Copywriting rates? What do copywriters charge? What's the going rate for a particular job? You can trawl the web for answers, but when it comes to copywriting rates, all you'll find are questions!
That's not because copywriters are a devious breed. It's simply the case that copywriting covers such a broad field - and copywriters such a broad church. The techniques (and time) involved in, say, SEO or website copywriting are very different to advertising copywriting, sales letter copywriting or PR work.
The fact that you're reading this page may mean you're a copywriter who's wondering what rates other copywriters are charging. You may be with a design or advertising agency looking to compare the rates of various copywriters before deciding who to use. Or you may be a business owner or marketing person looking to get a feel for copywriting rates in general.
In all cases, you're likely to be disappointed! Very few copywriters publicise their rates. EXCEPT BUZZWORDS...
Understanding copywriting rates
To help anyone looking to get a handle on copywriting rates, the various ways of pricing include: hourly rates; day rates; rates per job; 'per page' rates for website or SEO copywriting; a fixed cost per word; or a regular retainer fee (usually monthly).
Hourly rates and day rates are usually one and the same, although 'day rates' are more applicable to larger projects. In 2013, copywriting day rates range from around £200 for an inexperienced copywriter, right up to £800 and more for a seasoned pro.
'Rates per job' are based on a copywriter's notional self-valuation. This method of charging has the benefit of being negotiable which, in tough times, can be a good thing. The other major advantage of course is that the client knows what the eventual bill will be - and the copywriter knows what fee to expect.
Charging on a 'per word' basis is better suited to journalistic-type copywriting where there is lots of editorial-style copy which doesn't necessarily require much research or 'crafting'. In 2013, this could vary from 20 pence to 90 pence per word, with a sliding scale which will reduce with a higher word count. Applying a 'cost per word' to techniques such as advertising or SEO copywriting is totally unsuitable as it doesn't take into account the time or skill involved.
When it comes to working out copywriting rates for website or SEO copywriting, then a 'per page' costing can have the advantage of simplicity, especially on a site with lots of pages. Where this falls down is when pages vary dramatically in length, or where a typical page on a particular website comes in at 800 words compared to a more standard 300 to 400 words. Complexity of content is another issue, as is the time required to source the information which may involve research or interviewing people. Website or SEO copywriting rates per page should therefore be carefully negotiated at the outset with provisos for additional or unexpected working hours.
Finally, the retainer fee - usually charged monthly, but sometimes quarterly or even as an annual contract (although this is more akin to a salary and therefore rare). Retainers are usually suitable where the work is ongoing, as with PR or SEO copywriting. Hourly rates would be too cumbersome to work out, and the eventual cost on a pro rata basis could be sky high! The way retainers work is for the two parties to agree an approximate number of days required to do the work in an average month. Again, this has the benefit of financial predictability. Another highly valuable side-effect of retainers is that the client will be committed to making the relationship work whilst at the same time squeezing as much value out of the copywriter as is reasonably possible! From the copywriter's perspective, the regular income will be greatly valued so there will be an ongoing commitment to the client's business and delivering value for money.
Buzzwords has used all the above methods of charging (except the 'per word' way!). Each has its own pros and cons and should be used accordingly. An individual's copywriting rates are based on their experience, areas of expertise and scarcity value, their availability and, of course, what they think they're worth.
Clients who source copywriters on the web are notorious for 'knowing the price of everything - and the value of nothing'. They assume that the web is a buyer's marketplace and treat copywriting as a commodity. This is a big mistake - as is opting for the copywriter who may be higher in search engine rankings for a particular keyword than another copywriter.
It's important for buyers of copywriting services to go beyond copywriting rates. They should consider experience, a copywriter's portfolio and whether the copywriter can deliver high quality work, with consistency, over a period of time. Whichever measure you choose, price is only one element in the quest for long term value.
For a broader perspective, take a look at these two articles written by Mike Beeson:
"We're delighted with our new website - and the website copywriting provided by Mike Beeson. Not only is the writing crystal clear; it also provides the professional tone of voice that is so important for a leading recruitment consultancy like Cooper Lomaz."
- Jane Lovell, CEO, Cooper Lomaz Recruitment, UK
"Reform have worked with Mike Beeson for over two years now and we've always found him an important part of the creative process. Mike has the ability to immediately plug into what we are thinking and adds value to every campaign. We wouldn't work with anyone else for copy."
- Paul Heaton, Reform Creative, Manchester, UK
"It's always a pleasure to work with you and what you give us is a more questioning, detached and organised view of our skills and achievements. What you write always has energy and style and - after initial discussions - you always grasp what's needed and work quickly."
- Val Jenner, Homer Creative, Birmingham, UK
"Doity Engineering have had a long association with Mike Beeson and Buzzwords.
Mike's recent work for us has included SEO and website copywriting, business-to-business
PR and Pay-Per-Click Advertising for two of our companies - Revlok Mezzanine Floors and
Tiger Rack. This is ongoing work which calls for a complete understanding of our business
approach. I'm pleased to say that Mike has provided this in a highly professional and
- Alan Kershaw, Managing Director, Doity Engineering Ltd., Lancashire, UK