There are practically as many content production services out there as there are writers looking to get paid for their work. Depending on where you look, you can find pretty much anything on the scale, from absolute garbage for nearly free all the way up to incredibly excellent content that charges premium rates. It’s hard to know what you’re getting, though, and when you have a limited budget for your content, you don’t want to blow it on an overpriced, overconfident freelancer or a scam artist.
I’ve compiled various categories of services you can find, along with some examples of each. This is by no means a complete list; again, there are a ton of different examples of all of these options, so you can find something that meets your needs at any level.
There are some tips I want to cover with all of the below options before we get into the meat of the issue.
First up, remember that the world of freelance writing is fraught with peril. There are a lot of businesses that try to scam writers, and a lot of writers that try to scam businesses. One way to help alleviate the problem on both sides is by using a good contract. Good freelancers and many content providers will have contracts you need to sign in order to get any work done. Don’t shy away from signing a contract, but make sure you read what you’re signing. Generally, a contract simply specifies that you’ll pay what you’re supposed to pay, the writer will provide the content within the deadline with a potential cycle of revisions if necessary.
As a related point, always make sure you pay your writers. Unless they’ve entered into a relationship with your business that specifies unpaid work, such as an internship, always uphold your end of the bargain. At best, you’ll earn a reputation as a scammer if you don’t pay writers, which could go viral and demolish your brand. At worst, you could get in legal trouble with the power of the freelancer’s union or a content provider sending lawyers after you. It simply isn’t worth the hassle, no matter how tight your budget is. If you can’t afford to pay your writers, you can’t afford to contract writing.
Third, start off small. Whenever you’re thinking about contracting a new writer or a new service, send one or two test assignments over their way. These should be paid, of course, but with no expectation of continued work unless the work is up to par. Make sure the writer is providing the kind of content you want with a minimum of revisions or hassle. There are numerous pitfalls to navigate, including potential plagiarism, low quality content, and a writer incapable of following directions or meeting deadlines. Start small to minimize your potential liability.
Speaking of plagiarism, always scan the content you receive for duplicates. Copyscape is a great tool for this purpose. However, you have to use some amount of sense. I’ve seen businesses reject excellent content because a direct, cited quote tripped a plagiarism filter and they were too paranoid to keep the writer on. Don’t be that business.
Finally, if you’re ever in a budget pinch, take the right actions. If you try to maintain a busy schedule for your blog, quality will drop since you can’t pay better writers. If you try to save money by dropping updates altogether, you’ll lose a lot of SEO value. The correct course of action is to dial back on your quantity of articles, increase the quality of them, and find a cheaper break even point with freelancers or content providers. Besides; Google has been emphasizing quality over quantity for several years now, and it helps avoid content saturation. Plus, it’s easier to come up with ideas if you only have to do two per week rather than five or seven.
So, what about those sources of content? Let’s begin at the cheapest and work our way up.
The absolute cheapest possible source of content is, of course, free content. Taking on an intern and having them write your blog content is one possible route you can take.
However, this route has many possible pitfalls.
Virtually everyone reading this won’t be able to go the intern route and benefit from it. So let’s move on.
The cheapest possible paid option is ultra-cheap freelancers. You can find these on sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer.com. The majority of the time, when you put up a project without restrictions, you’re going to get a lot of people bidding very low numbers to do the work.
The kicker for this method is that either the content is going to be crap, it’s going to be stolen, or it’s going to be low quality. Most of the time, the freelancers that accept such low rates – we’re talking $1 for 1,000 words of content here – are able to do so because they live in Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, or another cheap cost of living country. This also means they are typically ESL, so the content they produce has a low quality ceiling.
This is the kind of result you’ll get if you follow guides like this one, talking about getting cheap writing for your site. Sure, it’s cheap, but it’s also not very good. You’ll often have to discard one in three posts, and you’ll have to do some heavy editing to make the others serviceable.
One step up from the above is the basic content mill. Sites like Zerys, Textbroker, and even Amazon’s Mechanical Turk all offer writing services. The general pricing for these is somewhere around $5-10 per 1,000 words of content, which is fairly reasonable for most blogs. If you’re paying for 1-2 2,000-word posts per week, that’s going to run you $20 to $100 per month, which certainly isn’t bad. Plus, most of these content mills have some minimum level of quality and often their own plagiarism filters built in.
The downside here is that you’re often still getting content that isn’t very good. The best writers are at the highest star levels on these sites, and often only work through direct orders, which allows them to charge more than you might want to pay.
Some content mills offer much better quality work, and some of them offer front-facing customer interfacing, which allows you to get to know specific writers and work with them without worrying about poaching and so forth. Sites like Writer Access, Constant Content, and networks like Upwork all offer higher paid tiers of service.
These are much more likely to get you the kind of quality that is, well, serviceable for your site. It’s also where you can find some true diamonds willing to work for a cheaper rate than they probably deserve. If you find one of these, it might be worthwhile hooking them and gradually increasing their pay over time, both to keep them loyal and to bolster their confidence in themselves. Why not do a good deed once in a while?
Mid-tier freelancers abound on all kinds of sites. You can find them on any of the networks listed above, and you can Google for phrases like “writer for hire” and “freelance writer” to find them. This is where the bulk of the reasonable quality writers who have graduated beyond content mills have found rest. They don’t charge too much – maybe $40-$100 per blog post, which is still quite cheap for the industry standard – and they provide decent quality content. Again, sometimes you’ll find an excellent writer worth hanging on to, and can keep them around for a long time to come.
There are a ton of blog management services out there who are willing to produce content for you, as well as manage other aspects of your blog, like link building, optimization, and analytics.
These can range from pretty cheap to extremely expensive, so there’s something for everyone. However, you end up handing over control of your blog to these people, leaving you with little more than vague creative influence, which isn’t always what you want to be doing.
The highest of the high quality freelancers can sometimes be found through sites like Upwork, but more often they have their own private sites they use to find clients. These are the sorts of people who write for high profile blogs, both under their own names and as ghostwriters. The thing is, this article is about affordable content, and these people very much are not. They write excellent, detailed content that often ranks highly in Google and forms an evergreen source of links and traffic for months or years. However, getting these writers to produce something for you for under $500 per post is an achievement. Often they can be charging as much as $1,000 or more. You get what you pay for, it’s excellent content, but it’s not affordable for most businesses. Incidentally, if you’re paying $1,000 per post, hit me up.
This last option isn’t necessarily expensive, at least in terms of money, but it can be time consuming. One way to get a lot of high quality content for your site without paying a ton of money for it is accepting guest posts. Guest posts often come from bloggers looking to get more exposure in the industry, so they want to produce better content to draw people in. You can put up a contact page for accepting guest posts and see what you get.
Of course, you don’t get guest posts for free. You need to have a site with a suitable level of traffic to make it worthwhile for the guest poster, and you generally want to provide a followed link in the posts, to “pay” with that traffic. People don’t guest post for low quality sites, at least not when it isn’t part of a spammy link exchange, which can get you in trouble with Google.
All of the issues with low quality, contract-free freelancers apply to guest posts as well. Make sure you’re willing to link to the site they want linked to, and make sure the content is high quality and not stolen before you publish it.
You will also need some of your own posts on your blog as well, of course. You can’t run a blog entirely on guest posts. Still, filling some of your weekly or monthly slots in your editorial calendar with guest posts can save you some money and allow you to pay more for better quality content in the posts you do buy.