How Much Should You Pay For a 500 Word Article?

typewriter keys
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joelk75
I’m curious. How much would you pay me to write a 500 word article for you?
Ok. I don’t do freelance work at the moment. But, if I did, how would you go about it?One way to scale your internet business is to outsource writing tasks to Virtual Assistants and Freelancers. The upfront cost (payment) is offset by the extra sales you’ll make (returns) on the time you save.
That’s how it works if you do it right. Let’s take a look.

How to outsource your articles

You can use sites like to post your project and get freelancers to bid. Here’s how it works:

  • Write out the specifications for the work you want done, say 5 articles on your business niche.
  • Be as precise as possible. The more details you can give, the better a response you’ll get.
  • Submit the work request.
  • Freelancers will contact you and outline their rates, offer samples, and should be able to provide references. Many sites let you see references and recommendations from satisfied customers in the freelancers profile. Yes, it can be rigged, but in general it works very well.
  • Look at the reference work and make a decision.
  • Don’t choose the cheapest option. Look for the best VA/Freelancer and build a long-term relationship.
  • Consider offering bonuses or other incentives if they deliver the material ahead of time. In the long run, it’s more economical to work with 1 or 2 trusted VAs than having to search for new ones all the time.
  • Pay as agreed. Usually I pay a percentage upfront if the person has been recommended to me or pay on receipt if it’s a new VA.
  • I use PayPal and have a verified business account.

How I Write

The other option is to write the material yourself. I do this is the subject matter is very specialized and I can’t find freelance writers with relevant experience.
Here’s how I do it:

  • Choose a topic, for example, Mobile Commerce.
  • Identify ten questions around the subject. How do I setup a Mobile Shop? How do I take payments over the phone etc.
  • Write skeletons for each of the questions; these are a series of headings that I’ll use to flesh out the articles in more detail.
  • Write in batches, for example, for three hours at a time. That lets me build up a head of steam and really get into the subject.
  • Turn off everything and just write.
  • Stop.
  • Leave it for a day.
  • Return to the material and complete it.

My aim would be to write 5000 words minimum.
That works out at 500 words per article, usually more. In some cases, you can cut/paste material that applies to different articles.

Typing Skills

One reason I can do this is I type very fast. Very fast.
I learnt to use a typewriter as a teenager and have fairly good touch typing skills.
If your income is based on how many words you can type, learn to touch type.
It’s a no-brainer.

Pay By The Hour

If you do choose to go with the freelancer, you have two options.
If you pay by the hour:

  • Look at the going rates.
  • See what others charge first.
  • Get a few quotes.
  • Weight up the options.

Some writers prefer this arrangement.
For me it doesn’t work. I don’t charge others by the hour – unless they want to! – as I prefer to be paid/rewarded on performance.
I prefer to pay by output. How long it takes… I don’t care.

Pay By Words

What I do is say, ‘I need 5,000 words on this subject. How much would it cost? Have you any samples of writing similar material.’
I don’t want freelancers cutting and pasting material from the web. I prefer to see if they have written about the subject before and then proceed.
I ask to see samples and get references if necessary.
When they start to write, I ask for a draft to be sent over. Again, I don’t want to wait until the end and find the material is sub-standard.
If the quality is really good, I might commission more work and…


I offer bonuses to the really good writers. I want to lock in with them and keep them onside. This is a cost cutting measure if you think about it.
The less time you spend looking for freelancers, the more time you have for more important activities.
Another no-brainer!

How much for 500 words?

I’ve spoken to others who use VAs and Freelancers. And, it depends…

  • If the writer knows the subject matter, they should be able to write about 1000 words in an hour. This article took 45 minutes.
  • If the writer is new to the subject, it will take more depending on the amount of research.

Most professional writers can touch type. If they can type 60 words per minute, then do the math.
It shouldn’t take long if they know the subject matter.
If the time it takes them to come up to speed takes too long, you may as well write it yourself. I outsource to trusted writers that I know can turn it around super quick.
And I pay above the going rate.
I don’t want to waste time (i.e. money) looking for status updates, answering queries, listening to ‘the dog ate my homework’ stories.
PS – this article is 909 words and took 41 minutes to write.


  1. This is a really useful article. Thank-you. The going rate for articles of 500 words seems to run from 2$ upwards, with most offering little more. I always wonder who works for this type of money? Just today I came across this article ( which is offering a more reasonable rate.

    I especially like the policy of paying over the odds, and occasionally offering a bonus. If someone is good, you'll want to keep them loyal.

    1. Thanks Dawn,

      That site looks good and is a cut above the rest.

      One of the paradoxes I see with freelance writers sites is how poorly they sell themselves. I'm not sure they see the opportunity to write really gripping content on their own site and use this to persuade prospective customers.

      re loyalty… it's like anything in life, if someone is reliable, they're worth paying extra for.

      1. This seems very common with many copywriter websites too. I've come across a few from NI recently, thinking they'd be competition for us, but honestly, I was embarrassed at the low quality of writing and the very basic mistakes made on their homepages.

        1. Bizarre isn't it. The best two I've seen are (actually James is a girl) and Bob Bly who never sets a foot wrong.

          James also writes on Copyblogger.

          I think she used the name as she felt that she's get better rates as a guy. She talks about it on her site (somewhere…) and why she decided to come out a while back.

          They're in Canada, I think.

  2. Thank you for bringing this subject up Ivan. I hope you won't mind my throwing in a few other considerations. I work with an excellent article writer, know a couple VAs personally and collaborate with many bloggers.

    Before you hire someone it matters what you are going to do with what they write. If you are just using the articles for article marketing under a pen name, quality is not as critical as if you are publishing them on your own (hopefully high quality) blog.

    I learned some things from working with a very good, what I consider inexpensive ($15 per ~500 word article or $150 for a package of twelve) freelance copywriter.

    Taking an article someone else wrote and turning it into a blog post can take longer than writing it yourself in the first place, so if blog posts are what you want you may want to hire someone to write directly into your blog. I highly recommend adding them as a user. The options are contributor (can add posts but not edit or publish them), author (can add and edit their own posts but no one else's), Editor (can add and edit their own posts and other posts). It is best not to give Admin access unless you trust someone 100% not to do anything dangerous in your blog.

    1. That's exactly the problem I have.

      The time it takes to re-write a generic article into something that matches my site is often longer than doing it myself, esp if you factor in the time to email etc the writer.

      The exception is when I need SEO fodder. Then words, if well written, are fine and do the job.

      Your suggestion to add writers as Users, Authors etc is a good idea. I've seen it implemented very well on a site I've started to write for.

      Must look at the Stilus Word site now.

  3. Dear Ivan,

    I am a free lance part time article writer. I signed with a company, but the pay is terrible. It is a 5 level program. I am at level 4, 5 being a professional author. My first submission was accepted, (304 words). I am a natural writer. I love to write and research the subject matter. I can write as little as 300 words to more than 1000 words, depending on the content. I have written two books and a children's storybook. I have a bachelor of science degree and seeking a master's degree in business. Currently I work for a husband and wife team, attorneys in Fort Lauderdale Florida. I am seeking to work for a company online without startup cost or a fee, paying me per word, depending on the length of the content needed to be written. Do you know the companies I can seek out online? Thank you.

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