If you’ve arrived here via Google, I can just imagine the frustration you’re feeling right now.  Let me paraphrase, if I may:

I just want to know what a normal, 1,500 word blog post costs, and nobody on the entire internet has a straight answer!  “It depends, and could cost anywhere from $5 to $2,500” is NOT helpful!

But instead of lecturing you about just how many variables go into this equation, I’ll provide you with a relatively straightforward way to estimate for any situation.  Then I’ll lecture you about variables, if you’re interested in reading on.  But that lecture will be about reducing your cost.

One thing to bear in mind as you read.  If you want to understand why the question of blog post cost is so hard to pin down, consider the following.

Writing a blog post is something that can be done by literally any human that can read and write.  And the effort required will always be specific to that human.  So you’re really asking, “how much would I have to pay a human to do a task of unspecified time and difficulty?”

And with that dubious starting point, I’ll help you narrow things down as efficiently as possible.

How Much Does a Blog Post Cost? Short Form

For a quick and dirty way to calculate blog post cost, in any niche, start by asking yourself, “who will write the post?”

I’m talking about a specific persona.  Should a lawyer write the post?  A software engineer?  A copywriter? Maybe a person with many years of trash collection experience, who now works as a managing dispatcher in that field?

Once you have that in your mind, think about how long it might take said person to write the article you want.  It’s hard to know this, but you can get closer than you might think.

Asking a lawyer (used to writing/forming arguments) to bang out 500 words on a comfortable topic might mean half an hour of her time.  Asking the trash collector turned manager (not as used to essay writing) for a 3,000 word pillar piece may take five to seven hours.  As a very rough rule of thumb, you can assume the average SME (subject matter expert) will spend three hours per 1,000 words.

Once you have the persona and the approximate time in your mind, you can look up what a freelance version of that person charges, per hour.  Your approximate cost for the writing is then simply the SME’s hourly rate times the estimated hours.  Finally, factor in a cost of four cents per word for editorial. 

Cost for writing plus editorial will provide an upper bound on what you should pay.

A Simple Example

Here at Hit Subscribe, we create blog content in the software development world.  And, with over 2,000 posts under our belt, I feel pretty good about our ability to speak to trends in this niche.  So I’ll use it as the example here.

Let’s say that I want to commission a technical blog post, intended for an audience of software engineers.  What should a, say, 1,500 word blog post like that cost me?

Using this article, I’ll ballpark the cost of freelance software development at about $150 per hour.  If it takes 3 hours for 1,000 words, that means 4.5 for 1,500 words, but I’ll just round that down to an even four hours.

My cost for a writer is thus $600.  Add our 4 cents per word for editorial, and I should budget $660 for the blog post.

As I said, this is your upper bound.

The Importance of a Reasonable Anchoring Point

With an upper bound in your pocket, your costs and budget become quite predictable.  But you’ll also save yourself a lot of negotiating headaches.

Let me show you something from a Facebook group I’m part of.

The original author offered two options: $150 and $250+ (which I voted for).  Then others came along and contributed other options, such as $15 and $800 – $1,200.  I suspect that the first option, $250+, is leading the way simply because that plus creates the maximum possible range.

Why am I showing and telling this?  To really drive home what you’re up against when you’re trying to commission content (or set a price when selling it).  The top option enumerated option is nearly a 10,000% price increase over the bottom option.

Is it any wonder negotiating rates for blog posts feels like an exercise in “pick a random number?”

But not anymore, and not for you.

Negotiating tends to go much better when accompanied by a grounded narrative.  And, “look, this is what you’d make freelancing” is a pretty reasonable grounding.  You can now toss higher prices out as unrealistic and feel justified doing it.

Blog Post Pricing in Depth

Now $660 for a 1,500 word blog post might seem steep to some of you reading.  If that’s the case, let’s walk through sources of cost with a little more nuance, and look at ways that you have to get the price down.

First, though, let me tell you a brief personal story that starts to unpack some of the nuances of pricing.

Motivation Is Complicated: Expensive People Might Do Cheap Posts

Years ago, the company that would become my first paid blogging client approached me.  “Hey, I like the posts you’re writing about software on your blog, and would love to have you write for us.  What would you charge for a 1,000 word blog post?”

I thought about it for a day or two and came back with “I’ll do posts for $100.”

At the time, I was working as a management consultant with bill rates north of $200 per hour, when I still billed hourly.  I was working on a transition to value pricing, which sometimes spiked my effectively hourly rate WAY above that baseline.

So why on Earth would I charge $100 for a blog post when, according to the metric I just laid out, I should have charged $600?

Well, it’s a bit complicated.  But let me break down some of the reasoning:

  • I’m actually a very prolific writer, and can hammer out a 1,000 word blog post in 45 minutes.  That brings my realized rate to a more reasonable $133/hour for the post.
  • I was already writing for my own blog, and I would cross post to my blog after writing for the client.  It was like getting paid to write for my own blog.
  • Appearing with a byline on this client’s site was valuable for lead generation in my consulting practice.
  • Any research/work I did for the client’s posts fed back into my own intellectual property.
  • I got the client’s software for free.

