FCPMathew and I have recently been thinking about various tweaks we could make to our website.

We’ve naturally come to consider the issue of pricing; more specifically, whether prices should be published.

There are two viewpoints:

  • People like to see prices because they can make quick comparisons, or quickly calculate whether a service is within their budget.
  • Freelancers prefer to price projects individually to ensure the price represents the time needed to do a good job.

There’s undoubtedly a difference between offering a price for writing content and, say, a price for a pair of shoes. But at the same time, I can understand why people quickly back away from any website which doesn’t clearly advertise how much things cost.

We’re very used to seeing prices: we make some of our buying decisions on price alone, and websites exist solely to compare prices. Insurance companies used to get almost all of their business through brokers: now they compete via automated price comparison sites, even though the cheapest product in a comparison table may actually be inferior.

The pattern of fees on freelancing websites is something of a game-changer too. The prices on those sites are often (not always) lower than a freelancer with experience would charge. The clients often (not always) go for the cheapest price. This distortion of value can set an unhelpful precedent.

  • Do you think writers and designers should have a public price list or keep their prices to themselves?
  • If you see prices that are too high – or too low – do you find it off-putting?
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Claire Broadley

Technical writer, blogger, and editor at Red Robot Media
Claire Broadley has been a technical author and web content writer at Red Robot since 2010. She contributes to dozens of websites, focusing on consumer technology, online privacy, digital marketing, and small business topics.
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8 thoughts on “Freelancers, Copywriters: Do You Publish Your Prices?

  1. Prices should always be shown imo. Even for heavily customisable services, a description next to a price will give people an idea. It also implies that the site is active, it’s not just a dead page been left there for months or years. I usually distrust people who don’t display prices. It’s akin to walking into a jewellery shop and having the owner size you up and applying prices on some kind of sliding scale depending on what you’re wearing and how well you speak. For me, no price means something to hide. Unless I know the people offering the service, I don’t want to get in touch for a tailored quote because I don’t want the hard sell and to end up on a mailing list getting sent endless and mis-targeted emails such as special offers for repeat customers when I’ve never even been a customer – it’s just slipshod, shady and puts my back up!

    1. This is all good to know. We’re toying with the idea of a price list or an order form so people can assess prices and go straight to the payment stage…

  2. Glad it’s not just me who thought long and hard about whether to attach prices to my web site. I decided against pricing my copywriting and photography because as you’ll know, costing is a sliding-scale dependent upon each individual job, client and deadline.

    What it comes down to the purpose of your web site, as you point out: e-commerce vs. a portfolio site. If you want people to get in touch you have to implore them in other ways than with price, like empathy, desire and all the other tools of a good copywriter.

    As for price putting someone off, well that’s down to free-market economics I suppose. What I can say is that people who really understand the value that a good copywriter brings don’t fret over price.

    1. Good point Chris, and it’s something that’s been mentioned to me before: buying a service is different to buying a product because there’s more to consider than the price.

  3. Hi

    I don’t think it’s a great idea to be honest, but it depends on the service being offered. If I were buying a ring that is fixed and already made, then of course I’d expect a fixed price. If I was calling a window cleaner, I’d expect a ‘per-window’ price. However if I rang a jeweller and asked for a custom ring to be made, and they gave me a price there and then without finding anything else out about my requirements, I’d assume they didn’t know what they were doing, or that they’d charged me a ridiculously high ‘catch all’ price; the same price if I wanted a plain silver ring or a diamond encrusted gold ring. Neither of those are good things.

    There’s a big difference between, say, buying an already made WordPress theme off me, and having a custom one made. Even if I quoted my ‘per day’ price, that wouldn’t mean anything without knowing how long it will take to make your website, and I can’t do that without finding out what you want. So any price I put on the site would be meaningless, or even misleading. If it’s a custom service, then you need to find out details of the job before you can offer a meaningful quote.

    Also – I do charge more for clients who can pay more. Or, to put it more accurately, I charge less for clients who can’t. I’d rather do some of the smaller, nice, fun, creative jobs even though I end up charging less than if I was really charging fully for the time taken. There are a number of great jobs I’ve had (and two which I’m currently working on) that I wouldn’t have got if they’d first saw my daily rate. And that would have been a shame, because they’re fun ones to work on and nice people to work with. I enjoy what I do and the challenge being creative, so I don’t want to miss out on these jobs.

    And finally – how do you decide what to put on your site? I would be constantly worried that I’d either priced myself out of the equation, or that I’d priced myself too low. If you price yourself for the small jobs, that’s all you’ll get; clients for whom price isn’t such an object will assume that you’re not as good as someone who charges more.

    I think the temptation is to put a price on there to reassure potential clients that your job won’t cost the earth. Trouble is, I think that approach only impacts on clients who are price-sensitive first; I don’t want those people. I want people who like my work and want a good job doing, not ones who ask ‘how much’ first. Those clients, from experience, tend to be hard work to deal with. To go back to the original jewellery analogy, if I were to walk into a jewellers and ask ‘how much for a custom ring?’, not only would that be a meaningless question, it would show that I was more interested in the price that the product. Rather, I’d go in and say I wanted a custom ring making, have a look at the other work they’ve done, then describe the sort of thing I wanted, and only then discuss prices.

    1. Another great answer – nice to see both sides of the argument. We would also be concerned about misleading people.

  4. Do you think it’s true that clients like to see prices and freelancers don’t like to publish them? To put it another way: are there any clients that prefer to get a custom price, rather than working from a price list?

  5. Again, I think it depends on the service offered; for a service which is ‘custom’ at all I wouldn’t expect that clients want that.. I’ve never had a client ask me why I don’t have a price up on the site, I’m not sure that it’s expected at all? I’ve always just been asked for quotes depending on the job.

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