How much do I charge for email copywriting?
November 9, 2010 3:33 PM   Subscribe

FreelanceFilter: What to charge for freelance marketing communications writing?

I've been offered a freelance gig writing/rewriting the email communication templates for a company, but I'm not sure what a reasonable fee would be. Relevant details:

- The company has about 20-25 template emails that they want me to write/rewrite for them
- These would all be transactional emails, automatically triggered by user actions on the website
- About 15-18 of them already exist but are very bare-bones & boring. There is some research & idea-generation involved, but on the whole my job is to help the company convey their voice & brand identity, not to come up with new information itself
- 4 or 5 would be from scratch
- Timeframe is about 3 wks for the initial drafts, and final versions w/in 2 weeks after comments are returned to me
- I do anticipate some revisions, but not a huge amount (based on my interactions with the company so far & the way I've set up the approvals process)

I have standard rates for a lot of print editing & writing, and there are lots of suggested rates for website copy & press releases, but I would love your perspective on what to charge for this kind of job, where the majority of the work is a tone overhaul. Hourly? Flat fee? Per word (hopefully no)?

Thanks in advance, all!

PS--The organization is a nonprofit and I'd really like to do this job for portfolio-building, so it's pretty much a given that I'm going to come in on the low side-or-below whatever fee range is suggested, but I'd love to know what's standard!
posted by alleycat01 to Work & Money (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Probably a flat fee would be the most fair. It depends on how much experience you have, but try to think about how much money you are worth to them. For the flat fee, estimate how many hours of work you think is in front of you, and use your hourly rate to figure out the flat fee.
posted by elegance at 6:02 PM on November 9, 2010

Please for the love of all things holy make sure you have a SIGNED CONTRACT. This can be simple, you can even google for sample language.

I heartily recommend a flat fee with stipulations: they get X hours of your work (say, 20 hrs for a total of $2000). Any work done above that rate is charged at YourRate per hour.

Other things in my own contract, which I modify for each client:
- A statement asking for handoff via a single point of contact, who collects comments for review and vets them before sending. You do NOT want to be edited by committee, or at least you do not want to get involved in a round robin of comments/edits.
- An email statement if any major contract point is to be changed, added or reduced. This is to protect everyone from he said/she said stuff over the phone. If you can point to an email, you're good. If you say "I thought you said blah blah blah..." you're digging your grave.
- A statement that ensures I am paid in US Dollars -- i.e., not product, not free services, etc.
- I sometimes put in an "I don't work for jerks" clause -- in other words, if they or I feel the relationship isn't working, we can end the contract and I get paid for the time I've spent up to that point.
- I love stating that each party will do its own due diligence with time and materials. This helps me from getting no comments or edits back until, for example, 3am before a deadline. Use phrases like "timely edits" and so forth.
- on longer projects I state that I'll invoice them every 2 weeks for work completed.
- I expect payment in net 30 days from receipt of invoice.

Often my contract is more of a statement of work, so that I can label each stage, its deliverables and suggested time spent or dates of delivery, and generally help educate the client on what they'll get and what is expected of them. I do this very politely, showing them where they'll need to put in heavy work or where I'll need a substantial amount of time.

It is important that you do not work for free, even for non-profits. NPs will squeeze you like a turnip to get more than they asked for -- it's how most of them have to operate. But it's not good for your business, and if you're building your portfolio you can give them a reduced rate. Just don't beg anyone for work, do your absolute best, and in general behave like a person who wants the best for them as well as what's best for you.

Good luck!
posted by mdiskin at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

If I were in your shoes I'd charge an hourly rate and give your client an estimate range up front, i.e., "Given what I know now, and assuming a process that goes like *this*, I think it will take me between XX and XX hours at $X/hour." Personally, I don't like flat rate projects because I think they can set unrealistic expectations for the client, no matter how explicitly you lay out the terms.

Re: hourly rates, I charge the same regardless of medium or whether or not I'm writing/copywriting/editing/proofreading. No one's ever challenged me on that but maybe I've just been lucky. In San Francisco the going rate is $75-$100 per hour.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:20 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all.

I do have a standard contract I use for other types of freelance writing & editing, which I plan to modify. It has many of the features you discussed, mdiskin, but I appreciate your explicit list of points I should address. (I particularly love the due diligence clause and will be adding it to my boilerplate freelance agreement, actually.)

Hapax_legomenon, I think part of my problem is that different types of writing/editing net different hourly rates. For instance, I work now in trade book production (in NYC) with freelancers, and the rates we pay for copyediting & proofing are much lower than those you quoted. However ... the book industry is not known for its awesomely lucrative payouts, so there's that.

Anyway, thanks for the advice. I do agree that a flat fee with an hourly cap is probably best for this project.
posted by alleycat01 at 9:34 PM on November 9, 2010

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