Paying a Content Writer as Percentage Instead of a Fixed Price



Ross
Looking for advice on going about a new partnership with a content writer for a new affiliate site. Basically, the deal is I'm doing all the work minus content creation/publishing articles. To get an idea of the content scale we are doing milestones of 25 articles / 50 articles / 75 articles etc. Instead of a 2 per week schedule kinda thing.
I'd normally just hire a writer but I'm trying to not go out of pocket for this project and see if I can partner with a writer and do a profit-sharing system.
What does everyone think for a percent cut for the writer? Or maybe a different pay scale altogether?
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Atkins
Specifically, what work are you doing?

Ross ✍️ » Atkins
Mostly the keyword research, any dev work needed, site maintenance, any backlink work that may be needed, and my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge of analyzing SERPs, targeting keywords, reverse engineering competitors for content mapping. Honestly, everything that would be needed to build a successful affiliate site minus the content creation.


Ammon 🎓
The percentage is probably going to be based on supply and demand, what else they could be doing with their level of talent, minus a bit for the fact it requires trust, delay, and investment to get paid at all.
A talented writer, like any other kind of special talent, is a lot more expensive than a cheap 'commodity' level writer, and so are the results. After all, there are writers out there with active fan clubs, who may bring more people to the site than all your work does (though it is very doubtful you'd hook one of those).

Ross ✍️ » Ammon
I could be coerced into a 50/50 deal, to be honest. Either that or we come up with a fair price for the content that would be paid with the future profits since I don't have the capital ahead of time. A bit of backstory is I work with this individual at an agency where we do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for affiliate businesses so we are already very tightly aligned. They are very excited to get started. We just need to come to a fair agreement which is where this post comes into play. Trying to ensure I do my research to produce a fair deal with this writer.


Steve
I will start with, I'm not a fan of almost all partnerships. Someone "always" feels like they did more work to make the business profitable than the other person did. And just as always, it's nearly impossible to really say who created what value. Realistically, if all you are bringing to the table is a WordPress site, some hosting, and a hookup at Clickbank, you are the one bringing the least value to the deal.
If you are bringing in some specific affiliate deal that is hard to get without you, then maybe they are bringing the least value to the deal. Or, as Ammon says, what if they bring some value beyond their ability to write?
In a straight-up revenue sharing (I would NEVER do a profit-sharing deal unless I controlled everything) deal 50/50 would be fair. Perhaps 60/40 in your favor for paying for hosting and the domain name. But without knowing a lot more about the deal it would be hard to say.
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Ross ✍️ » Steve
I feel like the 50/50 deal or potentially 60/40 because of the hosting costs is a good suggestion.Thanks


Amanda
Copy and content writer here. While it's an intriguing proposition, my initial reaction is that with this much content, the writer is bringing an enormous amount of value to the table and would need to be compensated fairly for it. I do work in similar partnerships but just as Steve stated above, the writer may very well be the more valuable member of this sort of partnership which may prove to be less cost effective than you intended.

Dan » Amanda
100% – content is by far the most valuable part of all my sites.
Ourside of that I do keyword research and occasionally a bit of link work but honestly as I writer I'd be wanting 80% profit share
Ross ✍️ » Dan
Amanda I'm not opposed to giving a 50/50 deal or more to the writer if I feel that is fair. I do agree the content is a massive part of the website. I do also feel I bring valuable experience with building 2 successful affiliate websites prior to this. This would be their first side hustle project so I do believe I bring some value in that regard.
We work together already an agency that does SEO work for affiliate websites so we are already tightly aligned.
We are having a meeting next week to discuss the particulars so I appreciate your insights and will take them into account.
Amanda » Dan
Good luck to you! I hope the arrangement proves to be worthwhile for you both.


Doc Sheldon 🎓
I'll expound a little on the general topic of partnerships. You've probably heard it said that a couple should live together for a while before deciding whether marriage is for them…
I think the same is true for partnerships. Work together a while – see if your work ethics are compatible, if the enthusiasm that is often present at the outset endures some time. Find whatever financial incentive will work for that trial period, then pull the trigger once you're comfortable with a more permanent relationship.
What I have done a few times in the past is find an acceptable monetary for the future partner… something they can live with for the time being. Make it clear that your intent is that the relationship develop into a partnership, once both parties are comfortable with it. And discuss now, what the eventual partnership will look like – don't leave it vague or undefined.
Partnerships breakups can be painful and expensive – something else they have in common with marriage. You can help avoid that by ensuring both sides have an opportunity to go into it with their eyes wide open – no surprises.

