How much does copywriting cost?

by simon on March 31, 2008

How much does it cost to have such-and-such written? It has to be the question I get asked the most by prospective clients.

It’s a very good question, because lots of people who would benefit from the services of a copywriter aren’t familiar with how it works. They don’t know how expensive it is. They need to get a good idea of this before they can decide whether or not they can afford professional copywriting. Or whether they should do it themselves.

Of course, asking how much copywriting costs is the classic ‘how long is a piece of string’ question.

Clients are usually, understandably, a bit vague about how much they want doing. Often, they don’t really know. They want you to sort it out. That’s why they’re paying you.

But recently I’ve had requests as vague as “how much would it cost to write a letter,” with no information about the nature of the product, the audience, what they want to achieve, how the letter would be used, whether it would be long or short….

At this point, the experienced copywriter starts to talk their client through some of the options available. What you have to do is somehow get a brief out of them.

But this can cause significant problems for the clients themselves.

For example, you may have identified a copywriter you think would be ideal for the project in question. But if the copywriter is very busy, they may not have the time to talk you through all this information.

It may be clear that you’ve never used a copywriter before – so you’re probably not going to be a very important long-term client for them. The project will probably be quite small; you’ll need a fair bit of hand-holding; and at the back of his mind, the copywriter is possibly wondering whether or not you’ll be good for the payment at the end of it all.

(This is true of any business relationship based largely on trust. Most copywriters do work in advance and get paid later in expectation that the client will honour their side of the bargain.)

So if you want to know how much copywriting costs, and you need a fairly accurate answer to this, from a good, reliable and experienced copywriter, then you are probably going to have to meet them halfway. You need to give them as much information as possible, so that they can make an informed estimate of how much to charge.

Most copywriters will base this on how much of their time is going to be used up. They will likely have a day-rate they work to, and will price a project on that basis. This is not a stunningly accurate process. They might think “that’s two hours” or “that’s two days” but often there is no way to know for sure.

As a copywriter, the less you know about a project and about the client you are working for, the more you will err on the side of caution, to make sure you are covered.

So again, providing a thorough brief for your potential copywriter will help keep the costs down. It also makes it much more likely that your prospective copywriter will respond to your request quickly and with enthusiasm.

So, the answer to “how much does copywriting cost” is: “what do you want writing?” And for that, you need a brief, either verbal or written.

Check back later this week for: “How to brief a copywriter.”

14 Responses to “How much does copywriting cost?”

  1. Andrew says:

    I understand how vauge some situations can be but it seems like your saying the more information one offers the better?

    I plan on copywritting a script I have written so I am curious to hear your side of the story if you have copywritten a script.

    With that said I strongly believe the less information about the idea itself, the better because that leaves no room for someone, the copywritter, to steal the idea or am I being too “cautious” about the scripts security?

    Anyway, I am seriously interested in any possible information you could provide. Weither it’s none or some I appreciate what you have provided on this site.


  2. Simon says:

    Andrew, I’m not sure what you mean, to be honest. Are you confusing copywriting (writing copy used in advertising and marketing) with copyright – used to protect intellectual property?

  3. JB says:

    Hi I found your post very interesting. I was recently approached at work and asked to write copy for the companies exisiting website ( keeeping in mind that the whole website needs to be re-written). I have edited papers throughout my time there and they acknowledge my command of the english language. I need to know what to charge them for a 54 page re-write. Additionally I want to charge them LESS than what they would pay a professional company… so they keep me as their freelance writer in addition to my current position with the company. Any advice would be great! Thanks

  4. JIL says:

    Hi, I hope you can help me, I really liked your blog. After a BA in Economics and an MBA, I worked for a while in Marketing, and more specifically in Branding (around 3years) in a well known company. I had to stop for a while to raise my kid. I have not returned to work yet. But I was recently approached and asked to do some content writing for a company that does internet marketing strategy (mostly creating websites). I have an excellent command of the english language, and love to write. My background in business also is a big advantage. But I have no clue on how to charge them, as a freelance writer. Any advice would be great! Thanks

    • Simon says:

      Hmmm, now I should have replied to this comment a long time ago – and please accept my apologies for getting to it so late. In truth, I don’t think it’s a subject I can address in full here. I’ll try to write a full post on this in the near future.
      The way I work is to provide a fixed price for a defined project, such as a website. I then work our roughly how long it will take me, and then apply the day rate I like to earn.
      The obvious alternative is to tell them your daily or hourly rate, keep the clock running and hit them with a bill at the end of it. Most clients don’t like that, however. They prefer a fixed price because it works better for the way budgets are managed in business.

  5. seo packages says:

    It very much depends on which country you operate in. A copywriter from India will be far cheaper than one in the UK or USA. When I started my business it was a case of almost guessing (on the low side) how long a project would take and then charge my day rate which initially was £300 (now £475).

  6. Ashley says:

    your article is quite interesting . According to my assumption it is best to copywrite with a copywriting professional instead of written by us. As the above comment states we can hire a copy writer from India. So that the paying cost will be cheap and we get a good content..

    • Simon says:

      @Ashley: well, yes, you could get your copy written cheaply by someone in India. But the quality is in question. The front page of your own website is an example, littered as it it with stilted prose, bad grammar, and in places some stuffy old-fashioned writing.
      That may just be my opinion, of course. But you get what you pay for…

  7. Rayna says:

    It’s a pity copywriters in India have gotten such a bad rap. I think it’s because the firms that are good at marketing themselves are mainly just that: they’re experts at selling cheap bulk to clients that aren’t too picky about quality (looking at Ashley’s website made me wince). These firms would just as happily sell crates of fake Kewpie dolls as pages of bad prose, but there’s a tad more money to be made in the latter.

    Not all’s lost, though: there are a fortunate few of us here who have a way better understanding of the English language than our former colonizers who brought us English in the first place. We aren’t as cheap as the bulk outsourcing firms, but we prefer to do a smaller number of high-quality projects than churn out a website an hour (and we still manage to be a darn good bang for your buck). The trick is connecting us to clients with good taste.

    Thanks for the tips, Simon!

  8. Jennifer says:

    I am trying to get one sale page re-written so I have a higher conversion rate. I posted a job on Elance and I have gotten 1 proposal for $30 and 1 proposal for $358. Is this one of those “you get what you pay for”? Not sure what to do.

  9. simon says:

    Jennifer, there’s no way to tell if you’ll get what you pay for, of course. You might get better copy from the $30 bidder. Some copywriters spend a week on a sales page and charge tens of thousands of dollars.
    I’d be tempted to try the $30 bid and see what you get.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you for responding. I think it is worth a chance to give the $30 a try first. If I had the money to spend on the other I wouldn’t hesitate to do that or if there was a guarantee that if your conversion rate didn’t change you wouldn’t have to pay. Thanks again!

  10. Dolores schwarz says:

    Someone wants me to proofread, edit, type the manuscript for his books. What should I charge per page. Please help. About a 250 Page book.

  11. Becky says:

    I was looking for the same information that Jennifer was, except my quotes for sales pages were much higher. My site is a bit stagnant and I wanted to add a bit more on the sales page. I had not heard of Elance before so I am checking that out plus am mulling over what you said about taking a chance on the lower bid.

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