Writing a website, especially from scratch, can be a very lucrative project. There are a few challenges, though, so I’m going to outline what they are and give you suggestions for how you can handle them effectively. But first, here are a number of reasons why writing a website is one of my favorite types of project.
Websites are Long-Form Projects
Writing a website is a nice meaty project. It’s not a short writing gig, like writing a blog post or a short ad, where realistically you can only charge a few hundred dollars.
A website writing project, especially one from scratch, is a long-form project, so you can charge more for it.
Websites are High-Profile Projects
Often within a company, a lot of eyes are on this type of project. The CEO is involved, the business owner is involved, and the VP of marketing is involved. After all, it’s the company website, so everybody’s watching it. Companies tend to be willing to invest the dollars they need to do a great job with the design and the content.
Websites are Central to Marketing
A website is arguably the most important type of content a company produces to help sell their products and services.
It’s the core of their marketing. It communicates the brand name. It helps sell their products and services. It helps generate leads. A great website and great content on that website has so many benefits for a company.
So when you’re discussing a website writing project with a potential client, you can point out how important the content is. (This is especially important when you are quoting your fees.) You can justify how great content impacts their bottom line directly.
Writing a Website Positions You as the Go-To Copywriter
Because the website is high profile, you’re well-positioned to write other marketing pieces a company needs.
Say you’re a marketing director of a company, and you’ve worked with a copywriter who wrote a new website for you. If you love what they wrote for you, aren’t you going to go back to that writer when you need an email campaign written? Or an ad, a white paper, or a case study?
Well, of course you are. You see the website every day. It’s a constant reminder of the great writing that copywriter has done for you.
So those are the reasons why I like writing websites and why they can be such great projects. And that’s the reason why you can charge well for that type of project.
Typically, you can charge anywhere from about $1,500 for a very simple professional services website with a homepage and perhaps a Services page and an About page. For more complex website writing projects, you can charge up to $5,000 or more.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You can go on one of those freelance jobsites that you see on the internet, and you’ll see pitches for website writers who charge maybe $50 or $100 for a website.
That’s not the market you and I are in — we’re professional B2B copywriters. We charge professional rates for professional services. We attract clients that want to work with professionals who charge those rates.
How to Manage a Website Writing Project
But handling a website writing project can be hard work. And if you don’t manage the project effectively, it can go off the rails very quickly.
There are certain characteristics of a website writing project that you don’t find in other types of projects.
So you’ve got to be aware of those so you don’t trip over them when you’re handling a website writing project.
Otherwise, you may end up taking much longer to write a website than you expected (and maybe longer than you budgeted for). And you may end up with copy published on a website that’s not as good as you would like it to be.
And worse, you may end up with a client who is not as delighted with your copy as you hope they would be.
So let me give you some high-level tips on how to manage a website writing project…
#1. Find Out What the Client Likes
What I find happens with website writing projects is that a client will see other websites they really like. And they want their website to have some of those elements.
So ask your client, “Have you seen some other websites that you like?” I’ll get on a phone meeting with them and we’ll visit some of the websites that they particularly like.
I’ll ask them, “What do you like about this web page? Is it the design that you like? Is it the structure?” I’ll also ask what they like about the headlines. And here’s an important question I ask: “Is it the writing style? Do you like how it’s written?”
The goal is to find out not only what they like, but why they like it. And that will give you some guidelines for writing your client’s website.
An important question I ask when we’re doing this website tour is, “Why do you think this design, or this structure, or this writing style will work for your target audience? Why do you think that’s the right approach for your marketplace?”
They might not have asked themselves that question. Just because they like something on anther website doesn’t mean it’s the right approach for their website.
#2. Show the Client Examples of Your Writing Style
You want to manage expectations as to what they’re going to get from you. The best way to do that is to show them a couple of samples of your web writing.
I always send two or three samples, and I’ll insist they read them. My style doesn’t actually differ that much, but I vary it a little bit depending on the client.
I want them to know in advance what to expect from me when it comes to copy. And I’ll ask them if this style works for them. Is this what they want?
Now, the funny thing is, when clients hire you to write a website, sometimes they don’t ask for samples. Don’t assume clients will have read the samples on your portfolio link to get a sense of your writing style.
Sometimes they’ll hire you for many different reasons, so you want to make sure they understand your style. So when you write the copy, they are not disappointed, and they get a sense of what they’re going to get.
