Figuring out what to charge for copywriting can be one of the most confounding things for new copywriters and veterans alike. You want to get paid well. You want to be fair to the client. Or at least, I’m assuming you want both of those things. 🙂 I have another blog post (video included) on how to charge for your copywriting services. But today, I’m going to discuss something super specific: how much to charge for copywriting a website.
BTW: If you learn better by watching a video, I got you. Jump to the end where I’ve embedded a video on this topic.
How Much to Charge for Copywriting a Website: Don’t Underestimate Your Value
Let’s discuss the value you’re delivering when you write website content. (For the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to assume that you know how to do SEO copywriting. If not, go learn that first. Then, come back here.)
A website is a company’s virtual storefront that’s open 24/7. Good websites will . . .
- Draw in targeted traffic.
- Turn that targeted traffic into leads.
- Keep the leads engaged and guide them through the buying journey.
Websites are critical to the success of so many businesses.
So when you’re tapped to write a website, it’s a big deal.
Talented SEO copywriters bring a ton of value to a website project.
As an SEO website copywriter, you’re tasked with making sure the messaging and branding are consistent page-to-page while keeping the user experience and search engine optimization top of mind.
Doing a kick-ass job with SEO copywriting involves . . .
- Digging deep into the client’s business and their industry
- Making sure you thoroughly understand the client’s audience
- Reviewing your client’s competitors
- Analyzing the existing site—what pages work, what pages don’t work, what messaging resonates, etc.
You do all that before you put finger to keyboard.
- Then, you need to figure out the framework for the site.
- You need to do keyword research.
- You’ll likely develop messaging concepts for the client to review.
Again, this ALL happens before you write any website copy.
Once all of the above is done . . . THEN you start working on the copy.
Bottom line: Websites are A LOT of work.
This brings me to the approach that I DON’T recommend when trying to figure out how much to charge for copywriting a website: hourly rates.
No one likes hourly rates. Intuitively, clients might “get” it, but their psyches won’t. They’ll fixate on how long something is taking. Or they’ll question whether something really needs to take you three hours or six hours. They’ll end up losing sight of the value you’re delivering. And invoices will always be nerve-wracking to deliver because you’ll never know what sort of response you’re going to get.
That’s a crappy way to work.
Hourly rates suck for writers, too. You’re going to put pressure on yourself. There will be days when you’re crushing it because you’re in the zone and churning out awesome copy quickly. Should you make less just because you’ve gotten faster? Of course not. The value is still there.
On the flip side, you’ll have days where it’s more of a slog. Maybe something took you six hours instead of four, but you feel “guilty” about charging for six, so you don’t.
There’s a better approach: Project quotes.
Project quotes are neat and tidy. Everyone knows where they stand.
Hi, Awesome Prospect.
My quote for writing a 10-page website is $x.
This quote covers the following:
- Kick-off call
- Buyer persona discussion
- Messaging discussion
- Research and review of all relevant collateral
- Competitor review/analysis
- Keyword research
- Drafting and optimizing 10 website pages for search
- One round of revisions
For any pages beyond the initial 10, I charge a flat fee of $x per page.
Again, nice and tidy, right?
That said, I realize you might be reading this blog post because you’re like, “I HAVE A PROJECT I NEED TO QUOTE NOW AND OMG I DON’T WANT TO EFF THIS UP JUST TELL ME WHAT MONEY NUMBERS I SHOULD USE”
I got you.
Maybe this is your first website project (or second or third).
You’re still figuring things out.
If that’s the case, how do these numbers feel to you for a 10-page website?
- Home page: $500
- Discovery call: $150
- Competitor research/materials review: $500
- Keyword research: $500
- Website page rate: $150 (9 pages x $150= $1350)
Grand Total: $3000
Now, even though I don’t recommend giving clients hourly quotes, you still need to have a sense of how much you’re making an hour so you can figure out the larger plan: as in, how much money do you want to make a year and how much work do you need to do to achieve that number. But that’s a different subject, for a different post.
For now, let’s consider the above money numbers and assign rough hours per task. Your mileage will vary . . . and it will change over time, and depending on the client.
