At ClearVoice, we probably get asked this question more than any other: “How much should I pay for a freelance writer?” As content marketing becomes more popular, everyone wants to know what the going freelance pay rates are for well-written blog posts, email newsletters, social media content, and ebooks.
On the flip side, we know freelancers are curious about how they stack up to others in terms of pay. Let’s face it, it’s a seldom spoken topic. If you do a quick search on pay for freelance writers, you’ll see that many other publications begin to answer this question, but most fail to actually list any rates. That’s because the answer depends on many factors, but it’d still be nice to see some actual numbers.
How much should you pay a freelance writer for your marketing content? This FAQ doesn’t have a simple answer. Most intermediate to advanced freelance writers charge between 10 cents and $1 per word, depending on the amount of work they will have to put into the project. But, the way they bill that average range will vary. Some freelance writers bill at a flat rate, per hour, or per monthly retainer for frequent work (in this case, a volume-based discount should apply), rather than per word. Typically, freelance writers who use one of those last three billing methods will include services beyond just the content.
In addition, rates change per industry, company, writer, location and project (and many other variables), which is probably why this question often goes unanswered on the Interwebs. But, that also kind of sucks.
So we decided the best way to give you a useful answer was to ask freelance writers themselves what they charge:
Methodology of our freelance writer pay survey
We addressed a big question in content marketing: How much should you pay freelance writers? Or, if you are a freelance writer, how much should you charge? It’s kind of hard to know unless someone tells you, right?
In 2015, we created an infographic, “Pay Rates for Freelance Writers,” to break it down. We provided average rates per content and writer type based on our own experience at ClearVoice. But given that the data is now a few years old, we wanted to revisit this topic and get an up-to-date consensus on freelance writer rates – for brands and freelancers.
The best way to get an answer to “how much to pay a freelance writer” was to take it to the streets. The past few months, we polled 500+ freelance writers from around the country to see what they charge, how they charge, what type of content they produce, corresponding level of experience, and even gender to see if a gap exists like in so many other industries.
Questions we asked in our survey:
1 – How many years experience do you have as a professional freelance writer?
- Beginner — 0-3 years experience
- Intermediate — 3-7 years experience
- Professional — 7-15 years experience
- Expert — 15+ years experience
2 – How do you charge?
- Per hour
- Per word
- Retainer/ project fee
- A mix – depends on the client
3 – What do you charge per hour? (Approximate if N/A)
- $1 – 20
- $21 – 40
- $41 – 60
- $61 – 80
- Above $100
4 – What do you charge per word? (Approximate if N/A)
- $.01 – .10
- $.11 – .25
- $.26 – .50
- $.51 – .75
- $.76 – 1.00
- $1.00 and above
5 – What tasks do you complete for clients?
- Blog posts / articles
- Email newsletters
- Social media content
- Print collateral
- Ebooks / white papers
- Research papers
- Other [Specify]
6 – What is your gender
- Prefer not to answer
Some of our key findings around freelance writer pay, experience and gender
After months of collecting data from freelancers near and far, we were able to see some pretty cool trends on freelancer pay rates. Some were expected and obvious. Others were a bit surprising. There were several common themes:
1. You get what you pay for: Pay rates and level of experience are correlated.
When asked the question, “What do you charge per hour?” rates were cut pretty evenly, aside from the $1 – 20 range.
Here is the breakdown per hour and per word:
- $1 – 20: 9%
- $21 – 40: 19%
- $41 – 60: 18%
- $61 – 80: 14%
- $81 – 100: 19%
- $100+: 21%
- $0.01 – 0.10: 14%
- $0.11 – 0.25: 18%
- $0.26 – 0.50: 18%
- $0.51 – 0.75: 13%
- $0.76 – 1.00: 25%
- 12% did not answer because they did not charge per word.
As we suspected, rates and level of experience are connected. Of the writers who charged the lowest rate, 25% were beginner freelancers, while only 1.5% of expert-level writers charged within that range. In fact, of the writers who charged the highest rate – $100+ per hour – most were experts (41%).
The findings were the same for per-word rates. Of the freelancers who charged between $0.01 and $0.10 per word, 32% were beginner writers, while only 0.8% were experts. And of the writers who charged more than a dollar per word, 54% were experts, while only 5% were beginners.
More on pay rates and quality
Interested in learning more about pay rates, experience, and quality? We previously reported on the correlation between pay rates and quality in our pay rate study for the travel industry and subsequent study for the tech industry. It was no surprise to find that writers with more experience, who charged more, were overwhelmingly better than cheaper, less experienced writers.
