other talent he/she can offer that will increase profits for the client.

    In my case, I not only write meticulous copy, but I design and execute the project. So for example, I will plan, write and design a brochure; gather quotes from the printer; then work with the printer to get the piece done and delivered. So my fees will reflect that. I don’t typically charge per hour, but my $100 hourly fee is reasonable for the work and quality I deliver. I have a strong background in marketing and pr, so I can bring a lot to the table. If I feel a piece is going to take me at least 10 hours, then the client will be charge at least $1,000, though it’s usually more because of the work involved.

    If you look at a news release, you can write 300 to 350 words (body) on the first page. At $1 a word, that’s $350. At $100/hr, I’d have to research, interview and write that in about three hours or I lose money. But I also write News Releases that are designed to garner attention and news stories–well worth the client’s money.

    Web sites are trickier than people realize. You not only have to understand SEO, but you still have to write content that sells and keeps the customer on the page once you’ve driven them there, as all Web writers understand. So my content alone could range anywhere from $350/page or more, depending on the content, number of pages and the client’s goals. If a client wants my full service – I hire a fabulous Web designer and technician company so I am able to build the entire site – then that is going to cost more in the way of my time.

    The point is, overall, you have to look at the bigger picture. What is your skill level? How much time is involved? What are you offering – in other words – are you only writing content, or are you offering marketing expertise, hiring outside vendors, creating the entire project, etc.?

    And yes, the client’s budget matters. I also have to be flexible and look at the overall picture. If a client offers to pay me less than I ask, but because of that they guarantee continual work, I have to consider that, too.

    Everyone works differently. I run a business, and I need to make sure I am fair, reasonable and offer the best quality and customer service I can. I get the job done efficiently, my work is of the utmost quality, my clients are happy, and they know they can rely on me.

    And yes, that comes with a price.

  11. Martin said:

    How do you find out what the proper price points are? An accurate range of prices seems to be elusive

  12. Michelle said:

    I live and work in Italy, so my scenario’s completely different, but I’m curious: what would more realistic fees be like? Say, for a press release?

  13. Nathan Segal said:

    It’s interesting. For years I’ve been making a living writing for magazines and I can tell you that the rates are all over the place. Nor is there any such thing as consistency, either.

    Also, just because you find a publication that pays well, it doesn’t mean it will be easy to work for them. One colleague was making $2,500 per article, but gave up writing for the publication because they were so demanding. He found that it was easier to write several articles for $500 each than to try and write one for $2,500.

  14. Stephanie Janard said:

    I can believe that a superstar – and very well connected – copywriter could command such prices for an ad or website copy. Not so much for a press release or blog post, though.

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