- By Daniel Rosehill, Founder, DSR Ghostwriting
“What are your rates” is often one of the first questions that prospects ask me in a typical sales process.
I get asked so often, in fact, that I have put together a ballpark estimates page just to avoid holding unnecessary conversations in which — to put this as delicately and diplomatically as possible — budget and expectations are ‘misaligned’ or I’m not likely going to be able to meet the type of terms that clients require.
To save you some clicking and scrolling and to keep you reading this blog those are:
- Blogs (onsite) start at $350 / 1,000 words ($0.35/word)
- Articles start at $400 ($0.40/word)
However, the definitive answer to: “how much will X cost” is always, unfortunately, “it depends upon the job.” Or more accurately: “please send me a brief and I will send you back a quote.” This is sometimes known as offering quotations based on specification or ‘on spec’ (not to be confused with writing ‘on spec’ — which means something very different!)
Although it’s the standard response for much of the industry (content and SEO mills excepted), there’s a good reason why this is so.
You may feel that my go-to response, or those of some other service providers you may have received, is code for “it depends how much I can get out of you. Let me have a think about that and ask around.” But really, that isn’t the case. So, in the interest of being transparent about this important aspect of business, let me explain the rationale behind my pricing methodology.
Hourly Pricing Wrapped Into A Fixed Rate Satisfies Both Sides
I wrote a Medium piece a few months ago entitled ‘Freelance Writing Pricing: Per Word, Per Hour, or Per Project? And How Much of Each?’
Its intended readership is freelance writers. But — unlike most of my bylined writing — I link to it from within my portfolio. I do this because I feel it might be instructive to clients who wonder how writers come up with a figure for their services (spoiler/hint: they’re not pulled out of the air).
There are three main strategies to charge for writing work: per hour, per word, and per project. I discuss the pros and cons of each in detail in the blog but they’re summarized — along with their pros and cons — in the chart below.
(The chart can be downloaded here)
My preferred model is quoting project rates based off of an hourly fee — and that hourly is a rate that, in turn, I have figured out according to a fairly precise methodology.
And personally, I think that pricing hourly is the fairest model for both sides.
Experienced writers have to forgo the luxury of being able to bill well for quick work. But clients are protected from feeling that they might be getting taken advantage of. Writers are protected from scope screen (once the scope and terms and conditions are defined, that is). And clients get a fixed line item to slot into their budget. It’s as close to a win-win as I’m able to come up with at the moment.
I hope it explains why — for many writers — scope-controlled project fees are more workable than charging per word or per hour. But if hourly pricing packaged into a fixed project rate is the best pricing format to satisfy the needs of both parties, then it’s going to fluctuate a little per job.
And that’s because:
Time Expenditure Depends Upon Variables
Unfortunately, predicting how long it’s going to take me to write, say, a 1,000 word blog isn’t necessarily that straightforward. At least not off the bat for somebody I haven’t written for before.
But by finding out the answers to a few variables I can do a pretty good job at the estimating process and get you back a quote that is going to allow me to deliver work according to my service level agreement (SLA) (and I’ll cover that in another post).
What’s The Subject Matter?
Although my focus is on B2B technology, there are some niches that I am more well-versed in than others.
Those include, among others:
- Backup and disaster recovery
- Cloud computing
- Linux and open source
I’m always open to developing exciting new niches within technology — it’s part of what allows me to keep growing. But, if you’re company is operating within a niche within a niche within a niche (and it’s a complicated one too), then it’s going to take me a little bit more time to do the necessary background reading in order to get up to speed about you and your industry. By contrast, if it’s one of the above niches that I already have a good track record of experience in, I may be able to quote a little more competitively.
But lets look at some of those variables I’d need to consider. To do a thorough job at communicating your unique value proposition (USP) I, and most thought leadership writers, need to understand quite a few things about your business:
- What is unique about your product or service?
- Who are your competitors?
- What are they talking about?
- What are the general conversations that are shaping your industry right now?
We also need to know about you and your communication objectives:
- What’s the messaging that you need to hit on in this piece?
- Is there controlled industry terminology that you need to avoid or would like to include?
- Are there SEO keywords that need to be included?
- What’s the take home message of this piece?
- What’s your brand’s voice? What’s yours?
- Have you read something impressive that you’d like to emulate — and better?
How Much Detail Can You Provide?
A well fleshed-out brief is the foundation of a good writing project — whether it’s delivered in person, through a form (if you need inspiration – see my form here) or over a Zoom call.
Agencies — who are experts at dealing with multiple clients and contractors — tend to have the form of sending writers’ briefs down to a finely honed art form.
However, if this is your first time hiring a writer then you might need to lean on the writer’s experience a bit more during the information transmission process. The final quote just might cost a little bit more.
How Is The Scope Controlled?
offer a standard two rounds of revision SLA for each writing project that I undertake. This allows me to keep the extent of the time expenditure which I can include in a quote within reason. Some clients find this restrictive; and other writers offer unlimited rewrites and hope that clients keep their requests within reason.
If it’s a piece of thought leadership that you’re confident is going to need to work its way through two or three rungs of the organizational chart, then I’m happy to put together a quote that includes three or four rounds of revisions. But again, this will influence the quote offered.
Other ‘extras’ that need to be accounted for include:
- Status and review calls, if required;
- Subject matter expert (SME) interviews, if required;
- Watching background material sent, such as conference panel recordings or the thought leader’s media appearances
An Example Quote
Let’s consider the following scenario. I offer it partially to demonstrate how I would quote a real job and partially — for posterity — to explain why asking writers to write blog posts for $100 is, in the vast majority of circumstances, completely untenable from their end.
A new client needs a 1,000 word blog post about how to secure serverless architecture in the ☁️ cloud ☁️ (forgive me — I discovered emojis belatedly).
To produce this piece, on a complicated and cutting-edge topic, they want the writer to watch an hour long panel from a cybersecurity conference involving their Chief Cloud Architect and another cloud professional. The client has a rigorous internal workflow that they insist on the writing adhering to.
If my target hourly rate here were $60/hour and the client insisted that they would require two rounds of revisions the internal quote template I might follow could go something like this:
|Phone brief with client||0.5||$30|
|Watching conference panel and transcribing key quotes and moments||2.5||$150|
|Drafting outline. Getting client approval||1||$60|
|Additional research about securing serverless. Review of competitor materials.||1.5||$90|
|Reviewing feedback to Draft 1||1||$30|
Quoting based on the requirements of the job is necessary for many writers to figure out how long it’s going to take to work on a given project — and to quote a figure that will include all the stages and milestones along the way from initiation through to completion.
If you received a quote for a blog post that was for more than $500 — and you were baffled at how a piece of writing could cost “that much” — then I hope the above has gone at least a little way towards demonstrating that, in many circumstances, writers simply need to charge those kind of rates in order to make the process of producing well-researched writing viable for them.
For any writers reading this: I have found that employing the above methodology leads to robust and consistent quoting that can be templated and scripted. And clients, when writers know that they’re being fairly compensated for their time, they can do their best possible work for you.
Insufficient budgets, on the other hand, often lead to predictably poor outcomes — and writers who are forced to cut corners in attempt to preserve a viable hourly that makes their business work. That kind of situation usually benefits neither party.
Interested in learning more about how thought leadership can help your organization? Book a time for an introductory 15 minute meeting.