How to Negotiate Rates with a Freelance Copywriting Expert
Lots of people who seek out my copywriting services are concerned about money. Rightfully so. I’m a small business owner too, and I know what it is to have that do-it-yourself mindset. (It’s exhausting!) But entrepreneurs like you and I often overlook the very reason to contract a job out in the first place. Which is: the terms of the contract and the amount of money spent are totally controlled by you!
The contracted project affords a win-win situation. This is not You vs. a Corporation; this is just an individual with a need, and a single service provider who can answer that need. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to negotiate a terrific deal on a job that’s done to their exact specifications?
My guess is, the biggest reason people shy away from contracted jobs is the same reason people don’t do a lot of things: Fear of the Unfamiliar. Allow me to familiarize you with the ways of the freelance writing world. Here’s how to curb copywriting costs while getting the most bang for your buck!
Thoroughly research prospective candidates for the job. Seek out four or five different writers, carefully examine their work and ask about their qualifications. Request samples from each writer. Check for accuracy, language mastery and appropriate use of tone. Compare rates. You may discover, to your delight, that there are some really talented “newish writers” who will offer you a much better deal than some old veterans out there!
Consider hiring someone who has never written for your field before. Yes, you heard right. So many people shy away from a writer who hasn’t done exactly what they’re looking for. Unless you’re in a really specialized area, there is no reason why a well-rounded writer can’t easily adopt to your tone and style of communication. Let’s say you were looking for someone to write a manual on "how to get through your first year as a corporate professional." You find a writer who’s written a slew of great articles and a smattering of e-books, but never an exact match of your project. Here are three reasons to hire her: 1. She’s an excellent writer, 2. It’s likely she’s worked for a corporation at one time or another, and 2. She’s probably willing to offer a reduced rate because she’d love to add this project to her repetoire.
Fill in all the details beforehand. Give the copywriter a project overview, some background information on your business, and examples of past projects or a competitor’s work that you’d like to emulate. Make sure you thoroughly describe the habits and attitudes of your target audience. Why do this? It’s the quickest way to help her understand what you need... and the quicker she grasps what you’d like to have her create, the faster the job will get done to your satisfaction. The faster the job gets done, the sooner you’re on your way to making big money with your advertising effort!
Expect to haggle. I'm astonished that so many people just turn away from a potentially great working relationship because they’re afraid to make their budgetary needs known. Here’s a little secret about independent contractors: we’re always going to try for the highest going rate we can get. Why? We expect YOU to haggle! Shopping for freelance services is a little like going to a peddler’s market. There’s no big scary corporation to call the shots and set the prices in stone. It’s just you and me playing Let’s Make a Deal. So don’t be intimidated by a freelancer’s “advertised rates.” You’re always welcome to come back with a counter-offer. That’s what we expect you to do!
If you’re not sure of a copywriter’s abilities, give him a few small jobs to start. This is one of the greatest advantages of hiring a contractor. You can test him out with a few projects, and if you like his style, hire him back to do more work. If you don’t care for the way he handles your projects, you’re free to seek help elsewhere. What are some small jobs you can offer as a trial-run? A press release, a company tagline, a corporate mission statement, a newspaper ad, some headlines for your website.
Offer your writer a weekly rate. A project here, a project there... boy, those hourly fees add up fast! If you know there’s a crunch coming up and you have a trusted writer in mind, contract the job out "by the week." Ask the writer if she’s willing to devote 40 hours a week to researching and writing marketing materials for your company. Define her expected responsibilities ahead of time, agree on a set fee for five consecutive days of work, and make sure she’s easily accessible by phone and email. Most freelancers are willing to accept a much lower rate of pay if they know they're guaranteed a steady gig. Get it in writing, and bam, you’ve hired your first temp and saved a ton of money in the process!
Hire someone to “clean up” your written materials. Don’t have the money to spend on a full-scale ad campaign? Do the work yourself, but have a seasoned writer critique it for you. Ask the copywriter what his proofreading rates are, and then send a few drafts his way for a quick revamp. You won't believe how much better your ads can look when you spend just a few dollars on an expert proofreader.
Ask the copywriter if she’ll give you a reduced rate for just one written draft. Lots of writers factor multiple draft revisions into their fees. But what if they knew going in that they only had to write one draft? The price would likely be considerably lower because of significantly less time spent on the work. When it comes to copy, do you like to “have it your way,” same as your Burger King? Then a single-draft copywriter might be the way to go. You’ll save a ton of money on copy revisions, and you can use what the writer creates and "make it your own."
Get a written estimation of the time it will take to complete a project. What’s your biggest fear about copywriting jobs that are charged by the hour? That the writer will spend hours longer than you expected on it, and as a result, charge you an arm and a leg. Eliminate that fear by asking for an estimated project time up-front. The more clarification, the better. Don’t just say, “I need 4 pages of website copy written” and expect her to know how long it will take. Instead, map out the work plan. Will she be responsible for research? Project outlines? Phone interviews? Multiple draft revisions? Knowing the process will help her figure out a fair price for the work. In the end, you’ll both feel more comfortable settling on a price.
If there ever was a doubt in your mind about hiring a freelance copywriter, hopefully this article will allay your fears! Contracting work out to a specialist is one of the best things you can do for your business and for your sanity. Negotiating with another sole proprietor is actually quite easy, and affords you the greatest control over project terms and spending. More often than not, other entrepreneurs are looking for the same things you are: intelligent, honest people willing to collaborate talent. So, what are you waiting for? Hire a writer who can help you grow your business!
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Dina Giolitto is a New-Jersey based Copywriting Consultant with nine years' industry experience. Her current focus is web content and web marketing for a multitude of products and services although the bulk of her experience lies in retail for big-name companies like Toys"R"Us.