I clearly remember the first content writing jobs that I was offered when I started writing for a living back in 2005. I started out trawling through the online outsourcing directories, such as Freelancer and Elance, in search of jobs that paid something at least remotely respectable. It was not easy. Take a quick look at any of these outsourcing platforms, and you’ll see that little has changed even ten years later. Among the hundreds of jobs available, most people are still paying at most around one cent per word, making a typical 500-word blog post cost about $5.00.

$5.00 for an article might sound like a bargain, particularly considering that content marketing of any kind should be a long-term strategy. But let’s take a look at what you’re likely to get for your money:

• Rewritten or duplicate content or even that which is outright plagiarized
• Written by a non-native English speaker
• Poorly researched to the extent that it offers nothing of value
• Mass-produced for a very general audience
• Littered with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
• Short, uninspiring content that nobody will read

What you actually get for your $5 is likely to be completely counterproductive to the extent that it will hurt your business and your website’s standing in the search engine results. In other words, if you are serious about content marketing, it pays to be very wary of outsourcing through directories such as those mentioned above.

So How Much Should You Pay for Web Content?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to provide an exact figure, since it depends on a multitude of factors. I personally charge ten cents per word, which I consider to be in the lower end for quality content. However, I also have lower costs of living than most, and this allows me to offer a more competitive rate.

Rather than trying to be promotional, I speak from my own experience as a freelance writer for ten years. I will honestly say that, when I was first starting out, I didn’t exactly go to great lengths to create quality content for the occasional low-paid job I scored on the likes of Freelancer.com. I don’t suspect any other writer would either. On the other hand, being prepared to pay a bare minimum of $50 for a typical blog post, you should typically expect the following:

• Completely original content that will get the attention of the search engines
• Written by a native speaker or someone who is proficient in the language
• Carefully researched, in which case sources may be cited if required
• Produced with a specific audience in mind
• Free of any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors
• Inspiring enough to readers to the extent that it encourages sharing

The prices I am quoting here are a general guideline, taking a typical blog post or other similar article into account. For more in-depth content, such as whitepapers, case studies and eBooks, rates per word will, of course, be significantly higher. The subject matter and nature of the content will also determine the optimal price range. For example, more technical or academic content will typically cost significantly more than that which caters to a larger, less specialized niche.

In conclusion, quality Web content does not come particularly cheap, but if you are only willing to pay rock bottom, you’ll achieve nothing more than damaging your reputation. You can, of course, spend a lot more on online content, and there are some writers who charge as much as 25 cents per word or even more. However, as is the case with any other product or service, it is all about finding the sweet spot where you get exactly what you require for your specific needs for a rate that ultimately ends up paying for itself through increased brand awareness and lead generation.