Freelance Writer Rates – Get the Stats You Need to Create Fair Pricing Plans for 2014

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The online landscape has shifted tremendously for marketers over the past few years. Content marketing was once the refuge of brands that couldn’t afford high-priced marketing campaigns, and had to invent creative solutions to boost traffic and generate awareness. But these days the rise of social marketing and the content boom online has convinced even the most traditional of outbound marketing specialists that there’s big money in inbound, content-oriented marketing.

This change has had enormous consequences for the ways that brands produce and curate their content. Customers now expect to receive great content for free, simply in exchange for their attention, and the market has become increasingly flooded with high-quality content. Standing out from the pack requires creativity, attention to detail, and dedication to producing regular content aimed at your brand’s precise target market. This can put an incredible strain on marketing departments and brands in general, as they may not have either the budget or the manpower to satisfy their customers’ voracious appetite for content through internal means alone.

Enter the freelance writer, ghost writer, and technical writer. Freelancers have become an increasingly important segment of the economy, and are an increasingly integral part of content marketing efforts. A freelancer can be hired on a temporary basis, reducing the impact on your budget, to fulfill a specific area of need while bringing a great deal of expertise to the table. Understanding how to work with freelancers is becoming a big part of the job description for any marketing manager.

The big questions most have when first working with a freelance writer are simple: Why should I get into content marketing, why freelancers, and how much should I pay them?

Blog Articles and Content Marketing on the Rise

It’s hard to look at the Internet’s landscape and not see the tremendous power of content marketing. Purely based on observation, it’s clear that content marketing is increasingly impacting how brands interact with their customers online. The stuff just kinda seems to be everywhere you look, from social campaigns to blog posts to promotional events to whatever else is being freely offered this week. But we can do better than that, so let’s drill into some numbers.

In 2008 there were about 1 trillion indexed pages (in red) on the Internet. In 2013 there are over 13 trillion indexed pages (in yellow).

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Simply put, this means there’s a lot more stuff online than there used to be, and most of it is content. Consumers love content, because it’s a free way for them to receive value simply in exchange for their attention. This is a critical point: people have a lot of options online these days. There’s so much to do and see and read and listen to, and to stand out from the pack it’s critical to offer something just to get the customer to the table. This is content marketing in a nutshell.

Right now about 86% of B2C companies employ content marketing, and it makes up about 28% of their total marketing budget. Over half of those companies plan to increase that spend, so it’s clearly not going away any time soon. We’ve written about this time and again on Ebyline.com, but long story short content marketing drives more leads at higher conversion rates with lower costs than outbound marketing.

Let’s look at the explosion of blogging as yet another example of this. WordPress is one of the most consumer friendly blogging tools out there, and has virtually become the industry standard for business blogs due to its easy integration of SEO tools.

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Consider some of the statistics. Almost 20% of the web is running WordPress! It received over 4 billion monthly pageviews in 2013! These are incredible statistics, particularly when one consideres that the majority of wordpress sites are effectively run by amateurs and small businesses. Blogging has become big business, and with the ever expanding power of social media the power of “going viral” with a great piece of content has become greater than ever before.

Freelance Segment of Economy is Growing

So you want to start creating and marketing content, but you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. That’s where your freelancers come in.

Anecdotally it’s easy to feel that freelancing is on the rise, as it’s easier than ever before to be your own boss. But until recently there were relatively few statistics on freelancing. In 2012 the organization behind International Freelancers Day changed this with their Freelance Industry Report. Acording to that report, as of May 2012 nearly 26% of an average organization’s workforce is either contingent or contract based. That percentage is expected to rise to between 30% and 50% of the entire U.S. workforce over the next few years.

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Freelancers come in many different shapes and sizes, and there’s no one size fits all when working with them. What is consistent when working with a freelancer who has been in the business for a while is that these are professionals who have had to hone a wide variety of skills. They have gone out into the very scary real world and won enough business to keep going. To expect to make it as a freelance writer one can’t simply write well, it also requires the business acumen to market yourself effectively, the knowledge to set your rates in a competitive place, and the people skills to maintain positive relationships with your various employers while juggling multiple projects and presenting a consistently high level of work. Freelancers are the swiss army employees of the new millennium, giving opportunities for web content writers to enter into uncharted territories.

