Oh, the elation of a copywriting enquiry! Someone wants YOU to write their copy. Cue happy dancing all around your office (or kitchen).
Then, they ask, how much will it cost?
THUNK. You crash back to reality, and your stomach fills with stones.
How much should you quote? How long will the job take? How much are you worth?
Whether you like it or not, pricing is deeply linked to your sense of value. How much value do you think you offer and how much value do your potential clients think they’re getting? Often, there’s a big, hairy gap between these two questions, with nothing but your quote to bridge it.
Should you charge per word, per hour or per project?
This is probably the most common question copywriters ask about pricing.
Per word pricing means that you quote a price for each word you write and complete a word count at the end. I think this style of quoting is a lot more common with American copywriters than with Australian copywriters. In my opinion, it reduces your creative value to a matter of cents and that can’t feel good.
Per hour pricing is quite similar in delivery. You quote a price for how long you estimate you’ll spend on a copywriting project and bill the client for the time you spend. This pricing structure is more common with popular (and experienced) copywriters, who can give accurate estimates of how long the copywriting will take. The risk is that if it takes longer, the client has to pay more.
Per project pricing is usually a fixed price for the entire project. The price covers all the inclusions you lay out in your quote, and if you spend more time than you quote for, tough luck. However, if you work faster than your quote estimated, you win!
Personally, I think per project is the best way to go for copywriting projects. The main reason for this is that it gives your client more certainty of how much they will have to spend and that can make for a much happier client at invoicing time.
Who keeps time?
Whether you choose to quote hourly or per project, tracking your time is essential.
Experienced copywriters might tell you they don’t track the time they spend writing copy. They undoubtedly know how long a certain type of job will take and are confident they won’t take much longer (except in unusual circumstances).
But, if you’re starting out as a copywriter or you’re just a bit retentive about reporting (like me), tracking your time can help you understand how long it takes you to research, write, revise and do project admin.
When you understand where and how you spend your time, your copywriting quotes will become more accurate (and profitable).
In the first year or so of Copywrite Matters, I was extremely busy but my cash flow wasn’t great. So, I took some time to review my time sheets. I realised that I spent more time on marketing than billable copywriting. DUH for why my cash flow wasn’t great! I also realised that for each copywriting project, I spent too much time on the project admin (more time than I quoted for).
As a result, I enforced stricter social media allowances for myself (and stopped faffing) and streamlined my project admin with checklists and templates. This is just one example of how tracking your time can help you become more profitable.
At a more basic level, you’ll get to learn how long it takes you to brief a client or write a webpage or brochure.
It’s up to YOU to learn how long tasks take you and manage your own time. Sometimes, you’re ahead. Sometimes, you’re behind. I believe tracking your time can help you stay ahead more often than not.
There are plenty of time tracking tools to choose from, and in 2014, Fast Company put this list of time tracking tools together. It’s a great place to start.
But what about the copywriting quote?
As part of your copywriting quote you’ll have to factor in:
- Creative thinking and brainstorming
- Researching and writing the copy
- Revisions (usually three rounds of revisions) including talking through revision comments
- Proofreading (by you or outsourced)
- General project admin (such as emailing and record keeping)
I generally estimate 60% of the project time is spent on writing the first draft, 25% is spent on revisions and proofreading and the rest is spent on project admin (from taking the brief to sending the final invoice).
That’s a rough guideline, but the point is how long it takes you to write the first draft is NOT how long you quote for. There are lots of time consuming elements for every project that you also have to cover—and tracking your time will give you a feel for how long ‘the rest’ takes.
Is it just A + B + C = Big copywriting quote?
My first step in quoting is to look at the word count or number of pages, calculate how long it would take me to research and write (based on my experience), add time for ‘the rest’ and multiply that by my hourly rate.
Speaking of hourly rates, The Clever Copywriting School has this great post on recommended rates for copywriting.
More often than not, I would look at the total and think, ‘That’s crazy! No one will pay that!’
So I would fiddle with the numbers until I felt I had something that was
- A realistic reflection of how long the job would take me.
- A measure of the effort and professional value I was offering.
- A reasonable price to expect someone to pay.
At first, your copywriting quotes will result from a lot of guesswork. As you gain more experience, they will become more accurate.
If every single quote is accepted, your quotes are probably too low. If none is accepted, you’re probably pricing yourself out of regular work.
So now, it’s over to you.
What’s your process for quoting? Do you make up the numbers or take a scientific approach?
The Copy Detective
This blog is for Ismail Ishaq who sent me a question after subscribing. Thank you Ismail! I hope this answers your question.