Feel Weird Talking About Your Copywriting Rates? Get Over It!
Does your stomach tighten up when someone asks, “What are your copywriting rates?”
The initial “money talk” can be hard for some freelance copywriters (both experienced and newbies.) I’ve seen copywriters go from confidently talking about their successes to saying something like, “I charge $150 per page – is that OK with you?”
I’ve even seen freelancers talk to a prospect for hours, send them multiple emails and start brainstorming copy ideas…all without having the rate discussion. If the gig doesn’t work out, the writer feels burned.”Why did I spend so much time trying to impress this client when this person can’t even afford me?”
Does this sound like you?
If so, it’s time to get over the money stuff. Right now.
I get it. I really do. Talking about money can feel uncomfortable and weird. Growing up, the statement “you never talk about money” was burned into my brain. That can be a hard habit to break.
Plus, you want to bond with a new prospect, learn about their needs and build a relationship. Bringing up the money question can sometimes feel tacky or greedy. I’ve even had writers tell me, “I don’t want my client to think that they’re nothing but a big dollar sign. I’d rather not bring it up.”
Here’s the problem your rate reticence is causing:
1. If your rates are outside of what your client can pay, waiting until the last minute wastes everyone’s time. Not just your time – but your prospect’s time, too.
2. When you don’t sound confident about your rates, it’s like a flashing red beacon that screams, “I may work for less if you ask.” If your prospects ask, “Are you sure that’s the lowest you can go,” it could a sign that you need to change your approach.
Here’s how boost your copywriting rates confidence:
– Give yourself a pep talk. If you’re an established copywriter, remind yourself of your client success stories. Remember that you really are all that and a bag of chips – and worth every penny!
If you’re a new copywriter, think of all the copywriting books you’ve read, videos you’ve watched and blog posts you’ve perused. You may not have success stories (yet,) but you’ve spent hours learning your craft.
– Practice giving a rate range like,”My rates are between $X and $Y per Web page.” Don’t just practice saying it in your head. Practice saying it out loud in front of a mirror until it easily rolls off your tongue. If you can bring up the rate range talk earlier rather than later, you can quickly prequalify your prospect and save everyone some time.
– Consider asking a friend to role play with you. Yes, I know it feels weird to role play. Just know that a little practice can make a huge impact.
You can even have your friend throw out different scenarios like, “Can you reduce your fees,” or “I have a lot of work down the road – can you discount your rate this one time?” The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel when the situation really happens (And it will. Trust me.)
Does talking about money feel strange? Sure. Can you get over it and learn how to do it with style and grace? You bet!
Now go out there and land those clients!
I think there’s a big problem with some clients expectations, and this can lead to difficulties when discussing prices. A lot of this damage has been caused by content farms who are happy to offer low quality content for low prices…clients need to be educated that there is a big difference between what you can get from a farm and what you will get from a writer who really takes the time to understand the client’s business and needs.
Time is another issue. I know that, realistically, I can produce anywhere between 2 and 6 good pages per day, depending on the complexity of the business. Some days more, some days less. But I’ve had clients that think that just because I am a writer, everything I write is exceptional straight out of my head. Maybe it is just me, but I find it isn’t like that at all…I can sometimes spend a lot of time thinking and reworking bits until they feel just right. Getting that across to clients can be difficult,but once they understand, they are happier about paying the price for my time. And some like the fact that I spend a lot of time thinking about their content and don’t just churn it out.
Finally, something else that might be a consideration is culture – being in the UK, I’m used to having clients from all sorts of cultural backgrounds. And some of them ALWAYS want to haggle and bring down the price…it is just how certain cultures do business. You need to be ready for that or prepared to say ‘no, that’s the price, take it or leave it.’
And that’s the end of my essay! :)
@Craig – these are all great points! Thank you!
You’re right about how some companies have unrealistic expectations when it comes to cost. I spoke to a big-brand company a couple months ago that was looking for sales pages….and only wanted to spend $35-50 per page. Amazing! I didn’t even try to educate them – they were so price focused that they couldn’t see that $35/500 words means that the writer is writing fast and working on volume…not quality.
