The 3 Tiers of Outsourced Content (Know This Before Hiring Your Next Writer!)

Today's post comes from our friend, Vincent D'Eletto. Just like HPD, he has tons of experience dealing with writers for affiliate sites and this article details the expectations you should have at various price points.

It's quite informative and should be something you can apply right away with your own content process.

How much of your marketing budget do you dedicate to content creation?

I bet it’s not nearly enough.

As of February 25th, 2017, Google has indexed an estimated 47 BILLION webpages. That’s a lot of content!

Consider that a large portion of those pages belong to your competitors, and you will quickly realize that you need to publish high-quality articles consistently in order to not get lost in the mix.

Now, I realize that not everyone has a six figure marketing budget that they can dedicate to content creation. Most successful digital marketers got their start bootstrapping their businesses from the ground up.

This begs the question:

“How much should I be spending on my content and what should I expect for my money?”

You’ll get a lot of different answers based on who you ask. Cash-strapped newbies will do their best to squeeze blood from a stone while they’re waiting for consistent revenue to roll in.

Alternatively, established businesses with budgets in place will have more wiggle room in what they spend on content.

The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) publishes editorial rates, which are widely considered to be the “standard” in the industry. They currently have the average price for ghostwriting listed at $.25 to $.50 per word!

Before you go bury your head in the sand, this range really isn’t indicative of what you’ll be paying for your web content. The EFA rates include the average of prices paid to writers from all walks of life and all different types of publications, including print.

Pricing for online ghostwriters are much more reasonable. Since I started my ghostwriting agency several years back, I’ve been able to wrap my head around realistic pricing for freelance ghostwriters and have categorized them into three separate tiers of quality.

Tier 3: $.005 - $.03 per word

This is the bottom rung in terms of cost and quality.

A Tier 3 writer will be found on content mill marketplaces or classified sites. The type of writer you’ll be able to get at this price point will probably have little to no experience writing for the web, and may very well not have a solid grasp of English in general.

These writers generally do not have a passion for writing and are simply seeking some extra cash to support their lifestyle. You can expect the quality of content at this level to be down right awful to passable.

When hiring a writer from this group, you should be prepared to spend significant time creating instructions, hand-holding, and doing lots of editing on your own.

Tier 2: $.04 - $.19 per word

The middle tier of our pricing range is currently the sweet spot for individual website owners and small businesses who are willing to manage their own team of writers in exchange for a lower price point.

Tier 2 writers can be found on most freelance websites and with smaller content creation agencies. They typically consist of recent college graduates, stay-at-home parents, and professional freelance writers.

Most of the people in this group will be the same exact writers that big name agencies use. The only difference is the level of service you receive and how “polished” the initial drafts will be.

You should be prepared to create clear and concise (read: not micromanaged) briefings that explain exactly what you want to see in your content project. Do not expect this group to “fill in the blanks” in your briefings because it seems obvious to you.

The content you receive back from a Tier 2 writer should need no more than one round of revisions to be publish-ready. The content will have a certain level of insight beyond what can be easily researched online.

If you have the time to closely direct a Tier 2 writer, they could be a valuable source of content to scale your business for the foreseeable future.

Tier 1: $.20 per word and above

This is what I would consider to be the top tier in the world of freelance writing. Depending on your needs, a Tier 1 writer or content creation agency would offer a completely “hands off” content solution for your business.

The top tier consists of people who write full-time for a living and are often experts in a specific industry or on a specific topic.

When dealing with a top tier writer, you will be in touch with someone who takes their business very seriously and is seeking a long-term project.

You will also find content creation agencies in this range that offer a full suite of services from initial content planning and keyword research, to the actual promotion and marketing of the articles they create.

Beyond initial fact-finding, onboarding, and regular review meetings, you can expect this tier to control most of your editorial process so that you, the business owner, can focus on growing your business.

The Write Choice?

(Excuse my awful pun. It was too easy.)

I get it. It’s not easy to determine how much you should be spending on content to get the best bang for your buck. The answer actually lies within the question.

You should spend exactly what you can afford.

There are “wins” in each of the three pricing tiers. Like anyone else in our wonderful world, freelance writers price their services based on their skill, experience, and how much time it will take to meet your requirements.

You can certainly find people with skill at any price point. What you need to address is how you can compensate for lack-of-experience, and how many of the related tasks associated with content creation you can handle in-house in order to keep your writer cost low.

Vincent D’Eletto is an SEO expert with 7 years experience in the industry. He owns and operates WordAgents.com, a ghostwriting agency that services small to medium sized businesses and digital marketing agencies.