WriterAccess Webinar Archive
How to Price Quality Content
Thursday, September 27, 2012 – 1:00 PM ET
It's always nerve-wracking to fairly price services that are creative and unpredictable. The problem is that the writing market is not one-size-fits-all.
This month's webinar focuses on how to price quality content fairly. The projects we'll be discussing range from $10 blog posts to $50,000 writing projects backed by 300,000+ projects we've completed over the years. And we'll give you the summary on what we've learned, and how to arrive at a fair price based on best practices and general trade conventions.
You'll get the first copy of our new WriterAccess Guide to Projects and Prices that we're beta-launching the day before this event. We'll be inviting attendees (both writers and customers) to offer feedback on the new guide we'll send to all registered attendees. And we'll poll everyone in the Webinar as part of our beta launch. Special guest panelists will chime in and share thoughts and advice on our new pricing structure.
In this Webinar you'll learn how to...
- Determine the price of simple and premium orders
- Diversify pricing methods for different types of content
- Factor in the experience, expertise and research
- Make the case for fair prices and why you need to be firm
The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.
Bryon: Welcome everyone. I'm Byron White, and Casey is sitting in as well. I'm the founder of IdeaLaunch and WriterAccess, and I'm happy to be talking with today you on a touchy subject called pricing quality content and writing services. I'm joined today by Casey. Casey and I are going to walk you through some logic, and let you tune into a webinar on something we're quite passionate about. We've been working on how to price content for years. A couple of things upfront that I'll explain to everybody. Number one, I'd love to hear some input on the pricing guides that I sent you. If you have any questions, please list them. In the right column, there's a way to enter questions, and I'm just looking at a couple of them right now. We'll gang them all up at the end, and I'll walk everyone through the pricing or through any questions that anybody has. Second of all, I love getting feedback on these. You can either send me an email at Byron@writersaccess.com or Byron@idealaunch.com, or you can tweet me any information. It's really important that I hear both good news and bad news. It really motivates me. Without further adieu, I'm going to walk you through the presentation today.
This is the 34th webinar, I've given on the content marketing content topic. I'm going to begin this webinar with a quick spin on what content marketing is to get us all on the same page, and then, I'm going to talk a little bit about quality content. I've got a really short presentation today, and then we'll move over to conversation and ask Casey to dive into this and share some thoughts on what I've said and on the pricing guide I've handed out to everybody today. Then, we'll talk about how to price quality content.
What is content marketing? It is by definition listening to your customer's wants and needs. That is the hardest thing to do, and that's something that needs to be taken to the next level. I hope that someone on the phone can figure out a great way how to do that. We've seen focus groups of people, who are a small sampling of people, who are not necessarily engaged in the way that someone reading content would be. We've seen listening in to your own websites with search boxes. We've seen analytics become a player in listening customers are doing on your website, but how do we get under the skin of the target audience? That's something that we're going to need some breakthroughs on. It is certainly delivering content to them in a compelling way.
You're also going to hear me talk about the content asset portfolio being much larger, higher than it has ever been, and the question is, "How do you reach these customers?"—and it's very hard to do because they're orbiting it at high speeds. You need to catch them well after they leave your website, and you need to try to figure out how to keep them coming back for more with information that they want and need: downloads, deals, geotargeting offers, retweets. What do they like? what do they love?
What are they registering with you? That's a really hard thing to do, but it's a really critical element of content marketing. And of course, A/B testing and multivariate testing are key components in learning what causes people and motivates them to take action. A/B testing has its roots in direct mail, and it has been around quite some time so digging deeply into that science to see what works and what doesn't work is a critical element of content marketing. Conversation paths is something that very few people are in tune with, partly because the technology to trace conversation paths through a website is very expensive. What I'm referring to here is influencers like you're on the homepage of the website so you click on their blog and then go go buy their products and services. Some paths, perhaps, influence the decision that you make, and we're still newbies at that. There's really very little technology. Google has some path conversation technology that you can stream into content to try to gage influence of content, but that technology needs to be vastly improved so the path of engagement will also grow with interest, and of course, it's working with great writers who understand your goals. So what are your goals?
Number 2, how do you coach and train a writer to deliver on your expectations? You need to work with writers on how to engage with readers to keep them coming back for more ,and that involves experience, skill, style flex—I actually did webinar last month on style flex for those of you who were there, thank you, and for those that missed it, you can find a recording of all my webinars on Idea Launch. That's a quick introduction to content marketing.Let's dive a little deeper into quality content.
