I realized that in my post about hiring a VA and including content creation in her job was throwing something out there that some of you might have questions about. I said that I was paying her considerably less than I would a copywriter or blog writing service, because my needs and standards for the project were different. So the question becomes, what should your budget be when you are ready to outsource some of your content creation? In other words…
What should you expect to pay a blog writer?
The problem is, there’s no one answer to that question. Just like you could pay vastly different prices for a pair of pants at different stores and price points, so too you can pay vastly different rates for a blog writing service. So let’s break it down by what you could pay:
Dollar Store Blog Writing Services
Let’s assume you already know that if you head over to Fiverr or Odesk or Elance and hire someone to write you a blog post at $5 a pop, you’re going to get what you pay for: as in, not much. Those writers are frequently not native English speakers, plagiarism is rampant, they probably have little to no copywriting education, know nothing about online sales, and you can forget about SEO. You’re not going to go that route, right? I’m not sure we can be friends if you do—not because it hurts my writerly feelings (although it does a little bit), but because it’s just really bad business strategy.
Wal-Mart Blog Writing Services
In doing some research into my own competition recently, I discovered a couple of services out there that do pretty much what I do: they provide a business blog posts for a fee.Except, their fee is considerably lower than mine.
How do they do it? They have economies of scale on their side (just like Wal-Mart). For one thing, they hire a big team of writers. I use the term hire loosely. Their writers do what’s called “working on spec,” which is short for speculation, which means they write the articles with no guarantee of being paid.
The way at least one of these services works is like this: a client comes in and says, “I want a blog post about the real estate market in Atlanta,” and then a team of hungry writers all jump on it, and you get a selection of blog posts on your topic. You choose one, and that writer is paid for her work. In theory, you could choose to buy all of them, maybe over the course of a few weeks, and all the writers would get paid, but there’s no guarantee of that for the writers.
Well, first of all, that’s pretty crappy for the writers. Based on the prices these websites charge their customers (less than $100 for four posts a month), the writer isn’t getting paid very much even when their articles are chosen. (Remember, the company takes a cut, too.)
That means, in order to make any kind of money doing this work, they need to churn out these blog posts as quickly as possible, which means doing as little research as possible. They’re also probably going to be on the shorter side of whatever is the required minimum word count for the service (where’s the incentive for the writer to go longer or more in-depth?) and the content will probably be basically a rehash of the top hits on Google for the same subject. The writer can’t afford to spend much time getting to know the client or her customer, and the client will probably get a different writer—different style, different voice—every week.
I can’t truly judge the quality of the work being turned out by these services because I haven’t seen it first hand. (Which is also why I’m not using the names of the companies—I’m not out to stir up bad blood, here.) All I can do is draw some logical conclusions based on the facts.
JCPenney Blog Writing Services
Then you come to the writers you can find out there—some on sites like Elance or even Craigslist—who will write a blog post for around $50.
This is the bare minimum I would pay for a blog post or article, personally.
At this price, you can probably expect the person to have some experience, though not much. It might be a college student or recent grad looking to make some cash and a name for themselves. It might be someone moonlighting on the side. It might be someone who has decided that they’re going to hang out their shingle (digitally speaking) as a writer, and are just getting started.
You’ll probably get around 300 to maybe 500 words for this price, maybe they’ll do some research. If you cultivate a relationship with this person, they’ll get to know your business and your ideal reader better over time. They may or may not have any copywriting experience. Basically, it’s hit or miss; at this price you could get a great piece of work or a really bad one.
If you can find someone who writes well, is creative, does the research, communicates your business and passion, and does it all in a timely manner for this price, may I suggest that you negotiate a contract locking in that price for the next ten years? Because chances are as soon as they figure out how in demand their services are, their prices will go up. (That’s what happened to me, anyway.)
Nordstrom Blog Writing Services
These are the people who really know what they’re doing—and they’ve got the experience and the education to back it up. Their prices will probably be around $150 and up. But for that price you will get a totally original, well researched article that’s specifically crafted for your business and your customers. It will probably be upwards of 600 words, contain organic SEO and longtail search phrases, and will come nicely formatted (with headlines, subheads, bullets, etc.) ready to plunk down into WordPress or your CMS of choice.
If you develop a relationship with this writer over time, her work will only get better as she gets to know you, your business, and your customers in more detail.
An ebook from Internet marketing giant Kapost reports that marketers should expect to pay at least $150 per post from a reputable freelancer. For a long-form blog post or article (2,000+ words), they suggest budgeting $2,000.
And OK, yes, I might be a bit biased here—this is how I make my living, after all. But for my clients who put me on retainer or pre-purchase a package, my rates per post come out closer to $100–$125 per post. I’ve set my prices there because it’s a price that seems adventageous to both me and my clients. At that price, I can afford to deliberately limit how many people I work with so that I can get to know them really well; I shoot for long-term relationships with my clients, and I structure my fees so that I can spend as much time and energy as I need researching and writing—without costing my clients more.
The bottom line: How to decide how much to pay.
As with anything in this world, there’s a certain amount of “you get what you pay for” at work when hiring someone to help you create content. Could you find a great writer for a very inexpensive rate? Absolutely. They exist. But you’re going to have to work a lot harder to find them, and probably hire some not-so great ones along the way. (To me, that’s a waste of time and money…)
Here’s what I would suggest you ask yourself as you’re considering who to hire to help you out (and how much to pay them):
- How much time/energy do you currently spend creating content yourself? What would that time be worth to you or your business if you could be doing other things—like serving clients or getting new ones?
- Do you already have someone on staff that might be a good fit for blogging? Sometimes there’s an employee who would really thrive as your company’s chief content creator. Sometimes not.
- What is your overall goal with your blog? If your blog’s purpose is only to help you rank higher in search listings, paying a lower price for articles that feature your preferred keywords might be fine. However, if you’d like more out of your blog (growing your list, converting readers to customers, amplifying your voice, growing your tribe), you’re going to need to expect more of your content creator.
- How savvy is your reader? If your ideal readers are total newbies to your niche, you won’t have to worry about how familiar your writer is with your business. If, however, your readers are more sophisticated in your topic, you need a writer willing and able to put in the time to become an expert in your field.
- How much involvement do you want to maintain in the process? If you’re looking to give up content creation completely—from coming up with topics to posting to Facebook (or soup to nuts as they say)—you’d better budget to pay well for that convenience. If you’re still interested in being very involved in the process, you might be able to get away with paying less.
- Are you comfortable creating the strategy for your content marketing? You can invest in an expert to help you with that, or do it yourself.
In short, there’s no one right answer here. Content is an investment in your business—just like anything else, from graphic design to the computers you work on or the manufacturer you use to produce your widgets. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, you will want to make sure that your investment is aligned with your business goals.
If you’re interested in chatting with me about how partnering with a content creator could free you up to work and play in your zone of genius, I’d love to talk with you.
I know pricing talk can be a little controversial, so if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments!