Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

How much should you pay for content marketing? 3 ways to do content marketing even if you’re on a budget


You don't want to pay too much but at the same time you don't want to be penny wise and pound stupid. This is an in-depth analysis about content marketing and how much you should expect to pay.

How much should you pay for content marketing?

The short answer is “it depends”.

The long answer is “it depends”, also.

This is because a lot of factors determine what you get to spend. Factors like the size of your company, your long-term business goals, and most importantly, your budget, weigh heavily in determining what you will pay for content marketing.

Your budget is, however,  going to be the most deciding factor.

Consider the difference between a Ford Focus and a Rolls Royce.

Both cars are dependable. Both cars will carry the same number of passengers. And most importantly, both cars will take you from point A to B. 

But we all know which car rides better, or at least presents the best prestige. We all know which vehicle’s interior is opulently laid out with thick cozy lambswool floor mats, high-quality leathers and shiny metal and wood trim.

It is, of course, not the Ford.

Just like both cars, you get what you pay for when it comes to content marketing.

Sure, you can get content (Blog posts) for as little as $30 per 1,000 words. But at that rate, you’d only get content written by a writer who’s only looking to meet up to the word count, not one that writes with your audience in mind.

And if you know anything at all about content marketing, and indeed marketing for that matter, you’d know that relevance is one of the ingredients for successful marketing.

Does the content speak directly to your audience’s needs? Does it help them? Is it engaging?

These are things a more experienced, albeit costly writer will take into consideration when writing for your business.

Just an FYI, content marketing is MUCH more than just Blog posts. It’s about strategy as well as distribution and a whole lot of other interesting things that we’ll look at shortly.

What then is content marketing?

Content marketing is the process of researching, creating and distributing relevant digital content. 

And although when most people think about content marketing, they think about blog posts, that is only half of the story.

Content is much more than blog posts.

It also  includes the following:

  • Blog posts
  • Long-form content
  • Infographics
  • Micrographics
  • Videos
  • Social media content
  • GIFs and much much more

In short, every consumable asset you create is content. And content marketing is the planning (research), creation and distribution of those assets.

There are many aspects of content marketing too.

Joe Pulizzi of content marketing institute says that the following are just some of the steps involved in the creation of stellar content. He says that even these steps aren’t exhaustive.

Here are the steps still:

  • The marketing plan
  • The content strategy within the marketing plan
  • The specific tactics (i.e., a blog) within the content strategy
  • An editorial plan for the tactic (the managing editor’s role)
  • Base content for the tactic (i.e., a blog post)
  • Review of the base content (expert review and proofreading)
  • The distribution of the content through the content management system
  • The optimization of the content for search engines (on-page and off-page)
  • Syndication of the content (i.e. through Facebook and Twitter)
  • Integration of the content (back to the marketing plan and with the other content marketing strategies and traditional marketing strategies)
  • Measuring the content (through analytics, conversions, direct/cross-sales or other qualitative measures)
  • Reevaluating the content (based on the feedback about the content through analytics)

That is already an exhaustive list by itself.  But broadly speaking, there are four steps in content marketing:

  1. Competitive analysis and research. This is what you do to check out what your competitors are doing, what’s working for them, and areas you can improve on. This helps you create unique content that fills a gap. Even if there’s no gap, at least you know what works.
  2. Content creation. In this phase, you actually create the content, edit it, and make it consumer-ready.
  3. Distribution and promotion. This is arguably the most important step of all. If you spend $5,000 on a blog post and nobody sees it, that $5k just went down the drain. Poop! Or whatever sound something going through the drain makes. Promotion. This is where you reach out to other influencers in your niche, advertise, and promote the heck out of the content and share it on your social media channels. This is a very important step.
  4. Monitoring and improvement.  You need this step to observe how your content is performing. Check if it is performing according to some of the goals you’ve set.

These steps clarify a very important fact. And that is that you need a strategy if your content is going to be effective.

I’ve worked with business owners in the past who had no clear strategy. They were doing a lot of guesswork. They even had no clear strategy on how to distribute the content. They just wanted content.

If you are in this category and have no clear strategy to guide your content marketing efforts, every penny you spend will be wasted because the content won’t drive any real results. 

If you are a business owner who is marketing savvy, has at least an idea of how things work, and already has set some goals, you don’t need to spend much more money getting an agency to create a content strategy for you.

In the case that you don’t understand the basics of marketing and how online content works, you’d do well to hire a team of marketing professionals who know their craft well.

As a guide, there are three ways you can outsource your content marketing and we’ll address all of them in a bit; we’ll talk about some price ranges, some of the factors that affect pricing and how to get your content marketing done well even if you’re on a budget.

Content marketing vs. content publishing

Jon here… it’s odd for me to be publishing about content marketing given I’m really a content publisher (this is one of my content sites), but I thought it was a good topic to cover since it’s related.