There were, apparently, many vendors willing to work for that price, though… Sigh.
It is the way the world is going – decision-makers only looking at statistics and costs rather than the bigger picture. Let’s hope it is a passing trend.
“You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”
I find myself offering my “friends & family rate” to people who are neither — and then kicking myself! What are your thoughts on listing your rates on your website? Is this a good tactic to avoid having to negotiate?
I know people have different opinions around posting their rates. We had a guest post about this – you can find it here:
(I also wrote a post about this that I can’t find right now – I’m hoping that Laura can find it. I don’t post my rates online…)
P.S. No more “friends and family” rates. Your REAL friends should want to pay you what you’re worth. Not ask for a discount just because they know you. :)
I’ve found myself making all of these mistakes, but I feel like I’m making progress on them. It’s always good to hear this, as it keeps me on target with my goals. I’ve slowly been learning what a lousy client looks like and I’ve been getting rid of the annoying ones. There’s no better feeling than getting paid reasonable professional fees for what you do – have been working with some clients recently to pay fairly.
What’s been giving me more power is the fact that I no longer absolutely need income NOW – got some built up so I can tell people no!
@Dan – you make a good point. When writers are smart with their money (including charging what they need/want to make rather than low-balling every quote,) it gives them a LOT of freedom. If you’re always living hand to mouth, it’s really hard to tell a low-paying client, “no.”
Great post as always, Heather. And as I prepare my latest invoice, I’m also thinking about how much our charges should be based on time, versus the commercial value to our clients.
When I’m doing branding and strategy work with a client, that is intended to [re]reposition them powerfully in their market. The value could be tens or hundreds of thousands, or even more, especially over time. And the same could be said for top flight copy, right?
Just because coaches, lawyers and others charge by the hour [or in the case of many web writers, by the page] doesn’t make that a universal law, IMHO.
I would agree. Spectacular copywriters (and branding consultants) bring a lot of value to the table. If you try to “sell” your client with your hourly rate, it will often be a frustrating experience. It reduces what you do to a pure financial consideration. However, if you can clearly explain your value – and how you’ve helped others – clients are often more than happy to pay your fees. :)
Out of pity a friend sent me to his wife who has numerous websites. She was destroyed by content farms and black hat seo.
So, to help me she asked if I could write for her websites. She was all over me with praise. I always knew I could write, but her happiness about it is beyond my comprehension. Over time she has increased payment by three times….
Yet, she’s very nice and I often wonder if she’s too forgiving and my perspective of my own writing may be “off”. After all, I’ve no experience or training in content writing. I do try to excel and get better at it.
But venturing beyond to gain more clients leaves me clueless. Any suggestions, would be appreciated. I would love to join up on the program, but cannot afford it right now.
Thanks for your articles. They are so very helpful as I remained glued to them.
Thanks for your note!
Most writers I know started out just like you. They worked with a couple clients, got their feet wet and landed bigger and better clients from there. The process can certainly feel like trial and error sometimes – which can be frustrating. But what you’re going through is pretty normal.
It’s great that you’re trying to excel at SEO writing and trying new things. Writing is certainly the best way to master the SEO writing craft! Book learning is great – but book learning + actual experience is priceless!
Regarding clients – one thing to consider is your desired niche. Is there a certain type of client you want to work with? A certain industry? Being seen as an expert – even an up and coming expert – is a great way to find new clients (and get paid more money, too!)
Another idea – if you’re still getting your feet wet, you may want to volunteer for a not-for-profit and offer to work on their site. Or, work on a small business site in exchange for a testimonial and a small fee. That way, you’ll get even more experience (and hopefully a testimonial or two!)
Also, you may want to check out these books and blogs. You’ll learn even more about the writer’s life!
Finally, if you can find one, working with a Master SEO copywriter as a mentor is a great way to learn the craft. You may not get paid much (if at all.) BUT, you will get a lot of feedback and one-on-one help.
Good luck! Just let me know how I can help!