You’ve decided on copywriting as a career. You’ve finished your course, you’ve got your portfolio and are looking to find secure, rewarding work. But no matter how confident or experienced you are, it’s easy to get confused as to exactly what you should expect to make.
So, how much does a junior copywriter make and how can you fully maximise your earning potential?
How much does a junior copywriter make?
Conventionally, salaried jobs in copywriting will see you fit between the national average of £20,000 – £25,000 before moving up to a higher pay bracket of ‘middleweight’ writers which will see your pay band stretch from £25,000 to £50,000.
Specifically, some industries estimate that a junior copywriter will make:
- Prospect: £20,000 – £25,000 per annum
- Glassdoor: £18,000 – £26,000 (variable)
- Indeed: £20,419 per annum (sectoral average)
- PayScale: £22,349 (average)
While these are solid estimates, it is important to reinforce that they are in no way guaranteed. Pay can fluctuate depending on the sector you are employed in, the degree of specialisation and your level of experience or your geographic location. Consequently, it is important to not only understand your salary but also your value – a reliable, diligent copywriter is often worth their weight in gold.
How do I earn more at a business?
While your initial salary may be slightly above or below these values, copywriters who produce quality, reliable content stand a good chance of promotion. And while competition in the sector is high, modern copywriters have a better chance than ever to secure a competitive salary by carrying out the following:
Adhering to your KPIs: With copy and content being highly metricised, it is often worth discussing incentives with your employer such as trackable KPIs to hit. If your company does not track metrics that relate to your work, you should ideally make every effort to record your own stats, including views, retweets, likes and comments. Keeping a succinct but detailed record of these statistics can help justify future raises or promotions.
Improving your technical skillset: Certain skillsets can potentially allow you to negotiate a higher wage bracket, the most valuable of which often includes SEO awareness, UX training, and web design. Being able to produce optimised copy can increase your perceived value with an employer and – if training is currently not an option – having knowledge of how best practice should be deployed can save you valuable time. Tools such as Tweetdeck and Serpfox are quick to master and can greatly increase your efficiency and earning potential.
Managing your budget: While this may seem obvious, with many of the most lucrative non-remote jobs held in areas such as London or Manchester, high costs of living may actively offset the benefits of a reliable job. If you’re moving as part of your new role, make sure you take the time to factor variables such as transport costs, rent, and taxes. Copywriting can be a demanding job at the best of times and having a secure period of time to establish yourself can be invaluable.
But if you are considering what you can earn as a freelancer, it’s a different ballgame entirely.
How much does a freelance copywriter make?
One of the most common pathways to the industry, freelance copywriters arguably have a more challenging task ahead of them when it comes to figuring out their wage and being able to generate a sustainable income. We go into this in a little more detail in our ‘How to become a professional writer’ blog, but in order to realise how much you can potentially earn, it’s important to understand exactly what you should be charging.
What should my minimum rates be?
A key part of understanding your value as a copywriter is your minimum work rate. If you can get a handle on this, you can quickly work backwards from your required wage and define the hours you will need to secure and the potential client-base that will provide that work.
As standard, starting or junior copywriters should charge no less than the following for professional work according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
- 1000 words (intense research or background required): £350.00
- 1000 words: £275.00
- Researching links/day: £220.00
- Researching and compiling a database, per day: £160.00
- Writing/day: £160.00
This requires a certain amount of ‘playing by ear’ for junior copywriters, but your hourly rate should be no lower than £30 to £40 per hour to be a sustainable enterprise. In addition to this, freelance self-assessment requires you to pay your taxes twice per annum, with your first year paid on account and potentially refunded the following year when concrete values are known. This can potentially make a low starting rate difficult to justify – therefore, understanding and adhering to your freelance rate becomes absolutely critical for enjoying a sustainable career.
In addition to this, one of the first skills every freelancer copywriter learns is how to efficiently negotiate the cost of a project. While it is important to be respectful and polite, there is always room to realistically discuss the remit of a project, what their budget is, and how far it will stretch. In this situation, it’s always important to make the client pitch first and then to elucidate your value. And though it may go nowhere, there is no harm in highlighting what an extra couple of hours may add.
Once you’re established, you can move on to climbing the ladder to securing higher paying jobs. These will often be found in sectors with demand and are described in detail by sites like Freelancinghacks or Freelance Writing – highlighting fields such as the travel, recruitment, and educational sectors who reward writers who provide high quality, high volume copy. When it comes to seeking a higher wage, sites like Skillscrush regularly publish articles on how to secure high-value work, highlighting the importance of cultivating a strong portfolio and the ability to embody the voice of a business or organisation.
What types of work can I secure?
When it comes to going freelance, there are a number of different avenues available to secure income, including:
Shift work: This will potentially require you to work at news desks or at media companies, in proofing services, or social media management amongst others. As you are working within the employer’s schedule, this will require you to be a little more flexible with your time, which carries the potential of making you less available to take on other freelance work. While this may be a semi-reliable source of income, it should be understood in the context of your other potential commitments.
Commissioned work: Client-led work is variable and will be based upon the unique needs of the project, the available budget, and your estimate of the time required to work. When any project is complete, it is strongly recommended that you honestly review your own time spent and effort required for different types of writing. This can help you deliver more effective estimates in future and work toward avoiding burnout or being underpaid.
Day rates: Larger projects that involve high-volume document review or construction can be potentially charged at a day rate, rather than by the hour. While these can provide reliable income, it is vitally important that the work is correctly estimated on your part and the overall scope is clearly defined with the client.