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Why Do Copywriters Cost So Much?

Kierstin has been writing both poetry and print/web copy for the last decade. Only one of those pursuits earns money.

There's a reason why successful brands and businesses hire copywriters to compose the text on their websites, ads, social media posts and product descriptions.

There's a reason why successful brands and businesses hire copywriters to compose the text on their websites, ads, social media posts and product descriptions.

When I was eight years old, I began a complicated ruse in which I basically catfished my little brother by sending him fake mail from an imaginary pen pal named "Mark." It was the 90s, I was bored, and kids do strange things . . . what can I say? And for a hot minute, he actually believed he had met a kid named Mark because the writing was just that good.

Why am I telling you this weird story? To confirm that I've been a writer my entire life. What I have not been my entire life, however, is a copywriter. After a few years of poetry classes, writing creative fiction, and laughing at my own Tweets, I realized that writing, in the artistic sense, wouldn't pay the bills—and I have many.

So, through a lot of trial, error, and community college classes, I learned the ins and outs of SEO, how to create content for cold hard cash, and how to do it all effectively. This is how I established myself as a copywriter. These days, I'm often contacted by potential clients who, in the end, don't really understand what a copywriter is, and that's understandable since copywriters do a lot!

So, What Is a Copywriter and What Do They Do?

Copywriters are people who write things—plain and simple. Beyond that, I'd say we make the everyday monotony of written communication feel more magical and worthwhile.

A professional copywriter likely wrote . . .

  • the mouthwatering menu descriptions at your favorite gastropub. Slow-simmered cheddar ale soup served piping hot with a mini mountain of sriracha-spiced croutons and topped with minced garden fresh chives? I'll take ten!
  • those extremely tempting Hearth & Hand by Magnolia product listings on the Target app that somehow convince you that yeah, yes, for sure this $60 faux boxwood wreath is gonna change my entire vibe for the better. Get behind thee, Satan.
  • the hilarious dialogue in that Burger King commercial that just played before your favorite podcast episode. It slaps, man!
  • that terrifying newsletter from your local hospital system that dropped in your inbox this morning to remind you that if you step outside today you risk imminent danger and almost certain death. Yikes!
  • the very comforting/professional profile of the divorce attorney you're scoping out on their website. So. Many. Universities.
  • the less comforting but still intriguing blog post about whether or not Zac Efron has had plastic surgery (he has) that you skimmed on your lunch break.

So, you see, copy is everywhere, and at this point, you're probably able to pinpoint copy that has sparked strong emotion for you. What you don't notice is bad copy.

Bad copy makes you feel nothing. You don't remember reading it, you can't recall what information it relayed to you, and most importantly, you're not going to seek out wherever you read/heard that copy because you've already forgotten about it. It had no effect on you because it was ineffective copy written by an ineffective copywriter.

And this, dear reader, is exactly why copywriters cost so much money. Copywriting isn't just creating a description or a little poem (no dig there, I write poetry too—it's the ultimate form of communication between a business/professional and their customer/client.

In this article, I give you the lowdown on why we cost so much and why that cost is worth it to you. The six main reasons are listed below, and each reason is discussed in detail in the sections that follow.

In a Nutshell, This Is Why Copywriters Are So Expensive

  1. Writing is hard work.
  2. Copywriters wear a ton of hats.
  3. Not everyone can write well.
  4. Clients don't know what they're looking for.
  5. Copywriters with SEO experience and other niche skills cost more.
  6. Copywriting involves doinga lot of research.
Experience isn't a sufficient form of payment for copywriters.

Experience isn't a sufficient form of payment for copywriters.

1. Writing Is Hard Work

I have enjoyed every single client I've ever worked with, that's a fact, but I haven't always enjoyed the project. We don't have to love the work we do to do it well and any good copywriter is ready to put in the time and energy to deliver fantastic copy. But just because we're writers doesn't mean writing always comes easy to us. Just like any other job writing is work to us.

