What We Wish Someone Had Told Us

Published: 16th May 2016

tips for newbie copywriters

It’s been a few years since we started operating as newbie copywriters. When we first got going we had so many questions. There were so many unknowns, so many uncertainties. We wished someone, an expert copywriter, could’ve helped us, and shown us the ropes a little. We desperately wanted to be mentored. In fact, we were so eager to learn, that we contacted copywriters from around Australia to guide and support us. We were willing to pay for the inside scoop and to learn from their hard earnt experience.

So now, having established ourselves, we want to share some invaluable things we’ve learnt along the way, and because we’re feeling neighbourly we’ll share them with you right here.

Fees & Quoting

You also have to determine how you measure success. We value community and lifestyle, so we’ve made the decision to work with other creative copywriters, sharing the workload, but also halving ours

In the early days we really struggled with how to quote. We were building up our portfolio, so we were willing to offer copywriting for a steal. It worked, but we felt like ripped off elephants working for peanut shells. By the time we did the briefing, meeting, admin, research, copy proper, and amends, we were definitely operating at a loss, but for newbie copywriters, establishing your portfolio is essential. Once you’ve formed your client base, have a steady stream of enquiries, a decent amount of reputable testimonials, and are in demand, you can start quoting higher prices.

According to the Clever Copywriting School – headed up by Kate Toon – the following rates are a good guide:

Hourly Rate Examples:

Junior / Newbie copywriter: $50 – $70 per hour

Mid-level copywriter: $70 – $100 per hour

Top level copywriter: $100 – $180 per hour

Other sources tell us that web copywriting rates can vary from AU$25 to $250 per hour! Sheesh, how long is a piece of string?

While hourly rates are helpful for working out what to charge, at By Jingo we usually don’t quote by the hour (except if face-to-face meetings are requested), or if a job is unusual in that it will be heavily time-based because of specific research or technical lingo that’s required. Instead, we’ve worked out a fairly accurate ‘average’ for each copywriting service we offer. We charge set rates, because if the job takes us a bit longer, due to a creative lag, sudden illness, or an unexpected hangover, the client isn’t penalised for it. Some jobs get done quickly, others a little slower – but in the scheme of things, it all balances out. Once you’ve hit your stride, you’ve got to figure out what’s a liveable wage for you and your own circumstances and ensure that you’re able to earn that. You also have to determine how you measure success. We value community and lifestyle, so we’ve made the decision to work with other creative copywriters, sharing the workload, but also halving ours. That is, we don’t pocket as much of the businesses’ total income, but we don’t work as hard either. You have to figure out what works for you. The way we operate also gives us room for growth in the future, where we can take on more jobs than we could possibly do on our own.

Chasing Up Invoices and Payment.

Unfortunately, one of the things we hear copywriters, and people in creative industries generally complain about, is unreasonable delays in receiving payment from clients. At first, we always felt a bit guilty asking for what was ours. We felt that the intersection between friendliness, good customer service and asking for money was blurry. People would postpone, delay, and piss us off put us off. In order to avoid the awkwardness of chasing up money, and waiting for what seemed like an eternity to get paid, we set about creating an official proposal for each job, that would include: a detailed quote, our specific terms and conditions, a timeline for payment/s and dates for submissions (with the industry standard practice of 50% requested upfront). These days, if the total quote is on the lower side, we request 100% upfront, as it’s just not worth our while to faff about for relatively small sums. If for some reason the client still decides to delay payment, we’re able to legitimately refer to our proposal and ask them to stick to the payment terms agreed to by them on XYZ date. It keeps everything professional and orderly.

If a Client Doesn’t Like the Copy

No matter how skilled a copywriter you are, from time-to-time you won’t hit the sweet spot with the client. Even the best of the best encounter this horrible, shitty feeling. But know this: experience, managing expectations from the start, understanding the client’s industry (as well as the client him or herself), a tight brief, and a good knowledge of tone of voice, helps to significantly reduce this outcome, but it can still happen. The first thing to keep in mind is not to take it personally. You can swear and bitch and moan about it as much as you want to your colleagues, but when in conversation with the client, you stick to the point – i.e. how to resolve the situation and make sure they’re satisfied.

Some questions you may want to use as a guide for staying on track:

What isn’t working?

What is?

What would you like to see included/excluded so that the work is on point?

Refer back to the brief. Remind them that this is a first draft and that they have X number of revisions included, and that you’ll work to meet their expectations.

How to Market Yourself

Go all in. Full stop. Apply solid SEO website copy to your own site, get your branding done properly, have a good supply of print material to spread the news about you. Be opportunistic.

Just as an example of how to grab it by the balls, only last week Tom and I were having breakfast at a quaint little café in Cottesloe (upmarket suburb in Western Australian). We overheard the managing director of a successful international coffee franchise talking to his mate about marketing. At the end of the breakfast, I said, “Hi, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on your conversation, if you ever need copywriters, we’re your people.” I handed them a business card each. Both said they would check us out and were happy I told them about By Jingo. Now of course we have no idea if anything will come of it, but the point is – be bold. Tell people you exist. Make the most of every situation. You’re doing them and yourself a favour.

Social Media

This is obviously heavily tied in with marketing, but also deserves its own section. Experiment with all the social media platforms and see what works best for you, but try not to count Likes or comments. Social media can be quicksand for people with personality disorders, and can bring on the worst case of anxiety even amongst the most mentally stable. As an aside, some of the highest paid copywriters in Australia don’t get much engagement on social media, and are still in high demand (see top level rates above). For some people it really works, but it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all. Also, really think about how much time you’re willing to devote to it each week. Some business people have become so hung up on social media, that they tell people that they’re “too busy” to even answer emails, but in actual fact they’re just dicking around on Facebook!

This meme illustrates our sentiments.

Tips for newbie copywriters 2






Image courtesy of instagram@oliviabosschick

Final Words for Newbie Copywriters

No matter how much knowledge and skill you have, at the end of the day there is still going to be a lot of hard graft until you’ve established yourself. Keep your end-goal in mind and don’t be discouraged if you suffer setbacks or make the occasional mistake. The most important factor in your success is to have the chutzpah to keep going.

4 responses to “What We Wish Someone Had Told Us”

  1. Be bold. I like it, I like it.

    • Thanks Jennifer. I’ve stopped seeing your posts in our newsfeed? I think FB has started restricting reach again! Grr. Will go and have a look at what you’ve been up to.

  2. Mira Rao says:

    Always inspired by your chutzpah Lee! xx