There's two quotes here that you can read, but actually creating quality content is very difficult to do, and we're going to go through some methodology on why that's the case, but the net of it is lots of complexities. You're going to see why it's becoming so difficult to deliver quality content to meet expectations. When we look at the traditional publishing workflow, it's gather ideas, create stories, and publish content. It's really very simple, flat. Typically, publishers were controlling the story and the media and the distribution channels and therefore had a very systematic approach, but what we see now is that the content marketing workflow is quite complex. It starts with a content planning process that involves competitive intelligence and keyword scouting and style guide development, auditing your current website, comparing it to your competitors. There's very strategic work that needs to be completed before any content can be created. Next, of course, content creation. Do a content audit. research topics, put together editorial calendars, sample content from different writers to find the style you like and finally, and you can create content. All the content needs to be optimized which is usually done upfront with the content plan and the SEO plan that you developed. Styles need to be developed, the content needs to be scored for SEO strength, verified for originality—need to avoid duplicate issues, popular now with Panda and Penguin. And there are other challenges that we need to face, building link popularity, both external and internal link popularity, optimizing your tags, your images—I'm only half way through talking about the content marketing workflow. I won't take the time to talk about the rest, but you get the idea. This is a complicated undertaking that involves multiple people, and it's very key to work through that.
What we're also seeing is the content asset portfolio is equally intense. No longer are we just publishing articles for publications but the content asset portfolio is greatly increased which means different types of writing need to be applied to different types of assets which adds complexity to the overall process of arriving at quality content and arriving at a fair price for it. We've seen writing styles need to be increased. I like to use the word style flex.Writers now are being asked to create content with a wide range of styles. the tone of voice is also critical. I am still finishing up the world famous writing style guide. We should be able to release that next week, and everybody will being getting a link. If you look at blog writing styles, there are more complexities for the writer to master, more styles; different types of blog writing are required for different types of blogs for different clients. These are all different tones of voice that are required to talk with different audiences, all of which are require different skills necessary for success. The specifications and requirements that clients are placing on writers are also changing these days, imposing grand value on content, addressing specific target audience, voice and tone, punctuation and syntax, editorial skills that are required by writers, industry jargon and expertise is required, different style selection as if you are picking off a menu, legal requirements could vary from customer to customer, and on top of all that, content creation is now involving search engine optimization which requires a whole different set of skill sets needed and demanded by the client for the final version of a content asset being created. Who's going to do that? Is the writer going to do that?
I was talking to a writer the other day, and he told me that he includes a link to a picture and a meta tag for every order that he writes in the notes field so he's providing some added value for free, and he asked me if he should keep doing that, and my answer was no, you shouldn't but maybe do it for the first time to see if they want that or need that, but you can see writers want their content to be useful to be found by the search engines. Performance goals have also changed. It's no longer, does the editor like the content; it's how is that content performing. If I'm publishing content on my website that I'm buying from some marketing platform or from freelance writers, is that content performing? What's the ROI? Is it improving my organic conversion rates? Is it engaging my clients? Is it driving more leads? Is it decreasing my user acquisition costs? What's going on with this content? Somebody's got to measure it and track it. Quick summary is that quality writing needs to do a lot of things: find the best content asset, style flex for the audience, align with brand position, speak the audience's language, offer consistent voice tone, perfect syntax, punctuation need to be spot on, adhere to requirements and order instructions, meet specifications, mind legal restrictions which can be one to five pages of things you can't say or do, and the net of it is that it all takes time, and it takes a workflow, and that's what's challenging about pricing content.
I think the biggest challenge now is educational training. Traditional education is stuck in the old school thought of bringing graduates in journalism onto the marketplace without some of the skills that I'm talking about. Creative writing used to be fun and interesting and engaging, but it's being ignored for some of these other requirements, but I think it's critical for engagement. I'm actually a fan of poetry and writing as some of you who listen to a lot of these webinars know, and I spend 60 percent of my day writing. Dozens and dozens of writers apply with us, and very few of them demonstrate these skill sets that I've talked about. Where is the curriculum going to go? Are their classes going to be taught on content marketing, PPC ad creation, engagement, analytics, tracking, I don't see that now at colleges and it's very concerning to me. Moving along, there's only a few slides left.
By now all of you have the writing pricing guides. We put a lot of time into it, a lot of people helped me Casey being one of them. A lot of people worked with me, and we cobbled together our assessment of what's happening in the marketplace and what needs to happen and trying to create an argument that writers and clients could use to create pricing for their content. Let me walk you through some of the methodology, and then I'll show you a few things that weren't in the guide that needed to be.
