How much should I pay a freelance writer? Are there average freelance writing rates I should adhere to when posting writing jobs? Do freelance writers charge different rates for different projects?
These questions are pretty straightforward. If only they were so easy to answer.
This is a point of stress for both the brand and freelancer side of any writing project. Freelance writers wonder how much they can (and should) charge for various assignments. And at the same time, you’re trying to determine how to get maximum value without exhausting your marketing budget.
As you plan out your budget and think about how much you should pay freelance writers, there are a few pricing models to keep in mind. Freelance writing rates vary according to the project’s scope if you’re working with new writers and other factors.
So, should freelance writers and marketers set freelance writing rates per hour, per word, or as a per-project rate? We answer that question and more in this guide.
3 Ways to Decide How Much You Should Pay a Freelance Writer
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to freelance writing rates.
But before we go into the different approaches you and your writers might take, let’s face the facts. We all know that there are content mills out there where you can get mass amounts of content for almost no money.
That’s great for your budget. Not so great for your content marketing strategy. If you want to publish the best possible content, your goal can’t just be to find the cheapest possible option.
So, how do I set freelance writing rates?
For marketers that are serious about outsourcing content, asking, “how much should I pay a freelance writer?” is about so many factors other than budget.
Ultimately, the rate will depend on all kinds of factors, including article length, the amount of research required, subject matter expertise, turnaround time, and more.
What’s the best way to combine all of those factors into a consistent pricing structure that works? As always, the short answer is “it depends.”
In most cases, the pricing will be set by your writer. Get familiar with these three options before you start hiring freelance writers for your content needs.
Content Pricing Model #1: Pay Freelance Writers Per Hour
Paying an hourly rate is the tried and true standard for most client services relationships. It doesn’t matter if marketers work with beginning freelance writers or experienced writers; charging a per-hour rate seems to be the preference.
How do you start a content writing project featuring a per-hour rate?
- You discuss the project with your freelancer
- You and the freelance copywriter agree to an hourly rate
- The writer comes up with an estimate of how long the assignment will take
When you’re working with experienced writers, they’ll likely have a good idea of how long the writing will take. However, they can only do this if you provide clear instructions. Otherwise, the freelance writing rates they pitch won’t be accurate.
But does an hourly rate model really hold up when applied to the writing process?
In my experience, not so much. I’ve found that hourly freelance writing rates don’t align with high-quality outputs. Successful writers look at a new job as an opportunity to produce the highest quality writing.
When I was doing a lot of freelance writing work, I found hourly payment models weren’t so motivating. Before starting the assignment, I was already on a time crunch. That often led to roadblocks in the quality of work.
Here’s an example of what that looks like from a freelance writing business perspective:
Say you hire a freelance writer for $50/hour.
- That rate aligns with their freelance writing services.
- They estimate that writing your assignment will take between three and four hours to complete
- You agree to a freelance writing budget of around $200.
While that might work on your end, the writer has to consider how that rate fits into their revenue goals for the month and year.
There’s a problem with hourly rates — the writer may incorrectly estimate how many hours they’ll need.
Suddenly, the writer has no room for flexibility in the time spent on your post. If the research phase runs long, they’ll have to rush through the writing phase. The hours spent writing won’t necessarily result in the highest quality output.
Or, they’ll power right through the three to four-hour allotment in an effort to give you the best piece of content possible — and expect compensation for the additional hours of work.
This only leads to frustration on both ends.
You’re frustrated because the freelance writing rate has become might higher than you expected. And the writer is frustrated because they have to approach you with justifications for the added time.
If your writer is most comfortable with this pricing model, just be prepared for these kinds of potential issues. But for all of the reasons mentioned here, many of the world’s best freelance writers avoid the pay-per-hour model.
Content Pricing Model #2: Pay Per Word
This may be the most popular pricing model for freelance writers. If you’re getting ready to hire some freelancers, you can bet that you’ll come across per-word pricing for at least a few of the writers you consider.
Compared to per-hour pricing, which doesn’t quite fit the nature of content creation, per-word pricing is a much more predictable approach.
Tying payment to a certain amount of time leads to quality frustrations.
But with a per-word approach, you tie pricing to some aspect of your strategy. For example, if your content strategy is to write blog posts that are around 1,200 words, you’ll know exactly how to match your budget to a freelancer’s rates.
