Is being paid per word a good idea as a copywriter?
Being paid per word is one of the ways for copywriters to charge clients. But is it a good idea? What are the pros and cons?
Here are my thoughts and experience as a copywriter when it comes to being paid per word. I’ve been a freelance copywriter for several years and helped many companies with digital content. I believe the right payment solution benefits both the client and the copywriter.
By Stefan Nordström
- Freelancing digital marketing consultant
- 8 years of in-house and freelance experience
- Expertise: SEO, copywriting, newsletters, conversion optimization, digital strategy
- LinkedIn | Mail | Instagram
How can you charge clients as a copywriter?
My experience is that many potential clients suggest paying per word. But it’s definitely not the only way to do it, and your income from the work can depend on which method you choose.
Some other common methods are:
- Price per article(s) or project
- Interval pricing (max price and lowest price)
- Per hour
- Subscription pricing (e.g. set price per month)
Quality vs. quantity? The big issue with getting paid per word
The major problem with getting paid per word is that the client pays you for quantity, not quality. It defines the delivery in terms of how many words, not what they’re supposed to achieve. And to me, that’s not really a brief that will give you quality or success.
When you pay for quantity, especially cheap quantity, you usually get just what you ordered. That’s why it’s important to think it over, both in terms of payment model and choice of copywriter. But in some cases, quantity can work well; one example is proofreading.
My experiences being paid per word and other methods
Personally, I always try to steer clear of being paid per word. If words come up, I prefer agreeing on a price for a certain delivery or project. Amount of words can certainly be a part of the brief, though, but it’s good if it’s flexible both ways.
Early on in my freelancing career, many of my jobs were per word. As I realized how freelancing worked and improved my craft, getting paid per project, article or hour became more and more common.
My favorite is being paid per hour, or generous article/project pricing. When I get that opportunity to work with less pressure, I have the time to do the research and be as creative and communicative as I can. It’s far beyond a delivery of a certain amount of words – it’s a delivery of communicative content.
I doubt I’ll ever accept a job where I get paid per word again. Most likely not. And it’s not only about making money and delivering quality copy. The pressure and lack of quality focus in being paid per word creates anxiety and a less desirable work environment. I simply want a model that gives me the opportunity to deliver to the best of my ability.
If you’re being paid per word, what should you think of?
Being paid per word implies that you’re paid for writing the words, and that’s it. And that is far from the truth of what copywriting is all about. High-quality writing requires research, analysis, proofreading and many other processes. Not to mention a creative spark and search engine optimization skills.
My recommendation is that you charge more than you first thought of, simply because the work is likely to take more time. When you keep putting time into a per word-job, the job’s value quickly decreases. But when you suggest a higher price to per word-clients, they often decline and find a different copywriter. It’s a sign that they are not quality-focused, and then maybe you as a quality copywriter shouldn’t work with them either?
Are you still interested in the client? Well, freelancing is an open book. Try suggesting a different payment model and why it will be beneficial for both sides. The customer might just think that per word is the way to go, not why. If you explain that a quality-focused model will make it better for both of you, they might just agree.
What can you as a client get out of this? No more paid per word?
What if we turn things around to the client’s point of view? Well, as I said, I firmly believe a more quality-focused payment model will benefit client’s too. Give it an extra thought before you start talking to copywriters, and you might agree.
Doesn’t it become more expensive, though? It certainly could, but there are better ways to get a good copywriting price than resorting to paying per word. If you’re looking for a long-term copywriter och digital marketer, make that clear and make a long-term/larger deal. In those cases, I’m usually willing to give a better price, because it’s great to have clients who want to keep working together in the long run.
Also, try to prospect copywriters as early as possible. Many of us are very busy (especially the good ones), and short deadlines mean busier schedules and higher prices.
Do you need a copywriter? Or maybe you are one looking to connect?
Are you on the hunt for a copywriter, price per word or not? Then you’re in the right place. Or maybe you’re an aspiring copywriter looking to connect with a colleague? Either way, connect with me by adding me on LinkedIn or over e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.