WriterAccess Webinar Archive

Pricing Writing the RIGHT Way

Thursday, December 19, 2013 – 1:00 PM ET

When it comes to pricing writing services, haggling is a drag. Both writers and clients struggle with fair compensation. The big challenge is this: What should you expect when you pay more?

Host Byron White will share the best methods for pricing writing services that vary with quality, complexity and visibility. By registering alone, you'll receive a PDF copy of Byron's new book Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide, offering all the specifics, tactics and examples you need to remove the guesswork when pricing writing services in 2014.

Register Now and Get All This

  • PDF Copy of Byron's New Book
  • Examples of What You Get for More $
  • Link to the Recording of the Presentation
  • Peace of Mind Pricing Writing Services

Slidedeck Download

The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.

Video Transcription

Byron: Welcome everyone, Byron White here. I appreciate everyone joining in, especially with the holidays. Hope everyone has a safe and happy journey getting wherever you're going, and more importantly, have some fun and laughter and everything that the holidays bring with them.

I'm especially excited to send off this year with a webinar that should have an impact on all of our careers in 2014. Taking on this challenging topic, pricing writing services, I can assure you, being in this industry right now, and in the content marketing space for about thirteen or fourteen years, I can tell you that there are great challenges and it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page when it comes to the value of quality content, what you should pay for it and other variables that come into play.

So we're going to take on some of those challenges, and a couple of general rules about today's presentation: first of all, I'm the only presenter, and secondly, I'm going to move through this fairly quickly because I would love to hear some feedback on the presentation. I'm sure you're all excited about getting hold of my new book, which is going to come to you after the recording. I'm looking at the PDF right in front of me now, which I will perhaps show you as we go into the Q&A session so that I can point you to some things that might relate to some of your questions. But I'm really hoping that everyone asks some questions about this challenge that we're all faced with.

One more thing, everyone will be getting not only a copy of a book, but I'm also going to send you a link to a recording of the presentation which will be available later today, so if we can just start streaming through this at this point: Essentially what we're going to do today is break this up into a three-phased approach.

First of all: what are clients expecting when they pay more? What do they look for, what do they want? Let's all get on the same page with regards to client expectations.

Second: we'll dive into what writers need in order to deliver the high quality content that clients demand.

Only then can we bridge the gap and hopefully all get on the same page and go through some pricing which, believe it or not, I've written a book on the subject, which you're about to receive, where I've broken pricing down into two slides so that you can get an idea of what elements of style and tone and content itself you would pay more for if you were to deliver to that level of satisfaction. So hopefully this deck will be helpful for everyone.

So let's dive into our customer's needs, here. It all begins at our lower two and three star levels, with work that simply must need some very basic punctuation and grammar guidelines. We won't dwell on that, I think we all know what that means, but we take that very, very seriously at a marketplace like ours: if you're a five star writer submitting work with serious grammar and spelling errors, then that is almost subject to immediate termination, one could say, and I hate to use that word at such an early stage, but it really is unacceptable. Every professional writer has a responsibility to run their work through spellchecks and other software that takes mere seconds to meet various guidelines, but there are some exceptions to this, and that's what's so interesting about this slide.

For instance, if it's a copywriting assignment, or content that needs a personal style to reflect upon somebody that you are performing personalized writing services for, that might vary. Good copywriting tells a story as if it were being told, it does not necessarily adhere to Chicago or AP style, so we need to keep that in mind and balance the goals and look closely at what content we're creating.

Let's go to accuracy and relevancy: is the content accurate, is it relevant, is it correct? Does it meet the user's needs? Does it solve problems or answer questions? This is something that is, once again, difficult to pull out from content. Is a writer to read the client's mind? We're doing some interesting work with one particular client who wants all of their titles that they're sending writers to be in the form of a question. We're seeing that more and more, now. We're also seeing Google results where you're starting to see super-long phrases, even questions and sentences being dropped into the technology. On our content planner, for example, over at WriterAccess, there's a new feature where we're pulling out information: anything that starts in Google with who, what, why, when or how, you can type in a keyword for instance like garden, and the most popular phrases surface to the top, like "how to make a raised garden." Go figure that that's the most popular long-tail keyword phrase, but that's something that I think is quite interesting with regards to whether content is meeting the measurement of accuracy and relevancy and how that orders position. Food for thought.

