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Best way to bill for content writing?



10:38 am on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi folks,

I have been writing for more than 12 years now (document & technical authoring) and whilst I write for those I am doing SEO for, I am going to produce a site specifically to promote these services.

However, I am unsure how am I best to bill for these services? Do you accept a 50/50 payment? Payment upfront? Upon Completion?

I have no problem doing 'on completion' but I worry about those that might take the content and then not pay me. It is OK if I am in the UK and could chase for payment more easily, but overseas might be more awkward.

Also, is there somewhere I can get some ideas on the best prices to charge for this service? Whilst I am far from a novice, I am also not well known in this arena as yet.




10:51 am on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Why not use a third-party provider that acts as the escrow between you and your client--plenty out there for services like yours.


11:12 am on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That is a good idea and not one I had thought about - thanks for the suggestion :)

Still happy to know about others that don't use any 3rd party.


11:15 am on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Maybe you define charges in words or fixed hour rate.
It goes from 10 USD - 50 USD I think. Maybe someone can help better...


12:18 pm on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If I were to charge for words, then I think perhaps I might like to explore pricing on a per-article basis. I tend not to like to charge per hour because sometimes it can take longer than expected and prefer to give a price to complete a job.

Looking to knock a few people off the top spots ;)


12:43 pm on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It's a vexed question, isn't it? Do you put trust in your brand new customer and expect them to pay up after the work has been done? Or, do you take a more cautious approach and ask for part payment up front.

If the former, and your client decides to be difficult about paying, or just ignores you completely, then you're obliged to go down the legal route, which, of course, is a lot of hassle.

If the latter, and especially when it's a new client, do you risk upsetting them right from the off with your demands?

For the freelancer, I guess it all comes down to gut feeling: do you trust them or not? If not, why not? In such situations you need to ensure that anything agreed is in writing - and you have full contact details.

I've been working freelance for a little over a year now. Luckily, my few clients are all trustworthy. However, it is something that I know I'll need to face in the future.

My partner runs her own business; has done for a good number of years. She's faced with the same billing dilemma with every new client, of which there are many. As soon as it's appropriate, she tells customers that payment is 50% up front - and that work cannot commence until payment has been received.

For her at any rate, this works perfectly.


12:57 pm on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

It depends also on competition.
Work market is huge. Local...


1:38 pm on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

When I was doing websites I used to charge 40% up front, then 30% in the middle on some deliverable and then 30% at the end.

I am sure something like that could be applied to content writing.


1:55 pm on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks all for the input.

I do like the 40/30/30 idea and will be sitting down and looking at this as well as the possibility of escrow - but would prefer to deal direct if I can.

I also understand your points about gut feeling Syzygy - this does play a part in how you feel you will get along with a customer. I am just glad that these bad ones don't turn up too often :)

Many thanks,



6:51 pm on Apr 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

You have more freelance experience than I do - I started in fiction, so I don't know if this can help. But...

Have you already considered oDesk or eLance? They handle the payments and have an escrow-like system for making sure payment is made for the work you do. Although they take a cut, it's not very large. Plus it's simply easier to find clients through them. You can apply for specific contract work, or they can find you. I found a nice client through oDesk when I went semi-freelance last year. If I were still doing freelance work, I'd do it that way. It really is hassle-free.

If you already have enough momentum and contacts and whatever to be confident in your client base or just really want to go it on your own, I recommend you ask for some money up front. You could ask for a good faith 50-100% payment for the first job. You can state that it's negotiable under certain conditions. You can say that after the first job, you work out specific custom payment arrangements.

When you're starting out, you want to leave yourself open to case-by-case adjustments because you may not get the clients, otherwise - and also because each client and each job really is different. But nobody legit will have a beef with your asking for some up-front payment if they can see samples of your work and trust from your website, professionalism, and samples that you'll write reliably and well for them.

Regarding prices, I suggest you leave it wide open, yet provide cost estimate guidelines so they come to you with a realistic idea of what you charge - something like:

"Terms will depend on the specific job. Sorry, there are no volume discounts. [examples here of what cost depends on] Generally, I charge:

X$-Y$ per 400-600-word article for SEO article writing that requires little or no research (give example)

B$-C$ per 400-600-word article for SEO article writing that requires significant research. (give example)

Z$-A$ per 2000-word landing page


You asked how much you should charge. For article writing, you'll have lowballers wanting to pay you very low amounts per article. I can't say for sure what "low" is, because it depends on how much work is required and how good you are, etc.

Some would consider $1-$10 per article extremely low and even $10-$20 ridiculously low, while others would consider any job worth it. Yet most likely work won't be thick on the ground for more than $15 per article until you build up something of a reputation, find a good client, or have something spectacular to offer - such as testimonials or statistics showing you've increased a client's profit by such-and-such amount.

Many writers moving from traditional print publishing to online publishing take work very cheaply at first, then quickly are able to charge more realistic and even traditionally-structured prices.

The more you do it, the more you'll get an idea of what's worth it to you. I suggest you go with what's most comfortable for you, then loosen or tighten your restrictions as necessary. I wouldn't worry about making a mistake. There's a huge demand for writers right now. Many don't know it, because bad writers are everywhere, and everyone thinks they can write well enough, and there are tons of print writers out of work. But it's all an illusion, and you've got a lot of leverage here.

Hope this helps, even though I have no solid numbers for you. Good luck!


3:04 pm on Apr 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have worked for several years as a freelance writer. When I started out, I was faced with a similar dilemma and was sometimes not paid at all for the work delivered. It is absolutely essential to develop your terms and conditions and state them clearly right in the beginning. Moreover, a 50% advance payment is mostly appropriate especially if you have some experience in the field.


6:08 pm on Apr 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I did freelance ghostwriting for six years. The first job I did, I thought it would only be fair for them to pay me when they got the work. Well, they thought it would be fair not to pay at all--until I found out the name of their boss and said I would let him know that his employee was a deadbeat who refused to pay for good work. This over fifty bucks. Ever after, I used a contract and charged 50% in advance with 50% due midway, no work to be handed over until it was finished, although I kept them posted about what I was doing. I didn't take credit cards, only wire transfers (I had a lot of people abroad). I always did a free sample piece of work--a tiny piece of the work they were requesting--but usually these were pretty big jobs. I made out well doing that. I got out of it because I was burned out with writing, not because of lack of work.


1:28 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for all the help guys. I am going to head down the 50-50 route along with a signed contract to cover my back :)

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