Content marketing is higher-level in that it serves an end goal beyond simply monetized on its own. What I mean by that is when I publish articles on my ad-supported niche sites, the articles are an end unto itself.  It’s monetized. I seldom have additional goals for the content.

Content marketing, on the other hand, usually serves a further goal such as landing customers, clients and or leads.  While it can be monetized directly with display ads, normally it serves  a further purpose.

Accordingly, content marketing is a more involved process.  Topics are carefully chosen to serve prospective customers and content must be very, very good.

Content Marketing: Evaluate your needs and set some goals first

As we’ve said earlier, you need results to justify all the money you spend on content.

And the only way you’ll get results is if your marketing is targeted and relevant to your audience. 

Customer research is the first and most important step in content marketing. 

I think it was Eugene Schwartz who said…

“Your customers don’t care about your passions”

I was struck when I first heard that. It is true too.

Customers only care about themselves and how they can solve their own problems. If your audience is interested in a product that communicates status and you create a product that is more affordable, you’ll only get their derision for all y0ur efforts and passion.

Start by researching your audience’s interest in relation to your brand. What do they love about your products? What do they frequently have problems with? What do they hope with your product? 

These are questions that you can ask your sales team.

Further, you can examine your product reviews for insights, ask your customers for feedback, survey your past clients, do keyword research in your niche or industry and do some social listening so you can more thoroughly understand your typical customers and what their preferences are.

A Content strategy backed up by concrete data is what makes for effective marketing.

When you’ve carried out some customer research—whether that be outsourced or in-house, you can then create concrete viable marketing goals, not frivolous vanity metrics like follower count.

All in all, how much you spend on content marketing depends mainly on that sweet spot where your overarching business goals, budget constraints, and your customer’s needs overlap.

After considering all three aspects— your business goals, budget, and customer needs, you can then start planning to choose who will handle your content marketing. Who you choose determines how much you’ll pay.

Who should handle your content marketing?

There are three basic ways by which you can do your content marketing. And each method has its unique advantages and disadvantages. 

We’ll explore all of those in the following sections.

Freelancers

Freelancers are independent professionals who usually work remotely and directly with the client (you). Since they work remotely, they choose their own hours and they may choose to bill you hourly, quote you per project,  and some writers may even charge you per word.

When working with freelancers, pricing can quickly become complicated, as it is dependent on their quality of service, timeliness, and experience.

Generally, more experienced writers will charge more. This is because in the span of their careers, working with a wide range of clients, they have gained a lot of experience and thus have a lot of expertise. They really are the safest choice. With more experienced freelancers, fewer things are likely to go wrong.

They usually have a reputation to protect and since they’re more likely to want to foster long-term relationships, you’ll get their best work and a high level of service.

If you’re looking to work with higher-end freelancers, you could find them through referrals (the most effective and least risky way), or look on premium, more professional sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and  99Designs.

And although many people think sites like Upwork have less skilled writers, the opposite is true. You can find very skilled freelancers on Upwork. But the trick is to find those who have lots of testimonials and high job success rates.

Even Fiverr, the most looked down upon platform has a lot of professionals on their platform. With a platform like Fiverr, it is even more important that you choose a professional with a Pro Badge.

Heck…The guy who designed Apple’s logo is on the Fiverr platform…The caveat, however, is that he charges $10k(!) for a single logo design.

As I’ve said before, fewer things can go wrong when you spend more on content marketing.

As far as range goes, a white paper from ndash indicates the following price ranges for the different types of content.

Blog posts (Price range per 700 words)

  • B2B Tech. $$150-$500 
  • Small biz. $75-$225
  • Industrial $175-$400
  • Non-profit $75-$200
  • Travel and Leisure$50-$175

Articles (Price range per 1,000 words)

  • B2B Tech. $250-$800 
  • Small biz. $150-$375
  • Industrial. $350-$1200 
  • Non-profit. $150-$300
  • Travel and Leisure.  $100-$300

Case Studies (Price range per 2-page doc)

  • B2B Tech.  $275-$900 
  • Small biz  $100-$225
  • Industrial. $350-$1000 
  • Non-profit. $175-$500
  • Travel and Leisure.  $50-$150

White papers and ebooks (Price range per 5-page doc)

  • B2B Tech. $600-$3000 
  • Small biz. $400-$1000
  • Industrial. $1200-$4000 
  • Non-profit. $500-$1100
  • Travel and Leisure.  $350-$700

Sales collateral (Price range per 1-page doc)

  • B2B Tech. $250-$800 
  • Small biz. $150-$375 
  • Industrial. $350-$1200 
  • Non-profit. $150-$300
  • Travel and Leisure. $100-$300

Presentations (Price range per 15 slides)

  • B2B Tech. $150-$1000
  • Small biz. $150-$1000
  • Industrial. $150-$1000
  • Non-profit. $150-$1000
  • Travel and Leisure. $150-$1000