#3. Start with an In-Depth Strategy Meeting
I start every website project by booking a phone appointment with the client. I’ll tell the client in advance that this is a strategy session on the content on the website.
And we get on the phone and we discuss each page of the website. I ask questions about the content and what the key messages are going to be. We strategize together about what we’re going to say on each page and how we’re going to say it.
And depending on how long this website is, this discussion could take as little as half an hour, but realistically it usually takes about an hour.
Always record this conversation (and let them know you’re recording it, of course). There are many ways you can do that. There are plugins on Skype and apps for your phone where you can record the conversation. If you use a teleconference line, most have a recording function.
Don’t rely on just taking notes. When you record the conversation, you can have a more interactive conversation. You can focus on listening to what the client says rather than frantically trying to make notes and get it right.
And here is another step I want you to take: have that one-hour conversation transcribed. For the last website project I did, it cost me $160 to transcribe a 65-minute meeting with the client with overnight service.
It doesn’t have to be a perfect transcription. But, by having it transcribed, you can review the conversation you had with the client. You can go back and confirm what needs to be said. You can circle through this transcript, and highlight sections that are important.
And here’s another advantage: Sometimes when you’re talking with a client and you’re brainstorming the content for their website, you and the client just naturally come up with ideas on the fly, for headlines and lines of copy, and key messages you should have.
And recording this conversation and transcribing it captures all those magic moments where you’ve just instantly come up with some ideas for the copy. You can literally cut and paste some of this copy from the transcript directly into the website.
So now, do you charge the client separately for this transcription? I recommend you do not. Just make it part of your process and build it in to your website quote. Trust me — having your conversation transcribed will be the best couple hundred dollars you’ll ever spend on a website project.
#4. Connect with the Designer
Now, you may have brought in a web designer, or the client may have their own web designer. Find out who that is and ask the client if you can introduce yourself to that web designer.
You want to collaborate closely with the designer. You want to find out what stage they’re at in the web design. They may have already come up with a template and a general design idea for the website before you were even brought into a project.
And also, you want to create a good relationship with the designer. The web designer may have gotten the project first and they may feel a little uneasy or even threatened if you were suddenly brought in to the project.
And there’s another more selfish reason why you want to do this — that designer may be a source of referrals. And, you may be a good source of referrals for them.
#5. Include Room for Extras in Your Quote
When you’re budgeting a website writing project and you’re deciding what to quote the client, invariably there will be extra work that you’ll have to do. I’ve never worked on a website copywriting project yet that went exactly as scoped.
Let’s say I estimated writing a homepage and two Services pages, and a short blurb for the content page. Then when writing the project, the client wants some extras. They want some headlines for some sidebars that were added in by the designer.
Or they need some copy for a different page, or a little blurb to introduce their blog. There could be many other elements of the website that they need some extra copy for.
So make sure you budget in some elbow room to do this. You don’t want to have to go back to the client and ask for extra money for these little extras. You want to be able to just do those and feel comfortable that you have a budget to do that.
Now of course, if there’s a big change in the project, that’s different.
If the client wants several extra pages or whole new section of the sidebar, then you have to discuss revising the budget with the client. But for the little extras, you don’t want to have to charge the client for it.
#6. Expect to Be a Brand Consultant
One of the things that differentiates a website project from other B2B writing projects is that besides selling your client’s products and services, you also have to communicate your client’s brand.
Sometimes the client already has figured out how to do that. They may have a brand strategy platform, or they may be able to explain how they like to be described.
But sometimes they don’t have a clear idea what their brand is, so they’ll need help from you.
Ask the client how they like the brand described. Do they know their brand personality? Do they have boilerplate descriptions of their products and services?
And if they don’t have those things, then you can expect you’ll have to do a little bit of consulting on how they’re going to describe their brand and what their brand is going to be all about.
That impacts what you say on the website. It also impacts the style of writing you use.
You have to budget for this if the client hasn’t done this work. Don’t budget a website project and then realize you’ve got to spend a couple of hours or more with the client to try to figure out their brand. Ask those questions in advance.
So those are some tips for writing and managing website writing projects. I hope you find them helpful because website writing projects are great projects, despite the few challenges. I really enjoy doing them and if you haven’t done any yet, I think you’ll enjoy doing them too.