So, is it evergreen content, or is it better to be more topical and time relevant? All these things are more difficult to produce and would raise the quality of the content.

Let's look at clarity and the overall flow of the content: can the reader understand the content? Does the content flow, logically and coherently? We see hundreds of revision notes, where some of this data was pulled: what are people complaining about with content? What are their problems with it? So we tried to pull some of the core elements here from revision requests that we're seeing as orders come back to writers without proper instructions.

Excellent word choice is a big deal as we carry forward here, and word selection is one of the key elements which raises overall quality standards: is it concise, is there a good flow to it, is it clever? Is it interest-driven? These are some of the elements that fit with this particular topic area. Regarding word choice, is there an attention grabber that pulls in the reader? Does it work well, is it organized, is there structure to it? Is it easy to read and follow? These are the elements that make this content engaging and help us push this through.

With poor decisions on the writers' part, with the content they're creating, you see poor word usage, theme repetition, articles start to look the same as if it's been manufactured in a factory. As you raise the quality standards here with all these elements, you need to be careful about that repetition. What elevates it, what makes it more valuable, what do our customers want? Well, they want stronger words and clever surprises and mastery of the language and these elements that you will find articulated in detail in the book that you're going to get.

So, creativity and readiness are probably the last category worth taking a look at. Obviously, a writer's aptitude and experience that allow them to create work that is engaging and interesting and keeps readers coming back, that is an art. Our clients are beginning to ask for that and place premium orders paying writers for that creativity and for that readiness. Readiness is a critical element in judging whether a writer has met or exceeded or failed that expectation level. We're up to four or five hundred thousand orders now and every one of them is rated: meet, exceed or below expectations. We have the data to let us know what is below expectations, and that "readiness to publish" is a critical element.

It's tough to learn that, you can't read a customer's mind to know what makes a piece ready to publish, but by the end of this presentation, you'll learn some of the secrets that we've learned over the years.

The creativity, the playful word choice, the polished structure, is it easy to comprehend, and does it have what I call snap, crackle and pop.

Content needs to snap, crackle and pop if it's going to reach the ultimate goals of being engaging and getting passed around and shared.

Over at WriterAccess we have a whole new tier called premium orders. First of all, they have a very different price point. The standard orders range from two to nine cents a word. The premium orders start at ten cents a word and go up to a dollar per word. We have three different types of premium orders: copywriting orders, journalism orders and tech writing orders.

Let's tackle premium copywriting orders, first. For that highre level quality that you're buying, is it straightforward and logical, is it easy and painless for the reader to follow, were analogies used, is the copy something I can relate to, are there smooth transitions, is the word flow effortless, is there a clever and creative twist that isn't too forced, which is a problem that we see all the time, and does it have that snap, crackle and pop?

Remember that copywriting is a very different animal. When pricing copywriting, as well as research or tech writing, you need to look at several variables: how complex is the topic, how much research is involved, do I have the knowledge to right about this topic, how visible is the topic? Are messaging and branding an important factor? That's how creative work needs to be priced out, with consideration to visibility and creativity, so when we look at this question of "should I pay more?" we need to look at these outside variables.

So what do we see when we look at high quality work, more towards a dollar a word? Well it's logical, articulate, easy to comprehend, good word choice, good analogies, mastery of the topic, it's elegant, it's easy to read, we see more conversions. At the lower tier where writers have not grasped this higher level of ability, it can be confusing, misleading, harmful to the brand or can even reference the competition, which we get a lot with assignments that are placed. It's remarkable to me that in blog posts writers feel a liberty to talk about the other brand, but writers need to understand that when you mention the competition, it literally raises the blood pressure of clients that are reviewing the work. There is a fine balance, but the point of most copywriting, and writing intended to sell, motivate and convert, is in talking about the distinctions between one company and another.

