“You’re a professional blogger?”

Earlier this month, I attended ROFcon, a geek convention with panels on cosplay, science fiction, comics, and other awesome nerdy interests. Yes, I dressed up! I was especially interested in the literary track, which included panels on publishing and writing. One panel, early in the morning on the last day of the con, was lightly attended, so it was more of a conversation than a formal presentation. The speaker asked everyone where there were in their writer, and I admitted that I did more blogging than anything else.

One of the other audience members was keen to know if I was actually a professional blogger, if this was how I made a live. Why yes, yes I am. I explained that I both run my own blogs and work with clients to help them with their content marketing efforts.

The question I could all but hear churning in the minds of the other people in the room was this: how much money do you make?

While I don’t post income reports like other bloggers, I will say that when I am paid to write posts for other bloggers, I’m paid anywhere from $15 to $500 per post. That’s a huge range, I know! Here’s what affects the price:

  • Whether or not I get a byline
  • Whether or not I get a bio with a link to my site or social accounts
  • How much research is required
  • Whether or not the topic fits well with what I’m already doing or is a departure
  • The length of the post
  • The “finishing” work required (adding images, formatting, etc.)
  • Whether or not I have to pay an editor
  • The size of the site where it will be published
  • Whether this is a one-time gig or a long-term gig
  • Whether or not the client is a friend
  • Whether or not social promotion is requested
  • Other perks I receive (such as free items to review)

It’s not an exact science. If you want to hire me for a $15 per post gig, I’m probably going to say no unless all of the above points are in your favor (i.e. I get a bio, I have to do little research, the post is short, etc.). On the flip side of things, charging $500 per post is rare! Usually, for a 1000-ish-word post, I change around $100 – $200.

But how much should you pay someone to blog for you? The answer is not $100 to $200 per post. The answer isn’t $15 per post or $500 per post either. The answer, surprisingly enough, is this:

You should pay the least amount possible for the quality you want.

There’s this big movement in the freelance world where people are promoting that writers are paid fairly…but fair is subjective. If I can write a post for you in one hour and you pay me $30, I consider that fair (especially if you have long-term work available for me), because $30 per hour is a pretty good rate in my opinion. That works out to around $60,000 per year salary, if I worked a full 40 hours per week at that rate.

Now, if you’re a freelancer yourself, you know that part of your time will be spent doing unpaid work (searching for jobs, educating yourself, etc.), and most of the time it’s going to take a lot longer than one hour to write a post, but the point here is this: what I think is fair may not be what someone else thinks is fair…and that’s okay.

As someone hiring a freelancer to write for you blog, you have to keep in mind that quality is everything. You won’t entice readers to buy a product, join a mailing list, or even read to the end of the post if your quality sucks. And typically the bloggers who are willing to work for very low fees, the bloggers who think those rates are fair, are not going to turn in high-quality content. So, if you set your price at $5 per post, expect low-quality work, for the most part.

But don’t get sucked into the idea that you have to pay a writer exactly what the blog post is worth, because that’s no way to run a business. There has to be some meat on the bone for you. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money into an abyss.

Test, Track, Analyze

How much money, on average, do you make per blog post? If you don’t know, then you shouldn’t hire a blogger yet because it is impossible to set the right price. You need to test methods to see what converts better, track conversion rates over time, and analyze your results. Only then can you truly understand what a blog post is really worth.

First, find out a few conversion numbers:

  • How many people click a link on your blog and go directly to a pay to make some kind of purchase?
  • How many blog readers sign up for your mailing list, and how many subscribers make a purchase within, say, 3 months?

Let’s say that you sell widgets for $50 each. Over the course of three months, you publish 30 blog posts and make $12,500 in sales (meaning, you sold 250 widgets). 15% of those sales came from your blog and the rest came from other sources. That gives you a base value to your blog of $1875 over three months, or $62.50 per post.

Let’s say also that 50% your email subscribers are from your blog, and you know that over the course of 3 months, about 5% of subscribers buy a widget. If you have about 5,000 subscribers, that adds another $12,500 to your 3-month total, and if half of those sales can be contributed to your blog, that adds another $6250 to your total (or, about $208.30 per post). We’re now up to $270.80 per post.

