You’ve realized that content marketing is a great way for your organization to create a deeper connection with your audience. You’ve read the studies about the ROI, and you believe this is the future. Now it’s time to put together your strategy, which includes a budget. Which raises the critically important question: how much should you pay for content marketing?

As one shady guy once told me, “where there’s mystery, there’s margin.” Well, we’re not in the business of trying to trick people into paying for our service, so let’s try to eliminate some of that mystery by talking about that great taboo – price.

What should you pay for content marketing?

Unfortunately, there’s no one answer. And the range of costs is ludicrous – you can buy articles from content farms and other services for as little as $5 per article. But guess what? They stink. And you can pay well into the thousands of dollars for an article – it will likely be better than the $5 article, but still, you’re likely paying too much. For what we’ll call “legitimate” content marketing, you can spend anywhere from $2000 per month to $50,000 a month. That’s a huge range. Let’s try to narrow it down for you.

Before we do that, though, here’s a quick overview of how content creators typically charge.

Traditionally, freelance writers have charged by the word – a dollar a word, two dollars a word, 15 cents a word. Again, it’s a wide range.

Other agencies and content providers will charge by the hour – rates can range from a little more than minimum wage to $250 an hour if you’re paying your PR firm to churn out content.

If your content provider is billing by the hour – and this is the way most PR firms operate – they immediately have different incentives than you do. You want great content; they want to spend a lot of time creating it because that’s how they’ll make money. Ask anyone who’s ever worked in a newsroom, and they’ll tell you that the professionals who are truly respected are the ones who can work at the speed of light – these are the people who are more efficient, therefore they are more valued. When news breaks, they will save the day. But delivering brilliance quickly is actually penalized by the concept of billable hours. And if you’re the client, don’t you want it quicker?

As for billing by the word, anyone who knows writing will tell you that less is more, that the goal should always be fewer words. Ya know, Hemingway. So as the client, why would you incentivize your content provider to write longer – in essence, to deliver a lesser product? I mean, who among us is dying to read articles jam-packed with extra words? There’s a lot of content out there, and the pendulum is swinging towards quality – hard to define, but your customers know it when they see it – it’s content that helps them in some way.

Our preference at Scribewise is to act as partners with our clients – they pay us to create content that engages their audience, and we focus on results and try not to get hung up on checking boxes on a list of tasks. Most of our clients pay a set monthly fee and we deliver an approximate number of articles, wrap additional services around them, bring them new ideas and try to help them move forward.

The questions you should ask

All of those variables raises a legitimate question – how do we arrive at that set monthly fee? Here is a list of our considerations, and these are the questions you need to consider when trying to figure out what you should pay for content creation.

  • First, what service are you getting? Consulting? Training? Workshops? Actual content development? Training and workshops are typically limited engagements. A consulting arrangement could last for a longer stretch, but if the consultant is not creating ongoing content, the price should reflect that (content creation is the most time intensive content marketing service).
  • What’s your industry? If you’re in a more complex industry, content will almost certainly cost more, because the content creator will either need to a) have an advanced degree or experience or b) take longer to make the content interesting for a highly specialized and sophisticated audience.
  • What are your goals? If you’re aiming to drive a lot of traffic to your site without to much pressure on moving prospects through the sales funnel (depending on the nature of your business, we’d likely steer you away from this – we want you to have a high quality audience that is of some use to your business), you might want to have very frequent posts, but keep them simply. If you’re looking to build credibility or accomplish a very specific business-oriented goal, you might go for less frequent, more authoritative content.
  • What’s the frequency of content? The more content you get, the more you’ll pay. This is logical, but a couple caveats – it’s reasonable to expect a volume discount. If you’re paying someone to produce a lot of content, they’re going to become more proficient and efficient at it – they’ll know what has come before, they’ll learn the industry and they’ll just get better at telling stories on your behalf.
  • What type of content? As a general rule, written content costs less than video. More involved content – a whitepaper as opposed to a blog post – will cost more. Many of our clients prefer a mix of whitepapers, eBooks and blog posts, so we take all of this into consideration. Also, it’s important to clarify with your content agency, freelancer or whoever is creating the content exactly what you mean when you use terms like whitepaper and blog post – trust us, different people mean different things when they use these terms. Graphic design – infographics, etc. – are typically somewhere in the middle in terms of cost.

It’d be great if we could simply say X amount of content costs Y dollars and, truthfully, that would very likely make it easier for you to buy our services. However, we’ve been down this path a few times, and we know that the odds are that a truncated discussion of value is very likely going to leave one of us dissatisfied. Therefore, a deeper discussion from the beginning is the best way to build a foundation that we can both live with – a foundation made up of trust and respect.