I was shopping for a new car recently. I spotted the perfect one – in Word Hen green too!  Unfortunately, the £1.7 million price was a bit beyond me.

The worth of a copywriter compared to this green Aston Martin

“That’s a lot of money.” I said to the dealer.  “It’s more than I can justify spending really. I mean, it’s just a car – is it worth it? I can buy cars for much, much less than that.”

He nodded apologetically, and looked embarassed.  “I know it sounds a lot.” he said.  “Maybe I can bring it down a bit.  What is your budget?”

“Under ten thousand.” was my reply.

He blinked, then came back with:

“Tell you what, if you deal with most of the paperwork yourself, and leave me a positive review on LinkedIn when we’re finished, then I can come down to ten thousand.”

This never happened (sigh).

But, I’ve done similar to secure a contract.  So have many, many other copywriters.  It can be hard to get those early gigs, but listen to Seth Godin: “. . . one sure route to becoming an unhappy freelancer is charging just enough and hoping that the low price will keep you busy all the time.”

Why apologise for charging a realistic price?

If I want a limited edition Aston Martin, then there is only a slight amount of price wiggle room, up there in the millions.  Aston Martin don’t feel embarrassed by the price they ask, nor do they feel sorry that I cannot afford it or feel under pressure to help me get the car on my terms.

So, why do some clients make us feel this way? Why do self-belief and realistic pricing cripple most of us in the early years?

  • Do you have Imposter Syndrome – where you don’t really value your skills and feel amazed that others might?
  • Do prospects understand what you do – or do they see you as a glorified school teacher with a red pen?
  • Are you taking a hit now in the hope of scoring big later? But you’re getting a name for being cheap.
  • Are you desperate for work?  Hide it! Nothing reeks like desperation.

The worth of a professional. Red Adair talking about expense of amateurs

 What are you selling?

The best clients recognise how important it is to hire a professional to deal with their business communication.  But, there are many who think that writing involves bashing away at a keyboard and paying attention to the spell checker. That type of client needs educating, or avoiding!

If they want to pay peanuts, then there are plenty of places to go for copywriting monkeys.  And they’ll get what they pay for.

Negotiate, but don’t devalue yourself – or me!

We all do special rates for long term clients, or agree to staged payments, and other ways to be friendly and flexible, but never, never devalue your worth. It’s not just yourself that you are cheating, you are also dragging the price down for all copywriters.

What is the value to the client?

If the client can’t afford you – that’s not your problem.

Writing skills are not something we’re all born with. We professionals have spent years learning how to make words sparkle, and we spend hours massaging and polishing every phrase until it’s perfect. The client pays us just once – and benefits again and again from our hard work.  Approach each quote by looking at what the value will be to the client.

The 2017 daily rate for copywriters ranges from £100 to £1800.  I know copywriters who are not charging anything close to £100 a day.  (I am not one of them!)  If you undervalue yourself, then why should anyone else think you’re worth more?

Stick to your guns and ask for what you’re worth.

It’s hard – really hard – to turn down a job for the first time.  Bite the bullet and do it if they’re taking the mick with how much you’ll earn.  Believe me, something else will come along – sometimes that very client will slink back with a better offer – and you’ll retain your self respect.

You’re running a business.  Get businesslike.



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