Content Strategy

How To Work With Freelance Writers: Rates, Relationships & Sourcing

Cierra Loflin
October 11, 2022

As the world of work changes, the role of freelance writers is becoming more prominent. There are an estimated 70 million freelancers in the United States alone or 36% of the workforce. For in-house content teams, knowing how much to pay freelancers per article is unclear. With millions of freelancers out there, how do you know which ones are worth hiring? Where do you find writers with the niche skills you need?

Let’s start with pay—rates will depend on the writer’s experience, the subject matter, and the amount of heavy lifting the in-house team has to do before publishing. To give you a range, the Superpath community says you should pay $350-$700 for a 1200-word B2B SaaS article. 

For comparison, rates range from $250 to $399 based on Peak Freelance’s 2022 Freelance Writing Rates Survey. Respondents in the survey wrote for various niches, including lifestyle, health, and fitness, where writers generally charge lower rates due to higher supply.

Knowing how much to pay for certain types of projects is important, as is knowing where to find writers, how to maintain good relationships, and create a network of freelancers.

Let’s dive in.

How much to expect to pay is based on various factors

1. Subject matter & niche 

A good starting point for a freelance relationship is paying people what they’re worth. Certain freelance niches have higher earning potential than others—B2B SaaS is one of the higher ones, as shown by a quick comparison of Superpath’s community’s average rates and Peak Freelance’s average. 

So if you run content at a SaaS company and are paying $250-$350 per article but not getting the results you want, it could be because highly skilled freelancers are charging more. On the other hand, if your content is based on subject matter that’s not highly technical, you could pay around $300 and still get a high-quality article. So look at it as a continuum.

Continuum showing generalist ($100-$250), specialist ($350-$700) and technical ($1000+) rates

2. Experience

Many beginners will charge on the lower end of the rate spectrum (regardless of industry) to gain experience. While this can save your company money, you’ll also need to do more heavy lifting, whether that’s giving detailed briefs or doing several rounds of edits.

To give you an idea of pricing based on experience, an article by Demand Jump lists out sample rates which we’ve converted to flat fees for a 1200-word article: 

  • Beginner: $60-$240
  • Intermediate: $240-$840
  • Expert: $840-$1800

Let’s put these rates into practice with two example projects. 

Example scenario 1: The budget SEO project

Let’s say you have a batch of four to eight basic SEO articles per month that you want two freelancers to write. Your budget is $250-$350 per article, falling into the intermediate category. 

Since you’re hiring less experienced freelancers, you’ll need to provide detailed briefs with keywords, links to informational articles, and possibly titles and headlines. 

Depending on whether you pay $60 per article or $250, you may have to do several rounds of editing or have clean, ready-to-publish articles upon submission. The saying “you get what you pay for” is no exception here—writers charging on the lower end of the range likely don’t have much experience working with clients and meeting their expectations.

Example scenario 2: Founder thought leadership

Let’s say you want to start creating ghostwritten thought leadership pieces from your founder based on their personal experiences and industry observations. Providing a brief and getting a freelancer to follow along as in the SEO project won’t work in this scenario. 

You’ll need a ghostwriter who understands how to help the founder share their own ideas. They need to ask good questions, identify a good tone of voice, and make the client feel comfortable with ghostwriting. It's not their own words, so SME doesn't matter as much, but they should still have experience with thought leadership ghostwriting.

If they lack relevant experience, the content won’t build trust and credibility. So it’s worth paying $700 to $800 for someone who knows what they’re doing and will help your thought leadership be persuasive and impactful.

3. Per word, per hour, or flat rate?

Most freelance writers prefer to charge a flat rate per project based on scope, research, editing, and revisions. While you can pay per word or hour, charging a flat fee per project and agreeing on a clear scope with the freelancer makes it easier to communicate and budget. 

Someone charging per word may be inexperienced—they haven’t realized that much more goes into writing than just the words on the page—or they may be experienced but from a publishing background where magazines set per-word rates. Either way, flat fees tend to work better in B2B writing. 

Finally, per-hour rates can be inaccurate for both parties. Unless you’re using a time-tracking tool, you’re going off good faith that the freelancer worked X hours. Charging per hour makes sense only if you’re hiring for tasks outside the scope of writing, like uploading content to the CMS or building backlinks.

4. Deposits & upfront fees 

Helene Fleischer, Content Marketing Manager at PolicyMe, recently asked the Superpath Slack community about paying deposits to freelancers. If you have to pay a deposit, that will impact your cash flow and needs to be factored into your budget. 

According to our community, paying a 50% deposit for long-term projects like a batch of articles, eBooks, or white papers is standard. Though not as common, some freelancers ask new clients for 100% upfront payment or 50% for smaller projects like a blog posts.

Once your relationship is established, you can ask the freelancer(s) to bill you at the end of the month for all articles completed. And please, don’t be a company freelancers have to chase for invoices. Pay quickly (within a few days is best), and don’t drag out payment to net 60 terms.

Your relationships with freelancers will be much better just by paying on time.

A note about outsourcing

It’s also fairly common for freelancers to hire subcontractors for their own work. For example, we’ve heard on Twitter that some top-tier freelancers who charge $1k+ per article actually have lower-quality work, likely due to subcontracting.

Screenshot from James Sowers' tweet on average freelance writer rates.

The more in-demand the freelancer is, the more they can raise their rates and may be incentivized to outsource. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, lay out terms on outsourcing in a freelancer contract before starting work.

Where to find freelancers

One of the most common struggles business owners have is not being able to find freelancers. Some struggle with sourcing because there’s a cost and pay disconnect—you can't expect $50 articles from Fiverr to make waves in your industry. But at the same time, knowing the best places to look for professional freelancers can be overwhelming. 

Here are your best bets.

Individual Freelancers

  • Superpath Slack Group—we have thousands of freelancers in our 10k+ community of content marketers. Companies looking to hire can post in the #work-freelance channel and freelancers looking for work post in #work-hire-me. It’s super easy to find writers with the SME you need.
  • Facebook groups—places like Binders Full of Writing Jobs have many high-quality writers, but you’ll have to sift through many applications when posting a job. These groups can almost be too big, with this particular binder at 30k+ members.
  • Personal network—developing your own list of freelancers over time is a good idea. You can reach out to other content managers you know and ask them if they have any trusted freelancers. Giving clear communication and on-time and fair payments will help you retain skilled writers.

Content Platforms 

  • Verblio—a content platform with a focus on delivering a high volume of content (thousands of articles a month) for businesses that want to scale and grow fast. You post a job and writers pick them up.
  • Crowd Content—similar to Fiverr or Upwork, you get access to a marketplace and find a writer that fits your needs. Content platforms like this one are for businesses focused more on scale.
  • Agencies—often work with freelancers or have in-house writers; some content platforms have an agency-style option. This will cost more than individual freelancers because the company will create briefs, write, edit, do SEO research, measure performance, and adjust the strategy. 

Managed Marketplaces

  • Superpath Marketplace—a managed marketplace that matches you with a writer that has your subject matter expertise and industry experience. Superpath takes care of the editing, revisions, and final delivery. Managed marketplaces are best for people who want high-quality content without combing through individual freelancers’ applications.

Freelance rates are a big deal, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of working with freelancers. Your relationship with your writers will be much more successful just by paying on time, paying fairly, and communicating about scope and expectations before starting work. Keep these factors in mind as you move forward with your next project, and your future freelancers will thank you.

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