You could track even more. For example, what percentage of first-time readers go on to follow you on social media, and what percentage of those followers go on to make a purchase? But for now, let’s just assume that you make about $271 per post.

Does that mean you should pay the blogger $271 per post? No freakin’ way.

 So What Should You Pay, if not $271?

Well first, what is the cost of that blog post before the writer even gets involved? Did you pay someone for keyword research? Do you pay a VA to help with blog publishing? Do you purchase images for your posts? What are your hosting and domain name costs?

Even if you do some of this work yourself, think about it in terms of paying yourself. Let’s us a base rate of $30 per hour, which is a nice little income.

  • You do the keyword research yourself and spend about 5 hours per month on this task…15 over the course of 3 months for a total “cost” of $450, or $15 per post.
  • You hire a VA to do finishing work on your posts (tagging, categorizing, formatting, etc.) and pay $1 per post.
  • You purchase images for blog, paying for a $30 per month for a subscription service to a stock site and an average of $100 per month for a photographer to snap images of your products. You also pay around $3 per month for basic photo editing through PicMonkey. That all works out to around $13 per post.
  • You pay about $50 for your blog hosting and domain name, specifically for your blog. That works out to $5 per post.

All of that taken into account, your costs before the writer is $34 per post.

So does that mean you should pay your writer $237 per post? Again, no freakin’ way.

Because, while you might get the customer to spend $50 per widget, that’s not your profit. Widget cost money to make – materials and labor. There are sales reps and marketing staff and other personnel to pay. You have to keep the lights on. Let’s say that your margins are incredible and you make $25 profit per widget, 50%. That means that your profit per post is just over $100 per post.

Is that what you should pay writers?

Well…maybe.

Normally, you’d want to leave some meat on the bone for yourself, but let’s say that a high percentage of your customers end up buying again and again. In that case, it might be okay to break even on first-time buyers, if it’s pure profit going forward. Or, if a high percentage of blog readers become loyal fans who promote your brand to their fans, the word-of-mouth marketing might be worth breaking even on the blog posts.

So $100 might be your magic number.

But…

There’s always a but. And this blog post has a REALLY BIG BUT.

I Like Big Buts and I Cannot Lie

The but in this case is this: You’re a business owner, not a charity.

While I do believe that you have an ethical duty to pay your workers fairly, exactly how much you make per blog post should not necessary dictate how much you pay per blog post. The research you do to figure out how much you make from each blog post can help you ensure you aren’t paying more than you’re bringing in, but it isn’t necessary part of the equation when figuring out what to pay. If it is, your blogger is essentially making a commission.

Now, that might be the best option. If you have a blogger who is bringing in lots of traffic and doing an amazing job coming up with post ideas and executing, you might want to pay a certain percentage. But if that’s how you think about paying for a blog post, then logically, the payment should go down if the blog conversion rate goes down.

Instead, what’s fair is to find out how long the blogging work takes and pay people a fair rate based on their experience and quality of work. This is, in my opinion, anywhere between $15 and $50 per hour.

If you do all of the above tracking and analyzing only to find out that you can only justify paying a lower amount, say $15 per blog post, NEVER compromise on quality. You can teach someone how to use WordPress, and people will, over time, get more Twitter followers. You can even hire a much less expensive VA to do the finishing work on the blog post, like adding images, to cut down on the time your blogger is working. But if the writer turns in crap, you don’t want them. Trust me. You might as well be throwing your $15 per post into a black hole.

I wish I had a more black-and-white answer about payrate for you, but the truth is, that it’s just too subjective of a question. My best advice is to look for someone who cares about their work, and who will continue to improve and grow. Send them to blogging conferences if you can afford to do so. Invest in online education. Reward them for a good job. And when you find a good writer who works hard for you, do what it takes to KEEP THEM! Writers are a dime a dozen online, but the good ones who will actually help you build your business are few and far between.