Whether you’re a beginning writer, or a business looking to hire a writer to produce content for your website, you’re going to run into a pretty confusing mess when it comes to figuring out how much content is worth.
Assuming that you’re only comparing native or fully fluent writers who produce grammatically correct content, you’ll still get a huge difference in price ranging from as low as about $0.02/word to $1.00/word or more. That means a standard 500 word article could cost you anywhere from $10 or so to $500 or more. What’s the difference in quality?
How much should a business expect to pay?
The main difference is a fundamental difference in the writer’s approach to writing, and in the business’ content needs.
Cheap Junk Content
Cheap content is both literally and figuratively cheap. It looks pretty good at first glance, but gets increasingly disappointing as you read through it. The cost is low because it’s usually produced with little or no research, at whatever speed the writer can type. Often it’s “spun”, meaning it’s completely plagiarized and reworded from another article. It has no original substance, no real entertainment value, and doesn’t serve the reader in any way.
That might sound uncharitable, but there is an enormous market for this type of writing. There’s an entire industry built around it; just google “content mill” or “content farm” to find it.
Fundamentally, this kind of content doesn’t serve the reader, because it’s not supposed to.
Cheap content bulks up the size of the website, and helps to define its niche by incorporating relevant keywords. Both of these things are primarily for SEO purposes, not for actual people to ever read.
Let’s define “real” content as the level of quality at which we can reliably assume that the person publishing it is honestly hoping for a real human to read it.
This would be the lowest cost at which the typing speed of the writer becomes less relevant than their ability to vet sources and do basic research.
To me, this begins at about $0.10/word. At 10 cents per word, a writer has roughly the same amount of time to research and vet sources as they do to actually write and do basic edits on the final product. At this point, the final article will be “original content”, meaning that the ideas represented in it are actually those of the writer producing the article. Of course, this is still a pretty low bar in terms of quality.
The reason high level websites, magazines, and major publications often pay upwards of $1.00 per word is because they actually implement the writing process you learned about (and probably didn’t use) in college.
Getting from “real” to “great” content is a smoother transition. You get out of it what you put in. Someone looking for great content needs to budget for a lot of time spent on in-depth research, multiple drafts, edits, meetings, and even auxiliary supporting content like graphics or videos. A single article could go through many rounds of revision to ensure accuracy, inject humor, simplify concepts, or remove fluff. It’s only really ever “done” when you decide it’s “good enough”.
So, at what cost do we start getting really high quality content?
It depends on what you’re writing about, who your audience is, and how much expertise your writer has in the professional field they’re writing in. To give you a number I’d figure that you can start seeing some legitimately unique high quality writing at maybe around $0.25/word, but that’s a truly rough estimate. As the quality of the content increases, you’re increasingly also paying for the writer’s education, and the value of their professional experience.
What you need to budget for your business’ content is dependent strongly on what kind of content you need, and what kind of content you want or can afford to have representing your business to the public.