Most freelance copywriters, at one point or another during their career, will be asked to write for free or so low that it may as well be free.
The reasons can vary from 'free exposure' to 'free trials', but whatever the reason, it occurs. So how does a professional writer deal with this?
We all work in a highly competitive market, however copywriters are lucky that we can differentiate ourselves with the quality and service we provide. Despite this, there is still the temptation to fight over price, both on the writer's side and on the client's, too and this is when it gets into dangerous territory.
Don't get me wrong- price competition is fairly normal, within reason and it's not wrong to want to give and get the best deal, but it shouldn't be at the cost of quality, as that's where no one wins.
More and more commonly these days, the digital disruption has led to many organisational models being turned upside-down, and two-sided systems still end up profitable because one client receives free while the other pays. For example, most Real Estate portals such as Domain.com.au and RealEstate.com.au work because the house hunter is allowed to peruse listings for free, and so it draws huge numbers of buyers, which is then compensated by the cost charged to Real Estate agencies to list their properties on the portal.
These types of examples are everywhere. YouTube, Uber, Facebook, eBay, iSelect, and so on.
Additionally, growth in the digital space means that storage and distribution costs have fallen to virtually zero, meaning that alternative revenue streams can come from offering secondary things to customers for free, while baiting them with the main product (for example, Facebook itself is free, but the ads shown generate the revenue). While this is a revolutionary time in the commercial landscape at the moment, it's creating a strong mentality that everything should be free. This is part of the problem- in the copywriting world, free means a disaster for all parties.
You Get What You Pay/Charge For
Simply put, cheap fees cheapens a business and devalues both the service and the copywriter themselves. This disincentivises the writer too, and the process becomes an endless, self-perpetuating downward spiral. While the idea of cutting corners in the creative and marketing areas of a business is sadly nothing new, it doesn't mean that it is right.
In a world where creativity and innovation are the final frontiers for differentiation, too many clients and copywriters don't truly appreciate this, and what results is a squabbling over the justification of value for services, produced by a culture of inflated price-sensitivity.
The Time Quality Takes
In essence, the problem with free is that most clients don't realise how much work goes into creating a finished product, to the exact specifications and time frame. While the onus is on the copywriter to quote correctly to the brief and then fulfil the project, we can often be tempted to underquote just so that the client doesn't panic when we present it to them.
However, by the same token, we also must make sure that our clients appreciate and value the copywriting service we provide too. When quoting, it's also the copywriter's experience, skill and expertise that a client is paying for as well. I know that for me personally, I come with over ten years of Marketing experience and qualifications too, on top of my copywriting services; so the client doesn’t just receive content, but a whole strategic conceptualisation too- but this is my differentiation point and therefore built into my fee too. I believe this is completely fair because the client is greatly benefiting from this, as it will help them achieve their objectives through the copywriting and the consultation I provide.
What Quality Means and Why It’s Worth The Money
Quality copywriting is not just about cramming words to fill space- it's about communicating effectively to an audience, and that fact alone can make or break a business, so the client must appreciate this and seek quality accordingly.
A professional copywriter can demonstrate quality by reading the brief, compiling their opinions, and then developing a message that will differentiate a product, make it desirable and position it in a way which persuades the audience as to how and why it will improve their lives.
Don't Let People Think You're Poor Quality
If your skills and service as a writer are of a high quality, you don't want to be undervaluing yourself. The price-to-quality ratio is a real thing, both in practise and perception, and this must be taken into account.
A website is now the first point of call for the majority of organisations today, and that means that businesses must absolutely ensure that the messaging a potential or current customer is greeted with is absolutely engaging and of a high quality. A high bounce rate costs businesses thousands, and as a result, clients must understand the value of quality. A badly written website page gives the impression that the company is in the habit of cutting corners, which in turn means less sales and less chance of the business succeeding.
Today's customers are highly educated and highly demanding, so it's absolutely essential that every organisation meets this head on.
So, as a copywriter, don't give off the perception that you are cheap. Be proud of the quality of your work and the results you achieve. This means, while you should always charge a fair rate and quote reasonable hours, under-valuation or free is not a territory you really want to tread, especially in the long-run.
What To Do?
Basically, the next time you’re approached by a client obsessed with free or cheap, just remember that it is your writing that can make the difference for them! If they are a high quality business that doesn't want to give their customers the impression that they are also cheap, then they shouldn’t be expecting it from you either.
In the end, if you have the experience, the skill and the expertise to back up your copywriting services, never work for free because the end result doesn't add up and then, everyone loses.
Melotti Media Copywriting Services