- Home page: $500 – 4 hours
- Discovery call: $150 – 2 hours
- Competitor research/materials review: $500 – 4 hours
- Keyword research*: $500 – 3 hours
- Website page rate: $150 – 2 hours per page (9 pages x 2 hours = 18 hours)
(*Keyword research: Keep in mind that keyword research is relative. It will take much more work for larger sites and for businesses that have aggressive conversion goals. I optimize all websites I work on, but I do plenty of sites where clients aren’t expecting a ton of business from their sites. I also have clients who DO expect business from their sites.)
That comes to 31 hours if my math is correct.
That’s an hourly rate of $97/hour.
Some people reading this might be like . . .
- That feels low. I want to make more per hour.
- I love the idea, but I’m not sure I have the confidence to sell that. Am I worthy?
All of those reactions are normal.
Here’s the thing, guys. For some copywriters, the above quote is low. For others, it might be right on target. And, of course, different writers will spend different amounts of time on the tasks.
And the really smart writers are going to be like, “Well, it depends on the business. For a small business that’s just opened its doors, like a local coffee shop, $3000 might be a bit rich for the copy for their new site. For a local, but established accounting firm that brings in one million in revenue, $3000 for copy for its new site might be in the ballpark.”
Just as I advise new writers on the importance of knowing your client’s audience before you write . . . you need to know YOUR audience before you quote. Some businesses will have higher tolerances for bigger quotes.
You also need to consider where YOU are in your copywriting journey. If you’re just starting out, and you really need business, you might go with a project quote you feel more confident about and build from there.
I DON’T think you should work for free (with rare exceptions), and I do think you should be paid “well.” But “well” is subjective. And everyone has to start somewhere.
So let’s pretend you’re giving a quote to the owner of a local coffee shop that just opened. Maybe you recognize her budget is tight. And you also recognize she doesn’t need the same level of copywriting services that go into a big project for a bigger brand. For example, you can likely skip the competitor research in this case. (Or simply do a very quick drive-by in Google. What other coffee shops are in a five-mile radius?)
You can likely skip in-depth keyword analysis since the coffee shop owner’s site needs to be optimized for local search, which usually includes some form of “coffee shop near me” and “coffee shop + town/city.” You can glean this info quickly.
The coffee shop might not need a 10-page site. Maybe a five-page site will work for now. (Along with an optimized Google Business Profile.)
And because the home page doesn’t need to work as hard as a home page for a brand where conversions are more important, you might go with the same per-page rate for the home page.
If the original quote above for a 10-page site for a new local coffee shop didn’t feel right, does this one feel better?
- Discovery call: $150
- Per-page rate: $150 (for five pages, that comes to $750)
Does that feel doable to you?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Some folks reading this might think, “Nope. I’m going to pursue work where I can bill the true value.” Other writers might say, “This is low, but it’s my first paid gig. I’ll get a good piece for my portfolio. And there might be an opportunity for future work if the coffee shop does well.”
Both reactions are fair.
I wish I could tell you there’s a formula for how much to charge for copywriting a website. But all I can give you is guidance.
Even organizations like American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI), which puts out this handy guide yearly on copywriting rates (definitely check it out, starting on page 36) . . . even AWAI gives ranges.
And another thing you need to keep in mind is the big picture in terms of charging for copywriting services. This fellow copywriter has a good video on how to think about charging for your copywriting services from that all-important 30,000-foot view.
Here’s my guidance on how much to charge for copywriting a website:
- Don’t do hourly rates.
- Give project quotes.
- Think of all the pieces that you’ll need to do, depending on the client.
- Apply money numbers to each piece.
- Figure out your ideal per-page rate (beyond the home page, which I recommend dealing with separately).
- Assign an approximate number of hours it will take you to complete each task.
- Add up everything and ask yourself how you feel about the quote and the hourly rate.
Note: When you give the quote to the prospect, you won’t break down the money numbers. Just give one number (the grand total for the project) and simply list all the tasks that number includes.
For your pricing “terms,” I recommend:
- Getting a deposit that’s 1/3 of the project quote.
- Having the balance due 30 days after you deliver the FIRST draft. Don’t make it contingent on the final draft. And definitely don’t make final payment contingent on the website going live. (I’ve written sites that have never gone live . . . or that have taken nearly two years to go live.)
You’ll learn from the first couple of copywriting projects you do. You’ll make mistakes and misses in your quotes, and that’s OK. You need to start somewhere.
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