Brad is the founder of Codeless, a long-form content creation company who’s content has been highlighted by The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and hundreds more.
Content writing agency pricing seems expensive.
Sticker shock might take a few minutes to wear off.
But working with a content writing agency can be a blessing. Or a curse.
Just like freelance blog writers are ideal in some scenarios, so too is a content writing agency.
The trick, again, is to know where they excel and where they fall short.
Here are the pros and cons of working with a content writing agency. From someone who’s been on both sides of the table.
✅ Pros: Agencies should have more, better writers on staff.
The best blog writers for hire usually either come from top-notch freelancers or a content writing agency.
Take this very post as an example.
I’m personally writing it, rather than assigning it to one of our awesome SaaS writers.
Our writers are good marketing writers. But what do they know about (a) hiring writers, (b) scaling content teams, (c) generating marketing ROI, or (d) working with a content writing agency?
That’s not their fault. They simply lack the experience. So assigning them a topic they know nothing about would (1) set them up to fail and (2) result in bad content.
And that’s the problem:
There’s already too much shitty content in the world.
That’s a problem when content is a zero-sum game. It means if you hope to get anything — views, awareness, clicks, leads, sales, links, etc. — you need the best stuff possible.
“The best stuff” comes from subject-matter experts. Most (good) agencies look for them, recruit them, and train them. And if they don’t currently already have that talent in-house or their network, they have the means to go out and bring them in for you.
❌ Cons: But only if they actually specialize in your vertical and/or content style.
SEO has at least 5+ disciplines.
You’ve got technical, analytics, on-page, content, and links/PR. With the way it’s going, there will soon be a few more (anything from multilingual to voice search to AI and more).
That means even the best T-shaped marketer today can’t do it all. Can’t be a 9/10 at every aspect of SEO.
It’s simply too broad, too difficult, too complex, and too competitive.
So the next time you see ‘full-service’ digital agency, peep their headcount.
‘Cause when you multiply the fracturing of one discipline across a bunch (like design, dev, CRO, ad buying, email, etc.), you’ll quickly realize that they’ll need ~40+ people to successfully pull any of this off.
And that brings us to our first con.
Make sure the agency in question actually specializes in content creation — not just distribution. (Preferably, the specific kind of content you’re interested in.)
Second, make sure they specialize (or at least can provide) vertical-specific samples. OR, at least, stuff that shows the same underlying principles that could be applied to your vertical.
Otherwise? They won’t have the ability to scale content, and the team won’t be experienced enough to justify the higher rates.
Good agencies aren’t cheap. So if they do a bunch of things, and “oh yeah, we can do content, too,” you’re probably not going to get the ROI you desire.
If you come across an agency that does content and SEO and website design and email marketing for the construction industry and accountants and retail and banking and mortgage brokers and personal finance…
Run and hide.
✅ Pros: A content writing agency should be able to out-produce any other alternative.
Agencies build upon what writing services do well, while also raising quality with more experienced and better trained writers.
(That’s how it should work in theory, anyway. But it doesn’t always in reality. Read the Cons below to find out why.)
An individual writer can produce ~1-4 pieces a week for you. That’s good enough for some. But not for others.
A content writing agency is able to bring a team of writers to scale to infinite heights. All while producing higher-quality work, more consistently, in the same style and tone.
A few months ago, we had a new client start with five articles. When that went well, we bumped up to 15/month. Month three? 50+ — all 2,500 words and up, with a dedicated team of three experienced writers and an editor.
Working with freelancers, as an alternative, means you’re getting several different styles with several different tones. Getting them all to speak the same brand voice is a challenge.
But there’s one last pro tip to keep in mind with content agencies: Find out if they work with in-house or contract writers.
❌ Cons: But only if they’re using in-house writers to control mark-up costs.
In-house writers typically receive better training and produce faster turnarounds, so the agency (should) have more time to review internally for quality before it gets to you.
Awesome contractors are great. But the problem with scaling content through them comes down to simple math.
Most good freelance blog writers rightfully charge as much per piece as possible, so they can reduce their overall workload to make a certain amount each year.
But the agency needs to markup their cost to account for all the editing, project management, and other costs associated with each client.
That usually results in agencies having to find the cheapest writers possible, instead of the best ones for the job. Otherwise, they won’t make any money.
I’ve personally made this mistake and regret it to this day. But it’s also a reason why I don’t think clients should try to get the cheapest possible price for something (an article for another day).