So the first thing, we tried to nail three pricing methods. Pay per word is the first one. It is popular, most of the online content sites that WriterAccess competes with use this as the core model. It's easy to place orders, low rates so attractive, light instructions that need to be filled out, and clients are using this for blogs and light material that is being used to fill that void that everybody needs these days to provide a steady stream of content on your website, namely to prove that you're alive, that you're worthy of being included on Google and the major search engines, you care about your customers wants and needs, and you're trying to address your customers wants and needs by providing them with content. so the pay per word model is working. We've built a business around it. The other option is pay per hour, and that's more traditional, typically aligned with in office work, rates are tailored with experience and requirements for compensation and there's hourly control of it and there's more instruction that needs to offered, mainly because you're in the office. Style guides can be created,and you can have feedback mechanisms right at your finger tips. I'm not saying that the online world can't work like this. It certainly does. but the perception is more control, perhaps a higher quality of work because you have more control. Pay for project is the most common for high end content being created. That is typically an out of office agency. Typically bids are required which means negotiation, and there is a content strategy involved so higher demands on what is being created. So those are the three vehicles for pricing that have been around forever, so the question is how can a company like WriterAccess change that? What can they do to level the playing field?
If we look at some of these options, I want to talk about pricing writing in a more holistic way. When we look at pricing an asset, we need to look at the complexity of producing that asset. Is it low to high? I've created a matrix which helps to define this complexity. On a side note, we added a complexity scaling to our pricing calculator about a year ago, but customers didn't understand it and they didn't use it. I think it's hard to do this in the online marketplace, but I think there's value to doing this. I look forward to your feedback so really assets needs to be looked at individually. How much SEO work is going to be required? Is this easy to find information? Can a generalist writer write this? Perhaps even interviews are required if you are writing a white paper. What's the target audience look like? Is it industry specific? What is the knowledge level of the reader? Is it general or specific? If you're writing to an audience who is highly knowledge, you need more experience to reach them. What is the style, is it journalistic or creative writing or some of the unusual styles we talked about last week? What kind of brand infusion is it? Do I need to know a lot about your company or just a little bit—that involves more time and research. How much persuasion or copywriting involved? Is it hard sales and therefore more copywriting needs to be involved. How are the instructions? Are they put together very clearly and precisely, instructions on exactly what they want. And how long does it take to absorb all of those instructions, again, more time is involved, and what is the engagement level that the customer wants? Is it high creativity or low creativity? Does it need to be clever? Does it need to be insightful? All of these things affect the price, and what we are imaging building is a matrix that forces you to highlight some of these things and go through the funnel and as you touch these things and you choose them, it moves you through a funnel to a fair price for the content that you want.
The next thing to look at when pricing writing is looking at things from the writer's perspective. What kind of experience does this writer have to justify higher hourly rates or additional compensation for their experience and insight and ability to transform content into something special? At WriterAccess, we have additional assessment tests that writers take. We can help gauger a star level or a star rating by those tasks initially. If a writer is having a bad time, maybe they can't answer some of those questions, but at least it a starting point. That's combined with a portfolio, and we manually assign a star level for all of our writers.
What is the SEO experience or knowledge level required to justify costs? Do they have experience in certain industries? Are they a published writer in a certain field? That becomes very interesting to us. We also look at their social media popularity. Do they have a lot of followers or fans? All of these factors affect how skilled the writer is and should have an impact on hourly pay. We're doing our best to promote the skills and the efficiency, but that's hard to do that when writers don't fill out their profiles, but the key thing that we do is the algorithmic formula we use in our scoring on our platform. Much like Angie's List makes you feel better when you hire a plumber who has good reviews, WriterAccess can make a customer feel better with some of our scoring and performance evaluations, and we think that our customers will feel better making purchases especially a higher end purchase because of the technological things that we've been able to do to ensure them that they're getting quality content. So what does all this add up to... probably an hourly rate in my opinion that would be fair. It would be great if we could run meters on all work being performed, and we could pay writers. Potentially, they may end up investing more into a project because it has greater complexity, and there's factors like that that make pricing difficult, but writing experience needs to be factored in that's the bottom line.