Email campaigns  (Price range per email)

  • B2B Tech. $50-$150
  • Small biz. $50-$150
  • Industrial. $50-$150
  • Non-profit. $50-$150
  • Travel and Leisure. $50-$150

Social media (Price range per post)

  • B2B Tech. $5-$35 
  • Small biz.  $5-$35 
  • Industrial.  $5-$35 
  • Non-profit.  $5-$35 
  • Travel and Leisure.  $5-$35 

Website copy (Price range per page)

  • B2B Tech. $100-$250
  • Small biz. $100-$250
  • Industrial. $100-$250
  • Non-profit. $100-$250
  • Travel and Leisure. $100-$250

Even this list, as exhausting as it is,  isn’t exhaustive. There are still anomalies on either end of the spectrum.

On the one end are freelancers who are just starting out and are willing to accept low rates so they can get their feet in the door and get some testimonials and referrals.

On the other end of the spectrum are the elite, those authority figures that charge $5,ooo per blog post. Jon Morrow is one such person who used to charge that when he still freelanced.

The above list only addresses per-project rates. Some other freelancers will collect retainer fees which typically range from $2,000 to $5,000, and usually include 4 to 10 long-form content assets.

If you’re on a budget, and you maybe have a manager who manages your content creation team, you can find gems on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr for reasonable prices, namely freelancers who live in countries where the dollar goes further.

When you’re working with freelancers, just try to find that sweet spot between value and price. Unless of course, you can afford the very best.

Working with an in-house team

You can also choose to work with an in-house team, especially if you already have a marketing department in your company. This type of infrastructure makes a lot of sense for larger companies with a larger budget and a marketing department that handles all things marketing.

Although more expensive, considering training, this is the most cost-effective investment for your long-term marketing goals.

Depending on the experience of the team you work with, you can expect to pay six figures annually, especially if they have a proven track record and about 5-10 years of experience.

In-house teams can be small or large and they usually consist of a content marketing manager, a content strategist (also called an editorial planner), a content creator (writers graphic designers, copywriters videographers. etc),  and ideally a content distributor.

You can cover more ground and achieve much more if you use an in-house framework to coordinate your content marketing strategy with your other marketing efforts.

As to what you should pay your team, you should check what other companies are spending on similar talent on sites like Indeed Glassdoor and Payscale. Although you can expect to pay  $48,000-$72,000/yr in the lower ranges;  $72,000-$104,000/yr in the medium ranges and  $104,000-$150,000+/yr in the higher ranges.

To get the most out of what you pay, you should also be on the lookout for professionals who are skilled in content strategy, copywriting,  search engine optimization, graphic design, video production,  social media advertising, and management, paid advertising, HTML or other coding languages, email marketing,  and other more niche skills that serve your business needs.

If you’re on a budget, you can just hire a content manager and someone who can help you search for professionals who don’t cost too much to work with.

Agency

If you want a hands-free approach to content marketing, then a reputable agency is the way to go.

Agencies often boast a vast number of services ranging from basic graphic design to SEO and paid advertising, They may also offer packages that may meet your business needs. In the case that they don’t have a package that suits your business needs, you can simply ask them for a custom quote.

You don’t need to pay any extra for services you don’t really need.  

The best agencies employ a staff of professionals with mixed backgrounds and expertise. This ensures that your projects are executed more thoroughly and with a finesse that only comes with the decades of experience of their staff members.

There are other cases where you’d be better off working with an agency.

If you needed a specific type of services like case studies and white papers, some businesses have proven track records working with big companies. And that experience and expansive portfolio come at a steep price too.

Businesses like Case Study Buddy specialize in (as the name implies) case studies. And with each case study costing almost $2,ooo, backed up by referrals from different CEOs, you can be sure that you’ll be working with a professional agency that knows what they’re doing 

Different from Case Study Buddy is another marketing agency,  Haley Marketing, that offers a wide range of services ranging from social media, blogging, email (marketing), PPC, corporate identity, etc. With over 50 marketing professionals and 70 awards, you can be sure that you’ll get only the best service possible.

When working with agencies, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2500/mo to $50,000/mo on the Fortune 500 end. And that is only for strategy.

Popular designer, Chris Do, mentioned in one of his videos that his design agency charges $18,000 for a logo design and brand strategy. Funnily enough, Chris also mentioned that other designers charge significantly more. 

I mean.. Pepsi’s logo and rebrand cost a million(!) dollars.

Like I’ve said before, there’s less risk of things going wrong when you pay more. But at a certain price point, the value doesn’t justify the astronomical costs, unless you’re a large company with a deep purse.

A design platform like 99 designs can design professional logos for $500. Others will design a logo for $5,000.

My final advice is this: Set a reasonable budget and try to fit your content needs into it.

If you’re smart about who you work with, you’ll get good results. 


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