Guide to hiring freelance writers

Elena Prokopets
Written by Elena Prokopets
on July 13, 2023 14 minute read

Any content marketing manager will tell you: Writers make (or break) the campaign’s success rates. 

Great writers aren’t just good with words and have impeccable grammar. They have subject matter expertise in your industry, understand your target audiences, and know various copywriting and SEO techniques for creating high-performing content.

If that’s the kind of teammates you’re looking for, this guide explains how to find, onboard, and pay the best freelance writing talent. 

Full-time writers vs freelancers vs agencies: Which option to select?

Establishing lean content operations is a big task. Apart from figuring out the processes, you also have to hire talented people for execution. 

Full-time staff writers provide consistency and reliability, but a big in-house team also means significant payroll costs. With freelance writers, you get on-demand access to expertise and limitless scalability, but freelance team management requires greater coordination. Content writing agencies offer a managed delivery experience, but also come with higher costs and less personalization. 

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your specific needs and budget. Consider the volume of content needed, the level of expertise required, and the amount of managerial oversight you can provide.

Below are several more points to consider when selecting a content delivery model. 

Pros of hiring full-time writers

A quarter of global businesses have 4-10 specialists on content marketing teams. A high-performing content team typically features a mix of strategy, delivery, and supporting roles, ranging from a content marketing manager (or an editor-in-chief) to a supporting content strategist, a roster of in-house content writers, and editorial assistant(s). 

Apart from doing the writing chores, full-time team members also handle content planning, campaign management, data collection, and market analysis tasks among others. 

The definite advantage of having a payrolled team of content pros is sharper strategy, lean execution, and greater coherency in delivery along with some other perks.

  • End-to-end process execution. Content production and publishing is a multi-step process, which includes planning, research, production, design, staging, and promotion. FT writers can handle more complex projects independently, plus help others on the team with adjacent tasks. 
  • Consistent quality. Trained once, full-time writers will deliver content that perfectly captures your key value proposition, market differentiation, and brand positioning. Most in-house writers also help develop (and implement) wider editorial standards to promote uniformity across all comms channels.
  • Straightforward planning. You know the available capacities and can build content plans, based on the team’s average input. Switching tasks or sneaking in an urgent request is often easier too as you can count on short turn-around times and predictable outputs. 

Cons of hiring full-time writers

As the demand for digital content surged, 82% of in-house creative teams report an increased workload. Yet, global companies and smaller agencies alike don’t rush to hire more full-time talent. 

The cost is one obvious factor. Full-time content marketers request a median salary of $91,502 (with salaries easily going north of 100K for senior pros). But there are other issues too. Surprisingly, 20% of marketing teams report gaps in “copywriting” and “content” skills, which most companies (43.7%) attempt to bridge by hiring external talent, rather than hiring or training in-house, Marketing Week reports. The reason? Probably line one — costs.

Apart from costs and limited skillsets, there are several more drawbacks of hiring full-time writers:

  • Frequent burnout. Writing can be a mentally taxing job. In fact, 60% of creators admitted to creative burnout in the past year. With an increased workload and constantly shifting plans, full-time writers often become overwhelmed at work and struggle to keep up with the (self)imposed quality bar. 
  • Limited fresh perspective. Full-time writers, working day in and out on the same tasks, eventually become somewhat too limited in their perspective (especially when your marketing is rather “traditional” too). The “curse of institutional knowledge” may prevent them from pitching bolder, more creative ideas.
  • Narrow skill sets. In-house writers develop substantial company and industry knowledge on the job. However, their strong commitment to one type of work (e.g., managing a corporate blog) means they’re not as well-versed in producing other types of content (e.g., email sequences, SEO pillar posts, or conversion-optimized landing pages). 

Pros of hiring freelance writers

Writers are often pictured as “loners” and there’s some truth to that. Many do love working independently. Some 44K+ people in the US alone go by an “author” title.  A bolder estimate says between 650K and 1 million people worldwide select “writing” as their main source of income. 

