How to hire awesome writers – Everything I know

If you’re considering hiring writers (freelance or in-house) for your team, read on. We’re going to tell you how we find the best ones and keep them engaged. Trust me, I’ve got heaps of experience.

You may think: why would I need to hire a writer? Well, writers are particularly useful for any kind of business – online or not – as you’re likely going to need to populate your website with content. No?  It’s true that any site on the Internet will need content. It’s also true that great writers can craft great copy. But how do you hire the right person for your word needs? Here to help, and with bucketloads of experience. Grab a cup of tea or coffee – or something iced if it’s hot where you are – and read on. I’m going to share with you how we find and hire fantastic writers at MOGmedia. In the end, it’s something I’ve been doing for the past decade.

For the record – and just in case you don’t know me and/or have not read my bio -, I worked as a journalist in newsrooms (TV and print) for over a decade. Then moved into the Content marketing and SEO scene. Managed all sorts of content for a very wide variety of markets at Skyscanner and liaised with freelancers from lots of places, from Thailand and Japan to the USA or Greece. In all those roles I’ve had to recruit, train, and assess writers. And I can tell you something, it takes time and skill to find the right writer for a project. But it’s also incredibly rewarding when you create long-lasting relationships with great writers that you know you can count on.

There we go.

Why should you hire a writer (or several ones)?

We’re all over-stretched at work and while good freelancers don’t come cheap, they are worth their weight in gold because they’ll save you lots of time, allow you to focus on other things and bring a depth of skill and expertise you may not have – especially if you need very specialised content.

Here are some of my favourite reasons to hire a writer (freelance or in-house) for your team:

  • Focus on other things: writing content can be time consuming, particularly when you need more than 2k articles about some obscure topic. In small teams or start-ups, as a content manager you will be juggling everything and may feel a bit stretched too thin. By hiring someone to do all the writing for you, you can focus on other aspects of your job – like briefing, proofreading, editing and all the strategic sides of content marketing. Thus, hiring a writer will 1) save you lots of time, 2) allow you to place your focus on places where it’s more needed. Yes, you’re going to have to invest money on your writers, but your time will be better used elsewhere.
  • Skill level: someone who does writing for a living will likely be someone highly skilled in the craft of putting words together and making them sound like a melody when you read them. Of course, there are bad, mediocre, average, good and great writers, like in any other profession. But you can pick the best from the best when you’re recruiting for your content needs.
  • Expertise: as a content manager, it’s quite difficult to be an expert on every subject out there. But you can find a great writer that is specialised in science, medicine, technology, the motor industry, or pets. Literally, anything. This is when freelance writers come in handy: they fill in your knowledge gaps.
  • It’s faster: raise your hand if you’re also an expert multitasker. It’s a great skill to have but writing usually requires laser focus and having a set of hours for focused work while you’re weaving words together to shape a text. Getting in and out of the writing mindset takes time and effort. So, when you hire a writer, you’re also ensuring the job gets done faster than if you had to do it yourself – and juggle it with the rest of the things you’re doing
  • Great relationship: when you work with freelancers and writers as long as I have (and we have at MOGmedia) you develop great relationships with them. They’re part of the team, even if they are working only on a project. And we know we can rely on them for brilliant content whenever we have a project that requires their skill and expertise. So, if you’re a content marketer, cherish your relationship with your writers and they’ll work with you wherever you go.

Where to find freelance writers?

Finding good writers can be a real challenge, particularly if you don’t know where to start. We’ll share below how we do it – and where we find them:

  • Contacts: if you’re starting your career in content marketing you may not have one… but one of the most useful one can have is a database with lots of great writers who are also reliable, trustworthy, always meet deadlines and have expertise in a wide variety of subjects and topics. That way, you’ll have a safe way of always commissioning work from someone who will deliver.
  • Upwork: this is a great tool to find and source freelance writers. It’s as easy as creating a project and finding the best fit from their huge roster of writers. One of the best things of this platform is that you can see the writer’s ratings from previous projects they’ve worked on.
  • Freelancer: very similar to Upwork.
  • LinkedIn: this may take you a bit longer, but you can search for freelance writers on LinkedIn or ask your contacts to recommend you good ones in the platform.

How to hire the best writers for your project and your team?

