My first-ever PAYING copy writing client... I need advice.

32 replies
I recently offered free copy writing services to whoever needed them. The goal was to build a portfolio and references so that I could eventually offer services for pay.

One of the people who responded and asked me to do some work for him has decided to become a paying client for more content and editing services! I am so excited, but was not prepared for this to happen so quickly.

1. What is the going rate for less established copy writers like me?

2. Should I begin using invoices?

3. I will be editing all of this person's blog posts. Should I draw up a contract?

Any input is appreciated!
#advice #client #copy #firstever #paying #writing
  • Profile picture of the author RHert
    Definitely keep track of everything, and get it all in writing. Contracts protect you and your client so use them.
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  • Profile picture of the author CopyWriteHer
    Just wanted to say congratulations on landing your first paying gig!
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  • Profile picture of the author andynathan
    Originally Posted by Lora Lee View Post

    I recently offered free copy writing services to whoever needed them. The goal was to build a portfolio and references so that I could eventually offer services for pay.

    One of the people who responded and asked me to do some work for him has decided to become a paying client for more content and editing services! I am so excited, but was not prepared for this to happen so quickly.

    1. What is the going rate for less established copy writers like me?

    2. Should I begin using invoices?

    3. I will be editing all of this person's blog posts. Should I draw up a contract?

    Any input is appreciated!
    Lora,

    1. Copy writers rates can very tremendously. It is impossible to give an exact range, but maybe a better question is what would you think is a fair rate that you would to be paid if you worked at a corporation for these services. Start there and then probably almost double the price.

    2. You definitely want some type of paperwork to track what you are doing.

    3. A short contract would not be bad just laying out what you are doing and what is expected, so both sides know what to expect ahead of time.

    I hope that helps.

    Andy
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  • Profile picture of the author sandrasims
    Congrats!

    I would highly recommend Freshbooks software for time tracking and invoicing. It's free to start and I think up to 5 clients. I have been using it since early this year and could not live without it.

    I keep track of the time I spend on each client so I know I'm doing not too much and not too little work, since most of my clients charge a flat fee per month. You can also charge per project, per hour or other methods and it can be different for each client. Then it's easy to do invoices and email them.

    Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
    I'm glad you landed your first client.

    I highly recommend you read Steve Slaunwhite's How To Start and Run A Copywriting Business. You find it at amazon.com. This book will answer many of your questions on how to run your copywriting business.

    Best,

    Thomas O'Malley
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    • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
      Originally Posted by ThomasOMalley View Post

      I'm glad you landed your first client.

      I highly recommend you read Steve Slaunwhite's How To Start and Run A Copywriting Business. You find it at amazon.com. This book will answer many of your questions on how to run your copywriting business.

      Best,

      Thomas O'Malley
      Found and bought a brand new copy for just $7.56 at Amazon... thanks. Can't wait to get it.
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  • Profile picture of the author BarryADensa
    First off, never work by the hour -- reasons are too numerous to mention. Charge by the project.

    Second, since you wrote for FREE the last time out with this now paying client -- you can't shock him with a big price tag.

    So now you're at a bit of a disadvantage.

    My recommendation, ask him what he's willing to pay -- it probably won't be much, but it'll be more than you got the last time. And then just say thank you.

    You'll then have a baseline, and as you move forward -- keep raising your prices (not with the same client -- unless you do it once a year) until you hit substantial resistance -- and then you'll know where your "temporary" sweet spot lies.

    As for invoicing -- just create a simple invoice using MS Word. And ask for 50% up front and 50% at completion -- until you get a solid rep, then ask for everything up front, especially with new clients.

    --Barry
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    • Profile picture of the author vdx_marketing
      Originally Posted by BarryADensa View Post

      First off, never work by the hour -- reasons are too numerous to mention. Charge by the project.

      Second, since you wrote for FREE the last time out with this now paying client -- you can't shock him with a big price tag.

      So now you're at a bit of a disadvantage.

