I recently had a bad experience with a web development firm that taught me a few valuable lessons. What I’m about to share could apply to any freelancer, but it will specifically explain why a good copywriter may be “too busy” to take on your project. It also might clarify why a copywriter charges a specific fee. Finally, I will address what a copywriter is, and what she isn’t.
First, a story.
A client contacted me for a web copy project. The project consisted of writing home page copy. When I chatted with the client, I was told that he wanted home page copy “with a portion being FAQ-like” and maybe a secondary page. He asked to be invoiced for 50% and would pay the remainder later. I agreed.
However, when I said I’d work on the copy within the next few days, he quickly responded that they wanted the copy to appear on the website on Saturday. He sent this message on Thursday at 8:26 PM EST. I had already headed to bed since I wake up at 4 AM. So I’m reading that message early Friday morning. Which means I have less than 24 hours to turn around a “Killer Landing Page With High Converting Copy.”
I work on it early morning and then later in the day. I send the copy and he’s very pleased with it, although had a few questions. We tweaked the copy a little and it was done.
Then he asked about the FAQs page. Again, the message was sent late Friday night but because of a confusing email he sent, I thought he was asking his team for input, so I was waiting for their suggestions. On Saturday morning, I cranked out the FAQs, and then sent him the final invoice for the remainder of the 50%.
Throughout the day, I kept checking my email to see if I had received payment. Nope. I also had errands to run but felt “on the hook” throughout the day because this client wasn’t responding. This was after exchanging seven emails with him on Friday and collaborating with him on Google Docs.
Finally, I checked the chat transcript and realized he didn’t ask for a second page (it was a “maybe”) and I didn’t clearly define what a “page” meant. Although I sent him the invoice, I ended up canceling it and sent him the final copy. Of course he didn’t ask for revisions because I think at this point, he knew he was taking advantage of me. Later, after I read the full chat transcript (which is a valuable thing to have when discussing agreements), I realized it was he who asked for the invoice for 50%. Which meant he knew he’d be getting a second invoice. At some point he decided that 50% was all he wanted to pay. Later, when I checked the website, I saw my copy on the home page, and sure enough, a second page for FAQs.
Now. This story is not unusual. In fact, it seems almost typical and every copywriter you meet will have at least one story like this.
Could I have communicated differently? Absolutely. In fact, I take full responsibility for not creating clear expectations. But clients have a responsibility, too — mainly, to pay for services rendered. The quality of the work may be negotiated but ultimately, a client agrees to pay for a service and should do so upon completion of that service.
One copywriter recently had a client who did the same thing. She knew this client from networking events in town. He paid a 50% deposit but then skipped out on the rest. Of course this was after she delivered the final copy. In spite of numerous phone calls, email messages, and even the offer to have him pay the remaining 50% in installments, the client refused. Finally, she said she would send a DMCA notice to the client’s host. His response? “I guess you’re going to have to go the DMCA route.” Which told her that he had no intention of ever paying the remainder of the fee.
Another copywriter worked with a client for four months and then suddenly, the client stopped paying for the projects. He claims his Paypal account has been frozen. And another copywriter said his client closed out his email account used for communication. He was out $200.
Granted, every freelancer has their stories. But the end result is skeptical freelancers when it comes to doing business; which may explain why more freelancers want their entire fee up front or refuse to deliver final results before being paid in full.
Today I read this blog post: 3 Reasons I Never Hired This Freelancer
I admit there are some good points made. However, I’m going to use his post to create a few differentiators when it comes to hiring a copywriter:
A copywriter is not an article writer.
The two may seem the same because both are writers. However, an article writer is generally writing content to inform. A copywriter writes copy to persuade and specifically to entice the reader to take action.
Viewing a copywriter’s fee schedule can be confusing on the surface. Someone may think, “Writing is writing. What’s the difference between writing copy for a web page and writing copy for a blog post?” Well, the difference can be significant. As I mentioned, an article is to inform. A web page is to persuade the visitor to take action. This could include such actions as:
- Signing up for a free newsletter or report
- Ordering a product
- Subscribing to a monthly SaaS product (such as data backup or identity protection)
- Joining a paid membership site
All of these are just a few ways web copy is used. And all of them require a great deal of “behind the scenes” work that takes time — time that the client may not know about.
