Here's the strategic way to build a content marketing team - whether you're blogging for business or for yourself. This is how to pay, motivate, hire and manage blog writers and freelancers.

If you’re starting a company blog, or you’re looking to build out a team of freelancers for your blog, figuring out how much to pay writers can be a tricky task.

If you pay your writers too little, you’ll end up with bad quality content and your writing team will most likely leave you for better paying jobs.

On the flip side, most companies can’t afford to fork out $500 per article. If their blog costs thousands of dollars per month just for content, there won’t be any budget left for anything else.

So how do you create a win-win relationship between the company and freelance writers?

In this article, I’m going to share the process I’ve used to build long-lasting relationships with writers where both parties benefit.

 Free Bonus: Onboarding writers can be tricky, but I made a word for word script for onboarding writers that you can copy. Click here to download it. 

Why Paying Hourly Wages for Writers Doesn’t Work

I learned the hard way after many failed attempts that paying writers an hourly wage doesn’t work.

The reason the hourly wage model doesn’t work is because the writer isn’t incentivized to deliver a completed post.

Typically what happens is you agree with a writer on a certain hourly rate and get an estimate for how long it will take them to complete the project, then the writer underestimates how long research takes them, how long the post takes them, or how many revisions are needed.

You end up spending a bunch of time going back and forth which drives the cost up. By the time you get a completed post it ends up costing upwards of $400+ for something you’re not even that happy with.

The Way to Pay Blog Writers That Keeps Them Happy

The most important part of working with first time writers for your blog is evaluating if the writer is going to be a good fit before negotiating payment.

The best way to evaluate a writer that you want to add to your freelance team is to give the writer a short writing test to see if they’re capable of writing a compelling piece of content on your subject matter.

If you want the full-process to do this, read this post for more detail:

How to Find, Evaluate and Hire Writers for your Blog

After the writer passes the evaluation process, I typically hop on a phone call with them to describe more about the company, the content strategy and go into more detail on exactly what we’re looking for.

Then after they’ve passed the test (or interview process) and I’ve described more into what we’re looking for, I typically negotiate a per-post fee going forward.

The reason the per-post payment model works well is because incentives are aligned for both parties – the writer wants to get paid and the blog manager wants a completed post that they’re happy with.

The range that I’ll usually budget per post is anywhere from $150-500 per post depending on the type of content that is delivered.

$150 is the minimum flat rate that I’ll pay. If you find a writer that has subject matter expertise in your area and that doesn’t have to research a ton, this is more than a fair price. For these writers, I estimate it takes around 3 hours to write a post so I think of it as $50/hour. Usually I’ll start my writers out at this price and if they achieve really good results writing for our blog then I’ll bump up their per-post rate and deliver more projects to them to keep them happy.

$200 is the rate I’ll pay to the more experienced writers and the writers that go above and beyond for the blog. This might be writers that reach out to subject matter experts for quotes or writers that do additional research to make their article more compelling.

$350 is the rate I’ll pay to writers that do interview style posts. The reason this is the highest rate is because there’s a lot more work involved. Typically I’ll have a writer do a half-hour to an hour interview, then they’ll need to transcribe the interview and then also turn it into a compelling story. To do this type of work requires a lot of someone’s time and it’s typically a harder project for someone to take on.

$500 is the rate I’ll pay for heavy research and mega projects. These projects typically require someone that can outline,  project manage a piece, write and coordinate details with others.

How I Set up My Freelance Writing Team

The important thing to note about these per-post fees is that once someone is onboarded, I view them as an extension of my marketing team.

I typically look to find 3-5 solid writers that all have different skill sets. I might look for a writer that can do creative non-fiction (typically better for interviews), a storyteller, and a writer that can do some basic research.

However, I always keep a job posting up for writing roles, as there is always some churn due to:

  1. Someone on your team getting a full-time job
  2. Not having enough time to work on your projects
  3. After a few posts you realize that they aren’t going to be a good fit going forward

My writing teams always have the freedom to contribute as much or as little as they like: They can make more money if they put in more effort or they can just view this as a side-project and contribute posts they’re interested in.

What I’ve found is that this model works well because it will even out between all of your writers. Typically what will happen is that one or two writers will do most of your writing (and do the best job) and others will be there to fill in the gaps when the main writers get busy.

Who Comes Up With Ideas (Hint: Not me)

Every writer that I bring on board is fully autonomous. If you follow the process that I outlined in the last post on hiring writers, the onboarding test will help you bring on writers that can come up with ideas for new posts and execute on them. I let them start pitching ideas after they are onboarded and I have the 30 minute phone call with them describing more about the content strategy and company.

Writers are required to pitch each idea to me before getting started so that I can make sure that the post aligns with our content strategy and so that I can maintain a content calendar.

The pitch is just an e-mail sent to me with a headline and a two to three sentence description of what the article is going to be about. If I have more questions then I’ll either respond via e-mail or hop on a quick phone call with the writer.

As the blog manager, I should know what content will do best on the blog.

On top of the writer pitching topics I assign 3-4 articles per month to writers on my team. These articles usually consist of interviews with influencers or posts that I think have potential to go viral. I typically do the influencer outreach and then connect the influencer with someone on my team to conduct the interview or do the story.

The other scenario that I would assign a post for, is if I see a topic come up in webmaster tools that I think we could rank organically for, I’ll assign a writer to write an in depth post about that long-tail search term.

The Ownership Hack: How to Give Writers a Feeling of Ownership So They’re Invested in Your Blog’s Success

A problem most people think of is:

“Won’t my blog suffer in quality if i’m exclusively using outsourced writers that aren’t really invested in the company?”

This is a good question and valid concern.

Over time, I’ve developed some habits that help keep writers invested in the success of their posts, instead of just treating this like a side job exclusively for money.

First, it’s important to drive home the fact that your writers are an extension of your marketing team. Your goal is to build a long-term relationship with them, NOT just use them for one post and be done with them.

I aim to share metrics with writers on a monthly basis to keep them engaged and to share feedback on how they’re posts are doing. This helps them get better over time and gives them feedback on which of their posts have done the best so they can hone in on what works for you.

When I was at Everwise, our blog manager Ada came up with a great idea to hold a webinar and to get all of the writers on the phone together. On this webinar we answered writers’ questions and they got a chance to meet one and other. This helped strengthen the relationships between the company and the writers and it also helped strengthen the relationship between all of the writers. They felt like they were part of something much more than just a ‘freelance writer.’

If you build your writing team this way, it’s a win-win for both parties. You’ll build long-lasting relationships with writers because it’s really easy to work with you. Writers have the flexibility to make as much money as they want and you’ll end up working with the best writers because they won’t feel like they’re getting taken advantage of.

 Free Bonus: Onboarding writers can be tricky, but I made a word for word script for onboarding writers that you can copy. Click here to download it. 

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