      My recommendation, ask him what he's willing to pay -- it probably won't be much, but it'll be more than you got the last time. And then just say thank you.

      You'll then have a baseline, and as you move forward -- keep raising your prices (not with the same client -- unless you do it once a year) until you hit substantial resistance -- and then you'll know where your "temporary" sweet spot lies.

      As for invoicing -- just create a simple invoice using MS Word. And ask for 50% up front and 50% at completion -- until you get a solid rep, then ask for everything up front, especially with new clients.

      --Barry
      I really agree with Barry here - and congratulations by the way Lora - that's great news! I like to see people taking initiative and reaping the rewards.

      You can find sample copywriting contracts just with a google search, I believe Jay Abraham has some for free, if I remember correctly.

      Also, with price, copywriters are like sales people - we make money for our clients, we don't actually cost money, we are an investment. Therefore, always talk with your clients about how much cash they can make with your copy - position yourself as a profit center for your client, because that's exactly what you are.

      A great resource is 'The Business of Copywriting' by Dan Kennedy - it's a CD series you can get from his website, helped me out a lot early on.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
    Wow what great responses! I definitely have a lot to look into and consider, don't I? Each of you has given me such great insight and I really value it every bit of it.
    Also want to say thanks so very much for all the congrats!
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Originally Posted by Lora Lee View Post

    One of the people who responded and asked me to do some work for him has decided to become a paying client for more content and editing services! I am so excited, but was not prepared for this to happen so quickly.
    Content writing and editing services are not copywriting.

    Copywriting compels a reader to take an action. Examples: buy a product, opt-in to a lead capture page, call a phone number.

    The best way for a copywriter to set fees is by the value YOU bring to the table.

    How much will your copy help a client make? Once you and your client have made that determination, you're in the catbird seat and can charge a decent fee.

    Alex
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    • Profile picture of the author CopyWriteHer
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      • Profile picture of the author EricMN
        Originally Posted by CopyWriteHer View Post

        How is that determination made if you are new, with no prior experience to make an estimation from (which really would not matter anyway since this client and this product are new and the thing you are selling could be in demand or not in demand at all - yes, the copywriting has something to do with its sales, but having a solid product also has direct impact on outcome)? It would be helpful for people new to the profession to have general guidelines on the amount a client should be investing in their work, so as to be fair to the client and the copywriter.
        Before a copywriter takes on a client they evaluate their client's situation. things like

        1. The List and various traffic methods, are they targeted?

        2. The product itself -- how much is the product? Is it a good or service? If it's an object or information that can be sold very quickly, it has more money making potential than a service provided by one person. Take for instance an e book you can sell 100 of in a day versus a massage therapist who can only probably work 4-6 clients.

        How much can you push of it and how much does each unit cost?

        3. The market -- a feel of the market for this type of product without all the research necessary for a full sales letter.

        Your client should be giving you all this and you should be able to validate it.

        If you have a list of 10,000 and you write a letter that has a conversion rate of 5% and each product is $500 that's $250,000.

        Did you just charge $25 for a piece that made a quarter million dollars?

        Or let's put it this way, if they wrote the copy themselves (and they more than likely don't know how) and had a conversion rate of 1% and you rewrote it 5%. . . you just made them $200,000. Did you only charge $20 this time?

        This isn't only about putting words to a page. It's about knowing the figures and being strategic in your marketing plans.
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        • Profile picture of the author CopyWriteHer
          Thanks, much. If you get a client coming to you without having done the proper research, do you still move forward without that information?

          Originally Posted by EricMN View Post

          Before a copywriter takes on a client they evaluate their client's situation. things like



          Your client should be giving you all this and you should be able to validate it.


          This isn't only about putting words to a page. It's about knowing the figures and being strategic in your marketing plans.
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          • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
            Originally Posted by CopyWriteHer View Post

            If you get a client coming to you without having done the proper research, do you still move forward without that information?
            This is a big note to all new copywriters...you must do your homework before you start taking on any clients at all....

            All of your major questions are answered in Steve Slaunwhite's How To Run and Start a Copywriting Business.