Other things that need to be considered in pricing quality content need to be: editing. I am a believer that paying a price for a content asset is one thing and very separate from paying a professional editor to edit that content. Even our professional writers from WriterAccess, ones who have been with us for years acknowledge and agree that a second set of eyes really need to look at their content and take it to the next level. Style smoothing, we call it. Getting a second set of eyes really raises the bar. I think that platforms like WriterAccess, Zeras, and Textbroker have historically fallen short with editing, and historically, the reason for that is that it is very difficult to pay an editor for their time. It's really more metered by the time than it is by the word because you just don't know what you are going to inherit. so editing needs to change, and I'm going to show you some ways that we're working on doing that. Optimization is another feature that needs to be considered. At WriterAccess, we have the ability for the customers to pop in keyword requirements and we check keyword density. If the customer wants us to, we can look at all kinds of things. We can highlight the keywords that we use. Keyword stuffing is something that Google is looking closely at, but those are other factors to consider, and rarely, is the performance of content getting back to the writer, which is another flaw. We're working on something called word vision that we're working furiously on for 2013 to get writers the feedback they need to write better articles.
I'm going to show you three slides of order forms that we launched yesterday to customers in sync with the release of the pricing guide. We want our customers to use these pricing guides. We want them to get in tune with fair market pricing, but we want our writers to be in tune with the reality that WriterAccess is an online writing market and customers are really enjoying the opportunity to get the content that they need created in our platform. The questions is how do we work together to raise the quality, or even lower it as is the case with these crowd orders. Crowd orders are interesting; the point is to send orders out to brand new writers that the customer doesn't select. This gives us the opportunity to send orders to new writers who want to prove themselves. One of the problems with WriterAccess and other platforms is that it is difficult to prove their worth and get to higher paying jobs. With crowd orders, WriterAccess and the writers take a ten percent hit, but the net of it is that new writers have the opportunity to pick up these orders. The next order form is the standard order form.Nothing changed with any of our prices, but the standard order form now has a part on it where you actually have to fill out the asset type and the industry. That allows our engines to pop in better sample order instructions for you. By gathering this information up front, we can help customer place better orders, and that is the hinge point on pricing content fairly. Some orders just don't have the proper instructions, but I'm going to talk about that in a second. But the big revelation with WriterAccess, an online marketplace that is committed to quality content, is that you can place a premium order. Here you can see that I can choosing a five star writer, white paper, 1500 to 2,000 words. We feel that a customer should be able to price this out at more than a dollar a word. By making this simple to customer and allowing them to add additional compensation, we hope our customers will find the ability to pay our writers fair compensation for additional assignments and work that they're asking writers to create. At WriterAccess, we're all about customers being able to price their content with the writer. We have in mail ability so that they can discuss the assignment together. We have conference call ability so that have a property platform that protects the personal phone numbers for each party, but at the end of the day, the customer enters their order Whether it is a crowd, a standard, or a premium, you have to provide more details than I showed you, but you have the opportunity to add premium additional compensation for something that deserves that. In addition, the premium orders have the ability to select no service, proofreading, junior editing, senior editing, or managing editing at a price that is filled out at an hourly rate for the work being done. Editors are capped at that amount of time, and our platform also allows the customer to see the before and after version of the content getting created so they can get the editing work that they need. We're building these into the platform because we think it is really important. Here are a couple of tips and then we'll move to conversion.
What are the motivators for writers? I have a blog post that everyone is going to see along with the survey that were sending out to writers asking what are your motivators? I think both writers and customers are going to see that it's not always money. We have an opportunity for customers to deliver post delivery compensation to the writers for work as well. Professional price negotiation, client recognition, peer recognition, public recognition are great motivators for writers. I think certainly algorithmic scoring motivates writers. They want to complete certain levels of assignments with certain ratings so that they can get up to the next star levels. I think professional communication between the writers and the clients is important to the writers. I wish someday I could provide a course to customers on providing quality feedback to writers, without beating up writers by being very critical of their work and balancing that on positive feedback. I think some customers lose sight of that, and it becomes difficult for them to motivate writers to work on other assignments to get past that negative response. Showing respect and fun and smiles, especially in communication can go a long way to motivating writers. Let's look for some feedback from writers on that. The online marketplace—a couple of tips for that. Clear and concise order instructions are essential, and a quick footnote on that: what we're seeing happening on premium orders that are being placed is that unless the proper instructions are provided, unless the writer has a high degree of certainty that they can meet the expectations, they aren't willing to pick up an order and complete it for the price that has been proposed and agreed to by both parties. the challenge becomes when the instructions aren't clear and the writer is left to guess work and has relative uncertain about whether they will be paid for an order because of ambiguity within the order, etc. so this is the biggest challenge that we all face in understanding that arriving at a price is affected by leaving proper instructions, and I think another big point in the pricing orders is onboarding new writers, and that means taking the time to provide constructive and positive feedback as they are on boarded for new projects and assignments and of course trying new writers to find the right style is another important element, and people were historically looking to casting call for that, and I was trying to explain why I don't think casting call is a good idea, and that is because unless you are selected you lose the opportunity so a customer may only want to hire one or two writers and thirty of them apply so there is a low probability of success. I am trying in the future to move trying writers out on the crowd order platform where you try out a new writers, and it's a better way to try writers. Even if you put the same order out to three writers to try them out, fairly compensating them, particularly if you're going with one of our new package which you can see loading up now. We have some site modifications going live, and we're going to try to sell more packages.