Ross ✍️ » Doc Sheldon
I agree and I understand. I almost feel like I need the pressure from having a partner in order to get the work done. Having some extra skin the in game sort of mentality. I appreciate your feedback. It will be harder to make the right decisions in the partnership more so then the actual content creation process : p

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Dorian » Ross
"I could be coerced into a 50/50 deal"
Just… wow…
The writer is bringing way more value than you. I don't mean to be rude but it's true.
If my web dev friends could pop up sites and get someone to fill them up with content for free while only losing 50% profit from a risky model, they would think it's CHRISTMAS.
Since this is an affiliate gig, you're essentially expecting someone to build your entire business for you without ANY security.
Stop trying to exploit writers and give our craft some respect.
Thank you.

Ross ✍️ » Dorian
Lol ok well I'm glad you voiced your opinion. I think I've been pretty clear that I'm trying to find a fair common ground and looking for advice because I don't know. But if you took it like I'm trying to scam a writer then that's just you doing you.
Dorian » Ross
You're not listening to what quite a few of us are saying.
There is no common ground here for what you're asking for. There is no real offer besides "get some experience".
Make it very clear that this is for a writer who's intending to up their game, not make money. And make it clear exactly how you will help them up their game.
The common ground would be something like:
You get ~20/30% revenue if you give significant input to the writer. And it's not a revenue share, the writer must OWN the majority of the website.
Have you considered identifying multiple niches, building multiple sites, giving them to writers and keeping 20% of all of them?
That's where you'll find common ground.
Ammon 🎓 » Dorian
This depends entirely on the relative skill levels (and rarity) of both the writer, and of the technical dev.
Sure, a writer who can generate income through books, has a fan club, etc is bringing a lot of extra value. Do you know how rare those are compared to just yet another person who has basic grasp of grammar and can spit out words just about good enough to fill a page with 'blurb'?
It's not like William Gibson or Neil Gaiman is likely to be applying, and even those would expect to pay more than 20% to a person or agency doing all of the distribution, server handling, etc.
For a writer who thinks using WordPress is having a website, sure, they'll devalue the tech and overvalue the writing. Just as there are writers who self-publish because no publisher thinks them quite proven enough, or special enough, to invest in, or because the writer think publishers bring no value.
But the reality is that just about every world famous author pays around 50% out to the publisher, distributor, and the shopkeepers. Because it is better to only make 50% of a few million sales, than to make 80% or so on a thousand.
Amanda » Ammon
Copywriting and book writing are two very different fields and while I agree that it's important not to devalue the tech, writers consistently get the short end of the deal when it comes to this sort of arrangement so it's important that the author communicates his respect to the writer and the value he brings to the table in his proposal.
I'd also argue that some of the most effective copywriters are those you've never heard of. The infamous names you mentioned are obviously impressive but there are countless copywriters who bring enormous value who we may never hear about. They know what they're worth and will charge as such.
The skill of the tech will need to match the skill of the writer and vice versa for this to work, and there needs to be a deep respect and humility communicated to both parties throughout the partnership.
Ammon 🎓 » Amanda
Of course. But I can't name-drop a brilliant copywriter nobody has heard of and have the reader instantly understand the point.
Context is everything. 🙂
Dorian » Ammon
You're right, but you've created entirely different context to the facts I replied to.
This website is not for publishing storybooks. It's an affiliate site, VERY different. Unless you're a bad dev, server handling shouldn't be a considerable time investment for a blog.
And cookie-cutter WP sites are indeed bad, but WP is incredibly powerful in the right hands. Every time someone compares WP to Wix etc an angel cries.
The relationship between an author and their publisher, and a blog writer and their slave driving overlord is very different.
The fact that people can see this offer as anything other than an optimistic reach, concerns me.
Ammon 🎓 » Dorian
You mean your answer only works in a specific context, while mine actually specifies the context? Yup, you're absolutely right.
You *might* want to find out who you are trying to tell how the web works. I've been doing this a fair while, since some years before there was a Google, a fair few years before Movable Type, and a whole lot of years before WordPress.
WordPress is fairly good for what it is for – creating a Content Management System (cms) that allows non-techies to create and publish without the expense (or customization) of developing a better, built for specifics, cms of your own.
In other words, it's built to be cheap. The great democratizer.
But there are custom solutions, and good old flat file sites all over the web that kick the ass of WP on a regular basis. We don't have the context to know what this developer led project is. It might be a WP site, or it might be fully custom.
Even if WordPress, the level of technical skill can do immense amounts to defeat the bloatware, to massively speed default performance, and generally to make WP much, much better than its default configurations, or worse, a configuration with a third-party theme, and a bunch of third-party plugins.
As you pointed out, whether meaning to or not, a lot depends on your perspectives. If you've only tended to work the middling level of competition, taking on other WordPress sites, then WordPress can be a superb choice.
At higher competition levels though, even when a company uses WordPress they tend to have a considerable dev team devoted to improving it, doing all of the tech SEO that WordPress largely overlooks.
And at the highest levels, where you have to fight the true giants of the online world, and not just run a blog, WordPress doesn't cut it. To get any sort of tech advantage in the big boys leagues, you really have to go custom.
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Dorian » Ammon
Thank you for this! I appreciate the time taken.
I certainly should have checked who I was speaking to. This must feel like crushing a peanut with a sledgehammer for you 😂
I feel like I made a few safe assumptions about this project for the sake of timely discussion:
– intending to compete at the low to mid level. If he isn't, then the plan should change, because you should only start worrying about playing with the big boys when you're at least in the stadium with them.
(Do you agree with that perspective?)
– Probably not adding world-class technical value if you're looking for a freebie writer on FB
– No info was posted about his last two sites. If you were looking for a new writer and had two sites that are slaying, wouldn't you try to convince them using that value?
So based on that, I figured he plans on getting a site up relatively quickly, having a writer fill it up, and then just providing the necessary technical / strategy support to keep an affiliate website running. One of soon to be 3 websites.
Maybe he'll repeat this project in a year. Now there are 4 websites, and each writer gets even less of his time.
Ammon 🎓 » Dorian
One thing with forums and groups is that it isn't just the person asking a question who may read the answer and take it to heart. For that reason, wherever I can, I try to give a more complete answer that includes a few of the broader perspectives, even if they don't always apply to the specific case.
After all, even the original poster may like to know what the brackets or thresholds are, in case they scale up (or down) their project later.
He did mention that it was an affiliate site, and in those cases, finding the right affiliate program is half of the battle. I'm not even going to guess at whether he has something where copywriting isn't the major feature or not, but there's a huge spectrum, and even then the competition, and how many other affiliates there are, will both play a part.
All we have to go on is that he's taking care of the program, the money, the tech, the promotion, and basically everything other than the writing and publishing of 2 articles per week. But whether to compete in the market he has in mind those can be the kind of content one can crank out in a few hours, or the kind of content one would need to spend days researching or refining… Well, big old difference. Only he knows what he has in mind, and he thinks 50:50 is fair for it … Whether he is right or wrong he'll find out when he tries to get that writer. 😃
I do take your point that people often under-value the writing. That is most assuredly true. But I find that expressed more often through people treating the writing as a commodity, something anyone who is basically literate can do. Thus a lot of people hire terrible writing, completely unaware of what quality writing is actually like, or how much difference it makes to conversions, links, etc.
Heck, I see people in groups similar to this one often using the truly awful "AI" copy writing software, (which is really not AI and is merely oversold machine generated spam), whose own ability to write, and even to recognize quality writing, is so poor they can't tell how bad that machine generated stuff actually is.
But, that rant put aside for another day, there are a LOT of people claiming to be able to write guest posts that I wouldn't trust to write a shopping list, and there are very, very few truly talented, persuasive, commercial copywriters. And the guest posters seem to get more work. 🙂
A 50:50 split could just as easily be overpaying the average person who _thinks_ they can write commercially, as it could be underpaying someone with a talent. One has to just leave that to the writer to determine for themselves when they get more specific details than this thread provides.
I'll try to make no assumptions either way where things are this uncertain, or if I must make a few assumptions to give a clearer answer, at least explain what those assumptions are, so the next reader can see what may vary for their case.

