A typical question in the freelance community is about the pay rate for web content writing.

“A client is offering me X amount to write Y number of words. Is the pay rate acceptable?”

I wish I could say that X is on the high side while Y is at the bottom. But once questions like that pop-up, it is usually $2.50 per 500 words. Often, these clients need a massive volume of content.

How did the community react?

In most cases, many say it is too low and that it is better to find other clients.

On a few occasions, though, some assholes go beyond and above the norms of decency to castigate others. In their view, the reason for the low pay rates is because of people who accept those jobs. Even worse, these are the same people who would never offer guidance to beginners.

Before continuing, let me share with you some of my wishes, and I do think everyone will agree.

I upgrade my laptop every three years since I started using the MacBook Pro. Looking at the prices of the models that fit my needs, I wish the prices could be lower. Oh, my kid who is into coding wants to upgrade his iPhone 5 to iPhone 8. I wish the new ones were cheaper.

In other words, if we were the ones paying, we all share the same desire – that we could pay a lesser amount of money.

Am I on the side of clients who wants to pay peanuts?

It depends.

Dissecting Web Content Writing Pay Rates

“If there be light, then there is darkness; If cold, heat; if height, depth; if solid, fluid; if hard, soft; if rough, smooth; if calm, tempest; if prosperity, adversity; if life, death.” – Pythagoras

It means that if there are high pay rates, then there is low too – on the surface, that is.

Pay rates for web content writing is a matter of perception.

For me to be definitive and be adamant with my belief, I took on two jobs. One that pays $3 per 500 words and another at $20 for 1,000 words.

Here is what I found out.

$3 per Article (500 Words)

  • Rate per Hour
  • Time Used

Most, if not all 500-words web content writing jobs focus on quantity. Hence, there is often only a little bit of research involved.

No matter how much these clients profess the importance of quality, they all have one thing in common. These articles are generic and do not come with much depth. Because of that, the time it takes to complete quicker, and that is not only because it is short.

Look at the chart above and notice how the pay rate becomes better the faster the writer finishes. For instance, at $3 per article, it is the same as receiving $6 per hour pay rate if one can finish in 30 minutes.

How did I do?

On average, I was able to write an article within 30 minutes. Although it was not up to my personal standard, the article was more than good enough for the client.

$20 per Article (1,000 Words)

  • Rate per Hour
  • Time Used

Clients who need longer articles starting at 1,000 words are more focused on quality. For that reason, it often involves more research time. It is true that many of them want writers to finish as soon as possible, some understand that it takes a while.

Looking at the two charts above, it is easy to dismiss both as being the same. But a closer look reveals otherwise.

On a few occasions, I worked with clients who wanted me to ghostwrite for them. Some of these people are already contributors of high domain authority sites.

For these articles where quality and depth is above anything else, it takes me between 4 to 8 hours to finish.

At best, the compensation for one job that took 4 hours to complete is the same as getting paid $5 per hour.

Either You Are Smart or Plain Stupid

I know.

I use a harsh word at the expense of letting people perceive me as an asshole.

Of course, the truth is that I wanted to catch your attention and for a good reason.

No two freelancers have the same exact needs and situation. Still, the reason for freelancing is to earn money. Deciding on whether to accept a job or not is dependent on a few things.

Some jobs, on the surface, may look outrageous. But that is up to individuals to decide.

In the absence of better-paying jobs, one can choose to take on measly offers. However, that is not to say that one should stop looking for better opportunities.

And that brings me to my next point.

Getting hired takes time. In the examples I gave above based on personal experience, it was easy for me to lock clients paying $3 per article. On the other hand, it takes a lot of time to spot $20 writing jobs. Furthermore, it also takes yet more time to discuss the needs.

Am I telling freelancers to accept $3 web content writing jobs?

My answer is neither yes nor no.

I only shared the numbers so that freelancers who read this article is guided accordingly.

No one can decide for you but you alone.

To help you make a decision, factor in the ability to produce the output clients need and the time it takes.

