The only thing anyone needs to know if they’re new to copywriting and not sure what to charge is this: “People will pay what someone is worth. It’s up to each individual to decide what they’re worth, then prove it.”
But what if you’re not sure what you’re worth? Here’s a way to figure it out based on needs rather than wants:
Decide how much you need to survive and how long you’re willing to work to get it, then divide what you need (the money) by the number of hours. This will give you an idea of your hourly rate (working it out for a week keeps it simple, eg. if you need $500 and are willing to work 20 hours per week to get it, then your hourly rate will be $25 [500 / 20]).
However, this will still not be enough because it doesn’t take into account hours not worked (ie. no client work available), holidays, or other contingencies like saving for a rainy day, illness, pension, tax, etc., but you will at least have a minimum figure to work with.
So how much should you charge a customer? Figure out how many words you write per hour (on average). You will need to factor in extra research time too if you’re writing on something you know little about.
Suppose you write 500 words an hour. Divide your hourly rate by the number of words and you’ll get your cost per word (eg. $25 / 500 words = 5 cents per word).
This leaves one question: “how do I prove I’m worth it?”. For that you need to find out what your prospect wants and how much they believe it’s worth to them.
If they’re after content (rather than sales copy), they are likely to value it less because content has no means of identifying a return on investment (ROI – see the PPS below), but if you can prove your content gets attention from search engines, and will bring in more traffic than their existing content, then you have an edge.
PS. If 5 cents per word strikes you as cheap, it is. Want more? Justify why you need more and it will help you with the confidence you need to charge it.
PPS. There’s a world of difference between content and sales copy. Sales copy always has a ROI attached to it, whereas content does not (and if it does, then it’s sales copy and not content – advertorials are a good example of sales copy masquerading as content).