In other words: There’s a lot of incredible freelance writing talent out in the wild. And hiring freelance writers makes perfect sense because of:

  • Niche expertise. You can assemble a specialized freelance team, staffed with the best subject matter experts and copywriting wizards. Former journalists, top-class editors, and comms strategy leads freelance on the side or full-time. 
  • Limitless scalability.  Whether you want to publish blog content more frequently, upgrade all your email marketing sequences, or streamline eBook creation, you can easily do so by adding more freelance writers to your roster. 
  • Lean content production. By breaking down all content work into content manageable “chunks”, you can create parallel content production streams for different campaigns and channels, by allocating some process steps to in-house staff and farming out the others to freelancers. 

Cons of hiring freelance writers

When managed right, freelance writers can be a great add-on to any creative team. But distributed team management also comes with some nuisances around project planning, knowledge sharing, and ongoing supervision. 

Novice managers might be initially fazed by the following challenges: 

  • Limited availability. The best freelance writers don’t have much “idle” time. Most are usually fully booked months ahead and have a limited number of client openings per month like B2B SaaS writer Elise Dopson. While others require a workload minimum (e.g., $3K per month like Kaleigh Moore) to get on their calendar. So if you want to work with top-of-the-top writers, you’ll have to plan your project several months ahead. 
  • Management overheads. Running a larger external workforce translates to more admin chores for in-house content managers: New writer onboarding, briefing, and payment processing can quickly hatch away productive hours. Soundly, there are freelancer management systems (FMS) like Xolo, which can help reign in the chaos. 😉
  • Consistent results. Getting one freelance writer to consistently hit the mark on all copy requirements can be tough. Doing the same 5X, 10X, or even 20X at a time is a huge task (which content leads are often not thanked enough for). While you can call in an FT writer for a quick 1:1 anytime, with freelancers you’ll have to learn to both provide exhaustive briefs and writing instructions, plus deliver constructive feedback in an async fashion.  

Pros of hiring a content writing agency

Content writing agencies are the “middle-ground” many businesses choose. Rightfully so since working with an agency can be up to 50% more cost-effective than operating an in-house team in Europe and less overwhelming than managing individual freelance writers.

Overall, the benefits of working with a content marketing agency are pretty solid:

  • On-demand access to expertise. If you can think of a content skill or project type, there sure is an agency that specializes in this. From boutique ones excelling on one thing (e.g., CRO copywriting) to multinational creative firms doing all types of content projects, you’d surely find the right agency partner for your project. 
  • Managed delivery. Compared to freelancers, content agencies add an extra layer of “done” to the delivered outputs. Apart from just producing the copy, many partners also handle content staging and publishing, subsequent promotion, content design, and other auxiliary tasks your team would love to get off the platter. 
  • High efficiency. As long as you pay your buck, good agencies will attempt to meet even the most ambitious deadline (think tasks you need to get done for y-day) and deliver complex, large-scale projects faster than full-time or freelance content teams could. 

Cons of hiring a content writing agency 

Although 75% of markets in larger companies outsource content marketing at least in some capacity, an equal amount (75%) are not fully satisfied with their agency partners. The main grievances include inconsistent quality standards, lack of originality, underwhelming SEO optimization, and occasional scheduling issues. 

The following drawbacks should also be kept in mind when considering a content agency partnership:

  • Tedious vendor selection. The majority of marketers (67%) rely on referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations for agency partners. Why? Because content agencies are aplenty, but the quality, commitment, and service levels can vary a lot (as do the price points). 
  • Misalignment issues. Similar to freelance writers, agencies have to be extensively briefed on your project. The difference? There’s a higher chance of your requests and preferences being “lost in transit” when you don’t have a dedicated writer, assigned to your account (which is often the case).
  • Limited creative control.  Content agencies not just “lend” you their talent, but also their process for content creation. In an ideal world, these are designed to facilitate communication, alignment, and creative chemistry. In practice, some agencies limit your control over the creative inputs (and outputs) to streamline production and avoid unnecessary overheads. Consequently, you risk not getting the work you expect.

