Copywriting training, Freelance life, Selling

Maslen’s Hierarchy of Fees


Here is a diagram, no, wait…here is an INFOGRAPHIC that maps the relationship between supply, demand and income for freelance copywriters.

I call it the Maslen’s Hierarchy of Fees. (In the hope that someone will pick up on the Maslow link and take this viral.)

It looks like a pyramid so let’s extend the metaphor and think about the people involved in building it.

Day labourers

At the bottom, you have copywriters who, essentially, hang around waiting to be picked for a low-paying job by the site owner.

They have to fight with many other copywriters and if they do get selected can expect a very small reward at the end of the day. Those hiring perceive the job as involving very little skill. The market is driven entirely by price.

Journeymen and women

In the middle, you have the journeymen and women. They have skills that are in demand by site owners, though in fewer numbers than those looking for hod-carriers and hole-diggers.

There are fewer jobs at this level, but they pay better. You might be selected for a site because someone has recommended you.

Over the year, you will make more money than one of the day labourers.

The market is still price sensitive, but if you are good enough at squaring blocks, perfecting joins or carving scarab beetles, you may well get hired despite charging more than the next guy.


When it comes to the details that will please the pharaoh, only a master is good enough.

She or he has risen to the top of their trade, whether that’s stone masonry, ornamental carving, gilding, architecture or pulling someone’s brains out through their nose with a wire hooky thing.

Masters are in short supply, as are the jobs on which they are required to work. The fees are very high and nobody really minds paying them.

Over the years, these individuals have invested heavily in building a reputation.

They have the largest incomes. (Though they may also have costs associated with maintaining their position, apprentices, studios etc.)

Over the course of a year, it may well be that representative members of all three castes work for roughly the same number of days. It’s certainly possible that masters work fewer hours than day labourers.

But what a difference there is in their earnings for the same period.

And I’m telling you this because

It’s useful, when embarking on a business plan, to have an idea of things like the amount of money you want to make in a year and how busy you want to be.

If you love working and hate being idle, a day labouring job may be the answer.

If you prefer to space out your work and have periods of inactivity (at least of the fee-earning kind), then aiming higher up the pyramid may be the answer.

Training will help you move up the pyramid too. Our Breakthrough Copywriting course is a great place to start.

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