Shortly after publishing our analysis of freelance writing, several international readers asked us to look at how to become a content writer in India. We worked with writers and content agency owners from India and Pakistan to map this fast growing market.
The Content Writer Career Path
If you have spent time on YouTube, you have no doubt found a few videos from guru’s telling you how they make 15000 INR per post or more for their copy-writing. All you need to do is buy their book! Yeah, right. It isn’t that easy. (Read our reality check here).
But there is a good opportunity here!
A rough career path for international writers:
- The Fresher: You have some knowledge of how to write from your education but not much experience in the business of writing. More importantly, you haven’t had the opportunity to build up much of a reputation or portfolio to show employers. Your biggest challenge at this stage is finding someone to take a chance on you.
- The Experienced Writer: You’ve worked as a writer for a few years, either on staff at a content agency or as a self-directed freelancer on one of the online markets (Fiverr, Upwork, etc). You have writing samples and earned some online reviews. More importantly, you know how to write quickly and find gigs without trouble.
From this level, there are several different possible paths:
- Start A Content Agency: Do you like to sell the work and check it for quality? Consider starting your own agency and hiring writers to crank out your articles. This can give you an excellent platform for growth – but you must carry all of the burdens of management and bear the responsibility for making sure clients pay.
- Become An Authority: Learn some area of your content extremely well, to the point where your contributions can make a critical difference in project success. This may require certain certifications and educational credentials or experience working in another field. You will need to step away from common content writing and focus your attention on your specialty, where you can earn far higher rates.
- Become A SEO / Affiliate Copy Writer: Another promotion of sorts, this involves learning more about on-page SEO, link building, analytics, and good sales copy. These skills are highly valued in the freelance market. If you are especially skilled, you can start pitching your services on the basis of value delivered rather than merely quoting a rate. Be patient,however, and never promise more than you can deliver. Building a good reputation is the key to winning business from top clients.
- Start Your Own Blog: My personal favorite path (obviously) and one you can often do at the same time as your other work. If you are good at writing and SEO, look for ways to build a blogging business around a subject you are passionate about. This can yield recurring passive income from sources such as Google AdSense, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and selling your own courses and coaching. Best of all – you can easily pursue the same high ad rate topics as US bloggers…
Freshers – Where To Get Your First Gig
The first question you have to ask yourself – and be very honest about it – is how good is your English?
- Do you have strictly an academic knowledge?
- Have you worked in BPO or another job where you interacted with Americans?
- Have you worked in the US or another English speaking country?
- Are you an English teacher? (teachers often make excellent content writers)
There is a place for everyone but you must aim for the best level that will accept you. Aiming above your true skill level is a recipe for frustration and poor reviews.
I would rather be cranking out steady content for an SEO blog without drama than squabbling with some picky American editor over where to put the comma (laugh). Particularly when that person controls the payment and can give a 1 star job rating.
So here are a few good options to get started:
- Free / Affiliate Sites: You can post on Quora or other comment boards
- Facebook Groups: there are several content writer groups on Facebook, posting work at all level. Be very careful however, since there are many sharks in there.
- Content Agencies: If you are in a major city, there are probably a few content writing agencies in town you can apply to work at. These are office jobs, which are great when you are getting started (your boss and co-workers can help you learn how to be a good writer).
- Fiverr: A grand bazaar of opportunities. See our guide to selling on Fiverr.
- Upwork: One of the most respected freelancing platforms, you can easily build a good reputation here and connect with clients from all over the world. They tend to be very good about payments and stopping scams. You will likely need to spend some money on what are called “connects” to let you to send proposals to a client (you get a few for free, but never enough). See our article on Upwork.
- Content Writing Platforms: Like Upwork but specific to writing. We will post a list at the end of this article but this includes places like iwriter. They don’t always pay as well as Upwork but payment is often assured (clients fund a job when ordered).
Content Writer Pay – What is PPW?
Most freelance content writers are paid by the word. With your international clients (Americans, Europeans) they will generally quote this as $$ per 1000 words. Within the Indian and Pakistani markets, however, it is common to quote work as PPW – paisa per word. A rate of 50 PPW would thus earn you 500 rupees for 1000 words written.
Many new content writers will inquire about a rate per hour instead of per word. This is very rare, unless you are going on site for an office job. The challenge is managing the productivity of the writers once you put them on a fixed hourly wage. In the case of the office job, you may be put on a fixed monthly salary – with the condition that you write a specific number of words of acceptable quality (or else….)
In terms of setting rates:
- The bottom of the market is at 10 – 30 PPW ($1.50 – $5.00 US per 1000 words) for human written content. You will see posts for this type of work on places such as Facebook. Unless the buyer is deranged, they should have low expectations of quality…
- A more typical rate for an experienced writer is 30 PPW – 60 PPW ($5 – $8 US per 1000 words). Most of the work purchased through Facebook Groups tops out at around this level. Quality expectations are low but growing; you may be able to get away with some awkward phrasing, but plagiarism won’t be tolerated. Fiverr and Upwork rates start at this level, although you must pay fees & connects.
- A good writer with excellent English working on Upwork should be able to get 1 RS per word ($15 per 1000 US) and potentially bump it higher over time. The work will need to be first rate, of course, and created to match a client’s requirements.
- Above that level… it become a matter of how well you can hustle. Native US writers can command $25 – $40 per 1000 (which isn’t a great wage in that part of the world; it is very expensive to live there) and potentially higher ($80 – $200) for exceptional blog posts. Knowledge of SEO and affiliate copy-writing is helpful. High priced writers must be able to show the client their work will drive sales.
The financial rewards of blogging are described in our other article. The good news about blogging is anyone can go after any audience, anywhere… there are no limits based on your background. The bad news is well… it’s a tough competitive world…
The Dark Side: Rewriting, Content Spinning, Plagiarism
As you learn how to become a content writer in India, you will encounter people who seem to work at insanely low rates. The truth is – while they are generating articles, they may not actually be doing “writing” as you and I define it (creating unique text). Welcome to the dark side of content.
Many low priced buyers aren’t looking for original ideas, just original text. They may ask you to do article rewriting, in which you take a popular article and rewrite it in your own words. This makes it appear unique to Google and can be written faster than a creating a new article from scratch. For a topic you don’t really know much about, the final result of the article is going to be as good as one you actually write from scratch.
Since Google won’t index duplicate content, there is a big concern about plagiarism. You will likely need to run your article through a plagiarism checker to verify the text is unique enough to pass muster at Google. Clients will often not pay if this test is failed. (Every text matches some other text to some degree, but make sure it is fairly unique).
Which brings us to spinning. A content spinner is an automated article re-writer, which scrapes the top results from Google and assembles them into an article. Most of these generate pretty horrible text, which folks will attempt to edit into a real article. This is a common way of quickly creating low priced articles, which improves the pay per hour. There’s a new AI based one that generates fairly good English.