How Much Should a Writer Charge? A Look into Per-Word Pricing (+ Why You Should Avoid Content Mills)
If you’re a freelance writer who regularly trawls job boards to look for potential + ideal clients, then you’re probably going to nod your head in agreement to what I’m about to say…
Is it just me or do freelance writing gigs offering “3 cents per word” (or worse – I saw one offering the “competitive rate” of just 1.5 cents per word the other day!) grind your gears a little?
As soon as I see companies advertising a payment structure like this, two words immediately come to mind: CONTENT MILL. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a content mill is a company that hires hundreds of writers – no experience necessary – and has them churning out tens of thousands of words per week for measly payment. Think a sweat shop for the fashion production industry, but for writers. And sadly, it seems as though they have no problems in getting people to sign up.
If you’re a business owner reading this, I urge you to never consider paying such a company to churn out written work for your brand or biz. Firstly, it validates how they treat their writers, as supply equals demand. Would you be able to feed your family on just dollars a day?
Secondly, it harms your business severely, especially in the long-term. As I mentioned earlier, writers at this cost have little to no experience – and most of the time, their command of the English language is poor – often because (through no fault of their own) it isn’t a language they are well-versed in. Not only does this detract from your own brand, as poorly-worded sentences confuse and turn away readers, but it also has negative implications on SEO.
You see, Google’s technology has the ability to determine if a web page is well-written or not, and gives priority amongst its search engine result rankings for those which are error free, in-depth, and have something new to offer about a particular topic. This isn’t something anyone with a keyboard can smash out; it requires a very specific set of skills, knowledge and prior experience.
When it comes to the true cost of writing services, the reality is this: professional freelance writers who charge by the word are likely close to – or over – 10 cents per word. And while some might think that’s expensive, it’s important to realise exactly what goes into that amount per word. Because it goes above and beyond just simply typing those letters onto a page.
So, what considerations are taken when a professional freelance writer sets their rate-per-word?
Let me fill you in!
While some freelance writers may be largely self-taught, this would be a minority. Many have one, or multiple university degrees under their belt, whether it be creative writing and journalism (like me!), media and communications, English literature, and more. As we know, university study can cost a staggering amount, not to mention at least 3-5 years on average to complete.
Sometimes, an article or blog post can take around 1-2 hours of research on the topic prior to writing. This is just one factor that must go into their rate.
Proof-reading and self-editing
Rarely, a professional freelance writer will turn in content that they haven’t proof-read and self-edited at least once or twice. Just like research, this too takes time and a specific skill set learned through further education or experience.
Often, this rate-per-word will also be inclusive of one, two, or perhaps even unlimited revisions to satisfy the client that the content has been created for. After all, it’s vital that the end result is exactly what you – the business owner – had in mind.
Sometimes, a client will want the content as a Word doc or Google doc, but other times, they’ll also want the content formatted correctly into their website platform, such as Wordpress. Again, not only is this something that takes additional time outside of the writing phase, but it also brings with it the need for particular skills that not everyone possesses.
We all had to start somewhere. For me, it was interning for free at an online magazine, which within months, closed its doors. It was working my way up the ranks on Sydney Weekend Notes publishing reviews on local places which would see me earn based on how many views that review garnered. And it was spending hours every week applying for freelance writing gigs advertised online so I could gain as much experience within particular niches, so that someday, I could offer brands just like you every potential writing service they could ever need.
There’s a wonderfully relevant quote I saw Lisa Messenger recently post to her Instagram, that went like this:
"If I do a job within 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes."
I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the topic of freelance writers and their rate per word :) If you have any questions, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer them!
Are you a small business owner looking to hire a freelance writer to complete some work for you? Whether you’re looking for webpage copy, a content strategy that puts you ahead of the competition, or in-depth and SEO optimised blog posts, I can help! Check out my Services here or get in touch through the contact form below.