Ahhh, your rates. Setting them, increasing them - it’s one of the first major business decisions you’ll make as a professional copywriter. It’s important that you get this right, because despite what most (very expensive) copywriting courses will tell you, the sky is not the actual limit on your freelance writer income. The limit is the limit - and you need to understand that three primary factors impact copywriter pricing. Charge too much, and you won’t get enough work. Charge too little, and you could get stuck in long-term contracts that pay you peanuts. Like it or not, you can’t go up before you deserve it.
Assess these three things before you settle on that hourly, per word or per project rate:
Number one is experience. There is no substitute. If you’ve been a copywriter for three months, you can’t charge $0.20/word. It’s just not going to happen. And if you try, you’ll quickly be in over your head. Client expectations for professional rates are professional work. There’s simply no way to cram a decade of knowledge or experience into a few weeks of work. All of my writers start off as entry level writers. Now, some of them only stay there for a couple of weeks, as it becomes apparent they know what they’re doing. But you have to prove yourself.
Digital marketing in general attracts a lot of sketchy players looking to game the system. And, to be fair, a lot of clients don’t know what to ask for, don’t know what to look for and don’t know how to measure success. If you take advantage of that, shame on you. Be willing to start at the beginning and prove yourself. You can always charge more as you learn more, and every client who hires you gives you the incredibly valuable opportunity to gain more experience. Don’t rush the process. Dig deep. Get better. If you do, you’ll lay the foundation for much higher income in the future.
If you have a niche (niche? Niche? niche?), you can charge more. For instance, if you are a technology expert or have a background in education and course design. Once again, though, don’t forget point one: a specialty shouldn’t just be something you’re interested in (if you want to use it to make more money), it should be something you actually have an above-average knowledge about. You may *want* to only work in SaaS or cryptocurrency copywriting or lifestyle or something, but if you don’t have the portfolio to prove that you can do it, you don’t actually qualify as a specialist.
That said, if you are indeed a specialist and have dedicated yourself to a particular field or industry, you can make a lot more money than a generalist. The clients may actually be easier to find (because you know exactly who to pitch to and how), and their needs are already pretty well defined. This is a great way to carve out a space for yourself as a valuable copywriter, but you need to kind of stick with it if you’re going to become known for it. It’s a decision that requires some thought.
Truth: there is a market and that market dictates how much you can make. I’ve seen copywriters enter the field trying to make $1/word. Sure. Fine. Enjoy your NO clients and NO actual money. There are also certain regional restrictions. I hate to say it, but a native English speaking copywriter can make more money than a non-native English speaking copywriter in almost every scenario. These are just the rules of the market, and they’re not something over which an individual copywriter has sway. You have to respect this.
Unsure what common market rates for copywriters are? Do some research. Go on Upwork or Fiverr or Freelancer and see what your peers are charging. Ask around: what do other copywriters charge? There are a ton of different ways copywriters charge, but you can easily find apples to apples comparisons for things like per word pricing, per hour pricing or per project pricing. Figure it out and then set your rates accordingly.
Here’s the thing: copywriting as a career can be amazing, fun and lucrative. You don’t have to sacrifice for long if you’re willing to work really hard. But you do have to start at a reasonable place if you’re going to gain the chops and street credit to make a name for yourself. By considering these three factors, you’ll set reasonable rates that get you a steady pipeline of clients to expand your impact.
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