            He even has a schedule of copywriting fees...it's worth the purchase for that alone.

            Just get it...best $20 you will spend.
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            • Profile picture of the author CopyWriteHer
              Thanks, Thomas. That is definitely one I plan to pick up, on your advice.
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      • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
        Originally Posted by CopyWriteHer View Post

        How is that determination made if you are new, with no prior experience to make an estimation from (which really would not matter anyway since this client and this product are new and the thing you are selling could be in demand or not in demand at all - yes, the copywriting has something to do with its sales, but having a solid product also has direct impact on outcome)? It would be helpful for people new to the profession to have general guidelines on the amount a client should be investing in their work, so as to be fair to the client and the copywriter.
        Thanks... I am still researching and doing some calculations as far as time v. money and the fact that I did start out working for this client for free... you are soooo right that there doesn't seem to be much of a bar to go by anywhere, but this thread is really giving me a good perspective.

        My main worry is driving away my first job, so I'm sure I'll tend to hit below average on the rates I decide are fair.

        Here's hoping that if I end up working for too little from this client, I'll develop a much better idea of what to charge the next!
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        • Profile picture of the author CopyWriteHer
          It sounds like you are off to a great start! As fellow female copywriters just beginning the journey, if you ever want to chat, just send me an email at Jenny at copywriteher.com I hope I am allowed to say that here. If there is a rule against posting my email address, please forgive me all.
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        Originally Posted by CopyWriteHer View Post

        How is that determination made if you are new, with no prior experience to make an estimation from (which really would not matter anyway since this client and this product are new and the thing you are selling could be in demand or not in demand at all - yes, the copywriting has something to do with its sales, but having a solid product also has direct impact on outcome)? It would be helpful for people new to the profession to have general guidelines on the amount a client should be investing in their work, so as to be fair to the client and the copywriter.
        Every situation is different, so there can be no general guidelines. Would you charge a client who stands to make $1,000,000 from your copy the same price as a client who stands to make $10,000?

        When talking with your potential client, help him set a reasonable expectation and then persuade him you can deliver the goods.

        Use the same persuasion techniques on your potential client that you use when writing copy.

        Be credible. Establish value.

        If you persuade a client that your copy will help him make $1,000,000, do you think he'd be willing to pay you $50,000 (5%)?

        Or if $10,000, $2,000 (20%)?

        Alex
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    • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
      Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

      Content writing and editing services are not copywriting.

      Copywriting compels a reader to take an action. Examples: buy a product, opt-in to a lead capture page, call a phone number.

      The best way for a copywriter to set fees is by the value YOU bring to the table.

      How much will your copy help a client make? Once you and your client have made that determination, you're in the catbird seat and can charge a decent fee.

      Alex
      They're hiring me to write sales letters, reviews, and edit blog posts. I guess I should have been clearer. The focus on most will be calls to action because even the blog posts will drive people to lead capture forms for special reports, etc. I have been marketing for a bit so I do understand where you're coming from -- just that the client is asking me to give them figures and has trustingly set me in the proverbial driver's seat here.
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        Originally Posted by Lora Lee View Post

        They're hiring me to write sales letters, reviews, and edit blog posts. I guess I should have been clearer. The focus on most will be calls to action because even the blog posts will drive people to lead capture forms for special reports, etc. I have been marketing for a bit so I do understand where you're coming from -- just that the client is asking me to give them figures and has trustingly set me in the proverbial driver's seat here.
        You're being asked to do a ton of work. Due to the variety of work, if it were me, I'd negotiate a monthly retainer that paid me for my time plus a percentage of gross sales.

        Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author Derek Pankaew
    Originally Posted by penlady View Post

    The price you decide is up to you. Some less experienced copywriters charge as little as $7 per article (based on word count); others as much as $25 for 500 words. It just depends.

    You can get an invoice on Paypal when you bill them. Their invoices are great.

    You can write and send him an email discussing the details of your arrangement. This can work as an contract. Keep them email; print it out if you must.