Why That Costs More

Thinking about what you do for a living, what is the minimum dollar amount you could accept to do your job? Is it $80? $30? How about experience—could I pay you in experience, good memories, and sharing your Twitter handle on my Instagram instead?

Didn't think so. Like other professionals, our job is a lot of work and we expect to be compensated accordingly.

Why It's Worth It

For all of the rest of the reasons on this list like . . .

Good copywriters look for potential hang-ups in your campaign copy to ensure you don't send the wrong message.

Good copywriters look for potential hang-ups in your campaign copy to ensure you don't send the wrong message.

2. Copywriters Wear a Ton of Hats

They're your all-in-one spellchecker, personal grammar police, marketing guru and publicist.

Why That Costs More

Copywriters are doing everything from making sure potential clients understand how your product or service will change their life for the better to making sure you don't end up flubbing up and paying the consequences of (however inadvertently) communicating something offensive or controversial.

Why It's Worth It

Copy that's littered with misspellings, errors and even those aforementioned controversies turns away customers which means less money to you over time.

"Nothing makes a great product, website, or business look dumb AF quite like horrible writing."

3. Not Everyone Can Write Well, and Bad Writing Reflects Poorly on Your Brand

Last month I paid my dog groomer $140 to, essentially, give my high-maintenance dog a bath. This month, I paid her almost $200 to trim her fur and nails. Could I have done it myself? I mean, yeah, I could have but NO I'M KIDDING. I couldn't have. Because every single time I do she ends up looking this stupid:

Don't butcher your copy trying to do something you're not good at.

Don't butcher your copy trying to do something you're not good at.

I have no business grooming my dog. Likewise, you probably have no business writing copy. Not everyone is good at writing just like not everyone is good at grooming a sixty-pound golden doodle with a raging anxiety disorder. I've done work for so many talented, creative and driven people who just can't string words together very well. And that's okay. We can't do it all! I obviously can't. That being said, nothing makes a great product, website or business look dumb af quite like horrible writing.

Why It Costs You

We're all willing to exchange money to get our time back. When you spend money on a copywriter you're getting back time to focus your energy where it counts, whether that's inventing mouthwatering burgers for your aromatic hipster-magnet food truck or putting in hours at your plastic surgery practice.

Why It's Worth It

In the end, not paying a copywriter might cost you more if your less-than-stellar copy turns potential clients, customers and traffic away.

"In the end, not paying a copywriter might cost you more if your less-than-stellar copy turns potential clients, customers, and traffic away."

4. Clients Don't Know What They're Looking For

There have been times where potential clients have approached me wanting XYZ plus The Moon, The Stars and The Sun on a diamond encrusted silver platter.

When I give them a coordinating price they suddenly trim back the scope of their project a lot. But the reason they came to me wanting more than was realistic for their budget in the first place is because they didn't know what they were looking for. When they think copywriter they think "someone cheap trying to break into the writing biz!"

Why It Costs You

The truth is that most copywriters are so seasoned in writing that they've turned to copywriting because (after learning the hard way) they know that's where the money is.

Why It's Worth It

Copywriters can actually help you figure out what exactly you're looking for. You may think you just want a three sentence "About" page for your new podcast but a copywriter can bring your fun persona to the forefront through a detailed bio and persuade new listeners based on your personality alone.

Copywriters aren't people who've just decided "hey, I think I'll give writing a shot!" Most have arrived at this career path after gaining tons of prior writing, marketing and business experience.

Copywriters aren't people who've just decided "hey, I think I'll give writing a shot!" Most have arrived at this career path after gaining tons of prior writing, marketing and business experience.

5. Copywriters With SEO Experience Charge More Because They Make You More Money

The "how" of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) bringing more money to you works like this:

  1. Your website looks awesome but no one is actually going to it because Google doesn't see it (Google is picky and changes its mind about what it likes to see about once every quarter).
  2. Utilizing SEO techniques will help Google see your website.
  3. Once Google sees you so will the people using Google to find the kinds of products and services you offer.
  4. Those people are now more likely to invest their money on your product or service than they were when they couldn't find you. Ka-ching!

