Set Your Fees With Confidence – and Get Paid What You're Worth

Today, we answer an important question that just about all of our students worry about when they're ready to start soliciting work: "How do I charge for my services?"

Unlike many professions, there are virtually no restrictions, standards, or guidelines for freelance-writing fees. For instance, fees for a direct-mail package can range from $1,500 to an amazing $25,000 and more!

To complicate things further, you can charge by the word, the hour, or the project.

We recommend that you charge by the project for most DM packages. However, initially at least, you'll want to use per-word or hourly rates to figure out for yourself how much that should be.

Your estimate should be based on a combination of the number of words you're going to write and the length of time it will take you to do the research and other prep work. Typically, you can figure on getting 50 cents to $1 per word.

The average page of DM text set in 12-point type, with subheads, is between 300 and 400 words. Based on that, you could get from $1,800 to $4,800 for a 12-page letter. While you're building your resume and reputation, calculate your fee at the lower end of the scale. You can increase your price with new clients as you gain more experience. (I'll tell you how to up your price with your existing clients in a minute.)

If you're doing editing, proofreading, consulting, or similar work that's not strictly copywriting, base your charge for that on an hourly rate. Also, if the package you're writing requires a great deal of research, interviews, product testing, or similar non-writing work, factor the hours spent on that into your fee.

Hourly rates generally run from $35 to $150 per hour. Again, when you're starting out, expect to charge on the lower end of the scale. You want to be fair to yourself … but you want to be fair to your client too. And when you don't have a lot of experience, it takes longer to get the job done.

The secret to your success as a DM copywriter will be to get repeat business – and satisfied clients will keep coming back to you if you write successful packages, are easy to work with, and give value with your work. But a repeat client can present a different kind of problem. Because once you've done work for him at the low end of the scale … how do you raise your rates when you're no longer a beginner?

The answer is to start out by setting your rates higher than you probably should – and then extending a "get-acquainted" offer to new clients. You might say something like, "My normal fee for this job is $2,000. But since you're a new client, I'll give you a 50% introductory discount." In this way, you can gracefully raise your fees with repeat clients when you feel it's appropriate.

Following is Bob Bly's fee schedule. Use it as a guideline … keeping in mind that Bob is a recognizable pro with 25 years of experience.

  • Print ad $250-$3,500
  • Sales letter $500-$5,000+
  • Direct-mail package, lead generation $750-$5,500
  • Direct-mail package, mail-order $1,000-$15,000
  • Magalog $4,000-$17,000
  • Self-mailer $500-$3,500
  • Postcard or double-postcard $300-$1,500
  • Brochure $150-$750/page
  • Catalog $150-$750/page
  • Newsletter $150-$750/page
  • Annual report $3,000-$15,000
  • Fundraising campaign brochure $1,000-$2,000
  • Feature story $0.50-$1/word
  • Press release (1-2 pages) $750-$850
  • Audiovisual/multimedia script $100-$250/minute
  • Website, home page $500-$1,500
  • Website, additional pages $250-$750/page
  • E-mail $1,000-$2,500
  • E-zine ad $250-$750
  • Hourly rate $35-$150
  • Business letter $30-$150/hr
  • Ghostwriting $25-$80/hr
  • Proofreading $16-$45/hr, average $26/hr
The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: April 26, 2004

1 Response to “Set Your Fees With Confidence – and Get Paid What You're Worth”

  1. Thanks. this is so helpful.

    liza ChizzySeptember 8, 2019 at 3:19 pm


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