Freelance writing roles your business needs

Content is everywhere — and so are people who can create it. Here are several popular content writing roles companies choose to outsource: 

  • Bloggers produce click-generating and conversation-driving content for your corporate blog, plus ensure that it ranks well in search engine results. 
  • Copywriters help with various marketing collateral ranging from direct sales materials like sales emails and product pages to supporting assets like your website product slogans, brand tagline, landing page(s), and more. 
  • SEO writers  create content that ranks for targeted keywords — search terms your audience uses to find topics and products they are interested in. They know the ins and outs of keyword research and on-page SEO optimization. 
  • Content strategist is the “mastermind” behind your content marketing strategy and publishing efforts. They articulate the “why” and “how” behind every content piece that gets out into the world by establishing (and tracking) marketing KPIs. 
  • Ghostwriter is the real “voice” behind the words your company broadcasts to the world. Most ghostwriters work on thought leadership content for the brand’s key spokespeople (whose name then appears as the byline), as well as other marketing content types like eBooks, annual reports, and sales guides. 
  • Technical writers create and maintain various product documentation such as manuals, user guides, FAQs, and other self-help resources. They know how to break complex concepts into digestible soundbites and provide clear-cut instructions to help customers at peril. 
  • Business writers work on official corporate communication, which can include anything from sales presentations to investor reports. They perfectly understand both the industry and the company’s operations and know how to effectively convey complex ideas to various stakeholders. 
  • Editors help bring content to a “publishable” state. They do (copy)editing tasks, fact-check, and proofread all assets before greenlighting publishing. Editors are every writer's best friend. 
  • Publishing assistant is an auxiliary role larger content teams have. They usually prepare all new pieces for publishing — upload & stage content on the website, add final SEO sweeps, include graphic work, and ensure that everything goes live, according to the editorial calendar.  

Where to find the best freelance writers?

Everyone can write, but far fewer people can write in this “i-don’t-know-why-I’m-even-reading-this topic” way. If a piece of content stops you in your tracks and forces you to spend 15 minutes without switching tabs, voilà — you’ve seen a great content writer in action. 

Xolo makes hiring freelance writers a cake-walk, by matching the perfect talent up with every project you bring. Contacting the Xolo crew, and informing them of your project details and mission, means you’re just a few business days (or less) from hiring amazing freelance talent.

We’ll go over some alternatives to finding freelance writers today, and give you a chance to decide which fits your needs best.

And here are six effective ways to find amazing freelance writers online: 

  • Social media. Over 40% of freelance writers find new clients via LinkedIn, while 17% also rely on Instagram and 8% — on other social channels. A quick search over the platform will likely get you some names even if you use a free account. Alternatively, try Twitter — it’s” the network” of freelance journalists (even though Elon Musk doesn’t approve of that).  
  • Writing communities. Another place where freelance writers duly congregate are online groups (because everyone needs a “water cooler” place). Slack communities like Peak Freelance or Superpath are great places to e-meet with some cool independents and publish “I’m hiring” threads. 
  • Your favorite publishers. Start paying attention to those “author” credits for content you’ve recently enjoyed. Chances are some of your favorite online writers and journalists may be open to a freelance assignment. You can also sneakily check who’s writing for your direct and in-direct competition to find freelancers with domain expertise. 
  • Writing job boards. If you prefer a more “formal” application process, publish a job post at a niche writing board. The most popular ones among work-seeking freelance writers are Best Writing, Problogger, and MediaBistro
  • Niche freelance marketplaces like Clearvoice, Contently, and SelectFew among others can connect you with top-caliber content marketing and writing talents. The advantage is that you still get to maintain a direct relationship with your hire, but the downsides are the extra platform fees. 
  • Writer directories. Looking for a freelancer with proven credentials (and niche expertise)? In that case, follow the trail of “industry approvals” such as Copyblogger Certified Content Marketers


Overall, the best way to find a freelance writer for your team is to follow the “breadcrumb trail”. Start paying attention to people who’re frequently covering your industry (on Medium, online outlets, social networks, or competition blogs). Then cross-check ‘em via LinkedIn or Twitter to see if they’re freelancing or not. Finally, reach out directly with a quick project description and a note on your budget. 

How much do you pay freelance writers? Rates by location & expertise 

Freelance writing rates differ a lot, based on the project type, requirements, and engagement length commitment. 

The majority of freelance writers (40%) bill per project, according to a survey by Ashley Cummings. To provide accurate price quotes, freelance writers factor in the total hours of work, level of research involved, estimated word count, project scope, complexity, and value for the client. 