Advice to Freelancers on Pay Rates

In selling anything – products or services – we always want to have the highest return. But that is not always the best decision. Consider the Chinese who believe in low-profit margins as long as the sales volume is massive. It is that attitude that has propelled their economy which is soon to become the largest in the world.

Not that I am advocating accepting peanuts so as long as there is a ton of work to do. Far from it, what I wanted to do was to highlight the ability to do the math.

To be clear, we do not share the same past experiences. In other words, I am not imposing my belief on anyone. My only intention in this article is to bring awareness to what is often ignored – efficient use of time.

A friend left this comment on another post on getting started in freelance writing jobs.

“As a mom of a toddler then and now a mom of three small kids,” Teresa said. “I don’t have plenty of time to research if I write on topics unfamiliar to me. So, my strategy is to write on subjects I am familiar with. That way, I finish faster, and I have credibility.”

Teresa is a personal friend, and one thing I can say about her is that she knows what she is talking about. Not only is she an accomplished author, but she is also a speaker and trainer.

In web content writing, the turnaround time can make a pay rate mediocre or high paying.

Focusing on topics one is familiar with helps cut down the writing time. And the lesser the time it takes to finish, the better the pay rate is.


Content Manager, Article Writer, Blogger

  1. Very timely because I was asked by a friend how much the pay is for content writing. I gave her first the standard rate for press release writing and comparing it to the cost you gave; it’s so different.

    I agree that we write topics we are most comfortable with so we could finish quickly, and it’s not a hard sell when we write from the heart. Often, we look at the value rather than the time spent. This post then helps me be conscious of the time spent as well.

  2. I agree with your reasoning. Better quote the value for the time spent.
    The number of words is not a wise criterion. During my initial days of content writing, I faced the similar dilemma of how much to quote. It took me a while to conclude that it is better to quote based on the time required. There is one more element to this – that of the volume of audience one has.

  3. I believe that rates will vary no matter what we do. We can say that the rates would be higher if no one accepts such low rates but can we fault someone who needs the money so they accept every job they can get? Do we fault those who only go for overly priced articles? It should be about what each person is willing to accept.

    I see your point that it really doesn’t matter what you get paid if you’re not efficient with your time. You could churn out articles one after the other and only be earning $3 but in the long run, you’d earn more than someone who earned $20 per 1000 words but did so at a slower pace.

  4. I’ve long struggled with this exact issue. When I accepted my first writing job a few years back, I was pretty okay with $3 for 500 words. I was a student, and all that mattered to me was the extra money I could spend. I didn’t think for once about time and effort used for each article.

    Since last year though, I’ve become even more picky with the jobs I undertake, but that’s just me. I agree with Ms. Teresa in opting to choose topics that are already familiar to me. Not only do I turn over better content, but I can keep writing about the same things in many different ways.

    I especially love this article because you’ve put it in a graphical perspective, and it’s much easier actually to assess things. Yeah, low paying writing jobs have benefits too. But, as you said, we all want to earn and spend less. 🙂

    Great article.

  5. This really enlightens me, Sir Robert. In my case, I have to admit that I am always rooting for those clients who will offer bigger rates. But sometimes, I take some considerations; those clients that offer lower rates often offer long-term jobs.

    I had a client who offered me $4 per hour, and I had to spend 40 hours a week, and that contract lasted for five years. It’s almost like a full-time job for me already.

    So yes, I guess, it depends. I agree with Teresa. You can finish your work faster if you are aware of what you are writing. And for lengthy articles, I wish the clients are more understanding as they require research especially if you are not really familiar with the topics they provide.

  6. This is a great insight into the current pay rates for content writing. I agree that no one can decide for you but you alone.

    In my case, the topic and the objective of the article matter. I started accepting writing projects about environmental protection even if the pay rate is low. It is not because of the money but instead, I believe in its advocacy.

    I also agree that turnaround time should be taken into consideration.

  7. Very detailed post indeed. You’re right about the quality vs. quantity concept. In fact, just right now, I received a mail asking me to write a detailed 1000 worded post for peanuts! It depends on what the writer needs. If this is the only source of income, it might be necessary to accept a large volume of smaller offers, so money is made. The market is indeed difficult!

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