The Cost vs. Value Debate: A Content Marketer's Guide to Setting Writing Rates

A Content Marketer’s Guide to Setting Writing Rates

Businesses and brands worldwide need writers to manage various tasks, including articles, blogs, case studies, and other content. With that comes figuring out how much to pay and setting writing rates. We’re all tempted to save money and cut costs when possible. But is it worth it to take this approach for your content?

That’s where the cost versus value debate comes into play. Think of it this way:

What happens if a brand decides to let writers bid for work and choose the lowest bidder? The hope is to receive work that meets expectations. That isn’t always the case, however. Unfortunately, they won’t receive the highest quality work if they go that route.

This guide discusses the cost versus value debate while outlining best practices for setting writing rates. We already have a guide explaining how much to pay writers for blog posts, white papers, eBooks, case studies, sales collateral, emails, newsletters, social media posts, websites, and landing pages here — How Much Should You Pay Freelance Writers? We’ll dive deeper into “why” and what factors affect writing rates.

How to Set Writing Rates: A Brief Overview

When determining how to set rates for the writers with whom you want to work, many questions come up. That’s typical and, among the most common questions include:

  • Is the rate I’m considering paying writers higher than the service is worth?
  • Is the rate I’m considering paying writers lower than the service is worth?
  • Do I want this rate to include two rounds of editing or other services?

Setting rates vary from writer to writer – industry to industry. Yes, that’s vague, but it’s also valuable to know that. We’re going to look at several factors affecting freelance writing rates – but first, let’s look at how to structure freelance writing rates.

How to Structure Writing Rates

When collaborating with writers, you’ll find that they typically charge per word or per project. While “per word” projects are the most common among many brands and publications, don’t rule out flat-fee “per project” writing rates.

Some brands also like paying writers per hour. We’re not going to examine this payment structure as closely because it isn’t as appealing to writers. Why? As soon as they start the assignment, they feel like they’re racing the clock. The downsides of this pricing model are that the writer doesn’t have the flexibility they might need, and you’re not receiving the highest quality content.

Per Word

Depending on the type of work you need the writer to complete, how much experience they have, and the level of effort you need from them, you can expect to see these rates ranging from $.10 to $1.00 per word for blog posts. However, setting a per-word rate may not be optimal when looking at other projects like emails or newsletters.

Per Project

Charging per project means that the writer receives a flat fee no matter how long or short the content is. These projects are optimal for brands with a content strategy, detailed content briefs, and clearly defined projects. Charging per project is also optimal for brands that need writers to conduct interviews, complete high-level research, and require longer lead times.

Factors Affecting Writing Rates

After determining if it’s best to pay writers per word or project, it’s time to look at the variables affecting writing rates. A challenge when hiring and collaborating with freelance writers is determining rates. You’re working with a budget, but you risk sacrificing quality if your rates are too low. If your rates are too high, you might have concerns about how to stretch your budget.

We learn from a survey conducted by that the one thing nearly 70% of freelance writers want to improve about their business is how much money they make. Here are several factors affecting writing rates:


A writer’s professional experience provides background regarding their education, the number of years they’ve been writing, and samples of their published work. Brands benefit from having this information because if the writer hasn’t been working very long or is a “generalist,” it’s appropriate to set writing rates lower when compared to working with someone with decades of experience.

Niche Industries

When determining how much to pay writers, niche industries play a significant role as some pay higher than others. For example, if your brand focuses on the tech industry, that’ll warrant higher pay than someone running a travel agency or book blog. Factor in the writer’s level of expertise within the industry and how much experience they have with the content you need.

Content Types

As discussed in our guide, How Much Should You Pay Freelance Writers?, content types (and the writer’s experience with them) dictate how to set freelance writing rates. For example, if you need a writer to complete a case study, that requires an in-depth understanding of personas and strong interviewing skills.

Setting Writing Rates: The Benefits of Paying Competitive Rates

Here’s another example of the cost versus value debate – paying writers a lower rate could result in mediocre content. For example, it might be tempting to pick the one with the lowest price when putting out a call for writers and asking them to send pitches – that isn’t always the best idea if you want the highest quality content.

Let’s look at the benefits of setting competitive rates for your freelance writing team.

High-Quality Content

As I mentioned earlier, collaborating with freelance writers is very much a “you get what you pay for” situation. It’s easy to find hundreds of writers willing to produce the content you need – the challenge is finding professional writers that can give you the highest quality content possible.

When paying competitive rates, you’re getting a professional writer worth the investment, dependable and can produce the content you need on time. Because they’re receiving a fair rate, they’re less likely to rush through the assignment.

Less Time Editing

The last thing any brand wants to receive is the “first draft” of an assignment. In these situations, the writer meets the basic requirements outlined in the assignment – word count, keywords, headings, call-to-action, and linking. However, that “first draft” might not be clean of grammar, spelling, and other contextual mistakes.

Setting competitive rates also means adding value – that boils down to spending less time editing the writer’s work, which results in considerable cost savings. Remember, time is money – if you hire a writer who doesn’t produce the caliber of work you’re expecting, you’re spending more time editing their work or hiring a different freelancer to complete a rewrite.


When writers know their clients value them, they’re more likely to stick around. Writers want to receive a fair rate for the work they’re producing. They also love receiving assignments from the same client over and over again – as they continue producing and meeting a brand’s expectations, the work gets easier for them (and for you!).

When writers know they’re valued, you may see them consistently going above and beyond when meeting client expectations. Often, that’s because they can see the client cares about their goals, has a dependable communication system, and provides timely and constructive feedback following assignment submission.