We as professionals have the propensity to want to be our best selves. In a professional context, this means there’s a tendency to overextend, to over-sell, and to become hyperbolic about our efforts and skills. To talk like an absolute wanker, like I am right now. I’ve done it before…and been caught out. It leaves you feeling like a little kid dressed up in big person’s clothes. It’s awfully shameful.
But outright deception? It’s hard to find blatant examples of lying in business, which is why I take issue with Kiss Metric’s article on the 10 Lies Freelance Copywriters Like To Tell You. James Chartrand of Men With Pens (who is actually a female) is a credible, talented and experienced writer with a list of accolades under her belt.
But I don’t agree with all of her sentiments.
For the sake of shining light on the hiring process, let’s unpack her listicle. If you’re looking to hire a freelance copywriter, or already have someone lined up to write your website content, I hope you find it clarifies the way content writers – or any freelancer for that matter – quote, work and earn their skills as a professional.
1. “Every project is unique and I can’t quote you until I know more.”
How much do freelance copywriters charge? Truthfully, and as James says, every copywriter should have a list of prices to give to would-be clients, just so they can get a rough idea of how much a copywriter charges. But…how much research is required when writing content? Is this client going to need countless meetings and phone calls? Every project is unique, and sometimes you need to factor these considerations in.
And honestly, would you hire a copywriter who doesn’t ask questions?
2. “I need to know your budget before I can quote.”
Yep. That's a big fattie. Some freelance writers like to charge different rates for different clients. For example, some might charge a blue-chip company more than a start-up. Personally, and as one agency was disgruntled to hear, I charge the same rate for everyone.
3. “I’m qualified, because I have a degree in English literature.”
As James so rightfully puts it, most top copywriters don’t even have degrees. I personally have a bachelor degree in communications, and diploma in journalism. I found tertiary education to be beneficial, and did in fact study English Literature in first and second year.
That’s not to say that you need to rack up a decent HECS debt to get your copywriting credentials. Buuuuut…I’d be wary of hiring someone who can’t prove they know the basic rules of grammar.
And yes, I know copywriters like myself are prone to breaking the formal rules of English (I did it just then). But it’s because I know the rules that I’m able to break them. I know when breaking the rules of grammar and punctuation is called for, and when it looks like someone hired their receptionist to write their website content.
Hire a copywriter who can show you results AND has some sort of formal education.
4. “I had to quote high because of the time I’ll need to write this.”
Copywriters quote using a few methods: hourly, daily (if an agency needs you for contract work), by word, or by a set project fee.
This why when you start hunting for a freelance copywriter, you’ll get a range of quotes.
One might tell you it’ll take 10 hours and will cost $200, another will tell you 8 hours at $400, and another 5 hours at $1000.
It can be, but it shouldn’t.
So how much should you expect to pay for a copywriter?
Most copywriters charge what they think their time is worth.
And sometimes, content writing does take longer. If they have to fill any knowledge gaps, spend extra time talking to people in your organisation, or do more than the agreed amount of revisions, this will cost you money. Extra work costs extra.
Having said that, you can avoid extra work by briefing your copywriter correctly, agreeing on the scope of the project before you sign on the dotted line, and hiring someone who’s written for your industry before.
A totally unofficial guide to how much you should expect to pay a copywriter:
A senior level copywriter (10 years of more), will charge over $100 an hour. Location can also come into play here.
You can expect to pay between $20-$30 for a junior copywriter. Think recent graduates with less than two years of experience.
And for a mid-level copywriter, you’re looking at $45 - $80, depending on where they’ve worked and how long they’ve been writing for.
5. “Your email hit my spam folder.”
Sometimes it does. Sometimes I don’t want to look in a folder filled with ways to “get laid tonight”.
6. “I’m booked, so I can only squeeze you in if you pay a rush fee.”
If you need something within the next 24-hours and it means your copywriter has to work outside of normal business hours, a rush fee is a pretty standard practice.
7. “You get what you pay for.”
One word. Elance.
8. “All you need to make sales is great copy.”
James was right. It’s a lie. Copy is one part of the equation. Design is another. Branding should be in there, too.
9.“This copy will sell anyone.”
You can be the ripest, juiciest peach, but there will always be people who don’t like peaches.
I’m sorry to drag out that tired cliché, but it illustrates this point perfectly. James was right – you have to know your audience to understand what language tugs at their heart-strings.
A sensitive, empathetic and thoughtful person is unlikely to click on a button that demands a sale. But you might be able to direct them to take action with a call-to-action that sparks curiosity. Some people respond to gentle, loving persuasion. Others respond better to urgency and scarcity. Use the right words for the right people.
Not sure who that is? Read this post on getting clear on your ideal audience.
10. “I know what I’m doing, and if you’re smart, you’ll trust me.”
Does any freelancer actually speak like this?
I feel that a freelance copywriter’s claim to authority is far more nuanced. Their trustworthiness lies in the subtle ways they’ll respond to your emails, present their work, and briefing methods. Your copywriter will try to convince you to trust them, but I’m not sure any professional has the gall to use supposition to question your intelligence.
So there we have it. Copywriting lies debunked, debunked.