For instance: Did you know that most professional copywriters conduct extensive research into your industry (ETA: in addition to already learning about your offer inside and out)? They do, and that’s not all. They try to narrow down your “perfect customer” and then dissect that customer’s buying influencers. Copywriting involves the psychology of a consumer’s emotional triggers and good copywriters continually hone their skill for understanding them. Research takes time and crafting the copy also takes time.
Expecting this quality of writing within 24 hours is not only unrealistic, but short-sighted. Give your copywriter the space she needs to create copy that will convert. And copy that converts only happens when the copy is put through the process above.
Copywriting fees are based on value. Not “per word.”
Again, article writing is often priced “per word.” The “content farms” pay as low as .01 per word. An average price is usually between .50 – $1.00 per word. Again, research takes time, especially if you want an SEO-rich article.
Copywriting is a different animal.
Let’s say you hired a copywriter to write landing page copy. She charged $600. You may look at that and say, “Whoa. That’s a lot for three paragraphs of copy.”
Again: there is the background work that is included in creating that copy AND the value it brings to your business.
This is what is meant when a copywriter claims her copy “converts.” It means that when someone visits your site, they don’t leave before taking action. This could be signing up for your mailing list, filling out a form for more information, or buying your product on the spot. Isn’t that why you have a website to begin with? To generate leads and sales? That’s why copywriting is so valuable.
Pages have a specific goal. If the home page copy is to hook your visitor, your FAQs page (which should be separate to draw attention to itself on your navigational bar), should validate your credibility. The two pages have a different purpose, so yes, copywriters do charge by page for good reason.
As I’ve mentioned on my website, your copywriter is your salesman in print. You don’t have a sales staff sitting attentively by your visitor but your copywriter can (and will) persuade your visitors to take a closer look at what you have to offer. The key is having a good copywriter who knows your audience AND (truly this is the most important), having an excellent offer. No golden copy in the world is going to sell a mediocre product or a cheesy offer. So first know what spectacular offer you’re going to give your prospects and then let the copywriter do what she does best.
If you increase your mailing list by 30% in a month’s time because of the copywriting, I’d say the fee is well worth it. If it keeps converting, all the better. Increased opt-ins mean increased sales. That’s the value of good copywriting.
You expect to be paid in full by your clients. Extend the same courtesy to copywriters.
Finally, make good on your agreements. If you agreed to pay a 50% deposit for your copy, then the copywriter is expecting to receive the remainder at some point. Do you know what happens when you try to avoid paying?
You get trashed.
Not only do copywriters connect and talk amongst themselves, they identify deadbeats. After acting like a jerk, the client gets a very bad reputation and no self-respecting copywriter wants anything to do with them. Which leaves the client searching for contractors whose skills are mediocre at best or their English skills sub-par. Sure. You may get web copy for $25 but it won’t be the quality you desire. And most likely, you won’t get the kind of conversions you want, either.
Again, give your copywriter time to generate quality copy. A good amount of time is two weeks. Remember: you’re not the only client they have. They’re trying to deliver the same quality service to others. When you expect quality copy within a day, it shows the copywriter you don’t have the foggiest idea of what goes into creating great copy. If you add in a demanding attitude, it makes for a difficult relationship. Don’t be surprised if the copywriter no longer wants to work with you afterward.
A client has the right to expect a job well done, but a freelance copywriter also has the right to establish reasonable project parameters. They want to help you. They also want to know what’s working and what isn’t. Copywriting is a constant journey of testing and that means you need to measure results. If you don’t have an analytics tool on your website, sign up for Google Analytics. It’s free and does a decent job of tracking your metrics. Learn how to create goals and track them. Hopefully at the end of the day, you’ll see your conversions and ultimately — increased sales.
One last thing: This is why many GREAT copywriters “no longer take clients.” You may think copywriters need you but you’d be wrong. Some of the best copywriters around (and I’m talking legends in the copywriting world), are selling their own products. Why? Because no one is nit-picking their copy, doubting their expertise, or accusing them of “charging too much.” These copywriters know well their worth and they’re bringing in a six-figure income on their own.
Respect your copywriter, pay them in full, and they will scale the highest mountain for you.
And you’ll become the kind of client copywriters will love to have in their address book.