How To Price Web Copy

The least sexy thing a client can say is, How much will this cost?

Pricing is painful. And it’s not an exact science.

I’ll send you a quote by tomorrow morning, you say, and thus begins the cycle: Googling, asking friends, anonymously posting on Quora, going on Facebook, posting on Twitter, back to Google…

And now it’s already tomorrow afternoon.

Asking Google how to price web copy is a pathetic endeavor that ends in laughter, tears, and tears of laughter.

There’s wonderful content on the Internet about how to write copy — there’s whole blogs dedicated to the subject. But, when it comes to pricing, we’re in a content desert. That’s why we put together a guide to web copy pricing; because it’s not easy, it’s not fun, and if you don’t do it right, you won’t ask for enough money and then you’ll be broke and hate yourself.

See, writing copy isn’t just writing copy. Copy is the vehicle by which your clients engage their users — so your clients have to believe in you, your knowledge of their product, and your ability to sell. Your clients also have to believe that there is a big difference between your work and the work they can get Upwork or eLance — and if they don’t know how to differentiate between the two, then it’s your job to teach them.

What we have here is a multi-step guide to what your copy process is going to look like, from pricing to completion, along with a tool that will give you an actual answer to the question that brought you here: How much should this cost?

The tool looks like this:

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You can skip straight ahead to the tool, but it will make much more sense if you read through the post first.

Let’s get pricing.

#1 Create a brief

Briefs aren’t just for designers. Before you start writing copy, you need to know what you’re writing for: Who you’re appealing to, what the tone of voice is, and most importantly, what the client expects of you.

Wait, what’s a brief? HubSpot can teach you about that.

What you’re going to be doing

You’re going to have to get reeeeeal deep with your client to figure out what they want their product to sound like, what/where there limitations are, and what they expect from you. This can be done in-person, via email, via Skype, or via questionnaire.

Basically, what you need to know is this:

  1. Where is the copy living, and who will be seeing it?
  2. What exactly is the product/service that this business is providing?
  3. What is the company’s history?
  4. What is the deadline for the copy to go live?
  5. Who’s the target audience?
  6. Who are your competitors?
  7. Are there any restrictions (e.g. PG-16 or NSFW)?
  8. How many revisions/concepts would the client want to see – One? Three? More? *
  9. How do they want the copy hosted? Google Doc? In the CMS? A spiral-bound notebook? 
  10. The hardest part: How much text do they expect?

*We recommend suggesting the number yourself — but take care to explicitly mention the price change associated with more revisions, additions, et al. Take control of your work!

Another tool for you guys! No way! We’ve created a basic questionnaire for you to use — just copy-and-paste, edit, and send out to your clients.

You don’t have to give us credit. Let your clients be impressed by your professionalism.

Once you have all of this information, put it into a brief and send it over to the client. Don’t start working until you have the client’s approval; if you’ve ever skipped this step and then had to rewrite everything because of a client misunderstanding, you’ll understand why.

How long will this take?

Factor 3-5 hours into your process. Whether it’s over email or in-person, putting together the questionnaire, reading the responses, and moving them into a brief takes time, and time is money.

#2 Research

Whether you’re writing for a brand-new business or freshening up something that already exists, it’s crucial to understand the landscape you’re writing for. Who’s the competition? What have previous versions of the product/website looked like?

What you’re going to be doing

Figure out who you’re writing for and what style your client wants to convey — but don’t assume your client has all the answers. After talking to your client about who their users are, read about their business online — not just their product, but their industry as well — and build an image of their users are. What do they look like? Where do they live?

For this to really work, you need competitors and references. Ask your client who in their industry they admire, and research successful brands/products in their arena to see who they are marketing to and what their work looks like. What’s working, and what doesn’t work?

During this stage, you’ll also create a user profile. When you close your eyes, who do you picture reading your copy? Come up with 1-4 sample people who are a part of your audience. What do they do in their spare time? Why does this product ‘speak’ to them? Get really into this — names, hometowns, the whole shabang.

Read: How To Create An Ideal Reader Profile by ByRegina

Pro Tip by Henneke Duistermaat

When describing your ideal reader, don’t just think about demographics like age, gender, income, education, and family circumstances. Do you know what he dreams of achieving? And what keeps her awake at 3am? Whenever you’re writing web copy, imagine that you’re writing for your ideal reader. Your writing will become more charming, more interesting, and more persuasive.

The goal of this research is to figure out your product’s unique selling point. Assuming that your client isn’t the first person on Planet Earth to introduce a product in this field, what will bring users to them? Once you know their unique value, you will have a much easier time selling it to their users.

