Whether you’re a blogger or small business owner, freelance writers can help you to grow your business. Good freelance writers will allow you to increase traffic to your website, gain new exposure, and ultimately make more money.
Hiring freelancer writers can be a challenge. There’s no shortage of writers out there, but identifying the right one can be hard. And how do you know that you’re not paying too much?
I started working as a freelance writer in 2007 and almost 13 years later, I’m still working as a freelance writer in addition to running my own websites (I’ve done freelance writing on and off over those 13 years, not non-stop). I’ve also hired more than 50 different freelance writers to create content for my own blogs, so I have experience from both sides.
I’ve learned a lot both from freelancing and from hiring others, and this article serves as a guide that can help you to avoid common mistakes and hire the right freelancer.
Although the article is written primarily with content-based websites and blogs in mind, most of the article will be relevant even if you are hiring writers for some other type of publication.
How Much Should I Pay for a Freelance Writer?
One of the most difficult decisions related to hiring freelance writers is knowing how much to pay or what you should expect to pay. The rates of freelance writers vary wildly and you can find writers in just about any budget range. It’s possible to pay $1 for an article and it’s possible to pay $1,000 for an article.
Of course, the budget will usually impact the quality of work that you get, but paying more doesn’t always ensure that you’ll get better quality. And likewise, going with a cheaper freelancer doesn’t always mean that the quality will be poor.
There are so many different factors influencing rates that it’s impossible to say what rate you should expect to pay. Here are a few of the major factors that can influence a freelancer’s rate:
- The topic – Certain topics are going to demand hiring prices than others. For example, rates for freelancers who cover financial or tax-related topics will probably be higher than writers for topics related to backyard games.
- Level of expertise – If you need to hire a writer with specific expertise, a health professional for example, you should expect to pay higher rates.
- Location of the freelancer – In general, many of the lower-priced freelancers will be based outside of the U.S. This is not always the case, but the location of the freelancer obviously impacts their rates because it also impacts their cost of living.
- Length of the article – Many freelancers will charge per word, so the length of the article will directly influence the cost of the article.
- Amount of research needed – Freelancers are likely to charge more if they need to do extensive research in order to be able to write the article.
Although it will not impact the rate of a particular freelancer, other factors that you should keep in mind when you’re deciding how much you should be willing to pay include:
- The value of your own time – If the alternative to hiring a freelancer is you doing the work yourself, you should consider the value of your own time. For example, if you could be doing something else and earning $50 per hour and it will take you 3 hours to write an article, the effective cost of that article is $150 if you’re doing the work yourself.
- The anticipated income from the project – How much money do you expect to generate as a result of the article? You should be willing to pay more for an article that will generate $500 than for an article that will generate $10. Of course, you won’t know exactly how much an article will be able to generate going in to the project, but you should be able to get a feel for which articles offer higher income potential compared to others.
The best way to determine what you should be willing to pay a freelancer is to get quotes from several different writers. Find the one that gives you the best value (not necessarily the cheapest) within your budget.
Where to Find Freelance Writers
Finding freelance writers isn’t difficult, but the results will vary depending on your approach. One of the easiest ways to get content for your website or blog is to order articles from a content mill. There are many different companies that serve as a middleman between you and the writers. They have specific set rates for articles of different lengths, and they typically offer bulk discounts if you’re ordering a large number of articles.
These companies typically have very low prices, but from my experience, the quality is often not very good. The writers are typically being paid very low rates, which means the work is getting outsourced to the countries, probably to non-native English speakers, and it usually shows.
I prefer to avoid ordering from content mills because I’ve never been happy with the results when I’ve tried them in the past. I prefer to find and choose the writers on my own, even though it takes a little more work.
Here are a few different ways to find freelance writers for your own projects:
You can find freelancers to do all kinds of different things on Fiverr, so of course, you can find plenty of writers. Fiverr has a reputation for cheap prices and low quality of work, but I’ve found some very good freelancers there.
One of the nice things about Fiverr is that each gig will have a set price, so you can easily compare prices. For example, a writer may have a gig with a price for a 1,000-word article and another price for a 2,000-word article. And many of the freelancers specialize in particular topics, so you can find writers who have some level of expertise.
You can also see reviews from past clients, which can be helpful, but don’t assume that a freelancer with very positive reviews is going to give you a high-quality article. Price can have a big impact on the satisfaction of a client, and your expectations may be different from others. I’ve received some very poorly written articles from cheap freelancers on Fiverr who had all 5-star reviews. Other customers looking for budget articles may have been happy with the results, but it wasn’t up to the standard that I was looking for.
My opinion of hiring writers on Fiverr is that you can definitely find some good writers with low rates, but you may need to go through a few duds in order to find one that meets your needs.
