If you’ve been following this blog for the past few weeks, you know I’ve taken a look at how to find a content writer who does not suck and how to choose a content writer who does not suck. (If you haven’t been following, you have some fun, informative reading to do.)
Now that you’ve identified a slate of candidates and narrowed that slate down to your chosen one or two SEO copywriters, you have an even greater challenge: How much should you pay your content writer so they do not suck you dry?
I ask this as a writer, so you might expect some bias. Well, I definitely have some, so let’s get that over with now. If you want to outsource your content writing to a company that charges 5 cents per word, just know that their writers generally don’t have advanced educations (I mean beyond high school diplomas), SEO experience or a command of English grammar and spelling.
You’ll need to factor in the amount of time you spend managing the writers and editing their work. At that point, your bargain may not seem like such a good deal. And if you don’t achieve your content marketing goals—which we assume run something along the lines of moving your business up in Search engines, boosting Web traffic, stretching visitor time on your site and selling your wares—your bargain content writer can actually cost you money.
So I’m going to review the various ways you can pay a content writer now. And I’m going to tell you what I’d do if I were spending my money—which isn’t necessarily what I’d ask you for if I were in my normal role.
1) Pay by the hour: I appreciate my clients who pay by the hour. A project takes as long as it takes and, within reason, they pay the bill without a murmur. Actually I’ve never had a client question my bill: Am I doing something wrong? Many never even ask me how long a project will take before I start. Believe me, if it were my money, I would want to know.
So the only incentive to writing fast and well is to satisfy the client and earn more business. Actually that’s a fairly strong incentive for some of us, but it’s not always the best deal for the client.
Upshot: Generally only clients whose financial structures are set up to pay by the hour work this way with a content writer. It’s likely your Piggy bank will squeal with disapproval if you operate this way.
2) Pay by the word: Back in the days when I wrote far more frequently for newspapers and magazines, I thought pay by the word made sense. I liked it even better when the cost started inching north of $1 a word. Then I started doing more short-form copywriting, which is much more about the concept and a clever way with words, and far less about length. Pay by the word when you write only 30 of them isn’t that appealing unless each word has its own bank account.
But I do think pay by the word makes sense for content writing. Of course, you need a pretty firm idea of how many words each article should contain. In truth, only upper echelon content writers can get away with charging $1 a word; Google lists far too many companies willing to charge less than half as much.
Upshot: You may find pay by the word a reasonable way to reward your content writer, but Piggy probably likes other options even better.
3) Pay by the page or article: Paying by the page or article takes the element of surprise out of your budget calculations. You don’t have to worry about the time an article will take to write or its length when your writer is done. But now you need to be certain that you and your writer agree on exactly how long the page or article will be and what content it will include.
Upshot: You pay for exactly what you get with this approach, making it straightforward for both your content writer and you. Generally straightforward works really well in business relationships, meaning both you and Piggy end up smiling.
4) Pay by volume or retainer: If you’ve worked with an SEO copywriter a few months and feel confident in their writing ability, versatility and work ethic, then it’s time to consider a deeper commitment.
Most writers like being booked in advance; most clients like writers to be available when they need them. In that case, you may be able to negotiate a discount by promising a certain amount of work—for example, 10 articles a month for six months.
If your content writer is truly a valuable member of your team, you may want to put them on retainer. That means you guarantee to pay them a set amount each month; they guarantee you a set amount of work. I think this arrangement works well for companies that know they’re committed to producing high-quality content for months into the future.
Upshot: This is a win-win for your company, your writer and Piggy if you can afford to make a commitment.
But what about revisions? I didn’t address that in the scenarios above. You could shatter Piggy’s happy demeanor if you’re paying by the hour and every round of revisions costs you more $$$. Most writers offer at least one round; I offer two, because I want to see the final copy—and for 95% of my projects, two rounds take us right to the final.
So before you sign on any dotted lines, make sure you pin down how many rounds are included in the pay structure. Then factor in what that will mean to your bottom line—because ultimately you want great content and value.
Diana Kightlinger is a professional copywriter, content writer and blogger. For lots more helpful info, sign up for the EclipseWriter Blog and get her FREE REPORT on “50 Things You Must Check Before You Send Your Email Offer.”