ClearVoice’s excellent survey found a correlation between the following experience and writing rates:
- Beginner: $0.10 per word ($200 for a 2,000 word post)
- Pro: $0.25 per word ($500 for a 2,000 word post)
- Expert: $0.75 per word ($1500 for a 2,000 word post)
Notice those costs. It means the agency is ONLY able to use beginners. Even though you, the client, might be paying for Expert-level rates. Otherwise, they’ll never, ever break even.
And the problem is that those in the Beginner category also have the most issues, mistakes, and plagiarism.
So, once again, the extra cost isn’t worth it.
Working with in-house writers, on the other hand, means you can give out a bigger annual salary, plus benefits, etc., while still reducing the internal cost per piece, so that clients get better work, faster.
✅ Pros: Agencies should be able to turn content around faster.
Turnaround time is a direct result of capacity.
If a freelancer has too much work, your stuff gets pushed to the bottom of the queue. The better they are, the more work they have, and the less they need your new work.
If capacity is overloaded, because they’re taking on more work than they can handle, it also affects quality.
So now you’re fighting a battle on two fronts.
We work on a ~7-day production scheduled internally, for instance. But we tell clients to expect content within ~10-14 days.
That gives us a few extra days, if needed, to cycle the content back and forth, from editor to writer, to make sure what we’re producing is top notch.
You don’t often get that luxury with contractors, because (1) quality is less consistent and (2) turnarounds are much slower.
Many contractors we’ve worked with require at least 7-14 days notice on any new work. Those long turnarounds are understandable from their point of view. But it means we’d need to get at least ~30+ days of content ideas from clients to be able to schedule everything out in time.
I <3 our clients, but most don’t have content calendars or topics planned 60-90 days out. Whereas with in-house writers, we can juggle their assignments and give them something new same-day if needed.
❌ Cons: But only if they’ve done a good job balancing capacity, and if you’re a nice paying client.
How, exactly, do we give in-house writers new assignments on the same day?
What happened to their old, existing assignments?
We bump them back.
- We like the client more, or
- They pay more.
Simple as that.
Otherwise, turnaround times start to break down when someone’s trying to fix old work, and start new work at the same time.
Writing, as a verb, is a finite resource. You can do it a few hours a day. But not all day, every day.
So it’s not as simple as telling a writer to work 100-hours a week. Instead, it’s usually a question of prioritization. One vs. the other.
Agencies (should) have the internal capacity to move things around last minute without the client experiencing a major delay. Like this Slack message I posted a few weeks ago:
We can pump out a new article in 48 hours if needed. But it means we need to move stuff off someone’s desk, assign it to another, and update the turnarounds accordingly.
Individual writers, or teams of freelancers, don’t have this luxury. They don’t have this coordination or ability to move things, accommodating faster turnarounds or last-second requests, without jeopardizing future work.
✅ Pros: Your end result should be better because you’re working with a team.
You’re not just paying for a writer to write with an agency.
You’re not just getting a single contractor with one skill set.
Instead, you’re paying for an entire infrastructure to make sure your stuff is consistently better.
We have 4-5 people touch every single article before it goes to a client.
That means from beginning to end, we have an operations manager, writer, senior editor, copy editor, and director of operations overseeing the entire process.
It might take a few weeks to get on the same page with each client’s style. Content is subjective after all. But after a bedding-in period, they should be able to produce more, better, faster content because there’s no single point of failure.
You also get internal Quality Control to make sure everything you receive is consistent with your style guidelines and free of errors or plagiarism.
Plus, they can help with strategy and any other related service to make sure you get publish-ready stuff, significantly bringing down your time to manage the process.
❌ Cons: But only if you can agree on a balance between production and ancillary services.
What you see is what you get with most content creators.
You pay $500 for a post. And you get a post.
Nothing less, nothing more.
That’s great if you can handle the rest. If you can handle the keyword research, topic creation, CMS upload, on-site optimization, and more.
However, with agencies, make sure to double-check production vs. ‘stuff.’
If the starting price is $5k+/month, but the number of monthly content pieces you’re getting equals only two, it means your budget is being eaten up by strategy, research, optimization, distribution, and reporting.
That good be good if you need the help. Or it could be bad if you already have those things taken care of internally, or with another vendor.
It’s like HubSpot. Awesome company. Cool software. But if you’re not using half the features, is it still worth the $10k+ annual price tag?
To someone? Yeah, of course. To you? Perhaps not.
A content writing agency should be able to produce more content, of a higher-quality, faster, for far less than it’d cost bringing it all in-house.
That’s how it should work in theory, anyway.
But it’s not always what plays out in reality.
The key is to hire a content writing agency for all the pros listed above, after carefully navigating all the cons that can come with it.