Tech writing is also quite interesting. Very difficult section of the book for me to create. I'm not a tech writer, myself, but I did get some great support in looking closely at the elements of tech writing with the hundreds of tech papers that I've helped to produce for customers. Vocabulary has to be aligned with the reader's proficiency. The writer needs to have a higher aptitude with the topic in premium tech writing. You really need to know how to talk to the target audience and balance the vocabulary with the reader's needs and expectations when reading the content. There's a fine distinction between simply displaying the facts, features and benefits of a product or service, versus flowing that into a story and getting well beyond that. Is the process explained clearly? That can vary considerably from paper to paper. We're also seeing storytelling beginning to make a play in tech papers. We've completed some tech papers where the customer has asked for a storyteller, a copywriter, to get into the mix, pairing a storyteller/copywriter/journalist with a product specialist or tech writer.

So what do we see with tech writing, what are the quick buzzwords? Well you need appropriate terminology, are the facts correct? You want to tell, perhaps, a mini-story. Then there are other elements: is it logical, is it professional? I love this concept of behind the scenes. I think really good tech papers let the reader believe that they are looking behind the scenes of the project, getting udner the skin of the entrepreneurs that created this technology. It's a great storytelling angle by default and commands that higher value of a dollar a word or more. Visual recommendations, any good writer has an obligation to recommend charts and graphs. I think tech papers desperately need relief of that nature, particular if there isn't a story behind the technology at hand. And of course, polish, humor and punch are elements that you'd find.

Premium journalism: I've had a lot of experience in this space, working with storytellers for many years even before starting IdeaLaunch and WriterAccess, well back to the first company I started, Freelance Access, representing journalists, copywriters, designers, illustrators and lots of other interesting people in a company that grew very quickly thanks to innovation we brought to the table regarding match making. This storyflow concept was always extremely important in understanding the ability of the writer, their ability to create that story and draw you in with a compelling lead. Storytelling is a real art that is beginning to surface again as we are pumping out this massive volume of content for our customers and readers. We need to look at the flow of this content and make it work.

Is it clever? Is it captivating? Is it full of creative twists? Does it offer comparisons or analogies that pique our interest? Does it feature a cast of characters? Is there a protagonist and an antagonist? These are the elements that we know make up great storytelling, and it's hard to understand the quality of it until you see it.

Is there a good theme? Themes are huge with regards to journalism. There are so many different palletes that journalists can work off of, selecting the right theme and pallete for a story. Stories have different ways of being told, so how was it told?

The real challenge now: Great, I get it, I need to understand the needs of clients, but how can a writer deliver that high quality content? What it comes down to is a creative brief. We have created this brief at creativebriefwizard.com, a fabulous research you all can go to, set up as a white label solution. It is not connected to IdeaLaunch or WriterAccess except for the logo, which we just put together with our typeface. The creative brief is a great resource for you as a writer or client to fill out order forms. It dives into the critical elements of what a writer needs in order to be successful.

We'll walk through some key elements for writers to understand the assignment.

Interestingly enough, most companies want to go to company description first. What we usually get with those descriptions actually isn't very helpful with regards to the writer creating this content that you need. We don't get the sense of a story that can be told, the DNA of your company unless we go look at your website or branding. Are you a new player? Are you established, growing? Are you an industry leader? These are difficult things for you to summarize and get out to a writer, but they are essential and critical if we start looking at this mantra and DNA.

We want to hear product and service descriptions as well as your value proposition and perhaps some competitive analysis to see where you stand apart, but this is less important than distinction and what follows: Who are the readers of your content? We like a seperate brief filled out for every type of content that you want created. It's going to vary from a blog to a white paper to simple copy for your website, so all of these answers should be very different from asset to asset based on who the readers are.

If the readers are the same across the board, there may be a case for differences in tone and style, but you could be missing an opportunity to flex your muscle and creatively engage readers who are orbiting at a high speed, trying to catch them by not bending your copy.

