Rates are one of the hottest topics of debate among writers in the United States. Ironically, not so much outside of the U.S. As someone who has spent much of the past 13+ years traveling, and four and a half now actually living as an expat in countries around the world working with professionals and on projects in all corners of the globe, I can tell you that rates are different no matter where you go and depend entirely on local markets. And most writers living outside of the U.S. don’t really pay attention to what the other guys are making so much as they do to what they can make for themselves and their families.
What does that mean? For starters, it means that there is no such thing as a standardized rate for copywriting services. Yes, there are local rates…for example, copywriters living in New York City make significantly more than those living in Denver, and as a general rule those living in Mexico City make less than those living in Montreal, because the local rates in those cities vary. But only if they are looking on a local level. When you start looking on a global scale you realize that there is a massive pool of talent out there, writers who are ready, eager, willing and completely qualified to do the work….which throws the whole standardized rates thing out the window.
Instead, savvy businesses are looking abroad for their talent, rather than sticking to local rates. It’s outsourcing at its most basic level, only now instead of being limited to only working with people in your region, the Internet has allowed the entire world to become your region. Which means companies based out of a place like NYC can work with professionals based out of Thailand…or any other country in the world.
But here’s the thing: there are seven billion people on this planet, some of whom will want to work with you, and no one but you. Your role as a copywriter is not just write amazing copy; it’s also about selling yourself, especially in a digital age of social media where you are expected to maintain a website, a blog, a LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and beyond to represent yourself on a professional level. You are the brand, not the other way around. And people aren’t worried about prices when they have trust in the brand.
Because there’s no such thing as a global currency where everyone has the same cost of living, you have to look at you, your skills, what you want to make on a per hour or per day or per month (or whatever) basis. Maybe you are from a country like Colombia where 15 USD per hour is the equivalent of around $60 per hour back in the U.S. Maybe you live in New York City and you want to keep your flat even though it costs you $3,000 a month to rent, so your bottom line is $80 an hour to live comfortably. Maybe you are happy with $10 an hour or maybe you are a seasoned veteran who needs $200 an hour or beyond to retain your services. It doesn’t matter. There is no such thing as a standardized, global rate for copywriting services.
That’s a hard pill for some people to swallow, especially writers from the United States. Before the advent of Global Internet they had it made as the only people in the world who had high-speed internet and access to online opportunities, so digital copywriters and writers in general were making great money at the top of the food chain. But now that high-speed Internet is in every corner of the globe the waters are awash with professionals who are just as qualified as the U.S. writers…they are just working for significantly less due to global currency exchange. Now, many writers continual spend their time crying about how the wages these days are horrible and how they can’t find work and no one has money and so on and so forth.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” And nowhere is this more evident than in someone who has the Internet at their disposal and a long line of excuses as to why they aren’t making any money. It’s the market. It’s the economy. It’s the competition. It’s those @#*&@#* writers in the Philippines and Indonesia and India working for pennies driving the rates down.
No it’s not. There are clients out there for all of us. You just have to get out there and find them. Look globally, not locally, and you will find plenty of work. I haven’t stopped since I started in the middle of 2008. I’ve had a non-stop plate of work since then, but I haven’t found more than 10% or so of my work in the United States. Every other job I’ve worked on has been in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Now I’m hip-deep in work down here in Mexico. I haven’t had to lower my rates once for any of my clients, although I have to be honest: I’m not freelancing that much these days. Most of my work here is either referrals or traffic coming in from Google, and I’ve done the occasional retainer. The vast majority of my time is spent over at my immersion travel website.
The point is, everyone has a budget, just like everyone has hair. Not everyone has the same color hair. Not everyone has the same kind of budget. There is work at all levels, for all types of writers, regardless if you are working in copywriting or web content generation or ghostwriting or tech manuals or advertising. The key lies in learning how to sell yourself, how to become a salesperson, how to pitch your services, pitch your talents, pitch your brand.
Don’t worry about what someone else is charging. Look at what you want to make. What you feel comfortable making. What you need to pay the bills. Then polish the hell out of your resume, get your cover letter ready and start looking for gigs. And be prepared to work your butt off in the early months. No one gets into the big leagues without putting time in as a grunt and learning/earning their way up the chain of command. We all start off somewhere, and you shouldn’t be discouraged by that fact. Rome wasn’t built in a day…and neither is a writing career. If you want to be a veteran copywriter you have to build up a resume, and that requires getting your hands dirty and your feet on the pavement looking for work and selling, selling, selling your brand to everyone you come across.
Your rates are yours and yours alone. Don’t listen to people who tell you to “price according to the competition”. They usually don’t know what they are talking about, or are limited to only thinking on a closed, local scale. You are one of the global elite. You understand what it means to be relevant in the modern era. And part of being relevant means looking on a global level for work and finding the clients who will pay your specified rates. Don’t settle for second best. Shoot for the moon. There’s a client out there with your name on their contract.