So a few more things on getting more consistent work for writers at fair market prices. I created a few wizards, and I think they are pretty worthy and savvy of being considered. The problem I am trying to solve with all of the wizards you are going to see is the problem writers have in interpreting what customers want and are asking for. That, to me, is the weak point, and I think if we can better that part of the process, we can get better work created and pay writers more with either additional compensation or with more premium orders being placed. The first wizard is called a creative brief wizard, and it was too heavy duty for customers. You can find it on the public version of our website or in the back end of the website for customers and clients who are working on the platform. Not only does it deliver and create a PDF with all these answers that you fill out but it also has some other interesting archiving opportunities in a file inventory where you create orders. So it has one type of file where you can create your creative brief with your product and your company, what type of assets you plan to order.
So they are great tools and great resources that can help align the goals of writers and customers. The next one I created was a style guide wizard. That's available as well as mentioned for everyone. I trimmed down the creative wizard a bit and wanted to get a bit granular with the assets being created so it's a little easier to fill out and it's not so intimidating. I thought that would be a winner, and it should be good to go by next week. Yep, I'm working on a lot of things. This is where you drag single phrases into boxes and paint a picture for a writer with optional instructions. I'm pretty excited about that, and the other thing we're tweaking on this is that we think we can help customers even more by asking what sort of asset they are creating. Ok, blogging so you can grab these keywords that help with creating that. We're working on cool stuff that will help better align everyone. There's my presentation, and I'm excited to open up the conversation and get some feedback. I'm going to look for some questions, and hopefully we can get some feedback. So, Casey, how are you?
Casey: I'm doing well. I think you took a very complex subject and presented a way of looking at it that I appreciate. I don't know if you want questions from the audience or some of my initial feedback.
Byron: Yeah, give me some initial feedback while everyone is gathering their thoughts and questions. Is there any slide you want me to go to that would be helpful in what you want to talk about
Casey: I wanted to know one thing in complexity of pricing writing services. I think if you look at per word in the bottom. Is that supposed to be 3 cents per word or 30 cents.
Byron: No, that is 3 cents, but if you'd like to pay... Oh, yes, I see what you're saying, that's 30 cents, sorry.
Casey: So, on this slide so the audience understands, I've worked with WriterAccess on different levels. I've managed content for clients that I've ordered on WriterAccess, and I've done some consulting with the style guides and the pricing guides, but separate from WriterAccess, I am a writer so I am going to be having a round perspective here and probably going to be coming from a few different angles on that. That said, as a customer I am looking at this and when you're looking at the different complexities that are involved in a different writing assignment, and you had another chart to show how well your writers are meeting each of these complexity categories. So I was curious when you're rating the writer based on star levels, what if their experience is two star in some areas, but five stars in other areas. So they aced the test, but they have general knowledge in other areas.
Byron: So the question is. what's the criterion for five star?
Casey: For a five star writer, they have to meet all of these criterion, and I'm assuming a two star writer would pretty much just have what we see here, but when we get into three star and four star, it seems like their experience vary. They would have some qualities of the five star writer but some of the two star writer, and it may not be precisely as you have listed here.
