As the owner of my own publication, one of the things I often find myself questioning is whether or not I am treating my employees fairly. Knowing what’s fair to pay them is a big part of that.
It’s even more ambiguous when you’re employing freelance workers. I chose to employ some of my writers as freelance, and this further complicated the question of how to fairly compensate them.
Pay too much and you’re reducing your own value. Pay too little and you’re mistreating your workers. In the ever changing economy, how can you find a happy medium?
After a lot of troubleshooting, I developed a process to follow to determine how to fairly pay a freelance writer. I’ve outlined the process below to help you make this important decision too.
What is Freelance Work
Freelance work is defined as “doing particular pieces of work for different organizations, rather than working all the time for different organizations.”
This means that when you employ workers on a freelance basis, you don’t necessarily employ them all the time on a constant basis. Rather, they work on specific projects when they’re needed and when they’re available.
This kind of system has its benefits. When employing writers, it means that you’ll be able to pay your writers when there is content to write, and take a break when there’s not. If you anticipate lags in your need for content, this is a good choice.
In addition, this type of contract allows you to work with several different writers to see which one is the best for your publication. Rather than employing a few workers on a long term basis from the get-go, you can work with several different writers to find who is the best match for your product.
Finally, you may find that employing freelancers boosts your productivity. People that have more freedom and choice in their work tend to be more motivated about what they’re doing. A UK survey found that when freelancers make up at least 11% of a company's workforce, that firm's productivity will increase. If you’re struggling with productivity and employee motivation, this may be an excellent route to go.
The downside to hiring freelancers is it can be a bit tricky to get on the same page as them. Long term contract workers have clear goals and guidelines set out for them, and it’s generally easy to figure out wages based on standards of full or part time wages in your industry.
With freelancers it’s a bit different. You’ll generally be paying them by hour, or sometimes by piece. How can you track what counts as an hour of work? Are breaks included? How can you know how much a certain piece is worth? These are all important questions to ask as you set wages for your employees. Read on to learn more about how you can contend with them.
Step 1: Get Familiar with Industry Standards
When deciding how to pay your writer’s you’ll want to get familiar with industry standards. That means understanding how much freelancers usually charge for their writing.
This is tough, because writing obviously requires different levels of effort depending on the subject. Where academic, researched based articles will require a lot of time and effort per word, general knowledge blog type posts may not.
You’ll want to reach out to others in your industry to see what they’re paying their writers, or reach out to writers themselves to see what is the standard they charge.
Very generally, freelance writers charge between $0.20-$1 per word or between $30-$100+ per hour. As you can see, these guidelines are so variable they’re practically useless. You’re much better off consulting with peers in your industry for some guidance.
Step 2: Assess Your Financial Capabilities
After you’ve determined a general range for your particular writing industry, you’ll need to assess your own financial capabilities to determine how much you can pay.
If you’re just starting out and struggling financially, you’ll want to find writers who will accept fair pay, but on the lower end of the scale. You’ll have to find a rate that is motivating enough to keep the writers onboard, as well as motivate them to conduct themselves efficiently and professionally.
In this situation, it may be best to hire fewer writers on a higher pay basis, rather than several at a lower pay rate to ensure you can properly reimburse them for their time, and keep them focused on your project.
If you’ve got more resources to spare (and share!), then you’re in a great position of being able to offer more to your writers. In this case, you could hire more experienced writers, or provide greater incentives for their work. You’re likely to get quality content produced more quickly this way.
Step 3: Assess Your Writer’s Credentials
Just as you want to assess your own financial situation, you’ll want to assess your writer’s credentials too in order to see what’s fair to pay them.
If you’re hiring writers at an entry level, they’ll be expecting a pay rate on the low end of the scale. If you’re hiring experienced writers with industry specific training under their belt, you’ll have to pay them quite a bit for their work. If they come with name recognition, they’ll be worth even more.
This comes down to preferences and your needs for the content. Setting the finances aside for quality, well researched and detailed content can be imperative for some situations, whereas some situations only require entry level skills. It’s up to you! Just make sure you’re reaching out to people who are the right fit for the job, so you can pay them fairly.
Step 4: Set a Rate
Ok, so now that you’ve understood industry standards, your financial capabilities, and the credentials of the writers you want to hire, it’s time to set a rate.
Your type of rate is going to vary depending on what type of content you are producing. There are several ways you can choose to pay your writers. You can pay by word, by hour, by piece, by project (a flat rate), by page, or by a retainer fee for ongoing work.
If you’re having trouble choosing, decide on the hourly rate you think is fair to pay your writer, considering the variables discussed above. Then, determine how many hours will go into a page, piece, or project, or how many words in an hour. It may be helpful to consult with writers to help you determine this.
You’ll then want to divide or multiply your hourly rate by the rate unit you chose. So, if you want to pay $15 per hour, and expect 100 words per hour, then your rate will be $0.15/word.
For another example, if you want to pay $15 per hour, and expect a piece to be written every two hours, your rate could be $30 per piece.
The great thing about employing freelance writers is that you can get creative with your pay scheme. You can experiment with paying per word, per piece, per hour, or per project to find the most productive method for you and your team.
Be wary of paying in a way that demotivates your writers. If you choose to pay per word, but expect succinct, condensed content, you may end up with a lot of babble and jargon to increase word count in the pieces that you don’t want. In these cases, it’s much better to pay by piece. If you’re looking to create as much content as possible without much regard for quality, paying by word would be a good choice.
Step 5: Offer Incentives
Once you’ve settled on a pay rate, an excellent idea to keep your employees motivated is to offer additional incentives. Studies have shown that offering employees rewards for their work improves productivity and overall revenues.
You can offer to reward employees for completing extra work, or for working more quickly. If a writer produces a piece of particular quality, choosing to highlight the work to the rest of the team and reward them for it is also a great idea.
By adding incentives to your pay plan, you keep employees happy and driven, and improve the content you’re creating.
Step 6: Keep an Open Dialogue
Finally, perhaps the most important step to paying a freelance writer is keeping an open dialogue with your writers about their pay rates.
This is especially important if it’s your first time paying freelance writers, and if you’re not a writer yourself. It can be hard to properly judge the work requirement for your content on a first try. If you workers come to you with a concern about their pay, keep an open mind and listen.
On the other hand, if your writers seem to be out of tasks by Monday afternoon, you may need to consider adding more work in for the sake of your business.
If you keep honest and open communication with the writers you are employing, you’ll be sure to have happy and hardworking writers producing excellent content.
When figuring out how much to pay a freelance writer, there is unfortunately no formula to follow or easy answer.
You’ll have to do some research and thinking into the content you want to produce, who you want to produce it, and how, in order to set a proper pay schedule.
By first familiarizing yourself with industry standards, then assessing your financial capabilities and your writers’ credentials and choosing a rate, you’ll be sure to fairly pay your employees. Adding incentives, and keeping an open dialogue with your crew will continue to ensure your ship runs smoothly.
If you have any more questions about how to pay freelance writers, let us know in the comments below. We’ll be sure to help you out as best we can!