How to hire quality content writers
Finding a high-quality writer will improve your marketing and help you elevate your brand. Here's how to find and hire great content writers.
Ready to build trust with customers and market your business more effectively?
Start by hiring quality content writers.
Nothing can replace the utility of a good writer.
It starts with trust
Of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion, his first focused on the speaker’s credibility. According to Aristotle, credibility can often decide when uncertainty persists and opinions are divided.
Credibility elicits trust, which forms loyalty over time. For brands, this is essential to developing long consumer lifecycles that feed their business.
Brand trust is an essential factor in purchasing decisions, according to 88% of respondents in a recent Edelman survey.
New and existing brands can benefit from brand storytelling and content marketing to market their products/services.
Whether within a B2B or B2C space, content marketing is a powerful lead magnet and lead nurturing strategy to engage with customers and build trust.
Here’s a guide on everything brands can do to research, vet and onboard high-quality writers.
What type of writer do you need?
Not all writers and content creators are created equally. While researching writers for a project or a full-time hire, you’ll need to consider the type of writing you need and which writing service best fills that need.
First, there are several writing disciplines, some of which translate well to business and marketing writing. For example, some writing disciplines include:
- SEO writing
- Technical writing
- Creative writing
- Science writing
Which type of writer you choose will depend on your project goals and business model. For example, do you need a technical writer to assist with tutorials, grants, or user manuals or a business/SEO writer to help you optimize your website for additional traffic and conversions?
Secondly, you’ll need to determine what level of service you require from a writer. There are three options businesses have to hire an external writer for their business.
Determining which service is right for your brand depends on your project’s scope and budget. So let’s discuss the merits of each service one by one to see which is right for your business.
Of the three services, freelance writers are the cheapest option but also the most unreliable. While you could strike gold and find a high-quality freelance writer for ongoing projects, you’ll need to go through a lot of trial and error.
Generally, freelance writers can be hired on a project-by-project basis or paid a retainer for their services.
- Most cost-effective option
- Lots of available labor
- Can be paid on a per-project basis
- Can fill talent or labor gaps
- Work can be unreliable
- Difficult to gauge talent
- Lack of loyalty
Hiring an in-house writer is generally one of the best options if you can find a high-quality, full-time writer. In-house writers are typically the easiest to manage and most aligned on projects. Further, in-house writers can grow to become managers or occupy different positions at your business.
- Easiest to manage and coordinate on projects
- Easiest to communicate with
- Greater knowledge of your products/services/brand
- Potential for a long-term relationship and leadership position
- More expensive than freelance writers
- More difficult to replace if the writer leaves
- More rigorous hiring process
The final option is hiring a full-service SEO or content marketing agency specializing in your industry or sector. This option may be the most expensive if hired long-term, but it also gives you the greatest access to helpful tools, resources, and talent.
For example, an agency may come with writers, editors, and SEO specialists that help you optimize content to improve website traffic.
- Access to specialized tools, resources, and talent
- Offers plenty of industry experience
- All written work is done under your brand’s name
- Easiest to vet for previous work and experience
- Can quickly align with your team’s needs
- Most expensive option (especially long-term)
- Agencies may be more generalized and not specialized for your industry
- Agency contracts are more difficult to break if expectations are not met
What are your project goals and budget?
To determine which writing service is right for you, you need to determine two things: project goals and budget.
Your goals will encompass the scope of your project and the KPIs you seek to accomplish. For example, does it make more sense to hire a generalized agency to boost traffic to your website, or do you just need a freelance writer to assist with ad copy for more clicks?
How fast do you need a project done? Are you looking for a long-term or short-term solution to your content needs?
Your budget will also determine how much money you can use to find a high-quality writer.
Hiring a full-time writer involves many considerations, including healthcare, salary, and benefits. Agencies also come with their overhead, making them more expensive and effective. So choosing the suitable writing service ultimately comes down to needs, as much as it does your budget.
What to look for in a writer
Now, we’ve hit the most crucial part of this guide: knowing what to look for in a good writer. This part is paramount, but it can be tricky if you can’t spot the signs of a good or bad writer. So here are some characteristics to look for when researching a high-quality writer.
The first place to start vetting a writer is by reading through their published work to gauge how talented a writer is.
Generally, a good indicator of a talented writer includes:
- The scope of their writing (this signals focus).
- The frequency of their writing (this signals motivation).
- The quality of their writing (this signals raw talent).
In addition, look for other things on their resumes, such as long-form pieces or any sort of variety to show that they can adapt to different projects.
General work experience is a good indicator of how motivated a writer is and how much experience they have in your industry and subject matter.
Look for additional things on their resume, including previous leadership positions or any roles that would lend themselves to your organization and storytelling.
For example, I’ve found great success pairing automotive writers and mechanics with aftermarket auto parts dealers in the past!
Freelancers can notoriously be flaky, so gauging their responsiveness during the vetting process should indicate how communicative they’ll be during projects.
This is more important for in-house writers, who will need to communicate with team members to be aligned on projects and fit with your culture.
Lastly, communication is essential for gaining alignment with an agency that may not understand your brand and vision as much as your team.
