Brand messaging and content strategy · Brand storytelling · Copywriting and copy editing · Powerful Words · Website content design and optimisation

What is the cost of (good) copy and content, and what is the value?

Time and time again I encounter people and potential clients, who seem to think that copy and content work should cost … well, very little.

So, in today’s post I want to shed some light on word crafting and optimising rates – both, for fellow freelance writers and for clients – by contemplating on a few questions, namely:

  • what qualities may content/copy writing rates may be based on,
  • who to look to for guidance on pricing standards, and
  • why it is only fair to pay decent rates for copy/content work.

A quick note that for the purpose of this post I may use copy and content work related job titles interchangeably, but generally mean to refer to professionals providing any copy and content crafting and optimising work, i.e. that could be writing, editing, proofreading (copy), or also reviewing, structuring, managing or planning (content and messaging) strategically.

What are copywriting/editing rates made of?

In a nutshell, I would say copy and content artists are not just born (talent), but they are also made (training), and both are valuable aspects to consider in the pricing of copy/content work.

It’s probably easier to see how their investment in their ‘making’, i.e. their qualifications, training as well as professional experience is worth money as it cost money. However, the real value is of course in the more efficient, more knowledgeable (e.g. in a particular subject matter), more strategic and more technically versed writer/editor, and the more effective copy and content they produce.

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

When it comes to paying for the talent it can be harder to justify the value as naturally born writers/editors may make it look like easy work. However, who says that easy should equate to cheap? I would rather argue that a natural love for the craft is the one thing that sets a born writer/editor apart and is the one thing that the client hasn’t got, and so that is where the value lies.

Who sets standards for copywriting/editing rates?

Sure, there are many amazing copywriters and content strategists who have been practising their craft and building their business for many years. They are so confident and well established that they don’t need anyone’s guidance or approval and simply set their own, sometimes well above average, rates.

However, for less experienced and less confident wordsmiths, it can be difficult to understand their worth as well as to transmit that to clients. This is where it’s so good (in the UK) to have professional organisations like Procopywriters (focused on copywriting and content strategy) and the Society for Proofreaders and Editors SFEP (focused on editing and proofreading), who both publish guidance on suggested rates; amongst all the other amazing work they do to help professionalise the art of writing, editing, proofreading and content strategy.

“Editing is not just about fixing the grammar, it’s about fixing the clarity for your reader.” ~Ann Handley

Another way for writers/editors to get help on setting their rates (and for clients to understand the pricing of copy/content work) is to turn to peers, if possible, in person, or otherwise on the internet. However, what I would say to freelancers is: “Don’t overdo the research, believe in yourself, stay true to your own inner voice, and never look to or compare rates on content mills”.

Why is it fair to pay decent rates for copy/content work?

Firstly, crafting and optimising words is our means of making a living, not just surviving, and the costs of which increase for us writers/editors as well as for everyone else year after year. This is not to say that rates that finance trips to the moon are justified – on the contrary, I believe that many of us even offer staggered rates depending on the nature of the work and size of business – but I do believe that copy/content workers should expect a decent, realistic and fair pay. At the end of the day, hiring freelancers does not only save clients from paying full-time salaries, but all associated costs such as holiday pay, sick pay, equipment, office space or training, too.

Secondly, and most importantly, copy/content writers/editors are not just making a living, but a difference. Well written and visually appealing copy and strategically aligned content not only has the power to attract clients (and search engines) and sell products or services, but the right words can inspire actions, shift perspectives and transform behaviours. What’s more, well working copy/content does not only impact on individual projects or activities, but copy and content excellence is like an attitude – or life-force** as I always put it – that shapes values, which over time build culture and a way of being rather than doing. A true inside-out force. What are these transformations worth to you?

[**According to Oxford Dictionaries life-force* is: “the force that gives something its vitality and strength”. Or, the Free Dictionary states: “the force that is responsible for growth and evolution.”]

“Ideas alone are not scalable. Only when an idea is put into words that people can clearly understand can an idea inspire action.” ~Simon Sinek

What is the cost of (not) investing in professional copy/content work?

I am hoping that my post could provide valuable food for thought for both, clients who are looking to hire copy/content workers as well as for fellow freelancers who may have been struggling to recognise their worth and to set their rates.

What I’d really like everyone to take away from my post is this:

Instead of asking “What is the cost of hiring a copy/content writer/editor” start asking yourself:

What is the value of professional copy/content? What the return on impact vs investment? And what is the cost of not investing in good copy/content to run and grow my business?

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“If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.” ~Unknown

Need help with your brand, marketing and website words?

I combine brand and content strategy, content writing and copy editing, and particular website expertise as well as a general passion for content quality – whether online or offline – to make brand propositions and stories, web pages and blogs, marketing and print materials, business documents and everything and anything that relies on words to connect, engage and win over an audience, more powerful. If your words need more power, please get in touch!

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