As you can see, there’s a lot of situational nuance here.  And this situational nuance, writ large, leads to the almost self-parodying variance depicted above in the Facebook screenshot.

Non-Monetary Perks to Offset Cost

With that explanation in our back pocket, let’s dive in earnest into strategies for cost control.  There are people out there who are willing to write blog posts for you more cheaply than you might think because they’ll have other motivations.  What are those, and how do you tap into them in a way where everyone wins?

Given that we’ve built a business with me as the proto-blogger, Hit Subscribe has a lot of insight into what motivates people alongside the money you offer.  Here is a list of things that sweeten the pot for your prospective blogging pool.

1. Offer them perks.

First of all, offer them perks, like my free software subscription.  What valuable things can your company offer to writers that have no incremental cost to you?

Common examples would include free use of your product or service, a referral channel for their practice/business, some kind of insider or MVP status in a community you have, etc.

2. Give them the freedom to choose the topic, or at least free reign to pick from pre-selected topics.

When you let authors choose the topics they write about, they’re able to exert a lot more control over their own time and cost.  Specifically, they can pick topics about which they already have expertise, thus minimizing the research required and any blank page syndrome they may feel.  Words will flow about their topic of choice.

And, interestingly enough, some authors may actually choose topics that they need to research.  You see this most commonly when they want to learn the thing, anyway, and they use the post assignment as a commitment device.

The freedom to choose topics allows them to supply their own motivations, which is important.

3. Give them the byline!

Unless you have a super strong case for ghostwriting (like, say, you’re commissioning a PR piece as a guest spot “by” your CEO), resist the impulse to commission ghostwritten content.  Most readers don’t really care who writes content for your site’s blog because people read brand content, but follow individual content.  In other words, they don’t really care who has the byline.

But your authors do!

If they have the byline, they can cite it to prospective employers or clients, promote it on their social media, get their ideas in front of your audience and, generally, market themselves.  That’s great for them, but it’s also good for you because it gets your brand in front of their following.

4. Look for authors that have at least a tinge of marketing interest in appearing on your site.

If you take my advice about bylines, your next step should be looking for authors to whom having a byline appeals.  In other words, try to find authors who would view writing a column for you as a legitimate perk.

For instance, take Salesforce.  If they were looking to commission technical content about their API, they’d do much better to find a freelance engineer specializing in custom Salesforce development than they would some random software engineer with no CRM experience.  The former would view it as a lead generation channel, whereas the latter would view it as pure beer money.

5. Offer your bigger audience, assuming you have one.

If a prospective blogger can reach a lot more people on your site than on their own, that serves as a powerful incentive.  Often people start side hustling as bloggers, in part, to build their own experience and name as bloggers.

But this can be frustrating in the early going.  Newbie bloggers blog into the void for months or years before getting traction.

Your audience, therefore, can serve as a powerful incentive because it saves them this lack of engagement and feedback in the early days.

6. Let them reuse and repurpose content.

One of the most powerful incentives you can offer is to let them repurpose the content they deliver you (as long as they link canonically).  If you allow authors to treat the content they create as their own asset (i.e. by also publishing to their blog or creating a talk around it or something), suddenly they’re doing something they might have done anyway.

7. Tout an author-minded editorial experience and writing coaching.

This one honestly surprised me, but over the years, one of the pieces of feedback our authors have offered consistently is that learning from our editorial staff is a huge perk.  But understand that our editorial staff serves the authors and treats them as customers, rather than nitpicking and trying to change their voice.

How to Socialize the Non-Monetary Perks

Understand that I’m not suggesting you offer any or all of these things instead of pay.  When you don’t pay authors, what you have is a community submission program, and you’ll quickly find that you spend more time weeding out spammers and dealing with nonsense than it’s worth.  Plus, offering a bunch of ancillary perks instead of actually paying people is generally a bad look.

Rather, these are things that will let you justify a lower going rate for your program.

If you’ve calculated the upper bound that I mentioned of $660 per post, what you can potentially do is offer $200 or $300 per post, instead.  But also prominently mention the perks that you’re offering.

Some prospective authors will decide it’s not worth the pay, even with the perks.  That’s fine; you can’t win ’em all.   But others, who value the perks more highly, will view the combination of pay and perks as just what they’re looking for, the way I did when setting my own low price with my first blogging client.

There’s another subtle factor at play here, as well.  In talking to prospective authors, acknowledging their market rate for freelance work is actually kind of powerful.  This is because feeling low-balled for your work goes deeper than just an untenable pay offer—it makes people feel fundamentally devalued.

