A client comes to you. He asks you to write three social media posts, a landing page and the About page for his website.
Quick: What would you charge for that?
If the question has got you stumped, you aren’t alone. Setting your rates as a freelance copywriter ain’t easy.
For starters, there are no market standards. There are people that charge $20 per hour and others that charge $200. Some freelancers accept 5 cents per word, while others charge $1 (please, if you’re the former, STOP RIGHT NOW! Undervaluing your services is not only detrimental to YOU but to all other freelancers who want to make a decent living).
So that begs the question: What on earth SHOULD you charge?
To answer that, let’s first take a look at the pricing models to consider. From there, we’ll go over a few things that your rate will depend on.
Let’s dive in!
Freelance Copywriting Pricing Models
Charging by the hour is common amongst freelancers just starting out.
But try to avoid going this route if you can.
Because as you become more efficient (and finish projects faster), you’ll end up making less money.
It’s also not an accurate reflection of the value you’re providing.
For example, let’s say you charge $80/hour for a sales page that takes you six hours to complete. You make $480 in the end, but that sales page goes on to generate $100,000 in sales.
That $480 isn’t reflective of the value you’re providing, is it?
Didn’t think so.
So when should you charge by the hour (if ever)? If the project isn’t clearly defined, it might be easier to charge this way. Although if you do, then use this handy rate calculator to get an idea of what you should be charging.
Keep in mind that you should charge at least double your former hourly wage to account for downtime, expenses, health insurance, taxes, admin work, sick days etc. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t charge less than $50 per hour when starting out.
And don’t bill by the half-hour. Set project minimums. So if your client asks for just one hour of your time, then charge her for two (or three…or four). Of course you’ll need to state that upfront so the expectations are clear.
2. Word count
In general, charging by the word isn’t a great idea either. Personally, I only recommend this pricing model with long-form content. Let me explain why…
Recently, a client reached out to me. He wanted me to write several eBooks and asked how much I charged. I told him that for long-form content, I charged 35 cents per word. And for copywriting projects, I charged by the project.
We signed a contract detailing that he would pay me 35 cents per word. Except that he didn’t assign me an eBook as he said he would…he assigned me an infographic.
In this case, charging by the word didn’t make sense (since there’s much less content in an infographic than an eBook). I knew that I would get screwed over in the end.
So I went back to the client and told him that for infographics, I charged by the project ($500). In retrospect, I should have charged more.
Because it was a very niche topic, there was a great deal of research and several rounds of edits involved, so it ended up taking me close to 15 hours. In the end, it wasn’t worth it.
And imagine if I had charged by the word!
After that incident, another client asked me to write an extensive guide/blog post. I told him I charged 35 cents per word, and in this case, I made over $800 from a blog post that took me less time than that infographic.
See my point? Charging by the word only makes sense if you’re writing long-form content (at least 1,500 words). And even then, you might want to consider a project-based/flat rate instead.
3. Day rate
Like it sounds, a day rate includes all the work you complete for a client in a single day.
Day rates are common practice in Europe (or at least in the UK), and amongst high-earning freelancers in the U.S.
Many experienced freelancers charge upwards of $2,000 a day. So not a bad pricing model to use!
4. Flat fee
With a flat fee approach, your client pays you for the work you complete (the results). Not for the length or the time you spent on it.
A flat fee is one of the most common pricing models used amongst high-earning freelancers.
I prefer this way of pricing because, so long as the project scope is defined, the expectations are clear from the get-go. There are no hidden surprises on either end.
It also puts more value on your work as a freelancer (more on that below).
5. Packaged services
Want to increase the perceived value of your services? Offer packaged services (or related projects grouped together).
For example, you might offer your client a sales page, along with a series of emails and ad copy to promote that page. You could package everything together and give it your own unique, branded name, like “The Sales Powerhouse” (just made that up).
Check out what this fitness copywriter did:
Notice the on-brand names, as well. The only thing I would recommend doing differently is listing out the deliverables and benefits included in the package, like copywriter, Kelly Eamens, does:
The way Kelly packages and presents her service makes it seem much higher value than just “10 product descriptions,” don’t ya think?
Lastly, make sure that the package you’re offering your client is a good fit for their needs. Come up with your packaged service offerings and then, if you need to, customize those offerings to your client.
Tiered pricing is all the rage with SaaS companies, but why not give it a go with your freelance business?
With this type of pricing model, you segment your services based on your clients’ needs and budget, offering three (or four) options of the same type of service:
- A low-priced service (includes only the basics)
- A moderately priced service (includes a range of services)
- A high-priced service (includes everything)
For example, for sales page copy, you might offer the following:
|Only the words: $1,100||I Want the Research Too: $1,800||Handle it ALL For Me: $2,500|
|✔️ Sales page copy|
✔️Up to 2 rounds of revisions
❌ No research or interviews included
|Everything in Only the Words PLUS…|
✔️Moderate amount of research and interviews
|Everything in I Want The Research Too PLUS…|
✔️Deep research and interviews
✔️3 promotional emails
✔️Social media ad copy
You can expect that most clients will go with the middle option, so highlight that somehow.
