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Demystifying the Process: How do freelance writers determine their content creation rates?

If you’re thinking of hiring a technical copywriter or content writer to generate content, you no doubt want to know how much the exercise will cost you. You have a budget, and you need to keep to it!

As a start, we can say that most copywriters have an hourly rate, so the cost will be rate x no. of hours spent on the project. But for this to translate into a useful answer, we must know how many hours will be needed.

It would be great for writer and client alike if we could say that 100 words takes (for example) 1 hour, so articles of various lengths could be priced as multiples of 100 words.

However, it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, there isn’t a linear relationship between length in words and time taken. More importantly, though, the time taken to write an article depends on many factors in addition to its length. These include:

How complex the topic is, how deeply technical, and how sensitive: Drafting a press release is faster than extracting information from one or more academic white papers to write an in depth technical article for engineers. However, the press release may be communicating a sensitive topic such as a company takeover or appointment of a new CEO, so many iterations and much time may be needed until the message is just right.

How good, and thorough, the briefing is: Managing briefing meetings to best give a copywriter the information they need is a major subject in its own right, and I address it in another blog post. In summary, though, they should put the writer together with the client project’s key technical, marketing and commercial stakeholders in an on site or online meeting. This allows the client to explain what they’re looking for, and the writer to ask the questions that they need to.

Transcription tools: Online meeting apps such as Teams have increasingly sophisticated transcription tools which provide a printout of what was said at the meeting. Some of it will be gibberish, but quality is improving all the time.

In any case, they save considerable time compared with transcribing manually from a recording, which can easily take a couple of hours or more for a one-hour meeting.

Availability of necessary source content (either as supplied by the client or as a result of online research): If source materials are supplied by the customer, then research time and effort is limited to reviewing and understanding the material, and extracting the information necessary for the new content. However, if Internet research for some of the content is needed, then the writer also needs time to find suitable sources in the first place. And this is a highly variable factor. Sometimes you can find the information you need quite quickly, but some topics are not so amenable to research. Suddenly a couple of hours have passed, and you still haven’t nailed the topic.

How many iterations will be needed after the initial draft, and how extensive they are. This is something that can significantly impact the time expended on a project, yet it doesn’t follow any discernible logic. In my experience, the number of edits and iterations I’m asked to make depend very much on the client.

In my proposals, I usually allow for up to three iterations. In my experience, this should be enough, provided the initial requirement hasn’t changed.

Tight delivery deadlines that call for weekend and/or evening work, or task reprioritising, can increase hourly rates.

Hopefully, you find these insights into the writer’s perspective useful, because you can discuss the issues with the writer and better quantify their likely impact on times and costs.


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