So if, instead, your position is essentially “we know you’re worth $600, but can only spend $200, and here are some things we think might help bridge that gap,” you’re going to have more honest and productive conversations.  The $200 is your financial reality and the $600 is their preferred market rate, so what can both of you agree on that would make it work for everyone?

Guest Blogging Program Pitfalls That Drive Up Author Cost

There is another side to this coin.  We’ve looked at ideas for your guest blogging program that can help bring down what you need to pay.  But you can also unwittingly create the kind of friction in your program that makes authors demand more pay.

We’ve learned these lessons over the years with hard-won field experience.  Our model is to maintain a side hustling author pool to write for our clients.  And we’ve had to adjust pricing and policy over the years to remedy situations where all of our authors stopped wanting to write for clients.

And, guess what.  If you do things that make people say “I don’t want to write for you,” you’re going to need to pay people a LOT more. So let’s look at some things to avoid because they will flip authors into mercenary mode.

1. Avoid negative, non-actionable feedback (assuming you want the person to continue writing).

If you offer feedback on posts like “this is amateurish” or “I don’t like this,” there’s nothing an author can do to course correct.  They’ll view writing for you as an unpleasant, Dickensian exercise, and they’ll adjust their pricing accordingly.

2. Get your style guide under control and pick your battles.

I get that you’d like everything about a post just so, especially when you’re forking over money for it.  But each incremental rule you create and thing you ask authors to remember is one more bit of cognitive friction that makes their experience less pleasant and more time-consuming.

3. Create briefs with optional outlines and trust your SMEs.

Some authors prefer to get a title to run with, while others like more structure.  When you give them the opposite of what they prefer (especially if you scope out a post in endless detail for a “run with it” author), they don’t like it.

A brief that’s up to their discretion to follow pleases everyone.

4. Minimize or eliminate revision requests.

I can think of nothing that will spike pay demands faster than asking someone to revisit a piece of content multiple times.

And the proof is in the pudding for us.  We charge twice as much for content that clients want revision rounds because we learned we had to pay authors twice as much to be willing to do that.

5. Limit yourself to, at most, one approver of the posts.

This one might seem weird, at first.  The more reviewers, the better, right?  More people to offer insights, look at things from different perspectives, and even catch typos, right?

You’d think that, but it doesn’t work out that way.

At the most cosmetic level, non-editor proofreaders are as likely to edit in grammatical mistakes as they are to catch and fix them.  So the poor author can wind up in the middle of a proxy war about Oxford commas, fought by two stubborn people at your company.

But, beyond that, reviewers take their role seriously.  You’ve asked them to review the post, so  they set out with the mindset not of “we need to get content on the blog,” but “it’s my job to find everything wrong with this post.”  When multiple people go to town on an author’s post, possibly with contradictory feedback, it’s a recipe to burn authors at an incredible speed.

The best outcome I’ve seen with a multi-party review process for blog posts is that producing content is slow and needlessly expensive.  The more common outcome is that these companies abandon the content program altogether, resigning themselves to a blog that’s just the CEO posting a thought-leadership piece once every 4 months.

6. Whatever you do, never pay people by the hour.

One last thing to avoid is paying people an hourly rate.  I’m not much of a fan of hourly billing in general, but I recognize it as an incumbent and just normal business for most people.  But don’t let it be in this situation.

If you have a guest blogging program and you pay people per hour, you’re creating a situation where you reward inefficiency.  Your highest earning authors are the ones who write the slowest and require the most editing.

This is a perverse incentive in its own right, but it also lets your costs run out of control.  When you fix the cost of a blog post, authors start to vote with their feet when you impose the inefficiencies in this section on them.  But with hourly work, they’ll just shrug and accept more money as you make the program more inefficient with your requests for revision, misaligned briefs, gigantic style guide, and bureaucratic review process.

Paying a fixed rate for posts gives you a feedback mechanism for your content program’s inefficiency.  Paying an hourly rate just lets your costs run with no governor or sanity check on whether the spend is worth it.

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative, And Go Ahead and Mess with Mr. In Between

You’re now armed with techniques for controlling blog post cost, both in terms of carrots to offer and low-value sticks to avoid.  So hopefully you understand now why I offered the hourly rate cost calculation method as a starting point and upper bound.

That method—the $600 for our hypothetical software engineer writersets a baseline cost.  It’s then up to you to reduce that baseline cost.

You might not be able to offer some of the perks that I mentioned.  And maybe you can’t avoid all of the cost sourcesi.e. maybe something about your positioning really does demand an extensive brand style guide.

But I’d strive for every one of the perks you can, and avoid every one of the pitfalls that you can as well.  Doing so will allow you to bring the cost down from the upper bound pretty significantly and to have honest, productive conversations with bloggers about your rate structure.

Blog post prices are, indeed, all over the map.  But having awareness of your upper bound, and also a blogger-friendly content program with a lot of perks will significantly demystify it in your favor.

BTW, if you like video better as a format, I also recorded a livestream explaining some of these points: