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Have you ever searched for a content marketing writer and wondered why their rates vary so much? 

Is that top-notch writer who is asking for $600 for an 800-1,200 word blog post really 30x better than the Upwork writer who is offering his services for 2 cents per word?

I don’t know about 30x better, but I do know that content is quickly becoming winner-take-all.

If you hope to rank on the first page of Google for competitive keywords and turn your readers into leads, you have to create quality content. But you don’t have unlimited funds, and even if you do have a massive budget, you don’t want to pay more than you have to.

In this piece, we will find that sweet spot where you’re getting content that can help take your company to the next level without breaking the bank.

But first, I want to address a question that I’ve been asked at least half-a-dozen times.

Why aren’t writers transparent about their rates?

Look, I get it – you want to immediately find out if that gifted writer is in your budget. When you venture to her website, though, you see, “Contact me for a custom quote.”

You wonder why she can’t just tell you what she charges for each piece of content. It would save you some time.

But here’s the thing:

That writer doesn’t publish her rates because there are several variables that go into pricing a piece of content. Yes, there are ranges, but those ranges can get pretty wide. 

What goes into a custom quote?

Obviously, the length of the article impacts the cost, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. 

Here are six more inputs that writers use to determine their rates:

  1. Who is coming up with the topic ideas?

Do you want your writer to come up with topic ideas or will you be doing it in-house?

If you want your writer to handle this part, be prepared to open your wallet. To determine the best topics to cover, your writer will do competitor analysis, keyword research, and audience research. Those are not only time-consuming tasks, but require a level of expertise.

  1. Who is handling outlines?

Are you going to provide the writer with a detailed outline or just some general direction? 

If it’s the latter, he is going to have to spend more time fleshing out ideas and structuring the content.

  1. Who is handling revisions?

Are you going to handle revisions in-house or will you request that your writer submit multiple drafts? How many rounds of revisions would you like to be included in the price?

Some writers offer unlimited rounds of revisions, but one round is almost always enough. Assuming that there is no miscommunication during the discovery process, you should only need to make minor changes to the first draft.

  1. How much research is required?

Is it necessary for your writer to pore over academic papers for hours or will a few quick Google searches give them all the information they need?

The research aspect is why it pays to go with a specialist over a generalist. If you hire a jack-of-all-trades, he’s going to have to spend a lot of time getting up to speed. Billable time (directly or indirectly). A specialist, on the other hand, won’t need much time to familiarize himself with your niche.

  1. Do you want the writer to interview employees or subject-matter experts?

By doing interviews, you can enhance your blog posts – some quotes from a product manager or subject-matter expert pack a punch.

If you want to go down this route, you have two options:

  1. Do it in-house and provide the writer with the transcript.
  2. Have the writer conduct the interview.

You don’t need me to tell you which one will cost more.

6. Do you want the content to be SEO-optimized?

Everyone wants to get organic traffic, but an initial investment – time and/or financial – is usually required to get that “free” traffic. You can SEO-optimize your content in-house or you can ask your writer to do it. 

Any writer worth her salt can target a list of keywords that you provide – inserting the keywords without sacrificing readability – but a smaller percentage are comfortable finding the keywords to target. You might want to ask an SEO specialist to find the keywords – or even better, ask the writer if she has a contractor she can sub it out to.

What do writers base the price of their work on?

In most cases, writers use an hourly rate to price their services.

You may be thinking:

“Huh, an hourly rate? I thought most writers charge by the project or by the word?”

Yes, even those writers are typically (there are always exceptions) using an hourly rate. They are estimating the number of hours that it will take to complete your project, and coming up with a per-word or project rate that should allow them to achieve that rate.

So, why not just charge by the hour?

Because most clients don’t like uncertainty. You’d rather pay $500 for a project than agree to pay $100 an hour for a project that should take 5 hours, right? Imagine that the project actually takes 7 hours. Or 10.

For that reason, writers use internal hourly estimates. Sometimes, they come out ahead. Sometimes, they “take a loss.”

What about charging by the word?

Obviously, a writer shouldn’t have the same per-word rate across clients. But what if the writer comes up with a per-word rate and applies it to all of his work for you?

That can work, but again, uncertainty rears its ugly head. What if the article is 300 words longer than you anticipated?

The bigger issue is misaligned incentives – it’s best not to incentivize your writer to create wordy content.

A per-word rate can make sense in certain cases though. For example, the targeted length of your articles is all over the place and you don’t want to negotiate seven different rates and you trust the writer not to insert filler throughout to pad their paycheck.

Why do rates vary so much across writers?

So, you got quotes from a few writers. They asked all of the same questions, but their rates ranged from $300 to $700. All for the same project.

Here are a few reasons why rates vary:

  • Writing skill: is she a wordsmith who writes engaging content or does she write meandering sentences?
  • Subject-matter expertise: does the writer have extensive experience in your niche (or a related one) or is he a generalist?
  • Brand: you’re probably going to pay more for a writer who has a sterling reputation vs. one who is a relative unknown.
  • Arbitrariness: some writers charge more because, well, they feel like they’re worth it, while others might fail to see their worth (but maybe not for long).

Setting aside the moral implications, hiring a writer who charges way too little may not even be a savvy business move. It’s only a matter of time before he recognizes his own value. Then you’re cycling through writers – constantly spending precious time getting on the same page.

How much does short and long-form content cost?

Okay, let’s look at starting points for common deliverables. Keep two things in mind:

  1. This is the cost for quality fintech content (my niche). If we looked at general prices, these ranges would be ridiculously wide.
  2. By now, you know that the cost of content depends on a variety of factors. If your project is particularly intense, the cost is likely to exceed the upper-limit of the range.

So, without further ado…

Short-form blog post (less than 1,000 words): $300 to $500

1,200-1,800 word article: $400 to $700

Long-form content (2,500 to 3,500 words): $800 to $1,500

My rates

As a skilled writer – if I do say so myself – who specializes in fintech content, my rates are generally on par with those mentioned in the previous section.

Like many (good) freelance fintech writers, I am reliable and responsive.

Unlike many freelance fintech writers, I have broad experience. I’ve previously worked as a private equity accountant and then as an FP&A analyst. I’ve been managing my own portfolio since before, well, it was cool to manage your own portfolio. I’m a voracious reader who devours anything that helps me become a better fintech writer. I eat, breathe, and sleep this stuff.

If you are ready to beef up your resource center, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll give you a custom quote and let you know what you can expect from me.