Business of Scriptwriting

Here's what to charge for a YouTube script

March 29th, 2024

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10

min read

A lot of people ask me what to charge for scriptwriting.

(Or, how much to pay a scriptwriter.)

So, I went back through a bunch of invoices I’ve sent to clients in the last 2 years.

And I noticed some patterns which I think you’ll find useful (or at least interesting), whether you’re trying to figure out what to charge, or what to pay.

But before we get into it...

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So, let's talk script pricing...

The single biggest factor that determined what I could charge was actually the client’s level of YouTube experience.

But, interestingly, it was not a linear pattern.

In fact, hitting the highest rates ($1000+) was only really possible when dealing with clients who had EITHER very low or very high experience.

Those with middling experience, or whose channels were not yet making life-changing sums of money were (obviously) inclined to pay less.

Taking 10 real scripts as our data points, here’s the spread:

Does this graph surprise you? Or is it what you were expecting?


Let’s explore the different “clusters” so you can understand more about who these channels are, what they want, and why these were the rates we agreed on.

1/ Low Experience, High Cash

These are almost always businesses.

They have low YouTube experience, but plenty of cash.

They’re treating YouTube as a funnel for their products and services, so aren’t often “passionate” about the platform.

They just want someone to kickstart / maintain their YouTube presence.

Because YouTube is top-of-funnel for their business, the ROI from hiring a writer is high.

If their flagship product (e.g. course, software, etc) sells for $200 and they pay a writer $1000, the video only needs to convert 5 customers in its lifetime to make a return.

Remember - the "value" of a script changes based on the goals of the YouTuber. When negotiating, always think about what would make the deal a “win” for both writer and YouTuber.

2/ Some Experience, Some Cash

Here, we’re often talking about channels with under 100k subscribers.

This can obviously vary wildly, but a common trait of this middle group is that YouTube, by itself, isn’t generating a shed-tonne of money.

Or, maybe their YouTube budget is being funnelled into something they consider higher ROI, like editing.

They aren’t necessarily looking for a writer to revolutionise their channel. They just need help maintaining upload consistency.

Naturally, these are the YouTubers to target when you’re just starting out as a writer, because you’re basically paid to plug into an existing machine, learn fast, and keep the wheels turning.

If you’re hiring a writer and paying $3-400, you shouldn’t expect them to make a tonne of strategic suggestions either. If they do, they’re probably above-averagely good, and you should consider paying them more.

3/ High Experience, High Cash

As we move towards more experienced channels, the budgets go back up.

Generally, we’re looking at channels between 100k-1m subscribers (and beyond).

Anecdotally (though I have no idea if this is representative), these channels are the most “creative” - their content is really fun to write.

They’re probably pulling in plenty of money through AdSense, sponsorships, and other parts of their ecosystem.

Ergo, they’re willing to pay for writers with a little more experience.

At this level, writers should be thinking strategically, pushing back on bad ideas, and making suggestions of their own.

Some experience working in clusters 1 and 2 is invaluable for landing clients like these.

4/ High Experience, High Expectations

Once we go upwards of $1200, these are usually (though not always) multi-million subscriber channels.

They absolutely aren’t looking for “plug and play” writers - they want strategic thinkers as well.

When I’ve worked with YouTubers in this camp, they’ll:

  • Ask for insights from other clients I’ve worked with.
  • Expect me to spend more time looking at retention graphs from videos I’ve written.
  • Treat me like a major part of the team, and we’ll bounce ideas off each other.

Matching writers with YouTubers at this level usually comes through recommendation/headhunting.

Caveats

Let me just quickly cover my arse with a few things:

  • I am generalising here - there’s more nuance to the conversation than I can fit in this piece.
  • This is not the gospel on how much to charge. There are numerous factors when deciding how to price yourself / pay. I’m sure I have under/overcharged before.
  • Some projects on this list took 1-2 days… others took more than a month 😬 There’s a lot we could unpack about each project, but that’s not the focus here.
  • I started freelance life with an Ali Abdaal testimonial under my belt, so I was definitely able to raise prices faster than average. I’m sharing these figures to shine a light on how high the ceiling can go, not to dishearten you if you’re charging on the lower end (because that’s totally normal).

That's all for this week!

I don't often delve into this stuff, so let me know if it was helpful or not.

And, if you have any questions, you can always reply :)

Speak soon,
George 👋

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