You can post the details of your project at Upwork for free and then freelancers will be able to submit a bid. You can get a lot of bids pretty quickly and easily, which gives you a nice pool of freelancers to choose from, but the price and quality will be all over the place.
You’ll probably get some very low bids. You’ll also get some high bids, and some in the middle.
I’ve used Upwork many times over the years and my experience there is fairly similar to the experience I have with Fiverr. You can find some good writers with low rates, but you’ll have to sift through a lot of lower-quality writers in order to find the hidden gems. You’ll also probably have to hire a few in order to know which ones will work out the best for you.
There are a number of job boards that are ideal for hiring freelance writers. You could use a job board that specializes in remote work or freelance gigs, but my experience is using job boards dedicated exclusively to freelance writing. This includes ProBlogger, Blogging Pro, and Freelance Writing Gigs.
You’ll have to pay to post your opportunity to a job board, but it can save you some time and help you to find some higher-quality writers. I’ve used the ProBlogger job board several times and I’ve always been happy with the response.
If you’re looking for a high-quality freelance writer, in my opinion, the best way to find one is to do some leg work and scout writers who are publishing at other websites or blogs in your niche.
Pay attention to bigger blogs that hire freelance writers and see which writers you like the best. Identify a few that you think would be a good fit for your own project and reach out to them to see if they’re interested in working with you.
From my experience, this is the best way to find quality freelance writers, although it does take a little more time and effort. By doing it this way, you’ll only be communicating with high-quality writers and you’ll know exactly what to expect from the writers that you hire because you’re familiar with their work.
Tips for Hiring and Managing Freelance Writers
Now, let’s take a look at more details related to hiring and working with freelance writers.
Ask for Their Rates
I always prefer to ask freelancers for their rates rather than saying I’m willing to pay a certain amount for an article. There are two reasons for this:
- Their rate may be lower than what I am willing to pay. Since the rates for freelance writers are all over the place, I really have no idea what a writer’s rates might be like until they tell me. In some cases, their rates are lower than what I’m willing to pay, so I can save money by asking for their rate.
- I want to pay freelancers a rate that they think is fair and I don’t want to offend them. I don’t want to tell them what I’m willing to pay if my price is half of what they would charge, because it might offend them. I also don’t want freelancers to reluctantly take work from me for less than they normally charge, because they’re not likely to be invested in the project.
Regardless of how I’m coming in contact with a freelancer, I always want to get their rate and then go from there. If they ask what the pay is for a job, I tell them that the pay varies depending on the freelancer, and that’s the truth. For one of my old blogs, I had four freelance writers who all wrote articles for me every month and their rates varied from $40 per article to $150 per article. All the articles were about the same length and roughly the same quality, I was simply paying the rates given to me be the freelancers.
If a freelancer’s rates are higher than I want to pay, I thank them for their time and tell them that unfortunately, it’s more than I can pay right now. Personally, I don’t ask writers to reduce their rates or negotiate. There have been a few situations where they reduced rates on their own in order to get the price within my budget, but I don’t ask for that.
Start With a Single Article
When you’re hiring a new freelance writer, always try to start with a small order/project, which gives you an opportunity to try them without a major commitment. You can look at writing samples, check their credentials, and even contact references, but you’ll learn a lot more about the quality of their work by actually hiring them for a job.
If you’re a blog owner/editor or website owner, you’re probably looking for freelancers who will write for you on an ongoing basis. But, in my experience, it’s always best to start with a single project rather than hiring them for a bulk order of articles or committing to a certain amount of work each month.
When I’m in touch with freelancers, I tell them that ideally I’m looking for someone who is interested in ongoing work, but the first assignment will be a single article. After that first article, if we both feel it’s a good fit, we’ll talk about ongoing work. Most freelancers will agree to this.
Hire Multiple Freelancers and Choose the Best Ones for Ongoing Work
If you’re looking to add one regular contributor that will write for you on an ongoing basis, you may want to consider hiring multiple writers for one article each, and then choose the best one.
Regardless of whether you’re hiring a freelancer on Fiverr, Upwork, or posting a listing on a job board, weeding through a lot of candidates can be challenging. You might have several freelancers who seem to be about the same based on their rates and writing samples. If that’s the case, hire each of them for one article and you’ll probably find some separation between them.
If you’re a blogger and you’ll be writing some of the content yourself in addition to hiring freelance writers, you should think strategically about the content that the freelancers will be writing.
- Hire freelancers with skillsets and experience that are different from your own, and hire them to write content that you cannot write yourself. For example, I’m a hobbyist photographer and I used to run a photography blog. As an amateur, there were technical aspects of photography that I was not qualified to cover (not effectively, anyway). I felt more comfortable with photo editing and basic photography topics, so I made sure that freelancers I hired were able to cover the topics that I couldn’t.
