Maximize your writing income with the content "hierarchy"


By Robert W, Bly, copywriter,


According to ANA Business Marketing Smart Brief (10/19/22), 71% of business-to-business marketers say content marketing became even more important in the last 12 months.

But whether those B2B marketers will pay you a decent wage to write content for them is another story.

Freelance writers often ask me, "Does content writing pay?"

My answer is: "Well, no -- and yes."

Let me explain.

To begin with, it depends on the level of the content you are writing.

As it happens, there are 4 levels of content writing:

>> Level 1: Lowest level: "Google Goulash."

Mainly articles written for SEO and cobbled together from other articles on the same topics found with quick Google searches. 

Pay: ranges from free -- to absurdly low (e.g., $5 for a blog post).

Some typical Level I topics (from AARP Webletter 10/22/22):

"6 Foods to Skip After 50" ... "3 Bad Habits for Your Joints" ... "10 Common Money Wasters and How to Stop Them" ... "8 Things Medicare Doesn't Cover."

>> Level II: Next level up: freelance articles written for magazines, newspapers, paid subscription newsletters, and content-rich websites.

Magazine and newspaper editors hold their freelance writers to a higher standard.

Quality work ... well-written ... well thought out … thoroughly researched.

Fees vary with the publication; e.g., The Atlantic Monthly and National Geographic demand better writing, and pay more, than trade journals or your weekly town paper. 

Pay for Level II: low to moderate and occasionally more for the top markets -- $1 to $2 per word.

>> Level III: Next up: specialist-written articles on technical topics.

White papers and other content on technical and complex topics -- written either by freelance writers or subject matter experts (SMEs).

These writers and SMEs have experience, expertise, education, or other credentials in the subject or field being written about.

Example: a colleague of mine has a PhD in chemistry; ghostwrites journal articles for thousands of dollars each -- and is constantly in demand.

>> Level IV: High-conversion content.

Level IV: content and copy that directly affects conversion, typically pays more than the other levels.

That's because the results can be measured, so if your writing boosts conversions and sales, your client is making money -- and therefore is willing to pay more for copy that generates good ROI.

The highest pay for high-conversion writing is copy for landing pages, or "landers," where the consumer can order the product directly from that page.


Writing conversion copy for direct online sales pays so well for two reasons.

First, one of the perils of most other levels of content writing is that you don't always see the direct connection to cashflow.

But high-conversion landers are profit centers -- not cost centers -- that make money for the client.

So if you write a high-conversion lander that quickly generates $100,000 in sales, your copywriting fee will be a drop in the bucket compared to the value you deliver.

And second, it pays well because, although there is no shortage of journeyman copy and content writers, relatively few of them can write kick-butt long-copy landers that send sales soaring.

And when your copy actually puts money in your client's pocket, they become far less price-sensitive about your fee.

Because then you can just pose this classic Jay Abraham question to your client: "If I can make you a dollar, will you give me a quarter?"