Deciding how much to charge for copywriting services?

by HenryH
22 replies
Hey guys,

For the last several years, I've been a ghostwriter for a professional copywriter. Every bit of copy I write is published under his identity, and while the money I'm making is *decent* relative to the pocket change I would be earning in a part-time job -- I'm a full-time university student -- I know that I could be making <i>so much</i> more doing the same amount of work I'm doing now as a self-employed copywriter. I am often assigned to write multiple headlines that consume 9+ lines of text on the monitors of most internet surfers, and I am often paid a "bonus" to write 6 or 7 P.S. statements that are each over a paragraph long. I have no problem with this, but it's obvious that he (the copywriter I work for) is egregiously milking my skills sheerly for the sake of quantity.

But now, I'm eager to "fly the nest" and write copy independently for clients whose professional values emphasize quality -- quality that I can deliver WITHOUT being made invisible by the moniker of someone else. After all, this particular copywriter's regular client for whom I write the vast majority of each of his weekly sales letters is essentially hiring my "boss" unfailingly week after week because, well, he likes the results he associates with <i><b>my</i></b> writing.

I'm planning to post an advertisement for my services on the "Warriors For Hire" forum. However, I'm still trying to figure out how to devise my rates; should I try to appeal by offering my services at a baffingly low "introductory rate?" Would those of you who have previously hired copywriters consider $500 to be an excessively high pricetag for a salesletter written by someone in my predicament? The catch-22 is that even though I have several years of experience in all facets of copywriting, none of my work has been published or commissioned under my name. To put it simply, there <i>are</i> no glowing references or testimonials.

Thanks for reading, fellow Warriors; any advice you'd be willing to offer will be sincerely appreciated.
#charge #copywriting #deciding #services
  • Profile picture of the author Kyle Tully
    If the guy you're writing for has any decency he'll write you a recommendation when you're ready to go out on your own.

    As for how much to charge... what are you worth? Only you (and the market) can answer that.
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  • Profile picture of the author colmodwyer
    What Kyle said... Because it's a results based game, most copywriters will eventually charge and get paid exactly what they're worth.

    For you specifically, whatever the guy you were ghostwriting charges might be a good indicator. Before that though - like you said - maybe write a few letters for a deep discount so you have a wee portfolio of your own work.

    Colm
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
      Depends on the service being offered and what you feel your expertise is worth. Obviously, a rewrite or autoresponder series would be a lower fee than a sales letter from scratch.

      Lack of portfolio shouldn't hold you back on promoting your business. It can even be a reason why you're running a special deal. Plenty of copywriters have used that marketing angle when they started (I used a variation of it).

      I'd suggest using the WSO section instead as you'll get more eyeballs there. I've noticed the Warriors For Hire section tends to get a lot more of the graphic and web designers "ads" there. If you sell one spot on your WSO, you'll easily recoup your $20 investment.

      Good luck,

      Mike
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  • Profile picture of the author mariner7
    This is a skill in and of itself, but I'd have to say it really depends on the client. I also do SEO/marketing as well as copy, but have charged anywhere from $750 to $6000 for pretty much the same amount of work.

    The value of the leads/sales to the client is a big factor and needs to be given consideration.
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hancox
    Tell your story!

    You've told US, now tell the Warrior Special Offer or Warriors For Hire forum. That's your "angle", as Mike pointed out.

    If people really need an idea of what you can do, why not create a "dummy" sales letter so people can evaluate your work? Just make it clear that's what it is.

    As for your fees, you should know that it's about establishing value. It's all relative.

    $500 is hideously expensive for a crap copywriter.

    But it's a bargain if John Carlton is writing it.

    So, as I like to say... "sell the difference". Make your copy so compelling that $500 almost slips out of their wallet

    And also follow the money. Don't sell to broke Warriors
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Murdaugh
    What the value is to the client is irrelevant.
    I'll have to disagree with this statement... I DO agree that you shouldn't lower your fees to accommodate certain clients, however I strongly disagree that the value you're bringing to the table isn't a huge part of the equation.

    Who's more likely to pay my asking price? An established marketer with experience under his belt, a massive list, and a ton of high quality products... Or a newbie launching their first ebook on how to grow tomatoes?

    The value you're providing to clients IS a HUGE part of the equation. That's why I actively seek out clients who have already experienced success and truly understand the value I'm bringing to the table...

    They understand the value of a solid copywriter from first hand experience.

    From the copywriters point of view, who's going to make you more money? The client who can cover your 4-5 figure fee with a single email blast, or the newbie who's still anxiously awaiting that first $27 ebook sale?

    Point being, my entire business/fee structure is based on the value I'm providing for my clients...

    If I wasn't bringing a track record of proven results to the table I wouldn't expect ANYONE to pay my standard fees... And it's because I do bring that to the table that I'm allowed the luxury of picking and choosing the projects that I work on.