    The best advance I can give you is to always be open and honest with your client. This goes a long way in this business.
    Good luck!
    Jesus - It's copy not content.

    Writing content involves researching a subject and writing about it.

    Writing copy involves researching a subject, then researching it some more, then researching it some more then researching it some more. Then writing the headline, rewriting the headline, then rewriting the headline, then rewriting the headline. Rinse and repeat for almost every aspect of the copy.

    You can't charge $7 for 500 words of copy. You shouldn't even be charging by words for copy.

    IMO Copy should be billed either on a straight fee basis or a straight fee + commission basis, not dependent on words. Calculate how much you need to earn per hour, multiply it by how long you think it'll take and quote that price.
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    • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
      Originally Posted by Derek Pankaew View Post

      Jesus - It's copy not content.

      Writing content involves researching a subject and writing about it.

      Writing copy involves researching a subject, then researching it some more, then researching it some more then researching it some more. Then writing the headline, rewriting the headline, then rewriting the headline, then rewriting the headline. Rinse and repeat for almost every aspect of the copy.

      You can't charge $7 for 500 words of copy. You shouldn't even be charging by words for copy.

      IMO Copy should be billed either on a straight fee basis or a straight fee + commission basis, not dependent on words. Calculate how much you need to earn per hour, multiply it by how long you think it'll take and quote that price.
      Ok this is fantastic... You just described my exact working habits! I'm torn between taking your approach from the get-go and just letting him set the bar this time (taking your approach with all subsequent clients).
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  • Profile picture of the author Toniy
    Plenty of recommendations, don't really fancy deciphering them all and then trying to connect the dots / fill in the blanks... (with respect to those kind enough to respond with some excellent advice :p) so I'll just tell you what I do / did.

    As a former content writer / article writer...

    Offered my service at $0.05 per word... $25 for 500 words.

    Politely demanded the fee up front.

    I explained that unfortunately too many people don't come through on their obligations, they don't pay... so now I am forced to charge up front. Obviously I'm not suspecting you of that ... I hope you can understand.

    If they can't see the need to pay upfront, they're unreasonable. Thus more likely to stiff you.

    Too many content writers are scared of losing clients if they don't give in to every demand. It's not the case. They NEED what you're providing (assuming your copy's good)... you can find other clients.

    Take the power back.

    I had a folder on my desktop with each month inside e.g. 'October 2011' and the client's name inside that... that's where I'd store their content.

    I also had a spreadsheet, which I've attached.

    It tracks clients, order details, helps you manage your time and your finances.

    If you can use it, great, if not, no worries

    As a Copywriter...It varies.

    But that's for writing copy... sales copy... persuasive, compelling prose that forces action in a compassionate, subconscious way... nice like

    Articles can be used to pre-sell, review, or to act as general plugs for offers.

    But they aren't copy.

    Copy... is much, much more than saying how great a product is and how great a value it is and all the cool things that'll happen if you bought it, and how it's enhanced your life... well... bad copy isn't.

    But Good Copy is a study of human psychology and buyer behaviour... it takes months to get good and years to master.

    Copywriters charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000 and more.

    You charge for your expertise, not your time.

    Just make sure your client knows the difference between content and copy.

    And make sure you know the difference too... and present your services appropriately.



    ... and congratulations
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    • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
      Originally Posted by Toniy View Post

      Plenty of recommendations, don't really fancy deciphering them all and then trying to connect the dots / fill in the blanks... (with respect to those kind enough to respond with some excellent advice :p) so I'll just tell you what I do / did.

      As a former content writer / article writer...

      Offered my service at $0.05 per word... $25 for 500 words.

      Politely demanded the fee up front.

      I explained that unfortunately too many people don't come through on their obligations, they don't pay... so now I am forced to charge up front. Obviously I'm not suspecting you of that ... I hope you can understand.

      If they can't see the need to pay upfront, they're unreasonable. Thus more likely to stiff you.

