July 5, 2011Three quick tips for freelance copywriters

Having just read Tom Albrighton’s Top ten tips for freelance copywriters, I find myself agreeing with every one of them. But here’s three tips Tom left out…

1. Get a 50% deposit up-front, every time.

If the client can’t or won’t afford this, what makes you think they’ll pay up on time, or at all, once the job is done?

2. Sometimes, you’re being hired to give your opinion, as well as your words.

You can’t argue with every client, but not everyone likes a yes man. If you’ve got different ideas (and you can express them politely) don’t be afraid to put them across.

I’ve turned £500 jobs into £5k jobs by being willing to tell the client their business model is wrong — something their entire staff was afraid to say.

3. People don’t buy things unless there’s a price tag attached.

If you walk into a clothes store and the clothes don’t have price tags, it’s a case of “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Great if you can survive on those clients alone, but most freelancers will require the volume generated by clients with mid-range budgets.

Pricing is variable. But I’ve found setting a clear and accessible day rate really helps clients understand the value of your work. “Sure,” I say. “I could knock out this 2000 word job for you in a day. But if you’re willing to pay for three days, you’ll get a lot more options, several redrafts, and more carefully thought out work.” That way you can target people with budgets at both ends of the scale while — technically — offering one consistent price.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 12:17 pm and is filed under Blog, Copywriting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Thanks for the kind words Alastaire. These three points are very interesting and worthy of plenty of discussion.

    On deposits, I have known people on both sides of the argument. I rarely do it myself, preferring to operate on trust and also acknowledging that people are unwilling to pay for work that has not yet been done. OK, you don’t know them from Adam, but neither do they know you. Some freelancers agree with me, while others (like you) go for the deposit. In six years’ freelancing, I have only been stung with non-payment twice, and only in one of those cases can I be 100% sure it was deliberate. (The other guy just disappeared, and may be dead for all I know.)

    Opinions + words – absolutely. For many of my smaller clients, I’ve provided tons of marketing advice as well as just writing – just drawing on my own experience. And even the larger ones welcome the input of an impartial outsider who (crucially) is paid to think through and express their value proposition. In other words, you can’t write around an offer or product that is not clear and well defined – so you’re often *obliged* to challenge the client. I think this is one of the great unspoken benefits of using a copywriter.

    Price tag – it’s so difficult. Personally I have got a problem with a straight comparison between writers based on day rate. OK, we hope that people will understand what lies behind that price (experience, knowledge), but do they really?

    My preferred approach is to offer *indicative* prices for projects that the prospect can easily get their heads around, such as a small brochure site or a sales letter. That gives them a sense of my costs without committing me to a particular price level in their case. If they insist, I will then quote them my day rate, while emphasising that I prefer not to price that way.

    The reason for avoiding day rates is to avoid discussion of how long things take, as opposed to the value they deliver. Value realised is not necessarily in proportion to time taken on a job.

    Thanks again for a great post.

  2. al says:

    Hi Tom! Thanks for replying.

    This post started out as a comment to your post then I realised it was getting too long so I thought I’d stick it here and link to it instead.

    I’m aware some people consider me pretty “out there” for offering a day rate — but I’ve found it’s the simplest way of getting my value across.

    While some guys (like yourself!) come across as pretty genuine, I read some people’s rates pages and (naming no names) they sound like they’re eyeing up your pockets to figure out how much they can shake you for. That’s a good reason for a client not to call.

    Of course, the day rate isn’t a perfect solution to the problem — if I wrote a sales letter in a day that earns the client £100k, I’m getting a pretty raw deal — but for me it’s the easiest and simplest way of positioning myself as a relatively mid-priced competitor in the market.

  3. Kerry says:

    Hi Al, is there something wrong with your message system. I have sent you messages twice and I have not heard anything from you. Just checking whether you are keen on some copy righting job.

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