Wondering What to Pay a Freelance Writer?
Here’s What You Need to Know About the Cost and the Value of Freelance Writing Services
There are a million reasons why you may need a writer. Whether you need to breathe life into an otherwise dry script that outlines your training material, or require help crafting a series of social media posts that engage customers in just a few, snappy seconds, a seasoned writer can be worth her weight in gold.
So just what should you expect to pay someone with such a skillset? And what exactly can you expect to receive in return?
Iyna Bort Caruso is a widely published feature writer, copywriter and New York Emmy Award-winning video scriptwriter. She’s written for a range of clients, from HBO and Clorox to Graco and Rubbermaid, to name a few. And after over a decade in the business of freelance writing, she knows a thing or two about the value that a writer brings.
Here, she offers insights into what savvy clients should keep in mind as they look for, consider quotes and work with freelance writers.
Freelance Writing Rates Are Often Linked to the Quality of Work
“Savvy clients understand there’s a correlation between the price they pay and the work they get,” Iyna says. “Those who shop on price alone underestimate the full value a professional writer, or any creative for that matter, brings to the table.”
According to Iyna, what may at first seem like a steep quote can actually equate to cost-savings down the road, as long as you’re hiring a professional with the right experience.
“We’ve all heard horror stories of freelancers disappearing in the middle of the project, lifting copy off the Internet or delivering work that’s off the mark because they didn’t have the necessary experience in the first place,” she adds. “Those are the things that cause delays, or worse, projects to run off the rails, and there are huge costs when that happens.”
Writing is a Profession, Not ‘Just’ a Skill that Everyone Has
Because many of us are able to put words down on a page, it doesn’t mean that we have writing chops.
“I’ve heard some prospective clients remark, ‘I could write, but I just don’t have the time.’ That reminds me of something I’d read the artist Edgar Degas once said: Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do. Anyone can write but not everyone can write effectively.”
In addition to offering years of experience, many writers have also embarked on in depth study that makes them credible and reliable experts in the field. For instance, many clients don’t realize that writing and editing functions are different, or that certain industries, such as the medical field, require a unique writing skill set.
“I wouldn’t expect [clients] to know all the ins and outs,” Iyna specifies.
However, it’s worthwhile to note that seasoned freelance writers should be able to look over your project and advise you as to whether or not it falls within their skill set.
Writers Are Spending As Much, if Not More, Time Researching
Don’t expect your writer to start writing right away.
In fact, when you give your freelance writer the ‘green light’ to begin on the project, chances are, the first thing he or she does is hit the books.
“Writers typically spend a lot of time researching,” says Iyna. “Any time you get a new project, there’s a lot of legwork to be done. Who’s the competition? Who’s the audience? What’s new and trending? What’s been done? I could spend hours and hours getting my head around those questions before I write the first word.”
Research allows the writer to consider the unique perspective of your audience (e.g. what language do they respond to? What do they find important?), as well as the context of your message (what is the hook?).
The Draft You Receive Might be the Ninth Draft the Writer Has Created
If you’re expecting to see a rough draft to use as a baseline, just know that what you receive is likely to have received more polishing than you’d expect.
“Typically, I write a lot of drafts,” Iyna says. “Some clients will tell me, ‘Just send the first draft,’ but I’d never do that. When I hand something in, I need to feel good about it. There may be changes afterwards which is fine, but anything I submit to a client has my name on it and I don’t take that lightly.”
Fact-Checking is a Crucial Part of the Process
Going back to the topic of ‘research,’ fact-checking is an important step for freelance writers, because they want to make sure that they are playing their part in creating relevant and accurate content for your brand.
“Fact-checking is a step in the process people don’t usually think about,” says Iyna. “Is attribution correct, are statistics accurate, for instance. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Another aspect is ensuring all work is original. Companies need to watch for that. Someone who is not getting paid a lot of money is someone who may be churning things out quickly to make up for it. Unfortunately, lifting material off the Internet is the way some writers cut corners.”
Further to Iyna’s point above, when hiring a freelancer, it’s worth it to do some background checking of your own. Ask for references or examples of previous work from their portfolio to make sure you’re hiring someone who is diligent and honest.
Quality Writing Requires a Respectful Amount of Time
If you’re expecting to hire someone for your last-minute project, expect to pay more for the benefit of being a ‘high priority’ client, or else, scope out the timeline of your project with more time in advance.
“Whenever I ask a client when a project is needed, the answer is inevitably ‘yesterday,’” says Iyna. “I always laugh.”
“Strong writers are in demand, and therefore they’re scheduled out in advance,” she explains. “I also like to give a project the time it deserves which ultimately benefits the client as much as it benefits me because it will show in the end product.”
The Scope of Work Will Determine the Quote
You may believe that you simply need a press release drafted, and wonder ‘How long could that possibly take?’
However, the scope of the project – namely, all of the tasks that your freelancer must handle in order to pull it off – can be wider than you anticipate. A good freelancer will likely want to discuss all of the tasks involved in completing the project, so that you all start out on the same page with the same expectations.
“After an initial conversation with a potential client, I outline the scope of work,” Iyna says, pointing to the importance of the document. “However, it doesn’t matter who does it. The point is that the document should be as specific as possible, including the timetable for deliverables, the agreed-upon approach, the tone and style and the objectives of the project. For instance, does someone want to hire me to retain customers, increase sales or build their brand?
“I find the more that’s agreed upon up front, the smoother it goes. Clients appreciate that.”
Having a Point Person to Communicate with Your Freelancer Will Make Your Project Run More Smoothly
If you’ve ever been in a meeting where a team evaluates a new piece of creative collateral, you know that opinions can vary widely, and conversations can quickly go off track. When a written piece is analysed by different individuals and levels in an organization (e.g. marketing, legal and leadership), processing and incorporating the feedback can become overwhelming for the freelancer.
“One thing that’s helpful for the writer is having one point person as their contact,” Iyna notes.
“When things are edited by committee, the writer often gets caught in the middle and it delays the project. Appoint one person as the main contact to be the voice of the company.”
In the End, Not Every Writer is Meant for Every Client
Whether it’s price point, working style, experience level, or subject matter expertise, not every writer is a fit for every job.
“I’ll beg off projects that require an expertise I just don’t have or a budget that doesn’t allow me to do the job justice.”
So while budget often gets a rep as a sticky point, at the very least, it pays to understand exactly what you’re purchasing when you hire a writer’s services. In that way, you’re able to appreciate the value you’re getting in return for your investment, no matter how large or small it is.
About Iyna Bort Caruso
Iyna Bort Caruso is a New York Emmy Award-winning promotional writer, corporate writer and tour scriptwriter. She’s worked on projects for Fortune 500 and mid-sized companies including Cablevision (now Altice), MSG Network, Chase, Two Trees Management, Sotheby’s International Realty and Mercedes-Benz, among others, in developing on-air, online, print campaigns and tour scripts for internal and consumer audiences. Her writing has also been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal (special sections), Washington Post, American Way, American History and Saturday Evening Post. In addition, she was the author of Long Island’s first travel app.