Because creative content projects differ a lot in terms of scope (think writing a slogan vs creating a 20-page technical eBook), it’s hard to estimate the average freelance writing rate across the board.

But to make things easier for you, here are some ballpark rates for popular types of content. 

Freelance blog writers' rates

According to a Peak Freelance survey, globally $250 to $399 is the go-to rate for a 1,500-word blog post. The prices, however, differ a lot based on the writer’s experience.

A quarter of senior writers (those with 5+ years of experience), charge $1,500 per blog post, and another 25% — between $1,000 and $1,200. 

The American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) also provides the following recommended rates for freelance blog writers:  

  • $250-$800  for a topic-specific blog post, written for readers and SEO (around 1,000-1,500 words). 
  • $500-$2,500 for one pillar post, an all-encompassing guide on your specific subject, written for readers and SEO. (4,000 words or more).


As in most cases, you get what you pay for. As Superpath points out: If you’re paying $250-$350 for technical content and it’s underperforming, you may be working with less experienced writers.

On the other hand, if your content isn't highly technical, you can pay around $300 and still get high-quality content.

Freelance copywriters rates

Copywriting rates are even more diverse since most pros peg the value of their work to potential client outcomes. 

A brand slogan may be just 5 words (or even less), but it can bring a company millions of dollars in increased brand awareness and consideration. Therefore, the majority of freelance copywriters (76%) charge a project fee, and 70% name it as a preferred billing option. That said, 68% also go with day or hourly rates, though only 29% actually prefer this billing model. 

When planning a project, it’s best to approach copywriters with a brief (project overview document) and ask for quotes. 

Alternatively, you can create a feasible target budget — the money you can afford to spend on copy and branding — and ask the copywriter(s) to estimate what will be available within this range. 

You can use the following reference rates from AWAI, Pro Copywriters, and Clever Copywriting School to estimate your “buying power” in different regions. 


US Copywriters

UK Copywriters

AU Copywriters

Median day rate



AU $1028

Median hourly rate



AU $100-130/hour


And here are some sample copywriting project rates:

  • $1,500-$3,000 for the homepage copy 
  • $400-$800 for shopping cart sequence 
  • $250-$1,000 per banner or text ad 
  • $3,000-$7,000 per 5-page website copy 


Freelance editorial rates 

Great editors do more than just fix grammar goofs and spelling mishaps. They poke holes in the writer’s argumentation, help build more compelling narratives, and improve the content structure, flow, and brand alignment.

If you want to work with a talented freelance editor, budget the following rates:

  • $.04–$.049/wd for copyediting business/sales documents 
  • $.03–$.039/wd for content design, layout, and formatting jobs 
  • $51–$60/hr or $.07–$.079/wd for developmental editing of business/sales content 
  • $46–$50/hr or $.05–$.059/wd for researching and fact-checking content 

How to onboard freelance writers

You’ve found your ideal freelance writer. Now you need to put the collaboration on smooth rails. This means getting the admin and compliance tasks out of the way such as contract countersignature, employee classification, and payment setup. Then getting your new writer up-to-speed on the project. 

Here you have two options: Figure things out on your own via email and spreadsheets. Or set up a repeatable, semi-automated freelancer onboarding process with Xolo Teams — a global freelancer management system, made to streamline every aspect of collaborating with the external workforce.

With our platform you get done-for-you identity verification, contractor compliance, and payment processing, plus some great extra perks for liability protection and team management. 

Here’s how you can structure an onboarding process for new freelance writers: 

