Every content marketer has come up against this question at least once: How much should I pay a freelancer to write this, anyway? And on a grander scale — how should we be budgeting for freelancers? That’s what this post is about. If you’re a little lost when it comes to paying for content or if you just need a refresher course, keep reading.
Understand you get what you pay for
As you’re searching for freelance writers, it’s important to remember that you usually get what you pay for. Many of the writers you’ll find on sites like Craigslist and UpWork are inexpensive, but the ones who don’t charge a lot for their work are unlikely to be very experienced or very good.
If you want content that shines, you should invest in writers who have the experience and writing skills you need.
Hiring a freelancer, even an expensive one, is almost always cheaper than hiring a full-time employee. Even still, the costs for freelancers can get high, especially if you want a large volume of content. So, how can you effectively budget for freelance writers?
Like anything else, you’ll have to balance what you want with what you can afford. In general, you tend to get what you pay for, but there are a lot of factors that go into the equation. Some freelancers offer additional services, such as social promotion and ghostwriting.
How much freelancers cost
It’s difficult to get a straight answer on how much freelancers cost. That isn’t because the industry is trying to keep a big secret; it’s simply because there’s a lot of variance. Some experienced copywriters won’t do projects for less than $3,000, while others write 500-word articles for $50 a pop.
You’re best off contacting a few different freelancers and learning about their rates. In our experience, you can expect to pay from $200-$400 for a 700-word blog post. If the freelancer charges by the hour, you’ll see rates from $35 to $200 per hour (see? Large variance). In 2015, ClearVoice asked companies and freelancers what they pay/charge for content — check out the results.
Some freelancers prefer to charge by project, while others like to charge by the hour. We prefer paying by project, as freelancers work at different speeds. Otherwise you may pay more for a slow writer who isn’t necessarily better than someone who’s fast.
You’ll also pay more depending on what you want. If you need a freelancer to do heavy research, you’ll probably have to shell out more cash. Many freelancers also charge more if you ask them to conduct interviews.
Are expensive freelancers really worth it?
Well, it depends. There are a lot of variables that determine whether you’ll get your money’s worth. Will the freelancer turn in clean drafts that barely need edits? Will the freelancer share the finished product in their social channels? Is it ghostwritten or bylined? Do you want them to conduct interviews or perform any SEO duties?
In general, there are two guiding principles here:
- We’ll say it again: You get what you pay for. If you want to find someone who can write an article for cheap, you can find them, but you’re likely to spend a long time editing their work, and they’re unlikely to have any clout on social media. Review our study on freelance pay rates for travel writers, where seven writers at different pay rates were given the same assignment.
- Hiring (even expensive) freelancers is almost always cheaper than hiring an in-house employee. When freelance rates seem expensive, check yourself. How much would you be paying a full-time employee? Even if a freelancer’s hourly rate is high, you’re not on the hook for providing benefits or long-term work.
When you see freelance writing rates, you might be surprised at the expense, but these writers can provide a ton of value to your business. Their ability to write well — and to your audience — can make your content shine.
Negotiating with freelancers
When a freelancer gives you a quote on a project, it can be tempting to negotiate. While freelancers are often willing to work with you to maximize what you can get from your budget, they’re unlikely to take too much negotiation. If you can’t afford a freelancer’s rates, you can be honest about what you can afford. Don’t negotiate just for the sake of it.
If you don’t have a large content marketing budget
If the marketing budget has already been allocated, and there isn’t a huge amount of room for content marketing, you’ll have to go lean. But fear not — you can accomplish a lot with a small budget.
First, take advantage of free and low-cost tools that help you strategize. Some of our favorite resources are:
- How Small Teams Can Build & Execute a Killer Content Marketing Strategy (ClearVoice)
- 10 Tips to Make Content Marketing Work on a Small Budget (Quicksprout)
- Lean Content Marketing: How to Do Content Marketing on a Budget (Marketo)
Second, have a documented plan. According to that same report from CMI and MarketingProfs, successful teams have their plans written down, even if it’s a one-person team on a small budget. Remember that your plan needs to include your budget for freelancers as well as your budget for promotional efforts, such as paid ads.
Lastly, work with freelancers to figure out what you can get from your budget. If you only have $1,000 to spend each month, your freelancers can offer ideas on how to best optimize that spend.
Next week, we’ll discuss how to onboard and collaborate with freelancer writers.
Our latest ebook explains how to leverage freelance writers to improve and grow your content creation efforts. For the complete guide, download “How to Successfully Find, Hire & Work With Freelancers.”