Pro Tip by Kyra Kuik

Your web copy needs to carefully present your product, because if you try to sell your just your product, you’re going to be selling the product of your competitors too. You need to have a unique selling proposition (USP), something that differentiates you from your competitors

How long will this take?

Truth is, it will take as long as you let it take. Give yourself a minimum of 5 hours, but depending on the length of the project and how much text already exists, you might need more time. If this is your first project in this industry, or if the copy scale is not small (ie a product and a website), give yourself at least two full days.

#3 Write a style guide

Now that you know what the industry landscape is, who you’re writing for, and what the client wants your writing to sound like, you can write a style guide. Think of the style guide as the advanced brief — this is where you’re going to nitpick tone of voice, writing style (Chicago, ALA, etc), and language. Kapost has a great post on how to do this here.

What you’re going to be doing

Consider this your pre-first draft. The style guide will consist of sample copy based on your research and the client’s competition. You’re going to get really, really specific here, down to the Oxford comma.

Your tone of voice analysis will be based on your research. Now that you know who you’re appealing to, you can write in the style that best speaks to them.

Pro Tip by Michael Aagaard

Start by asking yourself, “Why would my potential customers choose to say, “Yes” to my offer?” Write down as many relevant answers to this question as possible and edit until you have a list of the top three to five reasons why your potential customers would say yes. This exercise will give you a clear idea of what you need to focus on when writing your copy.

How long will this take?

Give yourself 2-4 hours for this, and know that it gets quicker with time. As you get more familiar with the writing style that clients hire you for, you’ll be able to narrow down your style guide time to under an hour.

#4 Write the thing already!

You’re there! You’re in it! Now you get to start writing!

Look over your research, your brief, and your style guide one more time, and then start writing.

What you’re going to be doing


No, but seriously, you’re going to write, take a break, have a coffee, come back, tear up your first draft, and start again. If you nailed it on the first try, amazing! But you probably didn’t, so factor in times for small revisions, big revisions, and inevitable breaks.

Make sure that your style remains consistent throughout the process. Remember who your target audience is and what they want to be reading. If you find yourself divering into different approaches, write two versions of the copy and send them both to the client; options make everything better (and count towards your revisions).

Pro Tip by Christina Walker

All the epic content in the world is useless if it doesn’t help visitors become leads and customers. Learn to write powerful calls to action that guide prospects through the sales funnel. Storytelling is powerful. It draws readers in and engages them. And the honesty and transparency involved in storytelling is one of the top ways you can build your credibility and authority even in your web copywriting.

Pro Tip by Jessica Mehring

It’s your job to tap into the hierarchy of needs and get your reader to pay attention. Not in a sleezy and scuzzy way. (I hope that goes without saying.) But in a way that says, “I hear you and I’ve got the answer to your problem.”

Pro Tip by Demian Farnsworth

Artistic advertising allows you to create content marketing that’s not just practical and persuasive, but awe-inspiring and breathtaking.

How long will this take?

Probably less time than research, but more time than the style guide. Depends on how many revisions you and the client agreed upon — and how quickly you write.

#5 Present to your client

You’ve worked hard, you’ve invested a not-small amount of time, you’ve squeezed your brain cells for their best juice. Now is the time to go over all of your copy one more time for typos and stylistic errors and then send it out.

Now all you have to do is press ‘send’ and wait for feedback.

How long will this take?

Depends on your level of send-button-induced panic.

More Copywriting Resources

75 Resources For Writing Incredible Copy That Converts by Kissmetrics

10 Super Smart People Talk Copywriting For Conversion by Unbounce

10 Ways To Write Damn Good Copy by Copyblogger

6 Simple Steps To Writing Seductive Web Copy by Copyblogger

(To be real, it would serve you well to read everything ever published on Copyblogger whenever you have some free time. It’s the best.)

9 Simple Tips For Writing Persuasive Web Copy by Enchanted Marketing

What have we learned?

There’s no one-price-fits-all solution for copywriting pricing. There’s a ton of little steps and variables that make the pricing process dynamic (and complicated).

Remember that tool I mentioned ~1700 words ago?  Now that you understand the process of planning, writing, and editing copy, it will be a major help. Check it out:

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What’s next?

Pricing is complicated. We know. We feel it too. That’s why we have a 7-day free email course about it called Get What You’re Worth. Sign up here.

Thanks for sticking with us! That was a long one.

Shayna Hodkin

Shayna is the Head of Friendship at The nuSchool. Talk to her about veganism, ayurveda, dogs, and, duh, freelancing.

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