Freelancer Rates for 2012

So now we come to the big question: How much should you pay your freelance writer?

As you might expect, this depends on a wide variety of different factors. Freelance writers differ greatly in terms of the mode of payment they prefer, their experience level, and their willingness to negotiate their base rates. But there are some general rules of thumb and tips of the trade when it comes to working with freelancers.

There are two primary types of rates for freelance writers: Hourly rates and flat project rates. About 60% of freelance writers and editors are paid by the project, while about 35% prefer an hourly fee. There are upsides and downsides to each option for both brand and freelancer.

Paying by the hour allows the freelancer to get compensated for the precise amount of work that they did, and cuts down on some process issues like haggling over the number of revisions a freelancer is expected to perform. However, the brand has to have a high level of trust that the freelancer is reporting their time accurately, and also trust that they’re not extending the project simply to eek out a few extra dollars. On the other hand, flat rates establish a clear expectation for the project as a whole, and both brand and freelancer go into the agreement with an understanding of what the budget is. But this can lead to situations where the freelancer rushes work or fails to perform at a consistently high level, or where the brand exploits the freelancer’s contractual obligation by requiring an unreasonable number of rewrites, edits, and other changes to the piece that eat up the freelancer’s time.

Regardless of what form of payment you select, it’s important to set out clear guidelines and work through any process issues at the start of your agreement with that freelancer. In this case an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

Pay for freelance writers varies greatly, and is based largely on experience and project type. About 45% of freelance writers charge between $40 and $80 per-hour, with the largest concentration being between $50 and $60 per-hour. 30% of writers charge under $40 an hour, while about 14% of freelancers charge over $100 per-hour. Editing services are typically significantly cheaper, with about 45% of editors charging between $20 and $40 per-hour, while copywriters tend to be more expensive, as almost 25% charge over $100 per-hour. Clearly, there’s a wide range of costs and services avaliable. A high-quality freelancer that’s offering their services at a reasonable rate is a tremendous find for any brand.

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You get what you pay for in the world of freelancing!

Tips For Fair Pricing in 2014

Working with a freelance writer can be an extremely cost efficient way to produce great content. Here are some of the top tips and tricks to keep your costs low while fairly paying your freelancers:

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for with content. It’s almost always best to pay what it takes to get great content rather than settling for middling content. You’ll still have to pay for the middling content, but with all the options out there for readers it’s extremely unlikely that it will make any impact. Great content, on the other hand, can really drive customers to your brand and help establish a loyal following. Pay a fair wage based on hours, word count, or another uniform measurement that you can establish as your brand standard.

Keep costs low by maintaining positive relationships with the freelancers that you work with. Great freelance writers are a valuable commodity, and keeping them interested in doing work with you can massively reduce the time sink of vetting new freelancers and finding ones that work for you. The longer you work with a freelancer the more that they’ll come to understand your brand, which will ultimately increase the overall quality of the work that you receive from them.

Reduce costs while building the trust relationship with your freelancers by ordering in bulk when possible. Freelance writers cite finding clients and the feast and famine cycle of work in the freelancing profession as two of their top concerns. Providing a consistent source of work and income for them may convince them to work at a lower hourly in exchange for volume. Looking at this another way, almost half of freelancers spend 60% or less of their total work time on billable work. This means that they’re spending a tremendous amount of time searching for new jobs and vetting potential clients.

Finally, look for multi-talented freelance writers. Finding freelance writers who can edit their own work effectively and research the project independently will free up your time and combine duties you may have paid for separately. These highly flexible individuals can take on a multitude of different projects and provide value in ways you may have never expected.

As content and inbound marketing continue to dominate the marketing landscape, the demand for great freelance writers only increases. Finding and working with a skilled freelancer can be one of the most time and cost effective ways to produce the high-quality content that can grab the attention of potential customers and really make a splash. Understanding how to work with freelancers and what to pay them is a critical step to optimizing your inbound marketing practices!

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