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Why You Should Never Ask A Freelance Copywriter “What’s Your Day Rate?”

If a client enquiry is mainly concerned with asking “What’s your day rate?”, there’s a skyscrapingly-high chance that I’ll politely say I’m booked up and unavailable to help. 

So, apologies, but that’s not the sort of client I want to work with. Here’s why …

Cartoon of person asking about price differences on identical computers illustrating blog about not asking a copywriter What's your day rate?

No two briefs are the same
Every brief is different. Every client is unique. An email for one client may take not very much time at all yet ages for another.

It’s important first to discuss the exact scope of the project and take a number of factors into account in order to give an estimate. Can the client provide a brief (if so, how thorough is it – defining a USP isn’t always easy, even for seasoned marketers)? How many rounds of revisions might there be (also worth knowing how many people on the client team need to voice an opinion)? Is the potential client knowledgeable about their brand and marketing it or do they need a lot of hand-holding? And how urgent is the requirement (I charge 50% extra for last-minute briefs that involve working at weekends)?

You can’t compare apples with apples
It’s not just the variables that affect what a freelance copywriter may charge: it also depends on their experience and expertise. How can a client really see the true value of a copywriter’s worth based on a day rate alone? A hugely experienced freelance copywriter may charge twice the price of someone junior yet take a quarter of the time to deliver the goods. Unless a client has taken the time to look at the copywriter’s website and checked out their list of clients and work, or had an initial call to see what they’re like professionally, then how can that client make a considered decision as to who to choose?

Do clients really want to give a copywriter carte blanche?
A client who chooses a copywriter based purely on day rate may as well ask a black cab driver to take them around London until they decide where to get out.

If they’re unhappy with the first draft, the writer may say they need more time for research or crafting: you, client, may as well hand them a blank cheque.

Being asked how much is charged by the word is another no-no. Only journos and editorial writers work that way. A copywriter’s task is often to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. After all, a strapline with just a couple of words may take as long to come up with as a 500-word landing page.

I always ask clients what they’ve put aside for a copywriter on the project within their marketing spend – it’s rare to get an answer and yet surprisingly common to be told after quoting that the estimate is beyond budget …

How I prefer to charge
My ideal approach is to arrange a call for an initial understanding of exactly what’s required and what’s involved. I may then give an idea of, for example, what the cost of writing a six-page website might start from. If the client is happy to continue knowing more, I’ll put together a proposal with an estimate. And if they’re happy to go ahead,  I then need to gain a thorough understanding of their brand, target audience, challenges, etc., so will ask them to fill in my creative briefing template.

The green light to start can only happen after I’ve undertaken a copy style exercise with a sample paragraph. This gives the client a chance to see what I’m like to work with: it’s a no-obligation exercise and only chargeable if they wish to continue. Not all copywriters will offer this, but I feel it’s a fair and sensible way to begin a good working relationship.

I charge by the project, which includes one or two sets of light revisions, consultancy advice and time in discussion by phone and email. I find it a better way to reflect the time and effort required, my experience, and the value I offer. It also gives my client a strong idea of the final cost for budgeting.

The most important thing is to do a great job and deliver on brief and on time – whether that takes an hour or a day. Clients should never pay for a freelance copywriter’s time but for their expertise  – and if that sounds expensive, then head over to Does An Experienced Freelance Copywriter Mean An Expensive Freelance Copywriter?


Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter who’s happy to work with businesses of all sizes provided they have a business-like budget.

E:  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766

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