Some advantages to this pricing model? It gives your prospective client choices (making it more likely that you’ll seal the deal).
It also helps to avoid scope creep, which is when you and your client agree to something and then they start to make additional requests that they didn’t pay for (the worst).
The problem with freelancing is that once you complete a project, there’s no guarantee when you’ll get another one.
For that reason, a retainer is the ultimate goal for most freelancers (and no, I’m not talking about the thing you put in your mouth!).
A retainer is a contractual agreement between you and your client for recurring work each month. For example, your client might pay you $2,000 for 20 hours of work or three blog posts and an email.
A retainer is a win-win for both parties: Clients get to reserve you for your precious time AND they can work with someone who already knows their business (resulting in a faster turn-around time and higher quality work). And YOU have the reassurance of knowing that you can rely on a steady paycheck each month.
If your client comes back to you more than once or you sense that they have a need for recurring projects, suggest a retainer agreement. It’s pretty standard to offer a slight discount, as well.
To get them on board, tell your client how the retainer will save them time, money and result in higher quality work.
And again, DO NOT trade your hours for time here. Doing so makes it easier for your client to question how your hours are spent and back out of the arrangement.
Instead, offer them a fixed number of services. So, for $4,000 per month, you might offer:
- 2 blog posts
- 4 emails
- 10 social media posts
- Ongoing A/B testing of the website copy
- One monthly strategy and planning call
This way, your client doesn’t know how much each service is costing them and how many hours you’re spending. Instead, they’re getting clear deliverables that will help them grow their business.
Once you have your client on retainer, continually track results from your work. Then show those results to your client to remind them why they should hold onto you.
From hourly pricing to value-based pricing
When pricing your services, the key is to go from an hourly mindset to a value-based mindset.
As Steve Slaunwhite, author of The Wealthy Freelancer, put it,
“A client may balk at paying you $100 an hour for 10 hours of work, but will have no objection to a project price of $1,000 for the same project. Why? It’s all in the way a client looks at it. If your hourly rate is more than her hourly salary, she may think you’re asking too much. A fixed-project price, however, takes that salary comparison out of the equation, making the client stop and consider if the project is worth the price instead of considering whether you are worth [it].”
Here’s an example: Freelance designer, Jake Jorgovan, once charged $60 per hour for a website he designed. The project ended up taking him three hours to complete, so the client paid $180 in the end for a high-quality website.
One month later, Jake designed another website. But this time, he charged the client based on the scope of the work, emphasizing the value of the project rather than the number of hours it would take him to complete.
He ended up billing the client $4,250, and the website only took him five hours to create.
Pretty big difference, huh?
Freelance developer, Matt Olpinski, also started out charging hourly. He slowly increased his rate over time, until he reached $125/hour. At that point, he started facing resistance from clients. They simply couldn’t justify paying more than $150 per hour when they could find someone cheaper.
The truth is, not many clients are going to pay a $2,500/hour rate. But they would pay $10,000 price for a solution that can make their business $100k+ next year.
Like Jake and Matt, think about the value of the services you’re providing. According to Matt, “a true value-based price is typically 15-25% of the clients first year of realized revenue.”
Take into account your time
To make sure you get paid enough, you also need to take into consideration the time that it will take you to complete a project.
For example, if your client asks you to write a blog post, it might not be worth much to them. Maybe they’re only willing to pay $200 for that blog post, depending on the objectives and topic.
That’s probably okay if it only takes you a couple of hours to write. But if you spend 10 hours researching, writing and editing a 2,000-word blog post, then that’s clearly not worth your time.
Bottom line? Focus your energies on those projects that you know will be of high value and likely result in sales for your client. Then you’ll be able to charge the value-based price you deserve.
What will determine your rates?
Hopefully now you have an idea of what type of pricing model(s) you want to go with. But that still doesn’t answer the question: What in the world should I charge?
While it can help to see what other freelancers are charging, don’t base your rates off that. You don’t know why are they charging what they do or the quality of their services. Most freelancers charge far too little, anyway.
Don’t determine your rates based on your location either. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you live so long as you can deliver high-quality work.
What DOES matter are the following:
Forget years of experience. What’s your skill level?
If you’re good at what you do, it doesn’t matter whether you have 10 years of experience as a copywriter or six months. What’s important are the end results that you can bring your client.
If you’ve never written a piece of copy in your life or don’t have any portfolio to speak of, you’ll obviously have to prove yourself before you can charge premium rates.
The good thing is that you don’t have to get hired by anyone to start copywriting. For example, create a website on WordPress and show off your copywriting skills there! Convince potential clients why they should hire you.
Look at other websites and rewrite the copy. Write emails for your favorite brands. You get the picture. Have fun with it!
What industry are you targeting? Startups that are barely getting by or big-budget businesses? The answer to that will help determine your rates.
Some higher-paying industries include health/medical care, finance and SaaS (software as a service).