Byron: I would agree. I would describe the last year and a half of algorithmic development as one of the greatest challenges in proficiency assessment. To give you some of the ideas of the complexity which should give you some idea of what we do at WriterAccess. How should writers be penalized for having a bad day and creating some lousy content that got terrible reviews from clients? How should we deal with duplicate content, copyscape issues, verification infringements, and how should that affect star levels? How are star levels even aligned with hourly rates when the online marketplace wants to stay in this price per word mentality? Is anyone at WriterAccess currently making $75 an hour for their time? Yes, writers have been know to make that, I know for fact with premium orders that came along even before we had premium orders and that had super rush deadlines. Keep in mind that we've been doing this for 12 years now. These are complex issues, Casey, and it's tough to generalize about a star level, but we've drawn the line in the sand and are currently going to put a lot more weight, moving forward, before the end of the year on client reviews. Our clients right now have three choices. Was it below my expectations? Did it meet my expectations, or did it exceed my expectations? To increase your star level with our algorithm, it really mattered how many assignments you completed at your star level. Once you completed that many, you became eligible to raise your star level and be eligible for the next star level up, and once you went through x level of assignments at that level, you could raise it again. I don't think that's the right approach. I don't think quantity is the right away to evaluate star level. I think instead client reviews need to have a lot more weight in whether you are ready to get higher assignments. There is some give and take we need to have with writers if we're going to justify those $75 rates, because frankly, not every 5 star writer is justified in claiming a $75 hour rate in every imaginable topics. Some writers are only experts in certain topics so that's another factor that needs to play in. Maybe you are only a star level on certain topics. You're proven, published, you have recommendations. These are just some of the complexities that we need to sort out. Does that answer your question?
Casey: Inherently, there's a complexity here, and that matrix helps to simplify it. I've worked with clients who have a good grasp of this complexity, and they tend to be bigger marketing firms, larger companies who understand that the more time they spend clarifying these areas, the better quality they are going to get that's more align with their goals, but I've also worked with clients that are new to this thing, and something like this could be extremely overwhelming unless they are working with a content manager. So I'm wondering about those clients who haven't done this before, what are the key areas that you recommend that they focus on to know what type of writer to hire. You mentioned that the creative brief was a little bulky. Have you through that process identified any specific areas that a customer should focus on.
Byron: Yeah, it's a classic Casey question that has complex answers. I have a question for you about that question, and it comes from a question someone else asked me, and I want your answer for it. So here it is: "Byron, I am very pleased to see your in depth analysis of pricing and truly enjoy spending most of my time writing for WriterAccess. Do you see concerns with the low rates your competitors are charging their customers compared to your substantially higher rates. For example, Medium Project's ten cents per word is several times higher than TextBroker, Constant Contact and others charge. Are you concerned that your price points will scare potential customers away?" This is wonderful, it is a concern from our writers that customers will be scared away as we try to move the bell curve up. The customers need to really understand what they are buying and how much time is involved in producing the work they're demanding.
The biggest concern for me is not the prices that we're going to pop up because we're going to continue with crowd orders and standard orders, but those orders are much less than the 30 cents or dollar per word that we charge on other orders. We don't demand those rates on standard orders. What we're trying to do is take premium orders, and we're trying to become the signature place on the web where you can order this premium content. We're also trying to educate customers on what they need to do to get a high quality piece produced. and to me that's the problem. We spent a lot of money and time on trying to launch voice recordings because your voice can communicate a lot of what you need and want on a project. We have two ways customers can communicate with their voice what they want. One is with a digitally recorded voicemail that they can attach to an order and send to a writer to listen to and second of all is a conference call. I think that's the wave of the future. If you're going to have a white paper created by an agency... We have a one hour kick off call. We learn the intricacies of their business, we talk with them, they send us a bunch of stuff, there's a trust. They are trusting us, and they are going to pay $5,000 for a white paper. They need it in three weeks, and it's two or three thousand words, and they need a managing editor on it and one writer. They need interviews with their customers. It's a heavy duty piece. Why shouldn't we be able to do that at WriterAccess? I believe we are trying to facilitate a platform that that can be done, but customers need to pay for that service. That's a complex order and one that requires a lot more attention. We know how to do it. We have experience. I want to be the leader of the market place that produces a lot of content each month, solid blog posts, paying fair compensation to our writers which I believe we do, but I also want to give opportunities for writers to raise their bar and go to the next level.
Casey: I researched a lot of different companies before coming to WriterAccess, both for my clients and for my own information as a writer, and there were several that on the surface looked good, but when I looked for additional verification with the BBB, they couldn't verify it. There were others who couldn't verify that they had US-based writers or native English speaking writers or any sort of testing to verify writer quality so I think that it's hard to compete if you are thinking about the clients who are unaware of this and are just shopping price. They are not going to see value, but if you shop on value, and you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your content and you have some idea on what it takes to produce that, then these prices are based on the value proposition, and they are justified. Sometimes it's a matter of educating the client, and I think these tools are a good start.
