I always have a lot of people e-mailing me about copywriting: “I want to be a copywriter, how do I do it?”… “I’m starting a copywriting business – do you have any advice?”… How much do I charge for copywriting?
So I figured it might be useful to post some thoughts on copywriting, how I do it, what to expect, and so on. I’ll start today with how long something takes to “copywrite”.
To begin, there really is no hard and fast rule. I have written a 900 word article in an hour, and I’ve taken three hours to write one half as long. I’ve taken a full day to write one webpage, and other days, I’ve banged out a six page website. It all generally depends on the topic / industry, and the intent of the writing.
I mention “intent”, and it’s something that’s very important. The intent of the writing matters a LOT.
What I mean by intent is “what do we want a reader to do / think?” If we want the reader to contact / buy, well, that’s infinitely harder than just “well, we just want some articles for SEO”. But it goes even deeper than the piece itself. For example, take a five page website for an accounting firm – every page has to at least give the reader the feeling of “yes, these folks are the ones to contact”. It very different than just throwaway articles for SEO.
This is why there is such disparity in copywriting prices. “”Cheap copywriting” firms from India and the like bang out mindless SEO articles or pages of web copy for $15 each, because they literally take a few minutes to cut and paste together (don’t think they do it any other way.) But to write one that gets 100 comments on the Huffington Post (or converts at 5%)? That might take a few hours (hint: those are the kind I do.)
Everyone is different, but here are my “general” times for pieces:
Web Copy – Assuming “normal” sized pages (300-500 words), I can count on a page of good web copy taking anywhere from an hour to four hours. Each. I realize that’s a big gap, but it’s accurate. Just the other day I spent 4 hours writing a 400-word landing page.
Letters – Depending on the topic, a one-page letter will take me anywhere from one to three hours. Letters are usually (but not always) a little easier than web copy as the intent / audience tends to be more focused.
Articles – “Easy” articles on common topics can take an hour. Anything in depth will take longer (for example, I spend a half day each week ghostwriting a Huffington Post article for a somewhat famous client.)
The time taken to copywrite anything is something I cannot negotiate. I write like I write, and that’s that. To be honest, I think the times listed above are pretty common for most professional copywriters. I’ve been doing this for a decade, and I don’t see anyone writing a results-getting webpage in a half an hour. Even if you are just starting out, the times listed above aren’t going to change too much.
Now, this does not mean you are tapping keys for four hours. The other day, when I was writing that 400 word / 4 hour landing page, I took a walk for a half an hour to mull over an idea or two. I realize nobody wants to pay me to take a walk, but that’s what’s involved (and it’s why I don’t bill by the hour – more on that in another post.) Writing professionally is hard, time-consuming work – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Writing actually hurts.
Anyway, I hope the above is useful to anyone wondering about copywriting and how long something takes. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.