A common way of listing (and paying for) writing jobs is by word count. (For example: $XX.00 for 800 words.) I’ve even bid on writing projects using this method myself.
But, the other day I stopped in mid-bid. Does bidding on writing jobs by word count really make sense?
Most writing courses and style guides emphasize the importance of writing clearly and concisely. Unnecessary words should be trimmed from your writing.
What this means is that longer copy is not necessarily better copy. In fact, quite the opposite is often true. Longer copy may be full of redundancies, cluttered with adjectives and adverbs, and full of flowery language–all of which contribute to inferior copy.
Yet, if a writer is being paid by word count, which writer will receive more money?
- The writer who take the time to carefully craft his or her copy, while making sure that each word serves a particular purpose
- Or, the writer who crams his or her copy full of as many words as he or she can manage to work into the text
If you guessed the second writer, you would be correct in many cases.
Paying writers by word count is an outdated tradition that can be traced back to print publications, where physical space was at a premium. A writer was limited to (or required to produce) a certain number of words because the editor needed to fill an actual physical space in the publication.
However, in these days of online publishing payment by word count makes little sense.
Still, word count quotes persist. I have to admit, there is a certain mentality among some clients that bigger is better. The more words they get, the more value they think that they’re getting for their money.
They are wrong.
It is much better to have concise and effective copy than bloated copy that was designed mainly to meet a particular word count.
So what should companies look for in project bids instead of word count quotes?
I would suggest that you look for a range for both word count and price. The language should look something like the following:
“Most web copy that I write for company profile pages falls in the 600 to 800 word range. Your company profile page may be slightly shorter or slightly longer, depending on what is best for your company. I charge between $XX.00 and $XX.00 to produce an effective company profile.”
Do you think it makes sense to pay online writers by word count? Why, or why not?