Content marketing is one of the best and most popular ways of driving traffic to a business. To maximise organic traffic, Hubspot recommends that businesses should be blogging 3-4 times per week (or one post per week at the very least).
The enduring popularity of content marketing means that the freelance writer market is now saturated with folks willing to knock out a blog post on any topic imaginable. All this competition can make it hard to know what to charge for your work. This is especially true when starting out, and even more so when you’re a woman. This was certainly true for me, and my freelance copywriter rates were wayyyy too low for a very long time. Here’s how I made that startling discovery…
Dates to Mates to Rates
I started my freelance writing career while I was on a break from my digital marketing job and backpacking in Colombia. I’d only been writing full-time for a few months when I met a web designer from the US on Tinder. We had one of those awkward first dates where you instantly realise you don’t fancy each other, but we got on really well and ended up embarking on a platonic relationship instead.
One day while co-working together in a cafe, we got onto the topic of our freelancer hourly rates and I told him my number. He was HORRIFIED by how little I was charging as a freelance copywriter. I’m talking jaw-on-the-floor SHOCKED. Once he’d recovered, he spent the rest of the afternoon helping me work out a pricing structure that better matched my multiple years of experience in the digital marketing industry.
That was almost five years ago and we’re still great friends to this day. As well as being my most enduring Tinder relationship to date (yep, I’m still single), it’s also been my most financially rewarding. Thanks to that bloke telling me how short I was selling myself, I’ve made thousands more in revenue by adjusting my freelance copywriter rates and billing clients exactly what my work is worth.
Did You Know that Female Freelance Copywriters Often Charge too Little?
It turns out that I’m far from alone in this plight and overall, the gender pay gap is three times higher for freelancers than for full-time workers. According to a study by ZenBusiness, freelancers who are men charge 48% more than women do for the same role. This works out at an average of $22.28 (£18.17) more per hour. And when you look specifically at the difference for freelance digital marketers, that figure jumps to $29.45 (£24.02).
It’s not entirely clear why women charge less than men, but a 2018 study by FreshBooks said that 20% of self-employed women feel they have to charge less to get and keep clients. Almost a third of women surveyed also don’t believe that they’re taken as seriously as their male peers and that they have to work harder than men who do the same job. Whether these beliefs are based on truth is difficult to measure, but the fact that they impact the female freelance workforce’s earning power is undeniable.
So what can we do about it?
Talking about rates openly, as I found out firsthand, can be a big help. If we don’t know what experienced copywriters are earning, how can we be sure that our fees align with others in our industry? Facebook groups can be a great place to make connections in the industry and have open conversations about this stuff.
The other key thing to do is to reassess our rates every six months. Various factors (knowledge, experience, inflation etc.) impact what we writers should be charging, and it’s up to us to keep an eye on that.
How to Set Your Freelance Copywriter Rates
If you don’t have any opinionated Tinder dates to ask, how are you supposed to know what to charge for your content writing? Knowing how to charge will help you figure out what to charge. There are three main options: per project, per word, and per hour.
Charging an overall fee for copywriting projects means that you agree on a price with your client that covers the full scope of the requested work. Whether that’s a single blog or six months of regular content, you’ll calculate one fixed fee. This will typically be paid either 50% upfront, in regular installments, or 100% on completion depending on the length and value of the project.
This is the most common way of charging for content writing and is my own preferred method. This is because it focuses more on the overall output and better takes into account the value of expertise. It also ensures that time spent on research and amends is properly accounted for.
However, be sure to fully agree on what exactly is covered by your contract before you start writing, or you might find yourself suddenly doing more than you initially agreed to. You’ll also need to be certain that you know your worth and aren’t undercharging for fear of scaring off a client. If they don’t want to pay what you’re worth, they aren’t the right client for you*.
*If you’re just starting out, you might need to be flexible with your per-project rates to get some samples in your portfolio. If this is the case, set out a six-monthly schedule to slightly increase your rates as you gain more experience.
Billing a client per word is a simple way of laying out your costings and is easy to get to grips with when starting out. It also makes it easy for a client to see the value of your work and what they are paying for.
When billing by word, bear in mind the time it takes you to research and edit your work. These tasks aren’t directly accounted for, so the more time you spend on it, the less you earn overall.
Before I moved over to per-project pricing, I charged $0.10 a word (£0.08, I typically charged in USD because my clients were based in the US). Most ‘expert’ writers will claim that this is too low and that a professional writer can demand closer to $0.50 (£0.41) a word. However, I typically would only agree to per-word billing if it was a topic I’m already knowledgeable on and therefore confident that minimal research was required. This meant that I could easily write 5,000 words a day which makes for a pretty juicy day rate. If the per-word fits your ideal day rate, then it’s the right per-word for you.
Billing by the hour is the third option and is one that I’ve previously favoured for research-heavy writing. An hourly rate ensures that all of your time on a project is covered, which helps ensure that there’s no scope creep. If you are an efficient writer, it’s also a great way to offer more value as you’ll end up being competitively priced.
The issue with per-hour billing is that the clients don’t know if they’re getting good value for money. It would be very easy for a dishonest freelancer to overcharge their client by adding on an extra hour because there’s no real accountability.
This free calculator is a great tool for working out what you should charge per hour.
How Much Do We Charge as Professional Copywriters?
Good question! In the spirit of full transparency, which is part of the Good Egg brand pillars, here are our project rates…
We charge £160 for an SEO-optimised blog post of up to 1,200 words. This includes research and one round of amends. Longer posts are quoted per job depending on the topic and the research required.
Some freelance writers will think that those project rates are goals and other more experienced copywriters will think we’re too cheap. And that’s fine. This figure works for our ideal clients and us because:
- It covers our time, expenses, and expertise
- We know that we offer great value for money to our clients
- Our pricing makes us accessible to smaller and growing businesses and that’s who we want to work with
- We work remotely outside of the UK so we can be competitive with our pricing
When I first started out, my copywriting fees were less than 10% of that. I’m a highly experienced writer now, so at some point, we’ll probably increase our copywriting rates. After all, that’s the nature of running an ever-evolving business in a constantly changing market.
This is all to say that as a business owner, it’s your decision and yours alone to decide what to charge. Other professional copywriters in forums and Facebook groups may baulk at the idea of charging $0.10 a word for a blog, but if that fits you and your business then who cares. As long as you are completely confident that your billing matches your worth, that’s all that matters.
*US dollar to GB pound conversion rates in this blog are correct on the day of writing.
*US dollar to GB pound conversions in this blog are correct on the day of writing.