Most freelance copywriting clients are absolute delights – and you can usually tell from their opening line.
Here are nine conversation starters/stoppers by clients that you may want to avoid or navigate your way around, with some tips on how I usually go about things.
1. How much do you charge for writing web copy?
How long is a piece of string? A professional freelance copywriter should have an idea of costs, but not a menu of one. Copywriters charge by the project and by the time involved – and that time depends on factors such as whether the site is brand new or has existing copy which needs tickling, whether you’ll provide the information required or the copywriter needs to undertake research etc, etc etc …
My starting point is to gain a thorough understanding of a brand, competitors, target audience, challenges, etc. (My proposal includes a link to my briefing template that asks clients to take a reasonably deep dive.) I then always undertake a copy style exercise in which I provide two or three options for a paragraph. This gives clients a choice of routes plus a chance to see what I’m like to work with: it’s a no-obligation exercise and only chargeable if the client decides to go ahead.
2. What’s your hourly rate?
It’s perfectly natural to tout around for quotes and want to judge on price alone but a client shouldn’t compare apples to apples when it comes to freelance copywriting.
I quote by the project – which includes two sets of revisions – as I find it a better way to reflect the time and effort required, my experience, and the value I offer. It also gives an idea of the final cost for budgeting.
One copywriter may quote half the hourly rate of another, but take twice as long. Just saying … 🙂
3. I’ve already spent a lot of my budget on web design …
There’s no point having a fabulous looking site if the wording is rubbish. Copy is really, really important. It pulls in visitors. It shows off what’s so unique/distinctive/amazing about a product or service. And it helps a site whizz up Google.
Good freelance copywriting services are worth paying for. Copy should never be left as an add-on or something that a client’s best mate could write if their web designer slurps up most of their pot of money.
4. I need copy for a website right away.
Is it because the client has been let down by a copywriter? Or because they’ve been offered a last minute slot at an exhibition? Or because they want to see something before they’re going on holiday? Or simply because they’re unorganised?
Ask the client for the reason. If the answer to the first two is ‘yes’, it’s perfectly acceptable to agree a rush charge fee or an additional cost for having to work evenings and weekends.
The holiday excuse is a sneaky one, let’s not beat about the bush, so try to persuade them that the results will be much better if you can have the time to craft while they’re away. And if the urgency is because they’ve simply left things late, there’s no way they’ll be able to sign off all the copy and the design and test the build in time anyway.
Nine times out of ten, waiting on client feedback is what delays a freelance copywriting project. So much so, that my terms now include these clauses:
- Should you for any reason fail to maintain communication with me for 21 days, I reserve the right to invoice for all work to date.
- Should any stage remain unfinished after 60 days, I reserve the right to invoice for all work to date, even if the stage then recommences.
The beauty of a website is that it’s an organic process. So if your client really, absolutely, without a doubt needs something quickly, consider a creatively written holding page rather than a dull-as-dishwater ‘Coming Soon’ while they get their ducks in a row. Such as these …
5. I need to see how the copy looks on the website before I can give feedback.
Ok, so things have been going swimmingly and then this line grinds you to a halt. The problem is that you’re now at the mercy of the web people’s timings too. I now add into my terms that I’ll submit invoices after each copy stage, regardless of whether or not the copy has been flowed into the site.
6. Thanks for the proposal you sent 3 months ago. Can you start now?
When I submit a proposal, I also state that availability is subject to receiving confirmation within a certain date (usually a week away).
It’s perfectly understandable that a client’s needs may be delayed due to budget changes or production hiccups, for instance. In the meantime, your availability may have been snapped up so you need to build in a get-out ticket. Having said that, there’s always wiggle room (usually caused by waiting for feedback on other projects – see point 4).
7. There’ll be a lot more work to come. Can we do a deal?
I’d never discount based on a promise whispier than candy floss. But what you can do is arrange costs on a sliding scale. That way you show commitment but are protected – and won’t lose out if you never hear from the bargain-hunting client again.
8. I’ll settle your invoice when back from holiday.
The project’s finished. The client’s happy. You send your invoice. And then … silence. If this promise smells like a delay tactic, head over to my blog The Secret To Getting Clients To Pay On Time (And What To Do If They Don’t).
It’s always best to arrange a down payment and request payment to be in stages. If you’re providing freelance copywriting for a company or agency, always ask for a contact in accounts before you start.
9. I need 50 blogs written.
That’s churning, not copywriting. Try a content mill or Chat GPT.
My best tip of all for a green light go-ahead? Have an actual conversation with your client, rather than a to-and-fro by email or WhatsApp, and discuss what’s mutually acceptable to you both.
Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter, who feels very lucky to be working with some very lovely clients who always know the right questions to ask. Before you disappear, you may like to check out a previous blog in a similar vein: ‘How Much Are Your Freelance Copywriting Rates?’ + 15 Other Copywriting Questions I’m Often Asked.
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