Is your Copywriter Overcharging You?

By: Allen Taylor

Copywriters can come up with some strange payment terms. Some of them are just flat ripping off their customers.

I know this because I have recently been interviewing copywriters to handle some of my overflow. It's typical in the freelance industry. A freelancer gets so busy that he can't handle all of the work he has coming in so he hires a younger, less experienced writer to do some of the work while maintaining an editorial stance to ensure quality.

Other creative artists - graphic designers, web developers, interior decorators, architects - operate on the same principle.

I needed bloggers. One young writer had very strong writing skills and quoted me a price that is considered the market price for writing blog posts. But she wanted to charge me a full 50% more for posting them in addition to just writing them.

That's interesting, I thought. It doesn't take any more time or energy to post a blog entry than it does to write one if you write them in the blog management software itself. Of course, that is a requirement for all bloggers who work for me. I asked the young writer about her extra fee. She ignored the question and I haven't heard from her since.

When it comes to writing fees, you should ask the writer up front what services are offered for that fee. Here are a few other tips to consider on writing fees:

1) Get it in writing - don't accept verbal offers; get everything in writing.

2) If there are "add ons," be clear about what they are. Some add ons are reasonable while others are frivolous. A writer should not charge extra for items that would normally be included in the service. For instance, rewrites. It is customary to provide one free rewrite as this gives the client a chance to spot anything he or she doesn't like and ask for a revision. Beyond that, extensive editing may require additional time commitment for the writer and compensation for that extra time is reasonable.

3) Ask if the writer charges by the hour, the word or page, or the job. Know how the benchmark is set so that if extra work is necessary to get the product you want then there is no dispute as to how the extra pricing is handled. I recently had a client ask about how I arrived at the extra fee for an e-book I wrote. I was able to explain that the fee was based on a per page fee with a particular font, size and spacing and that we had gone over the original word count for the manuscript she wanted. Based on an average word count per page, I was able to show that the extra fee was justified and the client felt it was fair. You have to know the benchmark.

4) Don't expect a miracle. Even the best writer in the world can accomplish only what you tell him you want. In other words, if you don't make your expectations known up front then don't be surprised if the writer doesn't meet them. Telling a writer "I want a 25 page book on wind surfing" and not giving any more details will get you a 25 page book on wind surfing that might very well leave out some crucial points. If you know what points you want made before the writing starts, you'll have to state what they are. Writers aren't mind readers. If we were, we'd charge for reading minds.

5) Know in advance what formats the writer uses and whether those formats are compatible with your own system. If they are not, ask the writer if he or she will convert for you and if there is a fee. Most writers will give you a copy of your document in whatever format you ask them to and there shouldn't be a charge. An exception might be when your format is a rare format or special format that requires additional expense or time commitment for the writer.

Creative services like writing and graphic design are highly subjective in many ways. There are principles that govern the methods creative artists use but there is a lot of variation in style. If you find a writer whose style you don't like, you should not expect that writer to change. You'd better find yourself another writer. Otherwise, you're in for a huge disappointment and you're not being fair to the writer or to yourself.

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