So what do you know about your readers?

Perhaps the most difficult question that I get is: how do I find out what the wants and needs of my customers are? It's difficult, but we're getting smarter and better at that by tracking where our customers are going, learning what they read, how they operate, what influences their decisions, looking at our analytics, keyword searches.

We're getting signals, but true branding specialists are digging very deeply and developing personas. We can ask customers to describe three or four different types of clients that they work with, what do you know about them? What's their age group, their demographic? This is a part of the creative brief that you'll find: who is your target audience? Knowledge seekers? Customers? What's the comprehension level, newbies, basic, or gurus? This can greatly influence the type of content that you would create.

We created the brief wizard to let agencies offer a nice, safe harbor to their customers and then fill them in with more color and detail for each customer that we're creating content for.

So what's the objective of the content? Try to describe it if you can. Again, very different goals: motivate sale, entertain and engage, repeat visitation, a series of stories, building a brand. These goals guide content in very different directions. We've stripped it down to a simple box with a few different choices on it to make it easy fill that out.

Tone and style is very complex. First of all, what kind of writing is it? General writing? Copywriting? Journalism? Tech writing? Pick a favor, and maybe blend some of them. You might mix general writing with a flair of copywriting. Maybe some blog posts, a few of which announce a new product line or drive you to a landing pitch. Those are key elements.

What's the voice? Second, third person? What are the elements of style, and what are the formatting requirements that will change how the writer constructs the piece? There are almost too many choices in the brief wizard, but checking off what resonates with you, as the person ordering the content, it removes a lot of the guesswork and lets writers really hone in on what you want from them.

Formatting is something that we'll start to get very creative on as we move forward into 2014. I think formatting is interesting particularly with images and callouts and quotes and pullouts of the content. I see our writers having to do more work in the formatting area and therefore being paid more moving forward. Headlines have always been important, but I think we need to get deeper than that. We need to call things out or perhaps highlight things so people can skim-read. We're also seeing, even now, with our robust technology, customers are placing orders for say a blog posts, but they'll also get a Twitter post, a Facebook post, a question that the blog will answer, a post to the FAQ section. There's a lot that you can do with content, and the writer needs to understand those goals if they're going to deliver to those expectations.

In additional information there's a lot more that one could learn, and you need to make decisions on how much data to give to a writer. It's not about dumping information on a writer on a simple three star SEO blog post, it's about expecting more when you pay more, and how can you get what you expect?

In higher end orders there are sourcing requirements and things to avoid, legal restrictions. There are SEO requirements, our platform supports optimization, of course. We need to make sure our keywords are placed in order, we check keyword density for clients who want to stay below a certain SEO target goal. There are also research instructions and even editing instructions. Many customers are ordering content with proofreading or editing service, and they can write in: what should the editor be looking for?

It can even be good for a writer to see what the editor is looking for. Perhaps we could have mandatory editing instructions so that a writer can look at how their work is judged.

Copyright infringement rules. An extremely tricky topic, because it is not always crystal clear, in the marketplace, what exactly constitutes copyright infringement. If I'm a writer doing research and trying to spark some interest in some ideas on a topic and create a three or four star article, I surf the web and find a great resourceful area, and they have, let's say, five tips for windsurfing, what if I take those five ideas and rewrite my own version, is that infringement? Have I infringed on someone else's ideas? That's an interesting debate, and customers will have to make that decision.

At the same time, if you're a writer, research the topics, the ideas, but don't steal five ideas flat out. Decide with your expertise and knowledge of the readerbase and instructions and develop content appropriately.

In 2014 we'll see more instructions with specific rules for research and copyright, so make a note of that, and I'd love to hear some feedback on this.

Finally, we arrive at samples.

The secret sauce that we all can gravitate towards to truly understand what the expectations are for content that is being created: if you can provide not only the sample, but what you like and don't like, commenting on the parts that you want to emulate, or what you would like to change about the content, where you'd like to improve it, that is ultimately the guide that our writers are looking for. Hopefully, what this book is going to do for everyone is give you concrete examples of excellence at various stages and price points, and an explanations of elements in that particular sample for what was paid.

