The True Worth of Copywriting

When starting out as a copywriter, there is one question that always remains firmly in your mind – how on earth do I price my services?Copywriter's time

Many make the mistake of choosing the option of charging for the time it takes to write the copy. But hourly (or even daily) charging doesn’t really cover the full picture.

Let me explain:

  • If you were looking to hire a builder you wouldn’t expect to pay by the hour
  • If you went to a plastic surgeon you wouldn’t pay by the hour


Because it’s their experience, expertise and talent that you are paying for, not the length of time it takes for them to complete the task. That’s why you are willing to pay them for the end result.

Charging for the difference you make

A company will seek out a copywriter because they need expert help. They are looking for someone to:

  • Turn their business around
  • Generate more sales
  • Attract more leads
  • Increase the number of visitors to their website

Therefore, you must base your charges on the difference it will make to your client.

It doesn’t matter if it only takes 2 hours to write a cracking sales letter, but what does matter is the 80% boost in income that sales letter will generate.

Copywriting, as with the other elements of marketing, is an investment – the client pays for the output and results your work produces, i.e. for your experience, expertise and aptitude.

Better for the client

If you are still struggling with the concept of not being paid for your time, think of it this way – by coming up with a fixed fee for the project (based on the brief, your considerable experience and talent and the difference it will make to your client) your client will be happy because they will know exactly how much the job will cost.

Just make sure you clearly show in your proposal exactly what is covered within the quoted fee (e.g. number of revisions, meetings etc.) so everyone knows where they stand.

Over to you

How do you feel about pricing?

Do you have a method that reflects the quality of your writing?

Have your say by leaving a comment below.

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#1 Rahman Mehraby on 01.25.12 at 5:13 pm

I totally agree with you Sally,but I don’t understand one point:

How can an author charge a company for what her/his copy is worth while the true value is known when the result is achieved? Also, how an author could trust a client informs him that the copy has created great results?

I will be thankful if you explain this.

Rahman Mehraby
TraveList Blog

#2 admin on 01.26.12 at 8:06 am

Hi Rahman, the worth is basically the value of the product not the results your copy produces. I always find out the aim of the project (i.e. the client is looking for a 20% increase in sales), find out what that translates to in revenue and then go from there. Pricing is always a difficult issue and frequently, the size of the business you’re working for also has to be taken into consideration.

At the end of the day you have to put in a price that you’re happy with.

#3 ralpnun on 01.25.12 at 9:47 pm

I copyright music for my customer. Not only do I charge a flat fee for the actual copyrights that I file to the U.S. Library of Congress, but I also charge another fee which involves filing their website (which has their songs on it) with the search engines. This requires much time on my part. I do not charge for the time it takes me to accomplish this task, but for the amount of search engines that my customer wants me to enter their website on to. I do not charge by the hour. I charge by how much work my customer wants me to do.

#4 Mike Robinson on 01.26.12 at 8:12 am

I totally agree with the theory suggested here but it can cost you a lot of work in reality (of course it can can win you some as well).
Let’s say you work out that hiring a copywriter will improve profits by £1m. You charge £200,000 because no business in its right mind would not spend £200,000 for that return. On the other hand, you will have a competitor charging low four figures for the same work. How on earth can you prove conclusively that your work bring in the difference in fees?

I know I’m taking extreme figures here, but being able to prove your value against a competitor’s is extremely tough to do. If you’re convincing them to use a professional then it’s much easier to persuade and if you’re lucky and they decide not to shop around then you can charge that big fee.

#5 admin on 01.26.12 at 8:33 am

Hi Mike,

You’re absolutely right and there’s no way round that conundrum. Whatever line you’re in, you’re going to come against people who will charge next to nothing for their service. On more than one occasion I haven’t been commissioned for a project because I’ve been undercut by someone else. But at the end of the day you have to think about what you’re happy to charge for your work. If you have the experience and produce great results you have to charge a rate that reflects that otherwise you’re just selling yourself short and effectively, devaluing copywriting.

A client will only pay what they want to pay – if you can’t convince them through your portfolio, testimonials and pitch that your work is worth it, walk away.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been approached by companies who initially went to a cheap copywriter and were sorely disappointed with the results. They then commissioned me to do the work. It was at that point the understood the quality and value of good copy – an expensive lesson to learn.

#6 Julie Sheridan on 01.27.12 at 7:30 pm

I think the other aspect is that (copy)writing is a skill that most people inherently think they possess, since if they can string a sentence together how hard can it be? Writers are therefore up against it in terms of conveying the expertise it requires right from the start.

The other reason I prefer not to charge a fixed fee is that no matter how many iterations you’ve factored in to the contract, it never quite works out like that. Charging per hour at least gives me peace of mind that that won’t be a problem.

#7 Terri S. Turner on 01.29.12 at 12:07 am

I absolutely agree and don’t think writers can be reminded enough that we don’t sell words, we are in the expert industry selling our expertise and the ROI clients receive from strategically written content.

I’ve found it helps to be honest upfront. I tell prospects that they can get my services cheaper, but they won’t get the results because other writers do not have my skill and experience.

In addition, during proposal presentations I find it helps to state the fee and then discuss the deliverables they receive for the fee.

#8 From Around the Blogosphere | ProjectCopy: Not Your Ordinary Copywriting Blog on 03.09.12 at 4:09 am

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