Byron: Let's go to questions. Thanks, Casey. Awesome feedback and insight. Somebody had a good question on the engagement row. They wanted to know how we're quantifying creativity on this. In my mind creativity and engagement will be dependent... it may be, I need the writer to create some charts, or even better, drop in some aphorisms or some other complex creativity that would add some engagement levels to the content being created. I would like somebody to give me some feedback on whether this complexity chart should be the pricing guide. My vote is yes it should. I think its a cool way to summarize how you should price something so I look forward to your feedback on that.
Casey: I have something to say on the engagement issue. I think that there are analytics that need to be developed to better assess how content is performing. That means that the writer has to have access to those analytics. Even if the customer is doing everything right, the writer doesn't know if their content is performing or not. Additionally, it is really hard sometimes. Let's say you have a blog article, and you have at the bottom of your blog, your social share buttons, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and so on, and you're measuring engagement with that social stream so that's sort of a rudimentary way of keeping track of whether or not things are working for you. If I write an article for you and you see a high level of engagement that could be because of your efforts of your client. You could have designed a beautiful website, you could be manually sending people to that blog. There are facets beyond my writing that affect that. Conversely, if you are not seeing a high level of engagement it could be linked to other things. It becomes hard for the writer to want to link the quality of our work to the metrics being used by the client unless there is assurance that what we're doing is being measured correctly. So when you talk about engagement, the bottom line is really who is purchasing the content and how engaging they think it is.
Byron: I agree. It's a painful reality, but I think the secret sauce behind quality writing is whether it delivers engagement. Does it deliver aha moments? Is it fun to read? Is it engaging? Do you want to share it with other people, much like you share an image or an interest? Engagement is everything, and we're getting a lot of places with metrics, but I want to get to some of these questions. They are really good.
So this is a good question from a customer. Why can't we select both crowd orders and five star writers in a list that we have developed? We want those crowd orders to go to new writers or to a crowd. It goes to new writers first and to the crowd second. That's where you can find writers to send to your love list. You've earned that privilege to send work to your love list. If you want a ten percent discount, you've got to try the crowd. We're trying desperately to send work out to new writers because they need credentials to end up being selected because customers see that they haven't finished any orders yet so we want to give them that chance.
Is the power point available on your presentation? Yes, go to WriterAccess after the webinar.
I am a writer currently rated at a three. Since I started at WriterAccess, I have spent ten months at an agency, and I have raised my SEO strategy, how can this ever be reflected at WriterAccess. That is a real challenge. Let me think deeply about that Amy. I think that's something that happens when you're a writer and you're constantly advancing your career, and the platform doesn't give you a space to express that.
Casey: I think what's interesting is that you have that drag and drop wizard. Could you have something like that with writers qualifications? So the customer can see.
Byron: I keep thinking of Angie's' List and validation. If a writer is out making $50 a hour at an SEO firm and can validate that, why can't we get that information from them? Why can't we call and validate that?
Here's a great question from a tech writer. how can you rate a tech writer with excellent experience, this combines not only authoring but technical ability to manage content. First of all, we need to do a much better job in measuring the proficiency of tech writers in general. I think tech writers have had a poor platform from which they're represented, but that's partly the fault of people like me who are not out there building new methodologies to evaluate the proficiencies of tech writers so give me some time on that, but I can tell you that they have a future in general and on the web in particular. Tech writing is hard to find, and it is in high demand. Therefore we should be doing a better job, but there are so many different skill sets to evaluate you in. There are so many different topics to evaluate you in, and with the expansion of mobile, it's really hard. I hope that answers your question, but I'm on your bandwagon. Send me some personal emails that say "how's that tech marketplace going, Byron."
Will product page content for e commerce always fall in the low complexity category? Good point. given the tight merchandising budget with online retailers, how do you think your rates align with their strategy depending on product versus revenue for product. The problem is most ecommerce platforms have so many products that product descriptions are like a commodity for them. We have customers who have put in thousands of orders for product descriptions, and they have had multiple writers working on them. That has problems with consistency in tone and style and voice, and they have had to bring on an editor. It depends on what the product is and other variables, but I think that for specialty products, I think you the writer should be demanding a higher price point and a higher star level selection for high quality product descriptions. Maybe that offers some thought for you.
Here's one that says no writer makes a living at $75 an hour. I don't know what they're saying. I know writers who make a living at $25 an hour, or are they saying that no writer at WriterAccess makes that. I hope they are writers making more than that. Step into an ad agency that moves small mountains and writers make more than $75 an hour, and you will see content writers making a lot more than that. I'm not sure what your position is on that.
