How to hire a freelance copywriter in Austin, TX

People who are inquiring about my services often ask a lot of the same questions. I thought I would address some of those questions to make it easier for folks to find the best talent for the project at hand. 

What’s the rate for freelance copywriters in Austin?
It depends. Among the people I talk to, $75 an hour seems to be the standard minimum rate. And I can tell you that if money is your most critical concern, most freelancers are less likely to want to work with you. Personally, I’m very upfront about the fact that I do not want to be the cheapest freelance copywriter in Austin. My goal is to provide maximum value to my clients and to get maximum value in return. Like my grandma said, “The cheapskate pays most in the end.” I think most of us do a good job leaving our clients feeling like they got more than they expected for the money.

Value does not always mean money. For a freelancer, certainty has value. So many of us, myself included, will take the volume and duration of work into consideration when pricing a job.

Specialization has value. Some of the work I do, including Service Design and Customer Experience work, is pretty specialized and requires knowledge across disciplines other than straight copywriting. Don’t expect to pay the same for highly specialized work as you would for writing a direct mail postcard.

Do you have experience doing (your need here)?
Every freelance copywriter has probably written direct mail. So a “yes” answer here tells you very little. So if you are hiring for a DM job, a better question might be, “Can you tell me about a direct mail piece you worked on that was particularly successful?”, or, “Can you refer me to one of your direct mail clients who could speak to your work?”

Or be much more specific about the project: “Do you have experience writing sustained B2B direct mail campaigns targeting C-level prospects?”

Be wary of anyone who claims they can do anything. I can tell you right now, I am not the best choice to write your bridal catalog.

What’s your availability like?
Probably the biggest issue for both freelancers and their clients is availability. Freelancers want the certainty of knowing they have work, as well as the ability to tell clients when they are available. Clients putting together projects are often dealing with multiple moving parts, so they often can’t tell freelancers exactly when they’ll need them. Sometimes a freelancer and a client want to work together, agree to work together, but end up not working together, because the timing just didn’t work out. That sux.

One way to improve your chances of having a copywriter available when you need one is to develop a stable of go-to freelancers. If you keep going back to the same folks for work, they are more likely to prioritize you as a client. Like every other business, this one is about relationships. Freelancers who have had a positive experience working with you before will work harder to make themselves available when you need them the next time.

Do you work on contract?
My answer is, “Not if I can help it,” and so far, I have been able to help it. But many clients and freelancers like the certainty and security that a contract for a specified period can offer.

I personally don’t like contracts for two main reasons: I don’t like being tied to an office when I’m not working, and I think they can be inefficient for both client and freelancer.

For me, there is nothing worse than sitting around getting paid when there’s no work to do. It makes me want to shoot myself in the head. (If you had told my teenage self that I would ever complain about being paid not to work, he would think you were crazy.) Yet this is what a lot of contracting is about.

Most contracts stipulate that the freelancer work out of the office. That usually means 40 hours a week, minimum. In a really, really busy week, 30 hours of those 40 hours will be spent actually working. Most weeks, it’ll be more like 15-25 hours of actual work.  

For some clients, it’s worth paying for the certainty of knowing your writer will be there when the work comes in. And as I said before, for some writers knowing you will have steady income over a specified period is worth sacrificing a little personal freedom.

But I gotta stay busy. When I’m sitting around an office not working, I’m thinking about the million and one things I need to be doing at home, and I know plenty of freelancers who feel the same way.

I’ve actually talked clients out of hiring me on contract and just paying me on an hourly basis. So far, it has always worked out great. The client pays only for work actually done, and I get to do whatever else I want to do after I finish their work, whether that is doing work for other clients, writing this blog, producing music in my home studio, vacuuming the house or whatever. (And, yes, “whatever” sometimes means “taking a nap.”)

I hope this helps take some of the mystery out of hiring a freelance writer for work in the Austin, TX area. I have more to say on the topic, and will write a follow-up in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are looking for a writer, I’d be happy to discuss your work and/or refer you to some other great freelance writers in the Austin area.