    Sorry to derail the thread, and it's nothing personal Tina, but I strongly disagree with that statement.

    -Scott
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    • Profile picture of the author HenryH
      First of all, thanks to all fellow Warriors who were gracious enough to offer their advice in this thread!

      Several posters suggested running a "special" deal by offering copywriting services for bargain-bottom prices; I think this seems like the most viable method for getting my first "real" client. But since most "established" (read: desirable) copywriters charge at least 4-figures to write a sales letter -- I'm not knocking you guys, and I hope to reach that stratosphere sooner rather than later -- I'll think I'll temporarily undercut the "competition" and offer to write several sales letter for $500 each on a first-come, first-served basis. I'll also advertise a similarly low rate to write autoresponder e-mails (maybe $100 each?) and opt-in/landing pages.

      Kyle -- you mentioned about basing my initial rate for a sales letter on what the copywriter I'm currently ghostwriting for charges. He charges $500 to write what he refers to as his "short" sales letter (usually commissioned for health and hobby eBooks), and this brings up another question: is it common to charge different fees to write sales letters of varying lengths? I was always under the impression that it's a copywriter's responsibility to make a letter as short or as long as it needs to be to make the product it's promoting sellable and irresistible in the mind of a potential customer.

      Mike -- thanks for the valuable advice and the suggestion to advertise in the WSO section. Now that you mention it, it does seem like it would be effective at presenting my offer with an aura of urgency due to the "limited-time" nature of the unusually low rate. Maybe it would even be a good idea to advertise myself as still being available to ghostwrite, although I wouldn't do it for the astonishingly low rate I'm currently working for. If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been copywriting? Is this your full-time occupation? You seem so professional and confident on your website; it's like you're a "made-man" of copywriting. :-)

      (Not that the websites for all you other copywriters who have contributed are bad, but Mike's is just the only one I've browsed so far. )
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      • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
        Hi Henry... thanks for your kind words. Let me answer your questions as you asked them.

        Originally Posted by HenryH View Post

        Mike -- thanks for the valuable advice and the suggestion to advertise in the WSO section. Now that you mention it, it does seem like it would be effective at presenting my offer with an aura of urgency due to the "limited-time" nature of the unusually low rate.
        If your discounted rate is not a limited time special, then it's not a special offer. It's your regular price.

        Maybe it would even be a good idea to advertise myself as still being available to ghostwrite, although I wouldn't do it for the astonishingly low rate I'm currently working for.
        I'm sure there will be some Warriors who will disagree with me here, but I don't recommend marketing both your ghostwriting and copywriting in the same place with the same user name.

        If you brand yourself as a copywriter, then you can develop the reputation of being a highly skilled specialist... not a writing generalist.

        Specialists can command higher fees, especially once they have developed the proof (testimonials, case studies, etc.) of their expertise.

        You can make all of your efforts under that screen name to be focused on showing your expertise around copywriting.

        That means a separate website for your copywriting services from your ghostwriting too. Prospects aren't going to hunt through your website to find what they are looking for. Most of them won't email you to ask what the difference is between ghostwriting and copywriting.

        If you still want to promote ghostwriting here, then I suggest you create a second username which you use for promoting your ghostwriting only.

        If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been copywriting? Is this your full-time occupation? You seem so professional and confident on your website; it's like you're a "made-man" of copywriting. :-)

        (Not that the websites for all you other copywriters who have contributed are bad, but Mike's is just the only one I've browsed so far. )
        I've been self-employed and writing all of the marketing for my own businesses since 1993. I didn't look at my first book on copywriting until 2004. Before that, everything I studied was marketing and business-related... lots of trial and error to figure out what worked and what didn't.

        That first copywriting book I ever read was "Tested Advertising Methods" by John Caples and it's one of my favorites.

        Ironically, I discovered it from a marketing consultant I hired to "take over" my massage therapy center's marketing so I could stop working 110 hours per week. It was on the recommended reading list for the marketing franchise he belonged to... but the marketing consultant had never read it.

        I didn't realize that I was good at writing copy then. But after 8 months of this marketing consultant (and then a 2nd partnered consultant) failing to beat any of my existing marketing pieces, I started to realize that maybe I did have some talents there.

        That's when I started studying copywriting itself and continued refining my skills. I either read or write (sometimes both) copy every day and have done so for a number of years now.

        My first copywriting client was the guy who introduced me to my wife. He bugged me to write a new home page for his website for 6 months and I didn't want to do it. He finally guilted me into doing it and his conversion rate shot through the roof. He immediately gave my contact info to 4 other people who needed copywriting help.

        So I basically fell into the industry initially... treated like a part-time hobby for a few months because I was a busy full-time massage therapist and online info-product marketer.

        In August 2006, I decided to start treating copywriting like a business. I had no clients then and within 2 months I was ready to go full-time as a copywriter. I've been writing copy full-time ever since.

        So that's my story -- thanks for asking.

