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[edited by: engine at 9:59 am (utc) on Mar. 4, 2006]
[edit reason] No Self Promo [/edit]
Seems there are two schools here...
More than two: $20-30/article is a pretty good rate for content from people who can really write. But highly specialized tech writers and pro journalists charge way more yet. And then you can always pay pennies for the cheap and dirty, if you'd like. And all the varying shades of gray in between.
More than price, though, I think webmasters can benefit a lot from the affordability provided by companies and individuals who coordinate content development. Whatever their requirements, webmasters just source it to someone who can make it happen. There's a lot of time saved when a reliable content provider is making sure it's all done right.
People are scrambling for original content because they hear that that's what they need, and the people who have real money-making businesses and budgets are paying.
Find a business that you like writing about, make a sale, and then you'll have no problem finding more work.
It's not writing poetry, but you can always do that in the garage if you need to. To feed little Johnny you can write about rich people making money and having fun.
Yes, you can go to Elance and other areas to whore yourself out, but unless you are willing to take the lowest pay, you might find it difficult to get projects. Most people who hire writers look solely at price. They don't understand the field so they just assume a lower price is best. After their credibility is shot, they come to you for repair.
Should you fail (or not desire) to get upper level projects and go the common writer approach, your writing speed will be one large factor in your success. $20 for a 500 word article is not bad if you can write & edit it minutes. Steer clear of any topics that require a lot of research unless it pays well or you have a genuine interest in the topic.
Remember, you can go down in price, but you can't go up. If you lowball a job and that clients wants to come back, you will have a very tough time getting anything more than the original project.
Can you make hundreds or more in one day of writing content for the web? You bet! Like anything else in life, your success depends on you.