Twitter has been all aflutter this weekend, with a brand new “copywriting agency” following all and sundry. They’ve been promising the untold riches of £0.02 per word and have met with responses ranging from the amusing to the incredulous.
@SarahCopywriter £0.04 per word! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, (breath) ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! F**k me, the last of the big spenders!
But does the problem lie with the sum being offered, or the way that it’s being offered? When you’re hiring a copywriter, should you be paying them by the word?
I say no.
Why You Shouldn’t Pay Copywriters by the Word
If you want my services, or those of any good copywriter, then you’re best off forgetting the notion of paying per word. Why?
Because it’s not the best way to source good copy.
What Exactly Are You Paying For?
The main misconception you have when you’re hiring a copywriter is that all they do is write words. You’re wrong. If all we did was sit at a keyboard and start typing, there’s no way we’d produce coherent and convincing copy. We need to research your industry. Think about your target audience. Before our pens get within a mile of our paper, we need a clear idea in our heads about how we’re going to approach your copy.
You want us to skip that bit? You want us to dive in headlong without stopping to think?
Or do you want well thought out, well planned and well put together copy that will bring you business?
Do You Want Verbosity or Clarity?
“When I stop and think about it, the conclusion is reached in my mind that perhaps it is not always the longest and most wordy (if wordy is indeed a word) copy which is the most convincing to clients and prospective customers. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that it is the copy of a shorter and concise nature that really draws, holds and keeps the attention of the reader. This, I’d imagine, makes the notion of paying per word counterintuitive.”
“Concise copy keeps clients focused. Long copy can bore them. You want convincing copy, so don’t reward rambling.”
Do you honestly think that the first piece is worth more to your company? Do you think it’s going to attract more business?
Or do you want to reward compelling copy, regardless of how many words it took to construct it?
Do You Want to Come Across as a Cheapskate?
Numbers are funny things. As soon as a pound sign gets involved, we want to see the highest possible number.
But here’s the thing. I won’t sit there and do the maths to work out whether an offer is good or not. If you turn round and tell me that my time is worth a fraction of a penny, I won’t read to the end of the proposal.
It’s that simple. If you’re not showing someone the highest possible figure they could be earning, you’re not going to convince them. You wouldn’t advertise a permanent contract as paying “0.0027p per second”, would you?
No, you’d advertise it as £20,000 per year and watch the applicants roll in.
So How Should You Pay a Copywriter?
By now you should’ve realised that paying by the word isn’t the best way to attract a talented and committed copywriter. So you’ll be wondering what to offer. Well the easiest way is to ask your copywriter what they’re expecting. Do they charge by the hour? By the piece? You wouldn’t walk into a garage and tell a mechanic you’d pay him by the number of bolts he tightens – you’d ask him for a quote to do the work you want.
Keep your original figure in mind, compare it to the copywriter’s charges and see if you can reach an agreement. Then sit back, wait for your first draft, and congratulate yourself on money well spent.
And if you visit the chippy on the way home, take a look at their prices. I bet they won’t be charging you per chip.