Learn how to increase your income as a freelance writer with regular, sustainable content marketing writing work. Average rates: $1 a word.
You’re interested in content marketing writing because you’ve heard it’s profitable, right?
That’s the key. How much does it pay?
And this is a good question to ask—a great question to ask—if you’re in business for yourself. A freelance writer who doesn’t make money doesn’t remain freelance for very long. Going into content marketing writing does have certain pros and cons for journalists, which we discussed in this article. One of the massive pros is money.
If you want to increase your income as a journalist, doing the same reporting and storytelling you love, and have been looking for a way to make it regular and sustainable, content marketing writing is the answer.
How Much Does Content Marketing Writing Pay?
It depends. (I know, don’t you hate it when I do that?)
So let’s talk about the factors it depends on.
One, your experience.
You will hear me say this until I’m blue in the face, but a newbie just starting out in any field will not command the same rates as professionals who’ve been doing it for many years. I don’t care what dreams other bloggers are selling you. There’s room for more—and less—and you’re going to find yourself on the higher or lower end of that scale depending on how experienced you are (at both writing and negotiating). My first content marketing assignment paid $1 a word. Even now, my lowest-paying content marketing client pays $0.65 a word. But there are new writers who’re getting $50 a blog post and are very happy with that.
Two, who you’re working with.
Corporates are always going to pay more than the local non-profit down the road. You need to make some decisions about whom you want to work with and whom you don’t (a diversified client mix is a good thing). Government agencies often have very large budgets for the right kind of people, and so do trade associations.
Three, how you’re working with them.
Are you working directly with a client or are you going through an agency? It’s harder to get work directly, but it’s much more profitable. If you’re going through the agency route, work is a lot more varied (for different clients), and the agency is only paying you after taking their nice big cut. (In my book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing, I teach you how to cut out the middlemen, keep the higher rate and get more work.)
And finally, your negotiation skills.
You’ve heard me banging on about this before. It’s important.
Which brings us to the next most important question:
How To Get Paid Well As A Content Marketing Writer
Here’s the breakdown for the first few content marketing stories I wrote:
Story #1 for UK-based agency. Pay: $500. Time taken: 2 hours. Rate: $250 an hour.
Story #2 for multinational bank. Pay: $400. Time taken: 2 hours. Rate: $200 an hour.
Story #3 for African government. Pay: $500. Time taken: 1.5 hours. Rate: $333 an hour.
Story #4 for multinational bank. Pay: $400. Time taken: 2 hours. Rate: $200 an hour.
Story #5 for large financial services company. Pay: $1,000. Time taken: 2.5 hours. Rate: $400 an hour.
Average rate: $280 an hour.
Those are just the first five stories. I went on to do several more for the large financial services company and had some pretty nice hourly rates to show for them. (I now average $300-400 an hour.)
So, how do you start getting these rates? Here are my top tips:
1. Move away from low payers
Any freelance writer who makes a living wage is skilled at weeding through low-paying clients and finding the ones that will pay for a high-quality product. Content marketing writing is no different. You can pretty easily find clients that will pay a paltry $40 for 800 words of highly-researched content on a technical topic. But if you start keeping your eyes open, you’ll easily find clients that will pay as much as (or often more than) the highest-paying national magazines.
2. Focus on your hourly rate
Since your content marketing work will focus around a specialty, it’s likely that you’re going to need a lot less time to do the writing and reporting for these assignments than you generally do for your journalism ones. There are also a lot fewer edits and pushbacks when you’re working with businesses as opposed to publications (everyone just wants to get the job done as efficiently and quickly as possible), so you end up making more per hour because you can work quickly. This is why, even though my minimum for journalism assignments is $500, I will go lower for content marketing clients. (They tend to assign in bulk as well, which helps.)
3. Find clients directly
This is something I’ll focus on a lot in The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing because this is where the real money lies. Just as with approaching publications, approaching clients for content marketing work requires a certain set of techniques and strategies. Doing that can make the difference between landing regular clients easily and slogging away for agencies.
So, once again, how much can you earn from content marketing writing? I made easily as much as my journalism work in the first year and this year I’m confident I’ll double it.
There is no limit. And that’s why content marketing is such an exciting industry to be in right now.
In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about the best ways for international journalists to find their content marketing niche.
And if you’re interested in my book for freelancers looking to get more higher-paying content marketing work, click below to grab your copy.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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