Casey, feel free to chime in. I'm just trying to work through these quickly.
I can see the fact on factoring in customer reviews more heavily, but perhaps you can give them more visible or mandatory fields for having them post comments after receiving an order? Spot on, I have this thing called additional compensation, but we are not asking them if they wish to write a review, but I think it can be used to say what sort of words do you want to pass on to your writer and that can be a big motivator. Spot on,Allen, for that comment, I think you hit the nail on the head.
Good spot here for you to take leadership position to get rid of low cost competitors. Writing is like anything else, you get what you pay for. To get back to another writers comment, we want to get the word premium in front of people, and we stewed for a long time over that wording. We thought maybe it could be something that was just put on bulk orders. We thought maybe you just want to pay a standard writer more and then, we thought, no it is a premium service and you need to pay more for that. I like the leadership position, but I don't want to stop paying hundreds and hundreds of writers what we pay them. I like being the leader by having things like this webinar to explore those topics.
Casey: For those who are not writers, the $5 articles are often outsourced. They are contracted to people who are not US-based and not native speakers. They are spun so you have seven articles created using the content that was created, or they might not be taken through copyscape so you are getting duplicate content. That's what gets sold to the customers. I had a lot of clients who started that way and realized it wasn't to their advantage, and originally, they purchased them because they wanted something for the Google algorithms, but with the Panda release and the Penguin release Google is becoming more and more savvy about these things, and I think the market is going to sort itself out. These articles will not serve the purpose of the algorithms, and they certainly don't serve the purpose of the people reading them.
Byron: Exactly, and we're going to be having a discussion in three to six months as a group about attribution and where it is going. Right now, it is first name and initial of all these writers. I hope there is a day where we can display and be proud agent for writers just like illustrators have agents who represent a small body of illustrators. I hope we can take it to that level and have a small body of great writers who want to work exclusively for us and send their clients to WriterAccess to negotiate rates. That's where I want to go, but back to your comment on Google and Panda and Penguin, Casey, great comment.
For a writer that said, I am incapable of producing low research and low quality work and I want to be with a platform that accepts that, quality to me is the most important. I am appreciative of these discussions, and I want to grow with the company. Thank you for that comment, and I respect the challenge you have. I have literally been embarrassed about the pricing feature on WriterAccess for a year and a half. We bring in these customers. with really low pricing for content, and the customers are not seeing the premium order forms on the pricing until today.
We are now going to go public with the reality that you can order a crowd order, a standard order, or a premium order. It is time to go public with the fact that WriterAccess can produce quality content, and for someone like Wendy, that is what she is interested in and that is all she is interested in. So hats off to Wendy for not wanting to do the lower tier stuff, but we have to offer it all to be competitive to follow the dream we have of being a major content player in the world. Let's start with the United States and see what we can accomplish there with middle tier writing, and when I think top tier, I think Demand Media which is publicly traded, and I don't think Demand Media is producing that great of content. I want WriterAccess to be more of a boutique that's capable of producing those two thousand to five thousand dollar white pages or the home page content rightfully priced at $1,000 even though it's 200 words. That's what I've been involved with in my twenty five years in the advertising business, and that's what we're working with.
Can writers have control over how content is performing when clients pick the keyword and stipulate how many times it is used? Some clients insist on keyword stuffing? Good point. No, to answer your question, Monica. What I am hoping is that word vision is a free tool we give to all of our customers, and customers will have the opportunity to bring writers into word view to see how their content is performing. Stay in tune with us, we may have a revolutionary advancement for content performance, and by the way, anyone can take a free look at word vision at any time. Just know that we're looking at some stuff there, and we want to launch that as a free service to the 3,000 customers we have with WriterAccess.
Are writers expected to create content for infographics or actually designing graphics? No, we think WriterAccess should be narrowly focused on content creation and not graphics or other such things. That's not to say we're not looking at that industry because it's a good complement for writing.
Byron: Casey, any concluding strokes of pure genius you want to add.
Casey: In summary, I just think that the more educated the clients are and the writers are about these issues and the better you can improve that communication and the clearer the value of the product becomes, the easier it is to price it.
Byron: It is all about simplicity and education is the key. Hopefully, the price guide gets passed around. I am hoping writers convince customers to download it, and hopefully it is a starting point. Thanks, Casey, for joining us.
Casey: Thank you.
Byron: Thank you for joining us. It makes me happy. Just see if you can get me any feedback, and thanks again for tuning in, I hope you are a little smarter, faster and wiser now on the topic of pricing.