Content is crucial to a successful marketing campaign these days, but creating that content takes considerable investment—both in the time and the talent it takes to write it.
Whether your content marketing strategy leans on automation, social media optimization, paid search, or an integrated advertising campaign, you’ve got to start at the same place: quality content. Not all content is created equal, and well-written, valuable content will always rise to the top, which means you need to invest in the right talent. It’s no wonder content writers are in such high demand.
So how much does it cost to hire a really talented content writer who will deliver the content you need? In this article, we’ll take a look at what goes into content writing and give you a general framework for budgeting how much the content writer that’s right for you is going to charge.
A strong creative brief is the secret to a smooth, successful project
Whether you have your article ideas set and all you need is someone to bring them to life, or you need a content writer who can ideate on their own based on your goals, the key to a successful project is a clear, thorough creative brief. This should outline all of the goals for your content marketing strategy, including scope, timeline, and budget. This not only gets everyone on the same page, but should also help to filter out the first round of candidates by their availability, rate, and related experience.
What goes into a successful project brief? Here are a few more things you should consider including:
Background information. What is your company or business? What products or services do you provide? Knowing enough about your industry will help the content writer have context for the content they’re creating, and hopefully help them write better, more informed content (without a ton of time spent on research).
Business goals and scope of the project. Next, outline in clear and direct language what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your content. Potential candidates should be able to read this part of the brief and instantly understand how the content they’ll write will help accomplish these goals. Here are a couple of examples of clear goals and project descriptions.
- Example: “Write a series of articles to boost awareness of a new outdoor camping product launch, including keyword-focused pieces, educational articles surrounding the use of the product, and inspirational lifestyle-based articles targeting the persons who would purchase and use this product.”
- Example: “We need to create a catalog of articles for SEO purposes about each major area of study, and specific course topic in our online vocational school, both to drive search and to accompany each course registration page in case the student wants to learn more about that particular class.”
A description of the content and channels the content will be promoted in. Will they be writing explainer articles, more human interest pieces, or technical articles? How long will the articles be? What is the voice (who is the content “coming from”)? Where will the content be published and promoted? If you’ll be using a Content Management System to publish content that they need to work with, mention that as well.
Timeline and deliverables. When putting together a timeline, be sure to include time to review articles, provide feedback, and rounds of revision. Also consider starting with a smaller writing project to see if their style aligns with what you’re looking for, then set up a kickoff meeting to give the writer an opportunity to ask questions and make sure they’re well prepared. If your project consists of many articles or you anticipate several rounds of revision, consider setting up milestones so content can get delivered in chunks.
Already have a project in mind? You can create a job posting on Upwork right now.
How to budget for your content writing project
On Upwork, the rates for top content writers can range from as low as $15 dollars an hour to as high as $80, though most fall in the $30-50 range. Rates can vary due to many factors, including expertise and experience, location, and market conditions. An experienced content writer may command higher fees but also may work faster, have more specialized areas of expertise, and deliver a higher quality product that needs less editing on your end. That said, a freelancer who is still in the process of building a client base may price their writing more competitively. Which one is right for you will depend on the specifics of your content.
Timeline and project creep
As difficult as it is to estimate how long it takes to write a piece of content, budgeting time is very important to keeping your project on track. Be prepared to budget more time for more intense content demands. For example, less involved content will typically take less time than more heavily researched, long-format articles. On the other hand, a project like 500 short product descriptions might be easier to budget a bulk amount of time.
If your project has a short, non-negotiable deadline, know you may have to pay a premium to get the content you needed delivered on time, and without the potentially lower quality that comes with a rushed job. (Or, be prepared to hire more than one writer.)
That said, there are three easy steps you can take to keep your project on time and within budget.
- Be specific in the project brief. A few minutes detailing your expectations, process, and deliverables can save hours. Do you need blogs and articles, search engine-friendly website copy, product descriptions, bios, whitepapers or ebooks?
- Give plenty of background, examples, and outlines. In addition to the brief, give the writer any background context, outlines, links, example articles, and more to help them get rolling with the work. The more detail, the better.
- Simplify the review process. Make sure it’s clear who needs to review/who will be signing off on the content. The more people who need to review and sign-off, the more likely you are to face delays—especially with the more subjective nature of copy.