Let's see how we pull this all together. How do we get customers on the same page, leaving a few minutes for some Q&A. First of all, I know that some clients in our pool of five thousand are willing to pay for higher quality.

Exactly how much more are they willing to pay?

For content assets that are accurate, spelled correctly, and so on, a couple cents per word. That's the type of content being created in our market. These are standard orders, two cents to nine cents. So, if the standard order has solid sentence structure, some variation so it doesn't look like it was created in an automated manner, then we can go a couple more cents. There's a nice improved flow, it's worth of a little bump per word. If there's strong organization, clarity, if it's solid with good word choice, we can go a couple more cents, so we're now in the six cents range with elements worth a little more pay. What pushes people up to five stars is creativity and engagement that you get when you read it. That's what you get with an experienced writer who's able to create content that reads well, no errors, and it has that zip, that snap, crackle and pop.

So that's really about it. It's stripped down. You'll see that in the book.

Now we go to premium orders, where you see a lot more elements.

In the book we've broken out premium order examples at the ten cents, twenty five cents, fifty cents, seventy cents and a dollar per word, so we have five examples with copywriting, tech writing and journalism samples. So when you place orders at these levels, you get examples of what you get when you pay more.

So what are some of these elements?

Mastery of the topic and the content is clearly demonstrated towards the dollar-a-word range. Conversiveness, motivating a customer to buy with high-end copywriting. Those skills can get under the skin of the target audience, which demands fair pay. Creativity, elegance, professionalism, all elements of premium writers that we should expect.

But, as a writer, you also need to stand out. You need the appropriate tools to reach that dollar level with all of these variations.

Now we can move on to quality content, snap, crackle and pop.

The bottom line is that content that snaps really has these elements where readers can quickly understand the value proposition and why it matters.

Content crackles when readers smile or laugh or react in some way to the content, hopefully in a personal way. It's connecting with them. Again, this is an art, getting under the skin of the target audience, knowing what makes them tick.

Content pops when it converts, inspires action, or you could argue, when it entices people to come back for more. This is when your reader visitation goes up. When it has that pop to it, people arr coming back.

These are the elements that we need to focus on moving forward. If your content snaps, crackles and pops, then it needs to command that higher price.

So, how do you make that happen, if you're both a writer and a client? Well I have some thoughts on that. After many years in the industry, my first thought is: this is almost a personality match, certainly with writing style and customer expectation. The best way to make that personality match is to test writers and run a contest, to onboard writers with clients the right way and likewise clients with writers. So with all of the plus service writers that we bring on, we encourage, applaud and pay for writing contests.

Here's how it works: You tell a writer that they're involved in a contest, you disclose that to them with full transparency and say "I'm looking to build a pool of writers and would like to get a feel for your style. Please take a look at an assignment, we'll have many going forward as we welcome you to the team. Simply complete the assignment as you normally would."

You set that up and then, boom, the writer completes the work.

Critical to the contest is to give that writer the opportunity to revise that content so that there is a level playing field where everyone can come up with version two. This is critical, as writers often do have to guess at what you like and don't like, instructions may not be adequate, and it's hard to learn what your company's DNA is, your expectations, with just a few projects, so revisions can be an important part of the process.

Through that initial experience, you can probably find a pretty good match to take it to the next level and create some additional content. This can save a lot of time. We have a lot of clients who come in and place ten articles for one writer that they'll find themselves, and they'll get all ten back and not like the work, so we're all stuck.

We solve that problem with contests where we pay for the content, and we don't mind eating the costs for a serious client who has a long term vision. We never ask writers to do free work, but we need to match them with the right clients, and vice versa.

The next thing to get excited about, from my perspective, is premium certification. We've created premium certification tests for copywriters, tech writers and journalists. We're opening these tests to our pool of talent so that they can earn this badge by passing the test and maintaining a five star level, making writers eligible for premium work that goes from ten cents to a dollar a word.

