Hello, my name is Jane and I’m a Freelance Copywriter (amongst other things); I write and people pay me. I use that money to go to shops and buy things like food and clothes, and sometimes bottles of gin. I also lavish my meagre funds on heating, electricity, water and the endless things school asks me for. I work hard each and every day to put food on the table. I pay my taxes (hello Starbucks, are you listening?) and my National Insurance and because I work for myself and don’t have access to a stationery cupboard, I have to buy my own paper-clips too. In short, my life isn’t given to me for free, nor will Mr Supermarket do me a deal for cash.
In my line of work I frequently get offered “amazing” opportunities to work for free or for buttons (quite literally) to apparently “help raise my profile”. It’s exciting to be asked to write for a magazine and to see your name in print, it’s a great feeling, but do you know what’s a better feeling? Being PAID to write and then seeing your name in print. I understand there is a whole chicken/egg scenario here, but I’ve never written for a publication for free in my life and I often see my name in print. If you don’t value your work, the words you sweat over, the research you have done, then no one else will.
Everyone has to start somewhere you say. I agree. But if you write for free now, you can’t turn round in six months and say “now I’m a proper published writer you have to pay me now”, because they won’t. They’ll just move on and find someone else who will write for free, because we’ve all been new and we’ve all been tempted. Not only are you devaluing yourself and your product, you’re making it harder for other writers (including you) to make a living.
But what if they want to pay you? Fabulous news, but what do they want to pay you? What’s your rate? You have two options, a notional hourly rate (I reckon that’ll take me two hours so if I work for £10 and hour that’s £20*) or a pay-per-word arrangement (for example, 800 words for £15*). I hear of writers (usually ones dabbling on the side of a “proper” job) who agree to ridiculous things, like 2000 words for £15. I saw one today which was 750 words for £8. If you’re working and writing for that amount of money, you’re pretty much giving it away for free. Your hourly rate probably isn’t even half that of the minimum wage.
It’s hard to know what to charge when people ask you to write for them. I’m as guilty as the next person for undervaluing my work, but I will charge the going rate based on my notional hourly rate. The best advice I can give is make friends with other copywriters and bounce ideas off them. If you have a gang of copywriters (I’m going to call a group of copywriters a scribble, a scribble of copywriters) then you’ll soon find they pass work onto each other, have each others back, even blacklist really shoddy clients; but it’s good to have “colleagues” in the same boat as you.
If you’ve got what it takes, you can and will earn a good living from being a Freelance Copywriter, it can be a lot of hard work, but if you devalue yourself, give your hard work away for free, then why would people pay you well, let alone pay you at all? Know your own worth and respect yourself enough to be paid for what you do. That’s what any other profession and professional demands. Don’t devalue your worth.
*Not my rate, please contact me if you wish to hire me and we can discuss pounds, shillings and pence.