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.”

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