How Much to Invest in Content (and What You Can Expect to Get)

invest content marketing

Budgeting is one of the hardest tasks any business owner or manager has to deal with.

I know you may disagree with me. You may think you can pre-define the value of something based on your opinion, experience, or the budget approved by your manager.

I can’t deny the importance of any of these aspects when budgeting.

The problem is that you will be focusing too much on what you think something is worth, and not on what you can get out of it.

Think about it:

If you know you need to spend $2,000 on something as “simple” as an article, and that article will bring you $2,500 worth of revenue, then the investment makes sense.

The same logic applies to anything. For example, Neil Patel supposedly spent $162k in clothing, something 99,9% of the population would consider suicidal. Yet, he got almost $700k out of that investment, representing a 326% ROI.

The return on your investment is what matters when you budget anything, including your content.

Every time I see a job posting on a site like ProBlogger or Upwork that says the budget is $50, I frown in a mix of disgust and shame.

As Mr. T would say, I pity the fool who thinks so lowly of their content. Maybe the reason behind that budget is that their content is worth $100. In that case, it makes sense they spend that little on it.

But here’s the problem:

If they invested in better content, they may get $200, $500, or even $1,000 out of their investment. Since they invest so little, they get very little in return.

Because there are so many myths around the subject, I want to help you uncover how much you can expect to pay for your content, and what you can get out of each price range.

How much to pay your writers (and what kind of content they can give you)

In my previous article, you saw how cheap content can hurt your business and how much you could get out of it.

But that article didn’t answer the most important question of all:

How much should you pay for your content?

While I can’t provide you with a definitive answer, I want to guide you by giving you some ranges of prices and what you can expect to get out of it.

Note 1: The following prices reflect my personal experience both working as a writer and hiring other writers. You may or may not agree with me. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Note 2: The following ranges are on a per-word basis, which is one of the many ways you can price a piece of content. The only reason why I use this parameter is because content length usually has a large influence on the final pricing of an article. The more words an article has, the more it generally costs.

Note 3: These prices don’t include ghostwritten content, which tends to increase the costs.

Less than $0.10 per word: Cheapos 😅

What You Can Expect: Vanilla content. Grammar mistakes. Lack of examples, stats, or any kind of substance.

Quality of Content: Mediocre, if not terrible.

Who Should Hire Writers in this Range: No one.

Let me be clear: I wouldn’t recommend this kind of writers to anyone, ever. This is not that the writers who lay in this price range are bad or ill-intentioned; it’s just that it’s hard to create any meaningful work when you have to write 2 or 3 articles per day to pay the bills.

If someone can pay the bills in this price range, that writer is either a hermit or a writer from a country like the Philippines and India. There’s nothing wrong with writers from those countries, mind you. I’m from Argentina, and I’m not less as a writer because I was born in there.

Nonetheless, some of the writers from those countries tend to focus less on the quality of their writing than their output; they need to write five 500-words articles a day, regardless of what they say.

For that reason, writers in this price range work more like cogs in a machine than actual writers. They just want to write the content and move on to the next one.

You will be responsible for finding all the ideas, research the articles, outline them, and edit them as well. That’s too much work for a meager result if you asked me.

I would highly recommend you stay away from writers in this price range unless you want to do all the legwork yourself.

The time and money investment aren’t worth it. There’s no ROI in this price range.

Between $0.10 to $0.20 per word: Goodies 😬

What You Can Expect: Readable content with heavy edits needed.

Quality of Content: Acceptable, if you know to pick the right writers and know what you want.

Who Should Hire Writers in this Range: Companies with low budgets and who want to take their time editing their content.

Writers in this price range can be a bit more experienced in the art of writing. You will also find a majority of writers who are English native speakers, so the grammar mistakes will be more uncommon than with the cheapos.

Don’t expect lots of examples, images, and stats to back some of the claims, though. At the least, however, the content will be good enough for you to publish with some edits needed.

Based on my personal observations, writers in this price range can be split into two groups:

  • Mediocre writers who create mediocre content
  • Good writers who don’t want to raise their prices too much to scare away their clients

When looking for goodies, you want to find writers in the latter group. These writers represent a low-hanging fruit.

Many companies hire writers in this price range as it represents a good compromise; they get relatively good content at a cheap price.

I still think the ROI won’t be the best you can get. But if you are able to promote their content wisely, you may be able to command attention and traffic you deserve.

Between $0.20 to $0.30 per word: Rockstars 😎

What You Can Expect: Content that has all the elements of a successful piece, including quotes, stats, images, and the like.

Quality of Content: Great.

Who Should Hire Writers in this Range: Anyone who’s serious about their content.

In this range is where you can find great writers. These writers can consistently create content that demands attention, builds authority, and drives action.

Writers that charge this amount of money per word have usually years of experience writing for companies and clients alike. They also have a large portfolio where they can show the kind of content they can create and the results they’ve gotten. They have likely published articles in large publications for their industry or niche.

