How to afford a copywriter (even when you can’t)

Hand writing the word "impossible" with the first syllable crossed out

Any copywriter, web designer or web project manager who’s been around for a while will tell you that content creation is always the most undervalued and under-budgeted part of any website build. Scheduling issues and project bottlenecks are almost always content-related. My colleague over at Good Honest Content, Brendyn Montgomery, tells how he once had a project stall for an entire year while waiting for content. In his industry, that’s commonplace.

Copywriting is always the poor cousin in website creation.

Businesses that happily recognise the need to invest in quality site/logo/packaging design often seem to balk when it comes to the words. Why? Here’s what I think:

1 Writing isn’t considered a high-value skill because most people can do it

Unfortunately, there’s a world of difference between being able to do something and being able to do it well. Anyone can shove a bunch of flowers into a jam jar full of water; that doesn’t make them a florist.

2 People are more interested in design than content

Yep, that’s probably true. We’re visual creatures. Good design is important but website design by itself never persuaded anyone to do anything. That’s the job of great content. And convincing people to take the action you want them to take is what business websites are all about. Otherwise, what’s the point?

3 The budget has blown out

Now this one we can help with. But first, let’s crunch some numbers.

What’s your website content actually worth?

The industry-standard estimate for creating a page of new content is three hours but in my experience, that’s very optimistic—it doesn’t make any allowances for the amount of content or its complexity. Nor does it factor in research, consultation and revision time.

Even so, let’s take three hours as the baseline. Say you want a 10-page website and you’re going to write all the content yourself. You’ll need to find at least 30 hours just to come up with a reasonable draft and maybe another five hours to tweak it. That’s almost a full working week.

But time isn’t the only issue. You also have to factor in what that time is worth. At $35/hr, you’re looking at $1,225 to write your copy and at $50/hr, it’s $1, 750. At 80/hr, your website copy is costing you $2,800. And of course while you’re doing this, you’re not making an income because you can’t develop your business, because you’re too busy creating content for a website that hasn’t yet launched, because it’s waiting for your content, and so on.

The longer you take to write the content, the greater the delay in launching the site. So if you’re trying to write at nights and on weekends, it could literally drag out over weeks or months. And take it from a pro—writing when you’re tired is hard work and not very productive.

How to afford a professional copywriter

Maybe you’d rather hang out with your family or friends than sit bleary-eyed in front of a computer at 10pm trying to write your FAQs. If so, here are some budget-conscious ways you can have the benefit of a professional copywriter without breaking the bank:

1. Use a freelancer

Let’s get something straight: professional writers aren’t that expensive. Their rates are on a par with, or slightly less than, graphic designers. The costs only start looking scary if you go through an agency. That’s because the agency adds on its margin. With a freelancer, you’re paying for them to write for you—not subsidising agency overheads.

Another advantage of using a freelancer is that they may be in a better position to devote all their concentration and energy to your project. They’re not juggling five different briefs at once. Or if they are, they’ll probably tell you rather than trying to wing it. Reputation and referrals are everything in our industry.

2. Hire a copywriter to write just your Home page

Your Home page is the most important page on your site. It’s the one you can least afford to get wrong. If you can only pay for one professionally-written page, make it this one.

3. Build your site in stages

The days of forking over a wad of cash for a full-size, “finished” website are over. Websites aren’t “forever” creations because they’re in constant flux according to the needs of their owners and target audiences. Many digital agencies and web developers now build websites in stages. Not only is this more affordable for their clients, it’s a more efficient way of analysing a site’s performance and making any necessary tweaks.

This modular approach also enables the site to grow in step with the business. So what might start out as a one-page site could end up as a 20-page site in five years time when the business is big enough to support it.

If you’re really strapped

Use a professional to edit your copy

In this low-budget scenario, you write the copy and pay someone to edit it. For a professional writer, this is a lot faster than writing from scratch.

Ask a copywriter to assess your site and make recommendations

This can be useful when there’s some existing copy or you’ve already done the bulk of the work and want it fine-tuned. A professional eye could make the difference between a high-functioning website and one that misses the mark.

A business website is an important investment

Most of us know how to write but that doesn’t mean we all enjoy it or do it well. In the normal course of things this may not matter but it’s definitely an issue when we start talking about effective business websites.

If you want to convince people to book, buy or order whatever your business is selling, you need to make a strong case. Tell your story. Outline the benefits. Overcome the objections. Use the right words.

A business website is an investment. It doesn’t makes sense to invest in a good-looking site and then treat the content like an afterthought. Even if you’re on a tight budget, there are ways to guarantee high-quality content. Use a copywriter. Get in touch and let’s talk about it.

This post was originally published at nikimorrell.com on 8 August 2017. It has been updated for relevance.

Niki Morrell

Niki is Bold Communications' creative director. She's a writer, broadcaster, trainer, photographer and one hell of a dancer.

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