Besides communication, confidence for projects or hires is an excellent indicator of their long-term commitment. The last thing you want is to be ghosted mid-project by a freelancer or anyone you hire.
If you operate in a niche or technical industry, it might pay to hire a writer well versed in the technology, processes, and terminology your team uses.
Not all writers will fully understand the topics and stories you want to tell. A good writer should be able to conduct proper research to acquire a firm grasp of the subject matter and deliver a compelling and factual story.
Be sure to consider what research skills a writer has and whether or not they’ve conducted any large-scope projects or research in college.
References from other companies are a good sign of positive engagement in the past and could point you to high-end content creators.
You can also look at past work from agencies or individuals, such as case studies or testimonials that speak to their work ethic and quality.
Industry certifications can be a good sign of quality regarding writing and general industry knowledge/experience.
For example, Google offers several certifications for people to learn more about SEO and PPC to help individuals improve their skills.
Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.
Where to hire writers
Next, you must know where to find the right talent for your brand or business. Generally, I recommend a few different options, depending on the type of writer and talent you need to fill.
Consult your network on platforms like LinkedIn and post job listings to see which applicants best meet your needs.
Building long-term relationships with writers over the years tends to pay off, especially if you know you'll need work done in the future.
Reach out to other businesses in your field or area to see which writers they use for their writing needs.
You'll often find a business eagerly willing to recommend a writer they've had success with in the past.
Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork offer sophisticated marketplaces to search for freelancers and select one based on pay rate, reviews, and previous experience.
The best feature of platforms like these is that you can see how previous businesses rated a freelancer and what feedback they provided.
Business directories or resource sites
Resource sites and directories that market and display top-rated SEO and content agencies are a great place to look for agencies to hire.
However, do your due diligence because some listings on resource pages may be purchased like an advertisement, which means you're not always getting the best quality.
Create an onboarding process
Sometimes it's not about finding the best quality writer but the right fit. Often, miscommunication and broken expectations can cause headaches in a relationship and quickly derail a project.
As a business, the onus is on you to create a smooth onboarding process that helps writers transition smoothly into your team.
The next time you interview and onboard a new writer/agency, be sure to establish the following:
- Project scope: How many pieces, words, or hours will you require for a project, and under what time frame?
- Pay rate: Negotiate all pay rates before projects begin.
- KPIs: How will writers be judged and reviewed for their contribution? Will KPIs be used to track content goals to ensure they align with your business objectives?
- Expectations: Clearly outline whether you're looking for a one-time project or an ongoing relationship to avoid confusion.
- Intellectual property rights: Will writers or agencies be awarded authorship or credit for their work on a project?
- Guidelines: Set specific brand and business guidelines of what to include within the content and what not to include. Be as thorough and specific as possible.
- Contract: If working with an agency, present a legally binding contract to ensure each part is fairly compensated for their work or contribution.
Managing your writer
As much as the process of finding a suitable writer is about seeking out talent and knowing what you want, a successful relationship will also depend on adequately managing and communicating with your writer.
To ensure all projects are completed to the highest ability of the writer and your satisfaction, you need to know how to manage writers.
Here are some tips for creating a smooth relationship between you and your writer.
Maintain clear communication
Working with freelance writers and agencies can be difficult in terms of communication. Establish clear communication protocols, such as daily Slack check-ins or weekly team calls on Zoom.
While challenging to do virtually, creating a good relationship with writers involves a commitment to good communication so that writers feel comfortable with projects and are a part of the team.
Create a content calendar
To ensure tasks are completed by their expected timelines, create a content calendar outlining all processes and due dates for tasks for writers to follow. I often just create a Google Sheet, but project management software works well.
Explain tasks thoroughly
This point is critical for any writer, whether in-house or freelance. Explaining writing tasks thoroughly and providing proper brand guidelines will reduce editing and help you meet preferred deadlines.
Feedback is important for any writer and will ensure you get the best result for your project. Keep feedback balanced to keep writers motivated and improve the quality of their work.
Finally, you can avoid wasteful spending and project failures by monitoring the analytics around your content. This data will also help writers and content creators make the necessary changes they need to in the future to improve posts and earn better engagement for your business.
What to avoid when hiring writers
In closing, here are a few things to avoid when searching for a writer to ensure you get the best one for your business.
Content mills are a cheap option for low-grade content that I see too many businesses fall for. While affordable, the return on investment rarely justifies their spending and most businesses are better off just not doing content altogether.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
The secret to lots of modern content mills is that they use AI to create quick content that is very broad and unappealing.
While some AI has become sophisticated, I firmly believe nothing can entirely replace a natural writer's intuition and raw talent.
Excluding the wrong candidates
Businesses often settle on writers who they feel are the most qualified or have the most industry knowledge.
Usually, I like to look at writing samples and raw talent to gauge whether a writer has that "it" factor or not. Natural writers can take on any task you need, regardless of previous knowledge.
Avoid agencies who sell you on lofty promises of getting you to the first page without evidence or case studies to back it up.
Poor communication at the start of projects or early delays past deadlines are an immediate red flag that a relationship is not built to last.
Grammar errors in resume
Finally, something as simple as grammar mistakes in a resume or poor grammar when communicating with you could also be a red flag.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.