Where to Find E-Mail Copywriters and What to Pay Them

After my last column on the criteria you should use to hire a great business-to-business (B2B) e-mail copywriter, a number of readers asked where to post copywriter ads, as well as what rates they should be paying.

So that’s the focus of this column. Though I don’t have all the answers, I’ll share what I can.

Advertise on Advertising-Related Sites

I’ve hired a number of freelance copywriters in my time, but it’s been a while so I may not be up on all the best sites.

Having trolled a number of Web sites, I will say some of the ways writers are categorized concern me. On one site, copywriting and editing are lumped into one category. The two disciplines couldn’t be further apart. Copywriters sell with words. Editors edit text to make it more readable.

The site’s listings showed copywriting rates of $14 to $20 an hour. This tells me the people listed are editors, not copywriters. Not that there’s anything wrong with being an editor, but they generally don’t command the same high rates as copywriters. Stick to advertising-related sites if you want a writer who can help you sell.

Search the Web

Of course, you could turn to the search engines for “B2B e-mail copywriter.” You’ll find some good writers listed that way. It’s evidence of a certain degree of success in the business if they have their own Web sites and rank high in the results pages.

When you look at a copywriter’s site, make sure:

  • You like the site design. If they have schlocky designs, they either haven’t invested properly in their sites or they don’t think graphically. B2B e-mail advertising, like any other advertising, is about marrying words and graphics in a pleasing, compelling way. Because your e-mail copywriter will probably also be writing your print promotions, an ability to think graphically is key.

  • You like the samples. Samples should be somewhat reflective of the kind of copywriting work you wish to achieve. Most important, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the samples should be accompanied by results so you know how the writing performed. There’s a lot of beautiful writing out there, but not all of it sells.
  • The client testimonials are good. Make sure the testimonials are attributed to real people from real companies with job titles like yours.

Ask for Referrals

Finally, ask for referrals from your marketing colleagues. That’s really the easiest way to go if you have good industry contacts. Just don’t make the mistake I once did: I asked everyone I knew if they knew a “writer.” I got résumés from writers of academic texts, art books, and so on. All were talented but not what I needed. The operative word is “copywriter.”

What to Pay Your Copywriter

I have 21 years of day-to-day experience writing estimates and negotiating rates with hundreds of prospects and clients.

I tell people you can get a copywriter at any price. As mentioned above, they seem to go for as little as $14 an hour.

Most of the time, you get what you pay for.

Back in the good old days when direct mail was king, top copywriters who had portfolios of high-performing control packages could earn as much as $25,000 for a direct mail package. Very good, but less exalted copywriters made about $100 an hour.

When Web sites came on the scene, the online market attracted every kind of writer, from journalists to editors to copywriters. Because journalism and editing rates are traditionally lower, copywriting rates went down for a while.

Now things are pretty much back to pre-Internet rates, after factoring in inflation. As the online industry has matured, most marketing professionals recognize if they want more revenue, they need writers who focus on generating sales. Experienced copywriters are back in demand.

Generally, I see rates for good copywriters coming in at $65 to $200 an hour. A lot depends on where the copywriter lives. Those in low cost-of-living areas generally charge less. Those in high-cost areas, such as New York, Washington, and Boston, charge more.

I recently raised my copywriting rates to $200 an hour. Most clients didn’t even bat an eyelash. They know the results I generate for them — and they know I’m a fast writer.

As one writing colleague quipped, “Hourly rates reward slow writers.” If you find a writer who works for $50 an hour but takes four hours to write the same thing a $200 writer knocks off just as well in an hour, what’s the real difference?

Professional copywriters rarely work on an hourly basis. (I only work hourly for a retainer client.) Most of us quote a project fee, which covers certain parameters, such as a first draft and two revision cycles. Most marketing managers prefer a project rate because they don’t have to worry about going over budget.

Just be sure when a copywriter quotes a project rate that you and she agree on the project’s scope, number of revision cycles, amount of meeting and research time required, and so on. This agreement should be put in writing and signed by both of you before any work begins. Skipping this step can lead to thorny misunderstandings no one wants to be involved in.

Other points in the agreement should include how the project will be billed (usually one third to half upfront) and a cancellation fee. The more you work out in the beginning, the less angst you’ll have down the road.

Keep sending your best B2B samples and case studies to Karen for future columns.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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