  • Identity verification. Make sure you’re working with legit pros to avoid unnecessary compliance issues. Xolo Teams does an automatic freelancer KYC for each new teammate you bring onboard (at no extra cost to you or the freelancer). 
  • Legal contracts countersignature. Sign a mutually acceptable work-for-hire agreement, which covers the scope of work, payment terms, liabilities, and other conditions for delivering the service(s). With Xolo Teams, you get free access to a library of contract templates, plus you can bring your own documents. 
  • Establish a payment schedule. Some freelance writers charge a pre-project deposit. Others bill upon service delivery. Or on the contrary — require a full prepayment. Exchange billing details and agree on the payment methods and timelines in advance. Then communicate the requirements to your accounting team. 
  • Prepare and share project docs. To get your new writer up-to-speed you’ll have to provide a brand/style guide, editorial calendar, project brief document, plus any other product demo or company onboarding materials you share with internal hires. Remember: The goal of onboarding is to help new writers quickly develop the same level of institutional knowledge your in-house team has. 
  • Kick-off meeting. Block an hour for some face-to-face time. Once again, explain your project goals and communicate your expectations. Answer the freelancer’s questions about your company, services/products, and standard content workflows. At this stage, it’s better to over-communicate to avoid misalignments later down the road. 
  • Ongoing knowledge exchange. Freelance writers need to capture the essence of your brand and the unique advantages of your offerings. Make the job easier for them by continuously providing access to new corporate materials — the latest customer success stories, product training libraries, demo videos, conference talks, etc. Every bit of extra information contributes to the end product quality. 


Learn more about onboarding freelance talent like a pro (checklists included!). 

How to pay freelance writers 

Freelance writers mostly bill by the project. Less often — per hour or per day. In each case, a standard freelancer invoice will include specific payment terms. 

For example:

  • Pre-project deposit of X% + final invoice for the remaining Y%
  • Retainer invoice with 100% prepayment, due to be paid before project kick-off 
  • A final invoice with a Net 7/15/30 payment term 


When you work with one freelance writer, accommodating a specific payment term isn’t much of an issue. But when you work with a bigger remote team, asymmetric payment requests can create operational chaos (which often results in delayed or late payments).

To avoid such scenarios, work with your accounting team on establishing leaner pay run cycles. For example, you can negotiate an estimated monthly budget for freelancers, which you can self-spend without any further authorization or reviews.

Or you can assign specific dates (e.g., each 15th and 30th of the month) to payment reviews and processing. Then roll all the due freelancer invoices into a bulk one (a popular Xolo feature) for reviews and processing.

If there are any constraints around payments (e.g., inability to meet due-on-receipt invoice clause), be upfront about this with potential freelance hires. Most will agree to accommodate such issues as long as they’re discussed before the project kick-off (not after the work is delivered). 

Must-know tips for working with freelance writers

You’ve found your top players. Now you want to build an A-level freelance writing team, who delivers predictable results day in, day out. 

The best freelance writing team managers swear by these tips: 

  • Build repeatable workflows. To receive consistent work, you have to be crystal-clear in your requirements and expectations. Establish a repeatable sequence for commissioning new content — keyword research, brief generation, task and deadline assignment, writer hand-over, content review/editing, and then staging, plus publishing. 
  • Over-communicate. Writers cannot approve without detailed feedback. Great managers know how to communicate their preferences, pet peeves, and expectations without sounding condescending or antagonistic. Need some tips? Check The Cutting Room YouTube series, where expert content marketers let you watch their editing process. 
  • Treat your freelance writers as part of the team. Although freelancers operate at the margin of your organization, they shouldn’t be viewed as “temps”. On the contrary, you can (and should) strive to cultivate long-term relationships with your best freelance writers. By doing so, you’ll get consistent, expert-level work, plus some extra bonuses ranging from priority treatment to free advisory. 

Action Steps for Hiring Freelance Writers: Conclusion

  1. Assess your needs and budget — consider full-time or gig-based freelancers
  2. Determine the specific writing role you need: an editor, SEO writers, etc.
  3. Discover freelance talent through socials or marketplaces. Let Xolo help 
  4. Familiarize yourself with freelance writing rates, based on projects and requirements. 
  5. Develop an effective onboarding process for your freelance writers. Let Xolo help
  6. Pay your freelance writers’ invoices easily and consistently. Let Xolo help
  7. Implement best practices for your freelance writers, and grow your bond with them..

Find the perfect freelance writer with Xolo, fast

Xolo is changing the way you think about hiring freelancers — less hassle, less time and better results. Send your next project to Xolo, and let a dedicated industry expert curate three freelancers perfect for your exact mission to you in under three business days, leaving you with an easy decision.

And if you’re looking to build a team, Xolo has you covered from discovery to payday. 

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About Elena

Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.

Elena uses Xolo so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.

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