The Lowdown on Copywriting Rate Sheets

Carol Tice

What Not to Do For Freelance CopywritingOne of my mentees recently asked me if she could see a copy of my rate sheet, as she had a small-business prospect and was wondering what to charge them.

I had to tell her that I don’t have a rate sheet. I know some copywriters do have a set list of charges they hand out to prospects.

I think that’s a big mistake. Why? Because every client is different.

Some clients are a dream to work for, love every word you write and never ask for edits. Some are so dysfunctional you can’t get rush emails returned when you’re on a project deadline, and then they edit your work by committee until it’s unrecognizable. One wants everything in a big rush, while the other will take it whenever you can fit it into your schedule.

Both these clients might want me to write 800-word articles, but would I want to price them the same? No way!

When people ask me to give them an off-the-cuff bid or to send a rate sheet, this is my response:

“I don’t have a set rate sheet, because every project is different. Once I learn more about your project, I will be able to give you an accurate rate quote for your job.”

What to do if a prospect requires a quote

If I’m answering a terse job ad that offered few project details but requires a price quote in response, I offer a big range that leaves me lots of wiggle room.

Example: “Recently, I’ve done work ranging from $50-$100 an hour, or $.30-$1 a word.” I include the lowest figure at which I could possibly imagine doing the work under the best circumstances.

This means if the client is looking to pay $10 an article, they will not call me. So set your range low enough that you won’t be sorry if they don’t call.

If the prospect is looking for a professional writer and has any understanding of professional rates, I’ve hopefully stayed in the running without committing myself to a set price for a project where I don’t really know the details.

When you’re landing your first small-business clients, you’ll find it tough to get a firm description of what they really want. That’s because they often don’t know themselves! They just know their business needs help communicating. That’s why – after having been burned by one client too many who said they wanted one thing but turned out to want something else entirely – I have taken to sending prospects a questionnaire.

Getting project specs in writing is a useful exercise for both sides. It helps clients describe what they want, and it gives you documentation you can use to raise your prices if the client asks for more work later. My questionnaire is always evolving as I learn more about parameters I want defined before I start a project.

Photo via Flickr user Edinburghcityofprint


  1. Inad Akitrak

    Thank you for a very clear and helpful post. I am definitely a violator of many of these rules. I often find myself conflicted when writing a blog post because I see myself writing more than people want to read, but I feel that I have to do the subject matter justice by thoroughly covering it. I feel that by following some of these rules I end up cutting out important aspects to the discussion. I guess you have to find a balance.

    • Carol Tice

      The answer to that dilemma, Inad, is multi-part blog posts! Like I’m doing right now with the two-parter on business blogging. Break a big topic into two or three blogs and do a series on the topic. Get in everything you think needs saying, while still making each post short and digestible.

  2. Ovel Inad

    Great tips to follow. Being professional and showing them there’s more to come I think are the most important. You need to give them a great article, that makes them want to come back. And then make sure you don’t disappoint.

  3. Rebecca

    This is great advice. I think you’re the only freelance writer I’ve met who doesn’t use a rate sheet. All of the other websites I visited show you how to calculate rates and provide examples of rate sheets. It makes sense that all projects won’t be the same so why would you charge the same?

  4. Rebecca

    I’m in the process of creating my questionnaire sheet. I’ve been burned too many times.

  5. Issac Maez

    Nice post. As the CEO of WV Writing Services I cruise the websearching for more useful info to put to use to better serve our customers. I love your post and will be back for more.

    • Carol Tice

      Think you spelled your site URL wrong there, Issac…but glad I could help! Feel free to subscribe — see the little RSS button on the upper right.

  6. Lan Tester 

    copywriting is my other job and it actually pays well just like my day job.~:

  7. Jenn

    Thank you so much. I’m so new to this business of writing for a living that I had no idea what to say when people ask how much I charge!!

    I live in Australia and have just discovered this website. Will your advice and techniques be helpful to us writers down unda?

    • Carol Tice

      You have companies there, right?

      Also, copywriting really is a global business. Your clients could be anywhere. And the need to negotiate and get something fair is everywhere, too.

Related Posts

A Look Inside Den 2x Success Stories

The Freelance Writers Den is the online community where freelance writers learn how to grow their income -- fast. Inside the community, there are two levels: The Freelance Writers Den is for freelancers who are just getting started, learning the basics, and giving...