How much to pay a freelance writer? Ah, it’s the question that never has a straight answer. In this post, we’ll break it down and give you real numbers. You'll walk away with a real answer.
Update: After this post, ClearVoice surveyed freelance writers and marketers to find out what they charge/pay for content. See the results here.
Working in product support at ClearVoice, I probably get asked this question more than any other. As content marketing becomes more popular, everyone wants to know what the going freelance pay rate is for well-written blog posts, email newsletters, social media content, etc.
If you do a quick search on the topic, you’ll see that many other publications begin to answer this question, but they never actually list any rates. That’s because the answer depends on many factors, but it’d still be nice to see some actual numbers. I’ve talked to marketers, business owners, managing editors and freelance writers across many different industries, and I’m going to finally give you some figures you can work with.
Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with what content marketing is and why it’s important. Chances are, if you’re reading this you already know, but there are still some folks who aren’t convinced they should invest in content (or content creators). Let’s break it down:
- The Internet is a big deal — people spend a lot of time on it, in many forms, on lots of devices.
- Because of the Internet, people are overloaded with information, and as such, we have increasingly shorter attention spans. We pay attention to only the most relevant and entertaining information.
- That means traditional marketing tactics such as print ads, direct mail, commercials and even online ads aren’t working as well.
- Enter content marketing. Create relevant, consistent online content (instead of ads), and people come to you (Note: You’ll want to develop a content strategy before you turn to freelance writers).
Companies publishing quality content are seeing big rewards in terms of traffic and leads. According to HubSpot data, brands that published more than 16 blog posts a month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than brands that published between zero and four monthly posts. And Demand Metric reports that 78 percent of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing.
Back to our FAQ about freelance writing rates
So, we all know that content is important, and at the very least, worth a try. Now: How much should you pay a freelancer 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 about 100 other variables), which is probably why this question often goes unanswered on the Interwebs. But, that also kind of sucks.
So, I decided the best way to give you a useful answer is to first have you answer the following three questions. Once you have your answers, just look for the corresponding pay range on the chart.
*Note: I’m focusing on marketing content only for the purposes of this article.
1. What type of content do you want to produce?
- Blog posts/website articles
- Quality posts should be 600-1000 words
- 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/enewsletters
- 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.)
- Typically at least 600+ words, could be 2,000+
- Usually written by an experienced freelancer (and quite possibly a subject matter expert) and includes a byline
- Should always include research, sources and media
2. What exactly do you want the freelance writer to do/include?
Consider these factors, which could be add-on services or included in the project package:
- Research. Are you asking for well-researched content on an unfamiliar topic? Does the writer need to find and include credible sources? Even short social media posts require research.
- Optimization. Will the writer need to optimize the content for search engines or for a keyword strategy?
- Supporting media. Does the freelancer need to find or create any supporting media such as images, videos or links?
- Strategy. Does the freelancer need to include a posting or editorial strategy around this content? (e,g., a publishing timeline, topical content or trending hashtags, strategic mentions, distribution strategy)
- Distribution and outreach. Do you want the freelancer to distribute and/or socially promote this content for you?
- Moderation. Does the freelancer need to moderate any comments or responses to this work?
- Byline usage. Are you publishing this content with the writer’s own name? Or do you want ghostwritten content?
3. What type of freelance writer do you need for this content?
- Beginner. Someone with 0-3 years experience who is eager to build a portfolio
- Intermediate. Someone with 3-5 years experience with a solid portfolio of work
- Pro. 5+ years of experience with some larger projects and clients and good references
- Expert. 7+ years of experience, a subject matter expert or influencer with a large following on social media or within the audience you are trying to reach
Now, it’s easier to identify what you should pay for your content. The graphic below represents what we would recommend, based on feedback from our writers, editors, content strategists and clients.
These rates are based on the content only, and are not reflective of any additional services.
Pay Rates for Freelance Writers:
Share this image on your site
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?