How Much Should I Pay a Freelance Writer? 3 Pricing Models to Consider
How much should I pay a freelance writer?
It’s a simple enough question. If only it 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.
3 Ways to Decide How Much You Should Pay a Freelance Writer
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to freelance writer rates.
But before we go into the different approaches you and your writers might take, let’s face 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.
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 model that works? As always, the short answer is “it depends.”
In most cases, the pricing model 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 Per Hour
This is the tried and true standard for most client services relationships.
You discuss the project with your freelancer, agree to a per-hour rate, and come up with an estimate of how long the assignment will take. When you’re working with a true professional, they’ll likely have a good idea of how long the writing will take as long as you provide clear enough instructions.
But does this pricing model really hold up when applied to the writing process?
In my experience, not so much. When I was doing a lot of freelance writing work, I found hourly payment models weren’t so motivating. Before I even started the assignment, I was already on a time crunch. That often led to roadblocks in quality of work.
Say you hire the freelance writer for $50/hour. They estimate that your assignment will take between 3 and 4 hours to complete, so you agree to a 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.
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. Or, they’ll power right through the 3- to 4-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 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 that 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, 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 working on 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 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 are going 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.
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 it optimized to gain backlinks and high search rankings? Will it 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?
I wish I could give you a direct answer to the question. If there were a single answer like “pay your freelance writers $.50 per word,” we wouldn’t have countless articles explaining how freelancers should set their rates and how clients should pay them.
But if you’re looking for some more concrete answers, we’ve got a guide that could help. Our Content Creation Pricing Guide dig 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
- 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
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.