      Too many content writers are scared of losing clients if they don't give in to every demand. It's not the case. They NEED what you're providing (assuming your copy's good)... you can find other clients.

      Take the power back.

      I had a folder on my desktop with each month inside e.g. 'October 2011' and the client's name inside that... that's where I'd store their content.

      I also had a spreadsheet, which I've attached.

      It tracks clients, order details, helps you manage your time and your finances.

      If you can use it, great, if not, no worries

      As a Copywriter...It varies.

      But that's for writing copy... sales copy... persuasive, compelling prose that forces action in a compassionate, subconscious way... nice like

      Articles can be used to pre-sell, review, or to act as general plugs for offers.

      But they aren't copy.

      Copy... is much, much more than saying how great a product is and how great a value it is and all the cool things that'll happen if you bought it, and how it's enhanced your life... well... bad copy isn't.

      But Good Copy is a study of human psychology and buyer behaviour... it takes months to get good and years to master.

      Copywriters charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000 and more.

      You charge for your expertise, not your time.

      Just make sure your client knows the difference between content and copy.

      And make sure you know the difference too... and present your services appropriately.



      ... and congratulations
      Super, super helpful. You have helped me a great deal here. Thanks so much.
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  • Profile picture of the author Toniy
    I'd say just get the information... send them an email.

    The more you know beforehand, the more likely you are to get the job.

    If you specialise (which you should) you'll gain more knowledge with experience faster.

    There are certain things you NEED to know about the client, the product and the market to write good copy.

    Just ask 'em... if they're gonna make $10,000 off of what you write, I don't think they'll mind sitting down with you for half an hour.

    There should always be an open discourse between client and writer I feel...
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    • Profile picture of the author CopyWriteHer
      Thanks, Toniy. I always enjoy your posts and the personality infused in them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Lora Lee
      I definitely did this with the free work I did for the client... we talked a lot. There is a small language barrier, so I had to make sure I was understanding what he needed, what he wanted, all his intents and purposes, as well as his attitude and style. I try to write from the client's perspective but add what I know will get results. Don't mean to sound like a commercial, just wanted to say I appreciate and understand what you mean here... I was even afraid I was driving him a little crazy with the back-and-forth emails, but what you've said kind of justifies what I did, so thanks bunches!

      Originally Posted by Toniy View Post

      I'd say just get the information... send them an email.

      The more you know beforehand, the more likely you are to get the job.

      If you specialise (which you should) you'll gain more knowledge with experience faster.

      There are certain things you NEED to know about the client, the product and the market to write good copy.

      Just ask 'em... if they're gonna make $10,000 off of what you write, I don't think they'll mind sitting down with you for half an hour.

      There should always be an open discourse between client and writer I feel...
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  • Just wanted to add my congratulations! Well done!
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  • Profile picture of the author w@rrior
    Congratulations on landing your first paying copy writing client..you definitely must charge by the project.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lori Kelly
    Congratulations! It is exciting.

    I offered to write some articles for a health newspaper. The owner of the company wanted 20 articles so I gave him a discount for the bulk order. My rate was ridiculously low but I wanted to get my foot in the door.

    We have since talked on the phone a few times and established a good working relationship.

    I offered him some IM ideas and he liked them. I gave him some consulting advice and he liked it. We then discussed the future possibility of me providing business and IM consulting services in addition to writing. And we both agreed my fee for that type of service would well exceed any article writing fee.

    I do not have a contract with this gentleman. I get paid before I write.

    If you are editing blog posts, the price you charge might fall under an article writer's category as opposed to copywriting.

    There are many great copywriters here and article writers too who can post and give you some more information to help you.

    Remember, you never know how much business one client can bring.

    I'm very happy for you. Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author 4udaces
    Congratulations, and good luck is all I can offer you! Rock on!
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  • Profile picture of the author abugah
    Congratulations for landing your first client. It feels nice to reach a level people are willing to pay for your expertise.


    Whatever you finally decide to charge, here is something you should never forget…
    Never show DESPERATION to any client.
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