Despite all the new technology out these days (virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printers, IoT, etc), nothing beats quality written content to draw valuable search engine traffic and draw people into your sales funnel.
Of course, there’s also no shortage of content mills and rewriting services that turn out garbage content that will only serve to ruin your brand’s reputation.
Quality content writers can be difficult to find, so in this article, I’ll explain where to find them and how to vet them to ensure you only hire the best fit for your needs. But first, a caveat…
You Get What You Pay For
There are a ton of sites where you can find freelance writers, and many of them can complete writing jobs for dirt cheap prices. Unfortunately, the quality of writing from these low-cost outlets often suffers. If you’re seeking quality writing, you’re going to need to pay at least $50-$100 for an article of 600-1500 words.
Regardless of where you look for freelancers, be sure you’re speaking directly to the writer. Often content firms will attempt to gain a contract with you while outsourcing the actual writing work to cheaper labor. This puts you in the same position of employing inexperienced writers who won’t provide the quality you’re looking for.
The best freelance writers are looking to build long-term relationships and are often willing to negotiate pricing in exchange for consistent work. So, before you even begin searching for writers, it’s important to plan out exactly what your writing needs are.
Creating a Writing Plan
There’s essentially three types of writers – those who write magazine- and blog-style content like the article you’re reading, those who write scripts, and those who write marketing copy. Although all three styles seem similar on the surface, there are nuances that make each type of writing unique.
Copywriters are responsible for crafting the words you see in commercials, advertisements, and ecommerce websites. This writing is often short, concise, and to the point. Action verbs and descriptive terms are the bread and butter of copywriters, and you want to hire a writer who understands how to convert readers into customers.
Scriptwriters are adept at creating scenes and writing dialogue. Writing that’s going to be read for commercials and other audio/video content requires a flare for how people actually speak. Think of your favorite TV show, movie, podcast, or radio show – this conversational tone and language is vital for a scriptwriter to capture.
Article writers are adept at researching material and creating keyword-rich content that’s both educational and entertaining. This is the type of writing you’ll see in magazine articles, blogs, and newspapers and is not much different than journalism. In the business world, article writers are typically used for content marketing strategies.
While many writers have experience in multiple formats, you’ll typically want to stick to the type of writer whose experience fits your specific needs in one of these categories.
Where to Find Writers for Hire
There are several writer-centric websites that are great resources to search for writers. Most of these sites require you to create a profile before you can begin searching. Be aware that, like a staffing agency, these writing sites take a commission out of each completed project. You can also post a job ad in any number of employment or freelancing sites to find the right writer.
The top five sites for hiring a freelance writer are:
1. Upwork – Formerly known as Elance, Upwork is a freelancing site that attracts writers, virtual assistants, graphic designers, and other freelancers seeking work. On Upwork, you set the price and timeframes for your writing project and freelancers bid. You can then research their profile and previous work history to determine the best fit for your project.
To post a job on Upwork, login, and click “Post a Job.” You’ll then set up a job posting, which I’ll discuss in more detail below.
2. Craigslist – The largest classified ads website on the Internet, Craigslist is an ideal place to find freelance writers. Although attached to a specific geographic location, Craigslist allows you to create a detailed summary of what you’re looking for in a content writer. Unlike most freelancing sites, you don’t need an account to post to Craigslist, so it helps avoid a lot of spam.
To post a job on Craigslist, click “Post to Classifieds” and select whether you’re offering a long-term job or short term gig. You can then set the exact location, pay, and create a job posting which will be discussed more below.
3. BloggingPro – The BloggingPro job board is well known among freelance writers and attracts thousands of writers every day. While the format is similar to Craigslist, BloggingPro (as the name clearly suggests) is focused specifically on writing jobs. Because of its excellent SEO rankings, BloggingPro is a go-to resource for many professional writers looking to take on new projects.
To post a job on BloggingPro, click “Click here to post a job” and fill out the form. Within 24 to 48 hours, your job will be posted on the board, and you’ll begin receiving responses.
4. Indeed – Indeed is a job posting aggregation site that scours the web seeking job postings on the job boards mentioned above, as well as individual company websites. While this means you can post the job on your website and have it included in Indeed’s searches, you can also directly create a job posting on Indeed and use its service to filter applicants based on criteria you set.
To post a job on Indeed, click “Employers/Post Job,” and fill out the information forms as requested.
5. LinkedIn – The world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn is a great place to create a job posting to find content writers. With over 433 million members, LinkedIn profiles are public professional profiles that allow you to essentially see an applicant’s resume on the spot.
To create a job posting on LinkedIn, click “Jobs” and “Post a job” to begin filling out the online form. Like Indeed and Craigslist, LinkedIn allows you to host the job posting on your own site and simply advertise it on the site for maximum visibility.
Creating an Online Ad to Attract Writers
Writers are also readers and researchers, and they’re used to seeing certain keywords (as well as impeccable grammar and spelling). The most important aspect of your job posting is the title, which is why you need to understand what type of writer you’re looking for. Some writers will simply scan these sites for specific keywords like “copywriter,” “web writer,” “blogger,” “content marketer,” etc. Be sure to use one of these terms in the title.
In the job description, you’ll want to be clear on the exact nature of the content you’re looking for, approximate word counts per project, topics, etc. The more information you provide, the more likely you are to attract writers with experience in the topics you’re looking to create content about.
Be transparent and up front about the pay offered, the hours needed per week, and the length of the job so you don’t waste anyone’s time (including your own) interviewing writers who aren’t willing to work on the terms you can offer. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect writer only to find out you can’t afford them after spending several hours meeting with them.
Once you have your job posting online and start receiving inquiries from different writers, it’s time to start vetting.
Choosing the Right Writer
The ideal writer will have experience both in writing the type of content you need completed as well as a passion for the subject matter. It’s much easier to research and produce quality information on subjects you have an inherent interest in, so look for writers who have this.
It may seem prudent to request a writing sample up front, but this is likely to filter out a lot of great writers who may have been perfect for the job. Professional writers despise doing free work, especially when they have an extensive portfolio online that you can easily view. We often find it demeaning when businesses ask for free work.
This blog itself is an example of free work I was asked to do in order to apply for a freelance writing gig. The only reason I’m willing to write it is because it’s a subject that works for my blog and was posted here before sending to this possible client. If I wasn’t looking for topics to fill my personal website, I wouldn’t have even bothered.
Instead of wasting time asking for free work from professionals who are often busier than you are, stop being lazy and check out a writer’s professional portfolio to see their personality truly shine. Every writer has a portfolio, and you’re insulting them by giving out unpaid assignments.
Look for writers whose personality and writing style matches what you’re looking for and select a handful of applications to talk to directly, either via email, on the phone, or though a video chat service like Skype or Google Hangouts.
After getting a feel for your applicants, give a paid writing assignment to several of them to see who performs the job at the level you want.
Finding a quality content writer can be difficult, but if you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort into the steps outlined above, you should have no trouble finding the perfect candidate to fill the position.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in Huffington Post, High Times, Fast Company, The Street, and Hardcore Droid.