Charging per word doesn’t add up

October 19, 2021 § 2 Comments

I still have copywriting enquiries asking me how much I charge per word. That’s a bit like asking a builder how much they charge per brick!

The fact is you’re not actually paying for a number of words, you’re paying for a solution. Just like you want your builder to solve a problem, never mind how many bricks it takes.

Wordcount is one element I take into consideration when I quote for a job – but only one. There are many factors a copywriter needs to bear in mind when they price up a job and time is a big one. Many people imagine that proofreading a 1,000-word ebook would be cheaper than proofreading a 10,000-word ebook. But it’s not necessarily the case that the smaller book is going to take less time. I’ve worked on some shockingly-written ebooks which haven’t needed proofreading so much as rewriting. It’s not the number of words from the client that’s the issue but the quality of the client’s writing in that example.

When you hire a copywriter you don’t just want some words written, you want the right words written – words that are going to make an impact with the audience you want to reach. That takes time.

Even while I’m writing this blog, I’m not thinking about writing around 500 words. I’m thinking about how to persuade those that think copywriting is just about the number of words you write that it’s actually much more than that.

Copywriting is also about proofing, checking, rewriting, jiggling text around for the best sentence flow until you, the WRITER, knows that you, the READER, would be persuaded and motivated by the words you’ve written. That’s the content test I use: what difference would the words I’ve just written make to me? And planning that sort of writing takes time.

You wouldn’t dream of contacting a solicitor and suggesting that you don’t want to pay because you’ve only got a quick query. (And if you did you wouldn’t get very far.) But somehow recognising copywriting as a professional service is a step too far for some people.

Getting your message over in nine words and not 90 is a tough discipline. It’s time-consuming.

If you have any doubt about that, try this exercise: Finish the following sentence so you have just nine words in total: “We’re different because…… ”

Let me know in the comment box what you came up with.

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§ 2 Responses to Charging per word doesn’t add up

  • John Amy says:

    Totally agree with you here. I produce book covers and format books. People expect a price per word for formatting. Some books can be straightforward with just a couple of chapters, others have lots of extra styling such as quotes, bullet points, pictures, sub headings, footnotes etc. All require extra time to sort. Then, of course, there are the mistakes the client may have made such as extra unnecessary spaces.

    The nine words is a problem as I’m on my own and not a ‘we’. I’m different because I’ve had different experiences to others.

    • Funnily enough, I’ve just been reading a blog which talks about ebooks and how an author can cut costs by doing their own proofreading and formatting.
      However the blog concludes that going down that route will almost certainly make the book look amateurish (partly down to some of the issues you raise) and result in fewer sales. Hmmm…so by cutting costs the author will probably lose business. Madness!

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