        Take care,

        Mike
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  • Profile picture of the author Sarah_Lyle
    That was very interesting Mike to hear how you got started. I also write my own copy for my own product - and pretty much taught myself. I started off in the usual hackneyed way and sold diddly-squat - it was only through writing about my own experiences did my stuff start shifting off the shelves. I'd kind of found my voice. Gee, now I don't know how this contributes to this thread lol!
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Murdaugh
    Paul,

    I'm still awaiting payment for critiquing your penis reduction sales page... Until we get that cleared up I'm afraid I can't help.

    Sorry,

    -Scott

    P.S. Have you even TRIED testing the "Who Else Wants To Lose 8 Inches..." variation of your headline? I can't help if you don't test. Some people...
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Scott Murdaugh View Post

      Have you even TRIED testing the "Who Else Wants To Lose 8 Inches..." variation of your headline? I can't help if you don't test. Some people...
      Look, honestly, how many people OTHER than Paul want to lose a whole eight inches? Most of them would be happy to lose just two or three.

      Of course, I'm happy the way things are.

      Take that either way.

      I certainly do.

      Just ask Paul.
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  • Profile picture of the author HenryH
    LOL -- interesting series of recent posts. :-D

    For some laughs, check out a few of the headlines I've ghostwritten that I seriously think might hold a few Guiness World Records for longest (and hypiest!) headlines ever written (these have been dissected and picked apart by the copywriter to the extent that they're unrecognizable in their "published" form...which is a good thing):

    "What Would You Say if I Promised That You Could Toss the Hours of Soul-Sucking, Mindless Labor Out the Window For Good and Seize Upon the Massively Untapped Moneymaking Potential of Your Business Simply by Tweaking a Few Select Key Elements That Will Utterly Obliterate Every Last One of Your Management Headaches and Explode Your Profit Margins to Exponential Proportions?"

    I can just barely read that one aloud without taking a breath.

    I hope you've got deep lungs for this one:


    3.) "I Used to Stress-Out Over Whiny Employees That I Could Never Depend On and Yo-Yo Earnings That Never Seemed to Stay Steady, Until an "Inside Contact" Risked His Life to Infiltrate the Deepest Inner-Workings of America's Corporate Behemoths to Expose The Well-Oiled, Precision-Tuned Outsourcing Machine They Risked Billions On to Transform Their Once-Modest Businesses Into World Economic Superpowers ... and Now I've Encapsulated Every Stunning Aspect Into a System You Can Apply Today!"

    So much for keeping within the 17 word limit (well, they do say that the typical web browser adds 29 or so words...)!
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  • Profile picture of the author Traci
    Holy freaking-long-headlines Batman!!

    I'm sure I know how that split test went.....
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    • Profile picture of the author HenryH
      LOL, I think it goes without saying that you probably wouldn't want to advertise with a headline like that for an ADHD self-help product. :-)
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  • Profile picture of the author Sarah_Lyle
    I thought it was very compelling actually and seriously had my purse out there...
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  • Profile picture of the author John Willer
    Were those the headlines or the book?

    My... those sure are "pithy"
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    • Profile picture of the author HenryH
      Actually, what the copywriter I work for usually does is dismantle each super-long headline, PS statement, etc. and includes the fragments as passages or subheadlines throughout the salesletter. In fact, he just sent me my next assignment -- to write the headlines, subheadlines, bullets, and multiple PS statements on an eBook guide to saving money on maternity clothes.

      This brings up something I've always wondered about: how critical is it to adhere to the rule that headlines should be no longer than 17 words? How many words over that limit is too many?
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  • Profile picture of the author Sarah_Lyle
    I suffer from the same malaise actually I too go overboard with too many headline words my last one had kind of 28 all told. But in different colours if that helps lol!
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    • Profile picture of the author Matt James
      This brings up something I've always wondered about: how critical is it to adhere to the rule that headlines should be no longer than 17 words? How many words over that limit is too many?
      I'm not sure if there are any actual rules.

      John Carlton doesn't seem to think so either, check out this beauty/beast from his Simple Writing System letter...

      "Hey -- They Did It, Often With Less Brains or Skill or Resources Than You... And Now It's Your Turn To Enjoy The Same Simple, Step-by-Step Secrets of Easily Persuading People To Buy Your Stuff... Through A Unique Personal Mentoring Program That Will Likely Never Be Offered Again."
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      • Profile picture of the author Matt James
        Hi Paul,

        Sure... I wasn't saying that headline would work in every situation.

        Just that there's no need to restrict yourself to a certain word count as long as the headline holds attention through to the end.

        Most of Carlton's headlines are pretty lengthy and most of them (though I'm not sure about the example I provided) grab onto your eyeballs throughout.

        Of course his first headline for that product - which bombed - was...

        "Kick Ass 2.0"


        How's that for pithy?
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        • Profile picture of the author Patrick Swayne
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