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Karin
I love this question because it brings up the bigger idea of ownership inside entrepreneurship. If you are thinking of a simple affiliate site to just earn cash from SEO content creation, I am not sure a 50/50 partnership would work. You should take a majority % of the project if you are leading the idea and investing in it, and then offer partners who you bring in percentages over 3 years vesting based on goals and milestones achieved. You can also factor in a monthly salary at some point when the site earns revenue.
Coming from the startup world (where valuations that are relevant can start at $3M or $5M pre-seed, without ANY revenue) partnerships should dreams big: I mean bigger than the build and sell model of 36x your monthly revenue.
Don't we want to spend our time building things that count? A legacy we can leave to our children, instead of just selling stuff through Amazon links?
If so, find partners who will think of your idea as their baby too. Have them equally invested and working full time and in that case you better find a damn great copywriter who can do everything including marketing writing and journalism, social media content and engagement –– someone who can stand on a stage and profess the greatness of your site –– and build your idea into a brand. You find partners who feel ownership like you, and split the company 3 ways (tech partner Chief Technology Officer (CTO), sales VP Sales, content/marketing Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – as examples). Maybe with a 30-30-30 split.
There are plenty of models on the internet to look toward, and usually you leave a percentage out, like 10% for future partners or employees so you can give them options.
A person will join your dream typically if the following criteria are met:
1. Your idea might save the world
2. Working with you is a lot of fun/educational/comes with fringe benefits
3. There is immediate revenue
4. There is a solid options plan in place.
Offering anyone a 50-50 split upfront might make no sense to most ventures, especially if after a year you see the partnership doesn't work. Half of all couples who who love each other deeply and get married get divorced. There is a reason why the "dating" and "marriage" analogies are used in online ventures. Your partners need to be married to the idea and usually more often than not, the partnership doesn't work as all partners expected. That's why you do vesting and milestones and update meetings and well, good luck.

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