2. We found a gender pay gap in our sample that was the opposite of most industries.
Interestingly enough, we didn’t find the traditional gender pay gap in freelance writing, at least in our survey pool. Women, on average, charged more than men except in one category, which was at the intermediate level. When we scale-adjusted the pay ranges to the percentages within each group, it came out to…
Average of all pay levels:
- Women charged an average of 11.7% more per word.
- Women charged an average of 8.3% more per hour.
At the beginner level:
- Women charged an average 25.4% more per word and 37.8% more per hour than men.
At the intermediate level:
- Men charged an average of 5.4% more per word and 6.3% more per hour than women. *It was the only level where men charged more than women.*
At the professional level:
- Women charged an average 20.5% more per word and 11.1% more per hour than men.
At the expert level:
- Women charged an average 11.3% more per word and 5.7% more per hour than men.
3. Most freelance writers are flexible in how they charge.
When asked the question “How do you charge?”, freelancers overwhelmingly responded that “it’s a mix – it depends on the client.” In fact, nearly 60% of respondents vary their rates based on different clients, while 12% charge per hour, another 12% by word, and nearly 16% charge by retainer (or per project). This is good news for brands, as budgets and payment terms vary from business to business.
4. No surprise, but articles and blogs are the most common type of content produced.
Overwhelmingly, blogs and articles are the most common type of content produced by freelance writers. In fact, 90% of respondents produce articles and blogs, a rate that was consistent across all experience levels. Here is a breakdown of other types of content:
- 52% produce email newsletters
- 56% produce social media content
- 30% produce “other” types of content
- 26% produce print collateral
- 25% produce ebooks and white papers
- 14% produce research papers
- 13% produce books
- 10% produce website copy
5. Counter to popular opinion, older and more experienced freelancers were far more likely to do social media content.
While 80% of experts (those freelance writers with 15+ years of experiences) reported doing social media content for clients, substantially fewer beginners, only 47%, reported the same. We found this point to be most surprising, as it counters the notion that social media is dominated by those who are younger. Perhaps putting your brand’s reputation in the hands of a freelancer requires the assurance they are more experienced?
Translating pay rates into the cost of content types
Although charging per word might not be the ultimate method of calculating pay with your freelancers, knowing the approximate word count for the content types you need can help you estimate initial cost figures to work from.
What type of content do you want to produce?
- Blog posts/website articles
- Quality posts should be 800-2,200 words, depending on strategy
- Social media posts
- Typically 5-150 words per post
- Usually billed monthly or per project for bulk work
- Intermediate to expert freelancers should include some strategy and research
- Marketing emails/newsletters
- Typically 100-800 words
- Usually billed at a flat rate per email
- Rate could be higher if research, media, distribution or cross-publishing is required
- Design is not included in the the content rate.
- Business resources (ebooks, white papers, etc.)
- Typical ebooks range from 1,500 to 5,000+ words, while case studies often range from 300 to 900 words (usually translating into 1-3 pages for print collateral)
- Usually written by an experienced freelancer (and quite possibly a subject matter expert)
- Should always include research, sources and media
Sending a special thanks to the hundreds of freelance writers out there who took time out of their day to participate in this study. After viewing the study, we hope freelancers out there have a better pulse on what others charge. And same goes for brands! Now you should have a better idea of reasonable rates based on levels of experience.
Freelancers: Remember, if you’re looking for work, join our Freelancer network to find freelance assignments that are worth your time!
Related articles to help you determine freelance writer pay:
The Power of Pay: Are Freelance Rates and Quality Correlated? [TRAVEL STUDY]: We assigned one travel article to seven writers and had 30 editorial pros rate the quality of the submissions. Did vetted experts outperform less experienced writers?
Survey Results: Factors in Determining Freelance Rates for Different Assignments: Different assignments, different rates, but same freelancer. Do really value and understand your freelancers’ time? If you need more editorial insight on gauging the work that goes into assignments, Jenna Rose Robbins captures many points marketers and newbie publishers need to know from the freelancer’s perspective.
15 Scenarios When You Should Pay Freelance Writers More: Developing a solid working relationship with freelancers is no less important than fostering respect with your fellow FTEs. Educate yourself on the most common contigencies and special circumstances that warrant you paying a freelancer above and beyond their normal rate.