Of course, if you're hiring a copywriter to put together a mailing campaign that lands in people's actual physical mailboxes only, SEO isn't a big deal and you don't need a writer with this specific skill set. But if you're doing anything on the web it's detrimental to find someone who does.

Why It Costs You

Copywriters with this kind of experience are going to charge more because the implementation of SEO best practices takes extra forethought and research. More research = more work = higher price tag.

Why It's Worth It

The more traffic your site gets, the more money you're likely to make, it's pretty simple.

If you like getting money you'll have to spend a little more on a copywriter with SEO expertise.

If you like getting money you'll have to spend a little more on a copywriter with SEO expertise.

6. Copywriting Involves a Lot of Research

When it comes to my work I would say it's 70% research and efficient communication with the client and only 30% writing.

That's right, by the time I get to doing the actual writing I've already put in hours researching the topic, emailing, texting and calling the client to answer questions, ask questions and clarify ideas beforehand. Copywriters don't just write. We do a lot of research to make sure our copy is as engaging, concise and accurate as possible.

Why It Costs So Much

Time is money. What you may not realize once you get a finished project from a copywriter is that they've likely clocked two or three hours of behind-the-scenes work for every paragraph you receive.

Why It's Worth It

It gives you back your time to stick to your own goals. Research and writing is tedious work that takes away from what you're trying to build. Someone's gotta do it, but it doesn't need to be you.

"We do a lot of research to make sure our copy is as engaging, concise, and accurate as possible."

Copywriters go all-in.

Copywriters go all-in.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Copywriters

In this section, I answer a few of the most common questions I get about copywriting.

What Do Copywriters Charge?

This varies so much (I know, not the answer you're looking for) so there's no hard and fast answer. However, you can expect to spend several hundred to thousands of dollars on a copywriter. Here's the stuff that's going to factor into the price:

  • The less copy you ask for the less it will probably cost. If you just want one Instagram caption that will cost less than asking for an entire "About" page.
  • The more you need your copy to do, the more it's going to cost you. Do you need SEO for that Instagram caption? Do you need the caption to convert to sales? That's going to cost you more because it requires more research, time and expertise.
  • The more experience a copywriter has the more likely they are to charge you more. You're paying for how well they'll be able to accomplish your goals.

Why Don't Copywriters Charge by the Hour?

Writing isn't an hourly job. If I charged clients by the hour it would end up costing them more. Instead, experienced copywriters charge by the project scope. A lot of other professions often do this too, like contractors and doctors.

Is It Worth It to Hire a Copywriter?

I would say that in most instances, yes. If you want to both compete and build trust you should hire someone who knows how to do just that. Even other writers hire copywriters because they're attune to those blind spots we all have but need someone else to point out.

What Should I Look for in a Copywriter?

  • Someone who has excellent communication skills. When it comes down to it copy is communication.
  • A good writer. Being a good salesperson, an SEO master and/or having a funny Twitter feed is great! But if, above all else, your copywriter isn't a good writer then the copy won't work for you.
  • Someone who is patient. That is perhaps not the most professional thing to say but when you're working with a copywriter, the experience will be a lot better if they're patient. Most clients don't understand what a copywriter does so if your copywriter keeps their calm and practices patience during your project that's just a lot more pleasant.

What Questions Should I Ask a Copywriter Before Working With Them?

  • Do you have links or images to some of your prior work so I can get a feel for your style?
  • What is your kill fee?
  • What is your estimated turnaround on a project? (This is going to vary depending on the size and scope of your project).

Who Needs to Hire a Copywriter?

Any business owner, organization or professional who communicates through writing to customers/clients.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Kierstin Gunsberg

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