Before you pitch yourself as a copywriter who writes copy for websites, know exactly what’s involved, what questions you need to ask your client – and know how much to charge for your time.

Website Copy – the Difference

The most obvious difference between writing conventional copy and website copy is that the latter involves non-linear writing. An entire website can contain numerous web pages connected to one another, and each web page can contain limitless copy.

Conventional print materials usually dictate the length of your copy; i.e., if a client asked you to write a brochure, you can determine how much copy you’re going to write, how much time it’s going to take – and thus, how much to charge. But if a client asked you to provide copy for a website, you cannot determine the amount of copy you’re going to provide or how long it’s going to take.

Procuring a website copywriting assignment requires you to ask the client different types of questions so you can charge accordingly and make your time profitable. Here are some tips…

Scope the Project

In most cases you won’t know how much copy you’re going to provide. Your task is to determine the scope of the project – and then estimate how much time it’s going to take you. Ask the client if you’ll be writing a portion of the website or the entire website. Find out what type of information the client wants at his website and what purpose it’ll serve. The client may want to sell products, distribute free, helpful information to his existing customers, solicit new customers by having them fill out an electronic response card, provide a free on-line “look-up” service, give away free software, or all of these things.

Ask the client if he has existing conventional print materials available. His company may already have a hefty load of printed materials that can aid you in providing the type of useful information he wants showcased at his website. However, be warned when a client asks you to “re-format” or “re-type” a brochure (or any printed material) for his website. Usually, adapting conventional print materials for websites involves an extension of skills – and an extension of time. Placing a conventional brochure in website format may require you to seed the copy with links or create electronic reply cards that the user can complete online and send the information instantly to the client’s e-mail account; or even create “hot buttons” that run applets or perform some type of action.

You may also be required to copy write icons, buttons and tiny footers at the bottom of web pages that make browsing the client’s website a lot easier.

Ask the client the scope of your functions. Are you just writing copy? Or will you be required to embed your copy in HTML code? Will you be working with a website designer? Or will you be required to outsource portions of the project to other freelancers to supplement your skills?

Is the client expecting you to create his website or simply provide copy for it?

How Much to Charge

What to charge is always a sensitive topic – and unfortunately, there’s no universal pay rate structure or a magical pricing formula. To make matters worse, information on what to charge for website copywriting is scarce, since this is a relatively new type of medium and copywriters are still struggling to figure out the easiest way to charge without getting underpaid.

One suggested way is to charge an hourly rate until you can properly estimate a website copywriting assignment – then you can charge project rates, which may make your time more profitable. You may also think about getting paid on a retainer basis, if the client wants you to maintain the contents of his website and update it each month with new copy.

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Brian Konradt is the owner and operator of FreelanceWriting.com (http://www.freelancewriting.com), a free web site for writers who want to master the creative and business sides of freelance writing. Mr. Konradt is also the owner of BSK Communications and Associates, a communications and mail-order business based in New Jersey that operates MasterFreelancer Web Store. Look for FREELANCING 4 MONEY.

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