There are two challenges to setting freelance writer rates like this, though.
First, per-word pricing is generally best suited for blog posts. Especially as long-form content becomes the norm, it’s easy for freelancers to set a per-word rate that matches the effort each post take.
But when you start writing emails, newsletters, and web copy, per-word pricing starts to look less effective. The value of the work becomes less about the word count and more about the direct impact—open rates, conversions, lifetime value, etc.
The second challenge is that you have to find a freelance writer you can trust. If you just look for the cheapest option from a content mill, you may get an affordable blog post of 1,200 words that really could have been 500 or 600 words.
Choose your writer wisely, and you’ll know that you’re getting a well-crafted piece of content in return for fair compensation.
It’s important to note that the range of potential per-word rates is massive. You could find freelancers who will write for $.01/word or as much as $1/word or even $2/word. Review experience and expertise carefully to find the perfect writer for your needs.
Content Pricing Model #3: Pay Per Project
Freelance writing is a business unto itself. And as such, many of the world’s best writers spend as much time building their own brands as they do writing for clients.
The writers who build freelance writing brands know that they aren’t just delivering a 1,200-word blog post to save their client time. They bring a significant amount of experience and industry experience to the relationship and expect to be paid accordingly.
This is why the upper echelon of freelance writers tends to set project-based freelance writing rates.
For example, a one-off blog post assignment with a top-tier freelance writer with industry expertise may cost $1,000. The word count may be between 1,000-1,200 words, so you could think about it as a $1/word rate.
However, these writers go beyond filling a word count. When you pay a per-project rate, you’re tapping into the value that the writer brings to the table. You get their research expertise, their unique perspective on the topic, and their experience delivering content that gets results.
Tie your marketing strategy to the writer’s freelance writing business
When you go with the per-project approach, you can focus on what really matters in your content strategy. “How much should I pay freelance writers?” becomes less about word counts or time and more about results.
- How many newsletter subscribers will the assignment generate?
- Is the writing optimized to gain backlinks and high search rankings?
- Will the writing deliver conversions on your products and services?
These are the things that really matter for your business. Cutting right to that value in the pricing model leads to a better relationship between you and your freelancers.
So, How Much Should I Pay a Freelance Writer?
The short answer is that there’s no fixed rate. I wish I could give you a direct answer to the question.
Project rates vary significantly according to skill level, expectations of different clients, the project scope, and other criteria.
An experienced writer approaches project pricing in many ways:
- Is the topic extremely difficult, or does it align with their writing skills?
- Does the potential client want one piece focusing on one industry, or are they looking for one to four blog posts covering a broader spectrum?
- Does the client want them to content to attract leads, boost search engine results, reach potential clients, and increase word-of-mouth referrals?
- Does this writing include sales pages, white papers, or other materials containing in-depth research and key findings?
As you can see, freelance rates rarely feature a flat fee per hour for writing projects.
The vast majority of freelance writers steer away from hourly pricing in favor of flat-rate projects.
But if you’re looking for some more concrete answers, we’ve got a guide that could help. Our Content Creation Pricing Guide digs deeper into what you should know about paying freelance writers, including:
- Specific prices based on industry, scope, expertise, and more
- Deciding between generalist writers and subject matter experts (or, if you’re willing to take a chance on a new writer)
- What the democratization of content creation means for brands
- How research, frequency, edits, and other factors can alter costs
- Industry benchmarks for cost, quality, and quantity
Set Your Freelance Writing Rates: Attract Successful Freelancers
There’s no exact science to setting rates for freelance writing jobs. Freelancers charge per hour, word, and project. Before setting a freelance writing rate, most freelance writers look at the project’s scope.
Unfortunately, there’s no average freelance rate — it all depends on budgets. Many writers look for high-paying writing gigs. While that freelance writing rate might align with your budget, be sure what writers charge aligns with their experience.
Some freelancers look at paid writing opportunities as a way to make more money on the side. Other freelance writers offer high-quality writing services at a flat per-post rate in hopes of attracting better clients.
No matter if your content marketing plans include white papers or blog posts, most writers offer writing services that include project pricing. While you may feel freelance writing is better as a per-hour situation, that isn’t always the case.
There are writers out there who will do great work for your brand within your budget. All that’s left to do is find them.