But ultimately, you can find high-paying clients in almost any industry. To get an idea of a company’s budget, look at things like:
- number of employees (check out their About or LinkedIn page)
- website traffic (use a tool like Ubersuggest or SEMrush)
- number of social media followers (although take this with a grain of salt)
- any possible funding
The more specialized you are, the easier it will be to market yourself. You’ll face less competition, and clients will be able to find you more easily. You’ll also be able to charge more for your services.
So how do you pick a niche? Well, friends, that’s a topic reserved for a whole other blog post.
But I will tell you this: You can niche horizontally or vertically.
With a horizonal niche, you focus on one type of copywriting (like sales pages, emails, ad copy etc) for all (or a range of) industries.
With a vertical niche, you focus on the industry or type of client (but do all types of copywriting). The main benefit of choosing a vertical niche is that you know the main paint points and challenges of the audience you’re targeting.
You could also niche vertically AND horizontally. Like landing pages for personal finance businesses. Or email marketing for the travel industry.
On top of that, you could niche down on the type of copy you write. For example, copywriter, Kira Hug, writes “weird conversion copy”:
Still feeling lost?
Think about what your ideal client sells and if it’ll be worth it to them to spend big bucks on copywriting services. If they sell high-priced products or services, then there’s a good chance it will be.
Copywriter and entrepreneur, Dan Lok, decided to focus on selling events. As he puts it,
“…I knew I could make a lot of money with that as such events are usually high-ticket offers. I was able to charge a few thousand bucks. My client knew that if my copy would sell 3-4 seats at their event, then they already made back what I charged.”
Type of project
The type of copy you write will also dictate the price. For example, you’ll be able to charge much more for a sales page than a blog post, no matter the length (okay, technically a blog post is content not copy, but that’s besides the point).
Take a look at the copywriting fee ranges from AWAI:
And here’s more data from Growthlab:
Of course, some freelancers charge more and others charge less. But that at least gives you a ballpark of what you can start with.
If your client asks for a faster turnaround time, then you should ask to be compensated more for that. For example, if the client requires a 24-hour turnaround time, you could charge 50% more.
Should you post your rates?
Some freelancers do and others don’t. At the moment, I share my rates on my website, but don’t feel obliged to do this.
You could also publish a range if you don’t want to lock yourself down to a set price. The advantage to doing this is that you won’t have people contacting you who can’t afford you and your prospects will know that you aren’t trying to pull a fast one on them.
Plus, a range with your normal writing rates at the lower end allows you to say to your clients, “I usually charge from $500 to $2,000 for this type of work. For you, I’ll stay near the bottom of my scale. Say $700.” Clients like that. It helps to close sales.
Last words of advice
Ok, so I’ve thrown a lot of information at you. You’re probably feeling like…
But don’t worry! Setting your freelance rates can feel overwhelming, but remember: YOU’RE the boss here. YOU decide how much to charge.
And if something doesn’t work, then learn from it and change things for the next project.
Track your time
We all have a natural tendency to underestimate the time it takes us to complete something (there’s even a term for this: planning fallacy).
For that reason, even if you don’t charge by the hour, you should track your time. Doing so can give you an idea of whether or not your rates are accurate and the ability to set realistic deadlines.
For example, remember that client who I charged $500 for the infographic? Because I tracked my time, I now know to either charge more for those types of projects or, if the client isn’t willing to pay more, then to not accept those types of projects moving forward. If I hadn’t tracked my time, I wouldn’t have known that.
As for time-tracking tools, there are a bunch out there. I use Toggl, which is free.
Focus on value
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again): Focus on the VALUE of your services, not the number of hours you’re working.
Yes, you should estimate and track your time to make sure that you’re not undercharging. But don’t charge by the hour. Emphasize the deliverables and benefits of the services you’re providing, rather than the number of hours that go into them.
Mention everything that they’re getting IN ADDITION to the copy. Copywriter, Michal Eisikowitz, does this and as you can see, it makes her services more desirable and helps justify her high prices:
In your estimates, proposals, and invoices make sure to spell out everything you do in the course of your project, from start to finish, such as research, phone calls, travel time, design work, reports, surveys, interviews, organization of files, reading background materials, meetings, investigating the competition, outlining, writing, editing, proofing, revisions, and putting up with the jackassery of the client.
Doing so will help ensure that your client recognizes the value of your work and you get paid what you deserve.
Whatever rates you set, be confident in them. And don’t feel let down if someone turns your services down because they’re too expensive. Because guess what? If everyone can afford you, you aren’t charging enough.
Instead, think of it as another opportunity to market yourself and find the clients that’ll value your work (they ARE out there!).
Also, some clients might try to bargain with you. Don’t give into it. If you do, the client will lose respect for you and you’ll set a bad precedent for future projects. If your price really IS too high, then lower it for future clients.
Which leads me to my last point…
Learn as you go
Stand by your rates, but don’t feel like they’re set in stone either. It’s all a learning process.
If you realize that you didn’t charge enough for one project, then increase your rate for the next one. If your client asks, explain to them why (blame it on planning fallacy if you have to!).
And as you improve your craft, find your niche and become more in demand, you’ll be able to charge more.
Now I’ll let you go and set those rates! High-paying clients are just around the corner.