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Feb 05 2014 Hourly copywriting rates or project fees. Which is best?
Hourly copywriting rates vs project fees

The first thing a potential new client will usually ask is what my hourly copywriting rates are. And fair enough. None of us like surprises, least of all the bill at the end of a project!

The thing is, I seldom use an hourly rate. I personally prefer to price each project individually, based on the scope of work and the outcomes required, but other copywriters will prefer to bill by the hour.

So what are the pros and cons of project fees and hourly rates, and is one better than the other?

Hourly copywriting rates


  • It can be much easier to compare hourly rates and decide which copywriter may be the best fit for your budget.
  • If the copywriter finds your job particularly easy, they may complete it quicker than anticipated. A fast turnaround may mean a smaller final invoice.
  • Smaller copywriting projects may not require a deposit. They may simply be billed at the end of the project, or after a set number of hours.
  • You can control your spend by only paying the number of hours you can afford.


  • A cheaper copywriter may also be a slower copywriter. Even if their hourly rate was less, if it takes them twice as long as the more expensive copywriter to complete the copy, your final invoice will be greater.
  • The same applies if the copywriter struggles with the project (they may not have been briefed well enough, or they just aren’t hitting the right notes for you), each delay and review will cost you money.
  • The longer a project takes, the more the copywriter earns, so there may not be a huge incentive for them to work very quickly (although this is not the way for any self-respecting copywriter to build a reputable business!)

Project rates


  • You know the final price before you even start, making it easier to manage your cashflow and budget. Larger projects can be broken down into progress payments, due on delivery of predetermined targets.
  • Because you’re paying a set fee, there is incentive for your copywriter to work more efficiently on the project to maximise their return on that fee.
  • You can determine which copywriter offers the best value for your dollar. Who includes revisions, meeting time, etc. in the overall project cost?


  • Projects are based on a specific scope of work, so anything outside of the agreed scope of work will cost you extra. You need to have a thorough understanding of what you require from the project to keep costs on track, and whether meetings, revisions, additions, etc. are included in the project fee or not.
  • Most fee-based projects will require a deposit with the remainder paid on completion. If funds suddenly become an issue and the full project fee is not received, you may not be able to access any work that has been completed, but not yet paid for.
The final word

As you can see both project fees and hourly copywriting rates have their own advantages and disadvantages. What you choose may well be determined by how each copywriter prefers to work, but if you would rather one model over the other, you can probably find a copywriter that suits your style.

Or ask! Some may be willing to accommodate your preference.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer to be billed hourly, or have a set fee from the outset? Have you had good or bad experiences with either?

Share your thoughts here, or chime in on Facebook.


4 Responses to “Hourly copywriting rates or project fees. Which is best?”

  • Reply Belinda @ Copywrite Matters February 06, 2014at 4:05 am

    I’m with the majority commenting over on Facebook and that’s a vote a project fees.

    Putting my client hat on, I would be nervous with an open ended project with an hourly rate – for all the reasons you listed. I like certainty and that’s why I charge project rates.

    Putting my copywriter hat on, project scope can sometimes blow out which also blows out your project price. To combat that, I have a clause that states I get to re-quote or add costs to the project if the objectives or information changes after the work has begun and just keep good communication up through the project so we all know where we stand.

    No one likes expensive surprises!

    • Reply Anna Butler February 06, 2014at 2:05 pm

      Communication is absolutely the key, Belinda!

      That’s why – no matter which method a client chooses – it’s important to have a really thorough brief and to have everyone on the same page.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.

  • Reply Bridie Jenner February 12, 2014at 3:03 pm

    Although I’m in a different industry, I don’t use hourly rates either. I prefer a “per recorded minute” rate for transcription as it enables clients to work out the cost up-front and there are no nasty surprises. As a client, I prefer to know the total cost up-front too.

  • Reply Shauna March 20, 2014at 3:57 pm

    I’m getting to this post a little late Anna, my apologies! From a copywriter’s perspective I’ve discovered there’s less stress on both parties with a set project fee. If I’ve quoted accurately, I don’t stress over how long things may (or may not) take me to do and the client doesn’t worry about a cost blow out. Belinda’s suggestion to work in a re-quote if the job specs change is definitely one I’ll be building into my quote process. Great post, thanks!

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