- Be sure that the articles you’re paying for have a chance to contribute something significant. Maybe the posts target specific keywords that you think can send search engine traffic to your blog. Or maybe the article will promote affiliate products that could generate revenue for you. You want to select the articles with a purpose and don’t hire writers simply to create any content just to have something to publish.
- Hire writers for articles that you don’t want to write yourself. Sometimes there are topics that I know should be covered on my blog, but I simply don’t have any interest in writing the article. These articles are good for outsourcing because it saves me from doing work that I won’t enjoy.
Get a Signed Agreement
When you start working with a new freelance writer, I recommend getting a signed agreement. The agreement should explain the relationship and responsibilities of each party, including compensation details like when payments will be made.
Another important detail that should be in your agreement — There should be a statement explaining that the freelancer understands that any content written for you must be completely original, not published anywhere else, and does not violate the copyright of anyone else.
Getting a signed agreement is something I started doing recently after being prompted by my insurance company, and it’s something that I plan to do with all freelancers going forward.
Don’t Pay 100% Upfront
Some freelancers will prefer to be paid upfront (or a portion of the payment) and others will be fine with being paid upon completion of the project. I’ve worked with freelancers both ways, but I wouldn’t pay 100% upfront to a new freelancer that I haven’t worked with in the past.
If you’re using Fiverr or Upwork to hire a freelancer, you’ll be paying 100% upfront, but that payment is being held by Fiverr or Upwork until you give the approval to release the payment. This is an ideal situation because the writer knows that you’ve made the payment so they’re not at risk of doing the work and then not being paid. And since the payment is held by Fiverr or Upwork, you’re not at risk of the writer not delivering. If the freelancer does not deliver (which has happened to me in the past), the money will be refunded to you.
But if you’re working directly with a freelancer, you’ll need to agree on the details regarding payment. I would be willing to pay a portion of the money upfront (like 50%, for example) to a new freelancer, but I would not pay 100% upfront.
After you have some experience working with the freelancer and you trust them, you could move to 100% payment upfront if needed. I’ve done that with freelancers that have proven to be trustworthy.
Always Check the Freelancer’s Writing Samples
Regardless of whether you’re hiring a writer on Fiverr or Upwork or hiring someone outside of one of those platforms, always be sure to check multiple writing samples before making a decision. Writing samples will give you a good indication of the type of writing they’ll produce for you.
Get writing samples that are as close as possible to the project that you’ll be hiring the freelancer for. If you run a travel blog, try to get writing samples of travel-related content.
But be aware that writing samples can sometimes be misleading. You won’t know how much editing was done to the article before it was published. That’s why it’s good to get writing samples from a few different publications or check writing samples on the freelancer’s own blog, which are unlikely to have been edited by anyone else.
Provide Very Specific Instructions
When you’re hiring freelance writers, it’s best to be as specific as possible about what you want. This goes for all freelancers, but it’s especially true for the lower-budget freelancers who may need more hand-holding.
Give them instructions related to:
- The exact topics that you want them to cover (you may want to provide titles for them to use)
- Length of the article
- Specific key points or perspectives that they should include
- Tone of the article
- Format that you want to receive the article (Word, Google Docs, entered into WordPress, etc.)
- Formatting or style guide
Don’t assume anything. The more details you can provide, the happier you’ll be with the finished product.
Don’t Use Images Provided by Freelancers Without Verifying License Details
Some freelance writers will provide images/photos to go along with their articles. Personally, I tell freelancers not to worry about the images because I want to find them myself so I know where they’re coming from.
If you do use an image provided by a freelancer, be sure that you can verify the source and license details of the photo. If the photo was taken by the freelancer, get a signed statement showing that they own the copyright to the photo.
You can be held responsible for any image or photo that you publish on your blog or website. If the photo was provided by a freelancer but it violates someone else’s copyright, you’re still responsible for publishing it. Some freelancers will just grab any image without regard to copyright, so you need to be sure that the image is being used in accordance with the license.
Don’t Rely Too Much on Freelancers
After working with freelancers for several years, I can say that many freelance writers (not all) are unreliable. I’ve had countless missed deadlines and many projects that simply never got completed. In a few rare cases, the freelancer completely fell out of contact and stopped responding to emails.
While I advocate hiring freelance writers, you should understand that they can be unreliable. The best way to deal with this is to work ahead. Don’t get in a situation where your business will be hurt if a freelancer misses a deadline. Work ahead and always have content ready to go ahead of time.
When You Find a Good One, Treat Them Well
Good freelance writers can be extremely valuable, especially after you’ve worked with a few others who proved to be unreliable. When you find a good one, take care of them. Give them ongoing work whenever possible and be easy to work with. You’ll want to maintain a good working relationship so they continue to work with you as long as possible.
By following the tips covered in this article, you should be able to identify, hire, and manage freelance writers that can help you to grow your business. You’ll save time, get good value for your money, and be able to scale your business without the risk of hiring full-time employees.