Why I charge $1,200+ per page for copywriting
September 11, 2009 • Glenn Murray
Recently on Twitter, Rob McGuire highlighted a ‘lucrative’ copywriting contract on ScriptLance: 15 x 500 word articles paying $1 each! True to form, when I read this, I had a little rant about paying peanuts and getting monkeys, then I went away and spent a bit of time reflecting on it. And while I was reflecting, a few things happened: I thought about my own pricing; two prospects asked me to explain how I could help them; and I read an article explaining why our ‘Aha!’ moments are most likely to come when we’re daydreaming.
This period of reflection led to an ‘Aha!’ moment of my own: I charge $1,200+ per page for copywriting because I take the time and put in the hard yards to deliver real value. Far more value, in fact, than the $1,200+ I charge. And my clients know it.
(FYI, here’s my rates page.)
I spend around 9 hours on each page of copywriting!
I don’t get paid hundreds of dollars every year 😉 simply ‘cos I have the ability to write a pretty sentence. I get it ‘cos I take the time to figure out exactly what needs to be said, and to say it in EXACTLY the right words.
And it DOES take time. For example, for the average 300-500 word page of copy, I spend:
- 10 minutes preparing a written fixed price proposal, including scope of project, expected turnaround time, details on my process, and Approval of Quote form.
- Half an hour discussing the project with the client.
- Half an hour thinking about what questions I need answered, and preparing a questionnaire.
- 2-3 hours reviewing the client’s questionnaire answers (again, and again, and again), reading dozens of pages of reference material emailed by the client, and doing my own independent research.
- Half an hour discussing things with the client on the phone.
- 3 hours writing draft 1 (I keep going and keep going until it’s just right).
- 1 hour writing draft 2.
- And 30 min tweaking for the final version.
That’s a total of up to 9 hours – just to write a single page. A short page, at that!
And that’s just my ‘in the office time’. Much to my wife’s annoyance, I also think about work when I’m driving, when I’m exercising, when I’m getting the kids their breakfast, when I’m in the shower, when the ads come on during ‘Master Chef’, before I go to sleep, and the moment I wake.
I also allow myself to daydream
For a driven person like me, one who runs a business that earns money only when my fingers are busy at the keyboard, it’s natural to think of daydreaming as the enemy. But over the years, I’ve discovered it’s an essential element in my success.
For best results, I HAVE TO step back from the job, if only for a little while. This may mean simply gazing blankly at the landscaping quote to the left of my keyboard. Or it may mean actually calling the landscaper. Alternatively, it may mean standing up and grabbing a coffee, or taking the drastic step of going for a run or doing some weights. However I do it, the key is to stop consciously thinking about the job. To give my brain the time it needs to make sense of the job and figure out how best to do it.
Interestingly, this opinion about daydreaming was recently validated, for me, when I read Robert Lee Hotz’s article, ‘A Wandering Mind Heads Straight Toward Insight’. In this article, Hotz cites research that suggests that “our brain may be most actively engaged when our mind is wandering and we’ve actually lost track of our thoughts.” He says, that during daydreaming, “… our brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving, which researchers had previously assumed were dormant during daydreams. Moreover, it appears to be the only time these areas work in unison.”
Pretty cool huh?! At least, now, when my wife pokes her head into the office and sees me staring into space, I have an excuse I can back up with some research!
The important point in all of this is that if I were to charge less than I do, I simply couldn’t afford to let my mind wander, and I’d be doing a worse job, as a result. In fact, for the peanuts that many ‘copywriters’ charge, I wouldn’t have time for anything but typing. Forget pausing to think!
And the proof’s in the pudding. Check out this ‘article’ written by the ‘copywriter’ who won the ScriptLance project discussed above. “Seek a professional advice…”???? “… most efficient path on to staying on the safer side…”???? “… commitments that are made generally do not make any sense unless it is…” C’mon! IMHO, if the client paid $1 for this, they certainly got their money’s worth!!!
But really, it’s all about the value I deliver
Having said all of that, no client in the world is going to pay me $1,200+ per page, just because I spend a lot of time on their job. Understandably, clients are only interested in value.
And when you think about things from this perspective, it’s not at all hard to justify my fees. As I was saying, this morning, to fellow copywriter, Patricia Skinner of Well Written Words, most clients only have to increase sales by a very small percentage in order to more than pay for our services, no matter how much we charge. If I charge $1,200 to write copy promoting a $5,000 training course, and that copy attracts just one additional paying customer, my client hasn’t just paid for my services, s/he has made a handsome return!
Good copywriters are highly skilled professionals
When you go to the doctor or dentist, you expect to pay for the privilege. Same applies when you engage a lawyer, an engineer, an accountant, an architect or an IT consultant. Engaging a copywriter is no different. If you want a copywriter with 15 years professional experience, hundreds of satisfied clients, and a very full schedule, you can expect to pay for it.
No one’s trying to rip you off; that’s just how it works, in every walk of life.
And you can forget getting anything for free!
Inexplicably, some people seem to think writers are quite happy doing stuff for free. Either as a trial or on an ‘if-it-works-we’ll-pay-for-it’ basis. My doctor doesn’t work that way, and nor do I. Writers who do are simply undermining the rest of us.
Watch this entertaining interview with Harlan Ellison for more on this. (Language warning!)
That’s my rant for the day. Now I have to get back to typing away like a good little monkey! Gotta pay that landscaper… (Perhaps if I say, “if this works, there’ll be loads more work coming your way…”, he’ll do it for free! 😉 )