Writers often ask, “How can I get paid more for the content that I create?” In order to learn the answer to that question, you have to understand the cost components that go into creating and publishing a piece of content. Only then can you understand the key levers at your disposal for getting paid more.

Content cost drivers

While this list does not intend to be comprehensive, it does provide a good framework for calculating the total cost of content.

  • Content strategy development – Someone needs to spend time putting together an effective content strategy that seamlessly integrates with the overall digital and offline marketing program, as well as the company’s corporate strategy. As one of many other components, the content strategy outlines the metrics that will be measured and establishes specific goals that need to be achieved. Depending on the size of the organization, budget and expertise, this effort can take anywhere from a dozen hours to hundreds of hours to develop, refine and get approved.
  • Content marketing budget development and approval – This is the pot of money that is allocated toward executing the content strategy. The budget includes money for management of the program, content creation and content distribution. Generally, it is recommended that the content distribution line item be at least equal to the content creation expense line item.
  • Editorial calendar creation – The editorial calendar takes the content strategy and turns it into an executable plan. Editorial calendars define the type, frequency and focus of planned content. The density and time period for the editorial calendar will be driven by the content marketing budget.
  • Content creation budget – Within this budget, there are several major expense components: writing expense, editing expense, workflow and plagiarism screening expense, and management expense. For most writers, the amount they get paid for content comes out of the writing expense line item.

The workflow and plagiarism screening and management expense are generally fixed costs and considered sunk costs (meaning that they are overhead and cannot easily be cut). The writing and editing expenses are generally variable costs.

With this newfound knowledge on how content marketing costs are budgeted, let’s talk about how your writing affects your pay rate.

Let’s say you write a 1,000-word blog post and are paid $X to do so. The company who has hired you has to spend $Y to edit your work. If what you submitted requires a significant amount of editing and re-work, the company’s editing costs go up. Therefore, to compensate for this budget shortfall, the company is going to pay you less for your work going forward.

Correspondingly, you submit a 1,000-word blog post, but this time it is incredibly well-written. In this scenario, the editor spent less time editing your article. The company’s editing costs went down. Therefore, the company has more flexibility in their budget to pay you more for your work going forward. The reason being is that the company is now spending less time on editing costs.

One might ask, “What prevents the company from pocketing the savings as a result of your hard work?” It is true; some short-sighted companies may choose to do so. Given that freelance writer turnover is significant, most companies will opt to pass the majority (if not all) of those savings onto you, instead of having to deal with the hassle and time of finding, vetting, hiring and training a new writer.

Improving your writing quality

Here are 5 specific and actionable recommendations that can help you improve your writing quality fast.

  1. Follow grammar rules.
  2. Use a style guide.
  3. Do your research.
  4. Optimize your content for your audience and search engines.
  5. Write engaging blog posts and thought leadership

You have more control over what you are paid than you realize. Creating high-quality, error-free content, which closely aligns with a customer’s voice, tone, style and culture, is the key to maximizing your writing pay rate.

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