How Much to Charge as a Freelance Copywriter? A Comprehensive Guide to Setting Rates and Charging What You’re Worth.Mar 08, 2021
So you just had a great conversation with a potential client. They told you what they’re looking for, and you’re excited to get started, but there’s just one problem: you have no idea what to charge.
I have not yet read an article advising a pricing strategy like this—and I’ve read many.
In this post, I'll give you a five-step process you can use to set your rates today.
Why freelance copywriting rates are so important
- If you don’t set your prices correctly, you won’t make it as a copywriter. You’ll either make too little to sustain this profession, or you’ll burn out from how many low-paying clients you’ll be forced to take.
- Your prices are part of your brand. Pricing yourself too low gives the impression that you’re cheap, and therefore must not offer much value. Do not let your low prices drag down your perceived value.
- Selfish reason: copywriters charging too little give clients false impressions of fair-market prices. If enough copywriters work for pennies, clients will begin believing that’s what they should pay, so everyone loses.
The typical advice on copywriting rates:
As someone who has also wondered how to price myself, I’ve read many articles that seem to be echoing the same advice: calculate your rate based on:
- The hours it will take to complete the project
- Hours it will take to communicate with the client
- The time it takes to edit
- How much you charge hourly
Why the typical advice leaves freelancers confused
Because it's too complicated! How does anyone know how long it will take them to complete a project? How long will client communication take? Who actually has access to these numbers?
You can time your work using tracker apps like Toggl, which I have used, but what about newbies who do not know how long writing takes? Scientific studies have proven that humans are terrible judges of time!
Don’t forget one of the top rules in copywriting: if you confuse, you lose.
Don’t make the same mistake I did
Once upon a time, I got bored of my niche (B2B tech), so I decided to target B2C health and wellness clients. I knew the rates I could command in my niche, but I assumed I would need to lower them for the B2C market—big mistake.
I pitched clients on LinkedIn like I do and set up a few calls. On one particular call, the client asked my rate I responded with $65 an hour, which was $20 lower than my normal rate. She responded with delight, "Oh great! That's reasonable. Other people were asking for $125."
I could have easily asked for my real rate, which was around $85 at the time. I didn’t get the job.
Two scenarios are possible (and both are bad).
- The next time she spoke to a freelancer, she may have wondered why their rates were so high when in reality, the other writers before me had done the right thing and offered industry-standard prices.
- Or, she wondered why my rates were so much lower and assumed I was inexperienced or low value.
Why you need to demand higher prices:
1. Pricing is positioning.
While some industries and products compete on price ruthlessly (it’s called racing to the bottom), contracting a copywriter is not one of them.
I've seen it with my own eyes. I was working on a website redesign when a client said, “I like this one designer, but she was so much cheaper than the other quotes. I think it's a red flag. We should keep looking.”
Moral of the story? Don’t give clients any reason to think you’re not a quality candidate.
2. The goal is to have fewer, high-paying clients.
The alternative to charging high rates is taking on many low-paying clients and driving yourself crazy feeling overworked. Always refer back to this handy pricing structure that I explain in my free roadmap:
From my experience, juggling more than 5 clients is a headache. If you can get three to four clients giving you steady work monthly, you’re in business —literally.
3. You’re leaving money on the table
Understand that companies have a set budget. Just like when you don’t negotiate your salary during a standard job interview, there’s always the potential that you’re leaving money on the table.
If you don’t ask for the higher rate, that budget is going somewhere—just not to you because you didn’t ask for it.
4. Overworked and underpaid benefits no one
Guilty! I have been that underpaid writer scrambling to produce a bunch of content each month. I’d sit bleary-eyed in front of the screen, forcing myself to focus, stressing about meeting my deadlines.
Tired, underpaid writers just don’t perform as well. We all need to make a living. If you really want to provide the best level of service for your clients, you have to be earning an adequate income.
When you price yourself adequately, you’re ensuring that you provide the most value to your clients.
4. Writing for pennies ruins it for everyone
Do it for the rest of us. When you accept payment below market value, it starts to affect every freelance copywriter out there. By not charging what you’re really worth, you begin to impact client expectations of how much copywriting should cost.
If you’re just starting out and want to price yourself on the lower end, ALWAYS refer to the AWAI free guide to make sure you’re at least charging within industry standards.
Okay, I get it! But how do I set my rates?
Step 1. Download the AWAI’S Copywriting Pricing Guide.
This guide is free, and it’s your best friend. I don’t know why this isn’t common knowledge for every copywriter. I cringe every time I see the “what should I charge for…” posts online, hoping someone will somehow magically know exactly what they should be charging.
WATCH OUT: I’ve seen well-known copywriters selling a pricing guide for $97. DO NOT PAY for free resources like this. Please.
Step 2. Locate your project description
They have a pretty expansive list. Your project may not match up to the titles they use on this list, but do your best to find something comparable.
Step 3. Use each range as a scale
You may look at these categories and say $100 -$1,000 is a pretty wide range! How does this help me?
Use these rates as a scale and increase or decrease according to:
- What you know about the client (are they a startup that just raised funding? Are they a large corporation? This impacts their budget!)
- Your niche/expertise/ knowledge
- Your writing experience
Step 4. Just like a marketer, you need to A/B test
I hate to say it, but pricing can be a guessing game in the beginning. You probably won’t know the tell-tale signs of clients with bigger budgets.
Here’s a rule of thumb for finding your pricing sweet spot:
When you state your price to at least 2-3 clients, and none of them push back, it means you priced too low and need to raise your rates.
Step 5: Don’t be desperate.
Too many writers are afraid to charge what they’re worth because they are afraid of rejection. They fear rejection because they don’t know when they’ll get another chance to pitch a client.
That’s where my LinkedIn strategy comes in handy. Pitching clients is a numbers game. The more meetings you have, the higher chance of winning clients. Maybe “numbers game” seems cold or salesy to you, but trust me, talking about salary and rates requires a level of detachment.
Remember, if a client isn’t willing to pay fair-market prices, they’re not the client for you. They do not align with the business goals you have yourself, so let them go and continue your search.
You’re more than capable. You got this!