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Recently, I had a discussion with a newbie freelance copywriter about the thorny issue of quoting. And it made me realise that even those of us that have earned our stripes struggle with this fairly regularly.

It’s particularly hard to prepare a copywriting quote with smaller jobs for new clients

Manly because the research itself takes time, and it is hard for a client – especially a small business – to justify paying $500 for copywriting of a tri-fold flyer. So instead we tend to take a loss on some of these smaller jobs and (hopefully) make it up on the bigger ones. And we hope that the single project becomes a repeat client so the hours of research are not wasted and can be used for future jobs.

coffeeThen there is the ultimate dilemma – quote too high and you are pricing yourself out of the market; too low and you undercut yourself and risk looking like an amateur (and maybe not get the job anyway!).

So, when you, as a client, contacts a copywriter and asks how much a job might cost, there are several factors at play in the copywriter’s mind.

1. Will this small job lead to bigger, ongoing work? If so, the copywriting quote might be a tad cheaper than if it is a one-off job. But don’t try to con the copywriter into thinking there is more work on the horizon. We have heard it all, and have the scars to prove it.

2. What information can the client provide? The more information you give us, the less research and legwork we need to do, the smaller the quote will be.

3. When is the deadline? A faster turnaround usually means working after hours – and will mean a premium added to the quote.

4. Do we need to meet in person? The answer is usually “no”, but if the client insists on meetings, travel and time will be factored in to the quote.

5. Do I have the background in this field? More experience usually means less background work, thus a cheaper quote.

6. Am I interested in the subject matter? Trust me, it is easier and quicker for a copywriter to write about something that interests them, hence your quote might come in lower than if the topic is likely to involve drawing blood from a stone.

time 7. Is this project even worth quoting for? There, I said it. Sometimes, it is just not worth a busy copywriter’s while to prepare a quote for a small one-off project (which is a great reason to establish a relationship with a copywriter – pretty much all the small, one-off jobs I do these days are for repeat clients)

The final thing we think about is whether an hourly rate or a project fee is better. I am usually happy to do either, depending on the client’s needs.

However, let me say this – at first glance, an hourly rate may seem  scary and sort of like writing an open-ended check, but on the other hand, a fixed quote will usually cost in the worst-possible scenario (finicky edits, loads of research, writer’s block).

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Hourly rate

Pros

  • A copywriter can probably do the work quicker than a layman – so that job you think will take all day might only take them a couple of hours.
  • You pay for the amount of hours spent – no more, no less.

Cons

  • Unless you ask for an estimate on the time, and to be kept informed through the process, you won’t know what you are up for until the bill comes.
  • If the copywriter you hire has limited experience in your field, you will be paying extra for research time.

Fixed price quote

Pros

  • You know upfront what your investment will be and can budget for it.
  • It is in the copywriter’s interest to get it right the first (or second) time – especially if several revisions are included in the quote.

Cons

  • The copywriter is likely to give you a “worst-case scenario” quote.
  • If you change the goalposts, the price will change – usually upwards.

An hourly fee works better for an ongoing client, who may want to be prioritised, but you should usually stipulate on a minimum number of hours/week.  A fixed-cost fee is a great option for a large, multi-faceted project that you don’t want to be paying for each phone call or email contact.

So next time you ask for a quick quote, or rough estimate, spare a thought for the copywriter that agonises over every “quick quote” and is terrified of getting it wrong.

Till next time

Nicole

nicole leedhamAbout the author: Nicole Leedham

Nicole is the Word Barista at Black Coffee Communication. With more than 20 years in the communications game, she has developed some strong opinions on grammar, punctuation, copywriting and, well, pretty much everything. When she is not sharing these opinions – for the benefit of her clients, of course – she enjoys relaxing with a good book and a good red. Her young children, however, have a different agenda.

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