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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Content is everywhere — and so are people who can create it. Here are several popular content writing roles companies choose to outsource:
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:
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.
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.
Source: Ashley Cummings.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Median day rate
Median hourly rate
And here are some sample copywriting project 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:
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:
Learn more about onboarding freelance talent like a pro (checklists included!).
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.
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).
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:
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.
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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