So you’ve come to terms with the fact that maybe your small would benefit from the help of a professional freelance writer to make your company’s blog look professional, appear within the first three pages of a Google search, and engage readers? Congrats! Accepting that writing is a skill not everyone has is the first step to separating yourself from the many small businesses with a low brow blog, and becoming one that has a real content management strategy.
But, your budget is small, and you may not even know what you need. Can you afford to hire a freelance writer? What are freelance writer rates?
The short answer. It depends. There are millions, if not billions of people out there calling themselves freelance writers. But Many even have portfolios, and plenty of published pieces. Whether they are effective freelance writers is a whole different matter.
Before you focus on price alone, consider how much work you want to put into the relationship, and how the writer is willing to work for the rate offered. If you have a very limited budget, for example, and you’re not that picky about the quality of writing, the topics, there are plenty of writers on sites like Elance and oDesk who will do the job for as little as $10 or $15 an article. (I’ve even seen less, but I’m disturbed by a rate that a low). But remember, you get what you pay for. There are some legitimate writers out there who are just looking for a big break, so if you find them, fantastic. But most writers who charge very little are able to do so because they’re not putting much time into the piece. The content is probably lifted from somewhere else on the web, the sources reproduced from another site, or made up entirely. Google is wise to the websites who dish out content with little to no real value, and you’ll essentially pay for nothing in terms of a page rank, or building a reputation of quality content on your site.
Further, consider that a low rate writer doesn’t necessarily lack talent, but may lack the ability to self-edit, or time manage if they’re new. Don’t expect to take an “assign and forget” approach to a writer you’re not paying well. If you’re willing to spend time reviewing a freelance writers’ work, fact checking content, offering feedback (perhaps multiple times) until you reach a mutually beneficial system, there is nothing wrong with giving someone a shot. But again you get what you pay for.
If that much involvement doesn’t sound like what you’re up for, you need a “turnkey” writer who “gets” your industry–and has the work to prove it. They’re certainly out there, and a great way to find them is to research the author behind the articles you notice, and enjoy. Google their name; any writer with their salt will have an online presence. Once you find them, however, know that you are dealing with a professional. Hopefully you wouldn’t lowball a potential vendor or business partner you know could bring you value. Your relationship with a writer is no different. Expect to pay anywhere from .10 cents a word, all the way up to $1 or $2 a word. The writer may also be willing to negotiate a flat fee per piece, or even a hourly rate, but again, you back into the approximate rate based on word count. (And no, that “I’m a startup” excuse doesn’t incite much sympathy).
Sound expensive? Consider the time the writer puts into the piece, in addition to their God-given talent–and what you get for it. A professional freelance writer will deliver exactly what you need, including unique and credible source expertise that has been vetted, an angle that will get noticed, and a perspective that will boost your businesses’ reputation as a thought leader.
There may be other benefits you can bring forth to the arrangement (in addition to payment), to sweeten the deal: Immediate payment upon file submission, ongoing work, minimal edits, a byline, and creative freedom all make writers happy. Like any business relationship, there’s a symbiotic value to any partnership that can help to boost the writers’ portfolio, exposure, or industry knowledge. Some of my best clients aren’t the ones with national exposure, or even pay the most. They’re the ones who get out of the way to let me do what I do best.
Suppose your goal isn’t just to have content for your website–but to have that content get noticed in a major way, on a national site. Understand that not everyone can get their blog syndicated on The Huffington Post or Forbes. The writers who can have “paid their dues” to get there. Truly professional writers have connections in high places, and if you’re willing to pay them what they’re worth, you may indeed realize an intrinsic value when they help to promote the pieces they write for you to their networks and in social media. What won’t most of them do? Take your money in exchange for paid placement in a nationally published article. I’ve gotten many emails to that effect and I turn down every single one of them.
Why? It’s cheating, and it’s unethical. Paid placement in a story is called advertising, and it’s not the business most writers want to be in (unless, of course, they also manage PR content). What might get you a mention on one of those big name sites? Forming a relationship with a writer that is of value: Have something relevant to offer in terms of expert insight, or a new twist on a popular, timely idea. Be a partner, and cultivate the relationship. When they need a source, you may be the first person they come to for that feature story that goes viral on the web, like my ForbesWoman piece, 5 Ways to Spot a Bad Boss in an Interview.