We want our testing brought into the equation to give our customers validation that these writers are at the premium level of ability. Good luck to everyone taking these tests, as they are very hard, but we need our customers to know that we are very serious about creating premium, quality content for the customers ordering that work.

I really appreciate your support for these webinar segments. Thanks everyone for your continued interest in what we're doing.

I'm now going to look over the questions and see if anyone is asking anything, and if not, we'll send you off to your holiday wrapping up so that you can spend more time with your family.

Q: Do you have any type of study guide, for certifications?

A: Excellent question, thank you Shari. No... I don't. That's a good question. I think my book will help you to set sail, and we're looking at a couple of certification companies to get access to training programs for both writers and clients. We don't even have study guides for the initial screening tests, so sorry about that.

Q: Thanks for the comment on the webinars, some are thin on content, this one wasn't, thank you so much. When do you plan on having certified writers available?

A: Any writer, right now, can take these tests, because we're looking to get a whole range of tests available and get a sampling of the difficulty of these tests that we've engineered, so we wanted as many people as possible to take the test to collect that data. I would go back and take a look at that, but we're ready to certify five star writers that do well on the test, to give you your badge. We want you to be put to work and test you not just with this initial screening test, but with performance with customers, because that's what matters in the end.

You need to qualify with the initial screening, but you need to perform well and do well. Thanks for the question.

Q: What is the link to your PDF download?

A: Writeraccess.com/WritingSkillGuide

Feel free to share it.

Q: Will you have sub-certifications by industry?

A: We do have industry-certified badges. Yes, is the short answer. We will have a new badge for Industry Elite, is what we will call it. Once you've finished enough products in an industry, you will receive an Industry Elite badge that looks like the Premium badges. It's in this family of design and will be on your profile page. These will all go up in January, so look for all this to happen in the next couple of weeks.

Q: How long is the application process?

A: Very short. Once we see that you're good to go, we will approve you immediately and once the algorithm takes over, we will get you your certification right away. All writers right now, in our platform, are eligible for premium jobs. A client decides who they want to choose, we only want to help the marketing of these writers with these badges showing that this writer has earned the respect of clients, and from our screeners, to be eligible for premium orders. Likewise, a client can see the premium badge and still send you three star orders.

Q: Will you offer these powerpoint slides for download?

A: All of my decks and presentations are recorded and you can download them on WriterAccess. Thanks for the question.

Q: Are you considering writers living outside of the US in the near future? I am an expat freelancer, thanks for the presentation.

A: Yes. I'd like to know what country you live in, but yes, we need to expand our reach beyond the US borders. I believe we do so in Canada right now, but yes, we do need to expand our horizons, and we're looking closely at doing that. Our vision right now is to focus a little bit on designer and coder access to expansion markets in 2014. We understand the customers here, that's kind of why we're in the U.S., but we are interested in expanding, particularly in Europe. I'm a graduate of the London School of Economics and I do want to get back to my land over there, where I learned so much about life and economics. And of course Australia and New Zealand.

The World's your oyster. I don't know if you've heard about the merger between oDesk and eLance, but they're in a lot of countries right now. Thanks for the interest.

I think we'll take the opportunity to cut this short and send you on your way. I've appreciated the opportunity to chat with all of you today, I hope you have a great 2014 and I hope our company is moving in the right direction. We want to be the snowplow, if you will, in the marketplace to educate and acclimate customers and writers on understanding that the more you pay, the more you get from a writer. Thanks for coming, and send me any feedback you want.

It pumps me up and motivates me to have a great presentation for everyone, I do appreciate that, so thanks very much. So until next month, everyone, which will be our fiftieth webinar in January, and I've mapped out some interesting topics for 2014. I won't delve into them right now, but we have some great guest speakers, some great topics, and hopefully we're making the world a better place with a great marketplace, great talent, and great clients like the people listening today.

Thanks everyone, Happy Holidays, and we'll see you next month.