How to Compete with Low-Ball Writers Who Try to Steal Your Project By Working for Pennies

Someone else just offered to do the project for a quarter of the price you quoted the client …

What now?

Last week, I showed you how to effectively price projects. And afterward, AWAI Member Lydia Armetta sent me this message:

Do you have advice for dealing with low-ball writers out there? Specifically the $50/hour web writers I run up against from time-to-time.”

It’s bound to happen. At some point in your freelance career, regardless of your speciality, you will run up against a competitor who has less to offer clients than you, or is simply unable to write copy as well as you.

They’ll try to compete with you on price — since it’s really their only option.

So today, I want to make sure you know what to do when it happens to you.

As a marketer who knows the value of good copy, not to mention the value of my own time, I can’t imagine hiring a copywriter who tried to sell himself on cheap pricing.

If that’s a copywriter’s biggest selling point … no thank you, I’ll pass.

But, I’m sure that offer is tempting to some marketers … especially when they don’t believe in their product. They want to risk as little money as possible, and therefore, may skimp on the marketing expenses to set a low breakeven point.

In my opinion, that’s not the client you want to work with anyways. But I know that’s easy for me to say, sitting on this side of the desk.

So, to get some advice on how to handle this situation, I went straight to the “horses’ mouth,” and asked five copywriters I know have been successful playing this game.

You get what you pay for …

“What clients need to know is that ‘you get what you pay for’ is often true. A skilled copywriter can get more customers to open their wallet. They know the value of their skills and charge appropriately.

You may occasionally come across a copywriter who undervalues their skills and get a deal — good luck with that. However, often the lower-risk, higher-reward decision is to go with the skilled copywriter who charges more … because the higher level of sales will be more than worth the extra fee up front.

As a copywriter, all you can do is present this argument with conviction. If the client bites, great. If not, move on, because they don't value your skills and there are plenty of others who will. Your time is better spent connecting with clients who respect your skills than trying to change the minds of cheapskates.”

— Roy Furr

It will actually cost you more in the end …

“I’ve recently had a few calls from clients who used those cheapy writers and then had to finally pay a decent writer for copy that works.

I will often say to the client … ‘Have you seen samples of that copywriter’s work?’ ‘Did that copywriter provide you with references, or better yet, case studies of the results his work generated for clients?’ ‘Does that copywriter have a website that makes you comfortable with his work?’

The biggest thing is to see proof of what that other copywriter can do — not just the writing, but the results his copy generated. It will tell quite a story.”

— Pam Foster, Author of The Web Copywriter’s Clear Path to Profits

Go ahead and do it …

“You take the ball out of their hands. In the rare situation when a client has told me they can hire another copywriter who charges less (and they usually name a low hourly rate), I say, "Go for it."

I tell them to hire the other person. When I've said this, the game stops because I've taken the ball from their hands. Either they go away (often coming back later), or all talk about money ceases on the spot. It's just a game that I refused to play a long time ago.

Then, we just talk about how I'll help them achieve their goals. It's NEVER fun working with a client who plays the low-ball game. I've done it, and you spend twice as much time for half the fee. It's just not worth playing that game, so I don't.”

— Sid Smith

The difference between a cheap copywriter and a good one …

“I get cheeky and say something like $20 an hour? Well, if you are looking for a really CHEAP copywriter you can do better than that by going to You'll probably find someone who will work for $10 an hour. But, if you want a really GOOD copywriter, rather than a cheap one, let's keep talking."

— Nick Usborne, Author of Copywriting 2.0: Your Complete Guide to Writing Web Copy that Converts and How to Write Your Own Money-Making Websites

And finally, web writers are not commodities …

“My answer could be very long, but in short, I always move to a value-added, consultative role. If you play the price game then you end up being a commodity. Like Tide vs. Downy, the game goes to the cheapest player.

But we are not laundry soap, we are masters of the written word and heroes of persuasion. We build entire empires with the stroke of our fingers and crush competition with the fine art of our word-smithery.

The way you let clients know and understand this is by giving them the three golden questions and making it about how much they will make, how powerfully you'll meet their most pressing needs, and how you will free them of stress, pressure, and the angst of not producing results in this down economy.

The three golden questions are: 1- What do you want? 2- What will having that do for you? 3 – How will you know when you have it?

Of course, those are the core questions and you have to adapt them for each situation, but that is basically the gist of it. Once you have the answers to those questions, you hold the power in your hands. Other writers can just deliver bland copy. You solve all their problems and bring in the money.

With that knowledge at your command, you simply say to them, "If I can {fill in the blank with the solution to their most pressing need/problem} does {$$$ give them an exact dollar amount} sound like a reasonable fee for my services?

Finally, I'll just say this, if you have a client who truly is just price shopping, then dump them faster than a hot potato. They are trouble, trouble, trouble, and will never be worth your time.

Plus, it will offend your own self-image because you'll begin to see yourself as someone who is willing to sell themselves at the lowest prices.

With that feeling inside, you'll never, ever be able to write to the best of your ability. Your copy will stink and you'll resent the pitifully low fee you received for copy that stinks.”

— Joshua Boswell, Motivating Mentor of Monday Morning Jumpstart

Concluding thoughts …

I know it can be tough to walk away from a paying project. But in the end, it can be tougher to work with a client who doesn’t understand the value of good copy, and only values price.

Lydia was thankful for all of this useful advice and asked me to share with you all the lessons she learned last week:

“I am a professional copywriter. There will always be someone who hangs up a sign stating they can write, but they will not have my training and background.

I need to keep my prices at a professional rate. People perceive value based on what they pay. If I charge a higher price, they know they are getting a higher-quality service.

I need to reach out to AWAI more often. I was overwhelmed with the amazingly quick response and wonderful information and support I received. AWAI is a valuable resource that I will certainly use more often!

Breathe and be thankful for good opportunities! I believe you cannot be afraid to walk away from business that does not fit. It leaves you open for a new opportunity, and allows someone who is a better fit to take the opportunity you left behind.”

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 »

Click to Rate:
Average: 4.7
Published: September 2, 2009

3 Responses to “How to Compete with Low-Ball Writers Who Try to Steal Your Project By Working for Pennies”

  1. The following sentence by Joshua Boswell brilliantly demonstrates why AWAI writers are in demand.

    "We build entire empires with the stroke of our fingers and crush competition with the fine art of our word-smithery."

    It is my intent to learn to write with such power and use it as a force for good as well as income.

    Those of you who are already there obviously use your words for more than money and you give to all of us who sit at your feet. I thank and honour you.


  2. This is a very helpful article to one (me!) who is struggling with this very issue right now. Thanks for the boost!
    Lynn W.


  3. Excellent-pertinent.Many thanks

    Robin Davy

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)