These writers are highly experienced in their industries and have a deep knowledge of how it works. They can explain concepts in a clear and concise fashion.

Once you have some basic traffic and are looking to ramp up your content, the writers in this range are the best to take your content further.

Above $0.30 per word: Hemingways 💥

What You Can Expect: Similar than the content from the previous group of writers.

Quality of Content: Great.

Who Should Hire Writers in this Range: Anyone who wants to work with an authority in the industry, whether it’s an influencer, an experienced individual, or someone who has a unique writing style.

I picture you reading this and saying:

Whoa, $0.30 per word? Who are you, a Nobel Prize winner? Get outta here!

via GIPHY

I know it can be a lot, but for most writers, these price is worth it.

We are talking about writers who have written for all the top publications in its industry and who are recognized in the industry.

These writers have a large amount of experience writing for their chosen industry, which gives them a leg up in the capacity to craft great story narratives.

Another reason why some of these writers charge this much is because they include content promotion in their price. These writers have engaged social and email audiences in which they can mention your content, making the content much more valuable.

Companies can also increase their authority and recognition in their industry. This is mostly due to the Halo effect: your company becomes an authority thanks to working with one.

Where to find writers for each price range

As I said in my article in Copyhackers:

Writers don’t live under a rock.

In general, the lower the tier you choose, the easier it will to find writers. Don’t believe me? Go to ProBlogger Jobs and add a listing in there. The avalanche of cheap writers will scare you.

Finding the top-level writers, however, isn’t so easy. Here’s how you can find the writers in each price range.

Where to Find the Cheapo Writers

Ok, I’ve got to be honest with you:

I wouldn’t recommend you hire a cheapo writer ever.

Whoa, Ivan, isn’t that a bit harsh?” you must be saying.

Yeah, I know it is.

But here’s the problem:

Cheapo writers are people who don’t see the value in the content you publish.

Yes, they can write content. Some of them can be pretty acceptable with few edits needed.

The question still remains:

Why would you hire someone who doesn’t know why she’s writing for you?

You want the best people in your marketing team; you want to hire a writer who knows how she can help you succeed.

It’s hard to find such a writer in this tier.

Now, I know you are strapped for money and you need words pieced together with a minimum level of coherence, so you want to know where to find cheapo writers.

I’m not going to get into details, but if you want to find cheapo writers, you can find them in the following marketplaces:

If you are going to hire cheapo writers; do it. Try to move onto the next tier as fast as you can.

That’s where things start to get interesting.

Where to Find Goodies

Goodies, such as their cheaper counterparts, can be found in most of the job marketplaces. Their prices are a bit higher but are totally worth their price given their service.

While in these marketplaces it’s full of cheap writers, there are some gems scattered around. Some of them are scared of charging too much, so they charge whatever they think it’s worth their services, not what the companies can pay them.

Where to Find Rockstars

Rockstars are already recognized writers in their own niches. They have a good presence, with bylines in important sites in their industries and blogs with decent levels of traffic.

You rarely will find rockstars in marketplaces and writing groups. They don’t need these platforms anymore; they have outgrown them.

They’re not begging for your work; most of them are busy working already with other companies. That’s why I recommend using the Breadcrumbs Technique to find Rockstars.

If you haven’t read that article, go now and read it, as I explain how to find high-quality writers in there.

Rockstars are usually open to new clients, so your job is to find them.

Where to Find Hemingways

Hemingways belong to a different world.

These writers make four to five-figures per month per client (yeah, crazy AF).

Why some companies pay so much for Hemingways is a matter of a different topic (hint: it’s all about expectations and positioning).

If you want to find a Hemingway, first be aware they aren’t very common. Don’t go around thinking it’s going to be easy to find them.

Second, they are people who in some cases have created small agencies to handle their big clients.

What’s more, they usually offer other related services, like promotion, PR, and content strategy to justify their prices.

Once again, the Breadcrumbs Technique will help you find these writers, although they won’t be available for work, especially if you aren’t a good fit or if they don’t know you. Tapping your connections can help you warm intros that will increase the chances of getting their attention.

A writer I know that fits this category is my friend and mentor Ryan Robinson. Check his site and you will see he knows how to create the kind of content that works. He has written for every large site you can dream of, he has worked with many large and reputable clients, and his content impacts people. He charges accordingly, but he’s worth if you have that kind of budget and need.

Conclusion

Knowing how much to pay for your writers is never an easy decision.

I know you work hard to make your money. That’s why I know you don’t want to spend it on someone who’s not going to bring any results to your company.

You must take a deep look at your company’s situation and what you are expecting to get from your writers.

You then need to define what budget you have.

As I’ve shown you, there are mainly four tiers of writers, each one with its respective quality.

With these guidelines, you need to choose the tier that fits your company’s needs, stage, and budget best. Once you make the decision, get started looking for writers in that tier. You’ve seen how to do that, so it’s not a matter of how you do it, but when you are going to do it.

You will never know if you are over or underpaying your writers until you start to get any results from your content.

But one thing is sure: investing in high-quality content is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

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