Writing’s really hard. Even people who do it for a living admit that. Not only do you have to know how to string together sentences that keep people’s attention, but you have to make some sort of blasted “point” out of the whole thing. It’s maddening! Who knew being a content writer would be so hard!
All silliness aside, content writing and blog writing are really complex acts that can appear deceptively simple on the surface. Structure and rhetorical knowledge can help make your point clear, but you also need to be engaging. Add SEO best practices to the mix, and you have even more issues to deal with.
Getting it right takes either a lot of practice or a lot of time spent revising. Even a business owner who happens to be an excellent writer will need help making it all happen on a deadline.
So that’s when you turn to outside help. It can be a freelance writer or a content marketing agency. The goal is to find a writer (or several) who can meet your guidelines and turn things in on time.
Locating a writer like that is exactly as hard as it sounds! Luckily, there are five tips you can use to make your search easier and ensure you find just the writer you’re looking for.
Always Request Samples and a Trial Draft
You can find great writers you enjoy working with no matter where you turn. You just need to follow one simple rule: check out their writing before you commit. That means requesting samples of their prior work. It also means paying them to write a first draft of what you need that you may or may not ever use.
That’s right. You’re likely going to have to invest in crummy writing to find your diamond in the rough. Ideally, you’re paying several writers at the same time to write the same prompt or a similar one. This way, you can compare the talents of each person.
While it may seem like money down the drain to receive samples you won’t ever use, it’s better than the alternative. How would you like to hire a writer for a multi-blog project only to find out they aren’t a good fit.
Also, be very specific about the types of samples you request. You may wish to see live, published blogs, for example. These prove that a writer’s work actually gets used. Be warned, though. Many freelancers are also ghost writers. You are either going to have to take their word for it that a sample with someone else’s byline is their work. Otherwise, you will have to go through the effort of contacting the client and hoping they will reveal who wrote their blogs.
If someone sends you samples that you like but that don’t quite hit the mark, ask for more work! Far too many bloggers get passed up. It’s not because their samples weren’t good. It’s simply because they couldn’t read the mind of the job offerer as to what they were looking for.
Avoid Typical Job Listing Sites Since You Get What You Pay For
In the business world, quality and convenience don’t typically mix. Do you want to find a patio chair at the same place you buy your kids’ breakfast cereal? Well then, you are going to have to lower your standards on how long that chair will last.
Similarly, if you go to the absolute first place you think of when looking to find your content writer, you’re going to end up with low quality.
The biggest problem? Labor pools from non-native English speakers. They may charge just a few cents a word. Chances are, their end product will likely be riddled with broken grammar and be all but incomprehensible. Since Google specifically recommends that you use proper spelling and grammar, having an unreadable blog likely works against your SEO and branding goals.
So as a rule, skip Craigslist, Monster and Indeed. This is unless you really don’t know where else to turn. Definitely don’t just Google “content writer” and hire a person or company that ranks first. You want to know that you can get a decent level of quality, and sifting through the bargain bin is not a good place to find it.
Hunt Down Content Writers in the Spaces Where the Pros Lurk
Some of you are going to be frustrated by the above tip. “If I can’t just look for a content writer on Monster or Craigslist, where should I go?”
Well, our vocal and hypothetical friend, there are several specialty project-related websites where you can find freelancers:
ProBlogger—ProBlogger is dedicated to writers and editors, and it also has an amazing community of professionals. Posting your listing costs money, but you’re highly likely to get responses from mid- to high-level talent.
WriterAccess—WriterAccess straddles the line between full-service referral agencies we’ll mention below and simpler job listing sites. The site does a handy job of organizing writers by experience and quality, however, and you do get a personal account manager in the upper tiers.
Contently—Contently acts as a broker to find you the perfect writing talent or team for your project needs. Yes, that’s as expensive as it sounds, which is why the platform is mainly aimed at enterprises with larger content budgets.
Freelance Writing Gigs—A simple, no-frills job listing site that happens to have a dedicated community.
Upwork—The world’s largest freelancer platform happens to be quite picky about letting job-takers aboard. That means you have access to a higher caliber of writers. Note that Upwork also allows agencies to apply to your project offers by default.
Guru—Guru is far less choosy about who it lets on its platform, so you will end up with applicants that may not have the firmest grasp of English. Nevertheless, the platform makes a name for itself by having an integrated project management and payment system.
There are dozens—if not hundreds—of other websites like these where you can post project listings and track down decent writers. These are just the top ones you might want to consider during your hunt.
However, you definitely don’t want to overlook your best option: getting referrals.
Ask Fellow Professionals for Referrals
Referrals are always your best source of freelance writer leads for a few reasons.
First, the best writers out there aren’t actively posting on or looking through job boards. They’re hard at work, hammering out content for their clients. But they may be persuaded to take on a larger workload if the details and the price are right.
Secondly, you can get personal testimonials from people you know and trust. Someone who can appear like a perfect fit online could turn out to be awful with deadlines or bad at following instructions.
Since not every business engages in content marketing, start by asking people whether they have a regular SEO or blogging contract. If the answer is “yes,” follow up by seeing what agency or writer they work with.
If their answer is “no,” then you may have to do some probing. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, though. Not every company works with content writers, but those who do will likely have strong opinions about who to recommend or avoid.
Track Down Popular Writers from Their Online Work
If you have the budget for working with a top-caliber freelancer, then the place you should start your search is on publication sites rather than a job board.
Start by taking a second to look back at enjoyable industry niche articles you’ve shared or read recently. Keep an eye out for pieces that get a high level of shares and don’t have controversial pushback from commenters. Then, simply find the writer’s byline.
Make a list of several authors using this method. Research to see if they have their own personal website and whether they are accepting freelance contracts. If they are looking for work, reach out to them with a “pitch” for your project needs. Preferably, this pitch includes an offer, details on the level of depth the work will require and a rough timeline for everything to be completed.
Since making a name for yourself as a professional writer these days is tough, expect some sticker shock if they reply! But if quality is really what you’re after, you can likely find a way to work long-term with someone whose reputation and published work you admire.
Work With a Reputable Content Marketing and SEO Agency
All of the tips above pertain to finding an individual, but you also have the option of hiring a content marketing agency to satisfy your SEO needs.
The same rules above apply: pay for samples, avoid bargain bin job listings and look for referrals. But your search should be easier, considering marketing agencies often do a decent job at marketing themselves!
Plus, you can work with several writers at once and have the security of a guaranteed contract. That means you aren’t left hanging if your writer leaves the project; you can simply work with someone else in the agency. You also have access to scale, meaning you can get a higher volume of projects accomplished at once that would normally take a single writer weeks.
In the end, the search for your content writer is all about finding a good fit and knowing where to look. If you fail at first, don’t get frustrated! There are tens of thousands of writers out there who can do good work but don’t have enough of it right now.