Outsourcing your SEO copywriting? 9 ways to get the best quote

Yesterday, a business owner sent over an interesting question.

“Why do I have to answer so many questions before you give me a quote? Years ago, if I wanted a copywriter to write a print ad, I knew it would be X amount. Why can’t there be more transparency?”

He had a point. I don’t list prices on my site – and neither do a number of my Certified SEO Copywriters. The main reason is because, “we don’t know what we don’t know” – short, catalog pages could be $250 a page – or up to $1000 if you factor in things like strategy, keyphrase research, customer persona generation and other factors.

And granted, a range like that could freak out the average prospect.

However, there is a way to get the information you need and find the right SEO copywriter for your next campaign. It may take more background research than sending a quick “how much do you charge” email.  And from the copywriter’s standpoint, there are some things that prospects can do to get an accurate quote, quickly.  Here are nine tips to get you started:

Do include your domain name in your initial email. At least twice a month, I get an email from an @AOL address that says something like, “I need five pages written for search engines. How much will you charge me? From a copywriter’s perspective, we can’t help you if we can’t see what we’re bidding for. Some pages (think longer direct-sales pages,) cost more. Others (like short catalog copy) can cost less. We won’t know what to tell you without seeing your site.

Do let us know your challenges. It’s wonderful when a prospect says something like, “We’re ranking well in the engines, but our sales copy isn’t converting.” Or, “We have a marketing team now, but they don’t know anything about SEO copywriting.” That information helps us evaluate your site and develop some ideas.

Do talk to us on the phone. I understand that it’s often easier to gather quotes via email. That’s OK. I do it too. But even a 15-minute conversation can help copywriters delve a little deeper into your challenges and explore different ideas. I’ve actually saved clients money because I told them that they didn’t need the big content marketing strategy they thought they did – and some simple tweaks would garner a great reward. We wouldn’t have come to that conclusion in an email conversation.

Do tell us what you’ll expect. Do you need us to provide status reports to your marketing department once a month? Are you working on an internal deadline, and need to have copy turned around by a certain date? Let your copywriter know what you’ll need before he zips you a proposal. That way, you avoid any future sticky issues – like your copywriter expecting to be paid to be on a three-hour branding conference call – when you thought it was a freebie (yes, this has happened!)

Do chat with multiple writers. It’s tempting to hire the first SEO copywriter who happens to meet your pricing and turnaround requirements. Just know that finding a good writer may mean talking to multiple people and asking lots of questions. Some writers will quickly “get” your business and will immediately generate some ideas. Other writers may not be as well suited for the task. Who you hire is crucial – after all, this person represents your brand – so make sure you find the best person for your business.

Do ask us for writing samples. Writers love to brag about our successes. Yes, by all means, ask for writing samples – especially when evaluating us against another copywriter. It’s important that you find the right fit for the right price, and writing samples (as well as case studies) help us showcase our value. Plus, from the client standpoint, writing samples will clearly show the difference between a $5 and a $500 sales page.

Don’t expect free consulting as a way to “prove our worth.”
It’s important to find the right vendor – and many SEO copywriters will throw out some quick top-of-mind thoughts about how you should proceed. At the same time, asking us, “What strategy would you recommend” and “How would you specifically change the Titles” is moving from sales-process vetting to freebie consulting. Yes, ask us hard questions. Yes, ask for writing samples. But please know that the best copywriters (like the best doctors, attorneys and business consultants) won’t give it away for free.

Don’t tempt us with “more work later if you can lower your rate now.”
In my non-scientific estimation, 99.9% of copywriters have lowered their rate in this scenario. And 99.9% of copywriters would never do it again. Unless we have a signed contract promising us “future work” – including a retainer guarantee – we can’t “bank” on future work. Ask us this question later, after we’ve worked together and we’ve built a successful relationship.

Do be open to higher fees  – but ask us how you can save money. Many people start the SEO copywriting vendor search process without a clue about per-page rates. Or, the prospect needs more than writing – they need strategy and better keyphrase research – and that drives up the price. At the same time, if you feel like the price is edging higher than you’d like to spend, ask about training (DIY always costs less in the long run,) running a longer campaign for a smaller (guaranteed) monthly spend, or even paying your agreement up-front for a discount. There are always ways to save some cash without sacrificing quality.