Now that we already know why you should hire writers for your project and where to find them, it’s time to move onto the how. How are we going to hire the right people? Here are a few things that we always look for:

  • Skill level: this is how skilled they are. Depending on the project, you may need someone who’s just starting… or a real expert with words. This will vary, but it’s good to ask yourself the question. Do you need someone who’s an absolute writing master? Or someone who’s starting their writing career would do? Can you train them to deliver what you need?
  • Expertise: likewise, depending on the project you’ve got in your hands you will need a really specialised writer or not. Thinking about subjects like the pharma industry or healthcare, it usually pays off having someone who truly understands what they’re meant to be writing about. Assess what’s needed and then pick.
  • Enthusiasm/interest: someone could be the next Hemingway but if they are not passionate about the project that won’t come through. And you can really tell if someone was enthusiastic about something when reading what they wrote. For this reason, it’s always good to go with someone who not only knows how to write well and understands the subject, but also really wants to help you make it shine.
  • Turnaround time: no one likes a tight deadline… But when you’re on one you definitely need one of those writers that can just whisk up thousands of words in almost no time and deliver a fantastic piece of content. As in media, deadlines are crucial. Make sure you work with a writer that understands that.
  • Rates: we’ll talk about these in detail a bit further down… But here’s one tip: have budget and be clear about what you can spend on content per project. Needless to say, that great content doesn’t come cheap. So, budget accordingly.
  • Decide how to pay (hourly, per piece, per project, per word): again, you need to decide how you’ll pay your writers. Sometimes it makes more sense to pay hourly or per word. Other times it’s better to pay per piece or to set up a flat rate per project. It will depend on the type of work you’ve got on your desk, but plan for it.
  • What Relationship you have with them: this is something we’ve touched on above. Do you have a good relationship with the writer? Do you know them? How do they take feedback? Are they quick at implementing? Are they enthusiastic and easy to work with? Do they let you know if they have any concerns or won’t deliver on time because of something unexpected? It comes with time, but it pays off when you work with writers you can trust and rely on.  
  • Portfolio of past work: particularly useful when you’ve never worked with someone and are recruiting. Ask for a portfolio of past work. Doesn’t need to be anything overly complicated. Just some links of other sites they’ve worked on. Or their own website where they showcase samples of previous work. Give it a good read and see if it fits with what you need.
  • Past reviews: when you’ve never worked with someone, it’s good to see what previous employers say about them as writers.
  • Give them a task: I wouldn’t do this if you’re only going to commission a small project (like a couple of articles) but if you need to hire a good writer for a bigger enterprise, it’s good to give them a short task to complete. That way you can compare what each candidate is delivering and decide based on that. Please, consider paying the candidates for this task, as it will take time on their side and there are already plenty of unethical employers out there. Spoiler alert, you don’t want to be one of the bad ones.
  • Have clear expectations and set them accordingly: tell them what’s the project about, what’s expected from them and always be open to questions, comments, feedback.

What to look for in a great writer

When hiring a writer for a project, here are a few of the things we always check.

  • Lack of redundancy: great writers don’t repeat themselves all the time. A talented writer will say it well one.
  • Order & Flow: to be understandable, a text needs to follow a certain structure and order. That allows it to flow naturally. Make sure they are guiding the reader through the text so that, in the end, they find what they are looking for.
  • Proper sentence structure: this one is another basic of writing. Every sentence should have a subject and a verb to communicate a single complete thought. Keeping it simple tends to work wonders.
  • Active voice: content written in active voice tends to be more powerful than passive because the subject is performing the action stated by the verb. Say “We ate juicy watermelon” instead of “Juicy watermelon was eaten”.
  • Conciseness: Poor writers do ramble. Keep it short and sweet. We know it’s more difficult to distil your ideas down, but it pays off – and it’s better for the reader in the end.
  • Clear: same as being concise, being clear is key. Use when possible common words, don’t overcomplicate things and try to go straight to the point. Your readers will thank you for that.
  • Engaging: dull text is an absolute killer. And with the right skillset, anyone can turn the most uninspiring topic into something that makes people want to know more.
  • Expertise: when someone knows something, it shines through. Particularly in science-based or technical texts, it’s easy to see when someone is well versed in the subject.
  • Well researched: likewise, good writers need to be also good researchers – sometimes hiring a journalist pays off. All the information you publish needs to be true and fulfil user needs. And for that, you need not only an expert, but someone who knows what sources to use.
  • Tone: Is the tone aligned with the brand? Does it make sense? Does it speak to the audience?

How to help your writers be better?

We’ve already explained how to recruit good writers. Yet, another thing you should know is that for them to write well you need to supply them with the right tools. Brief them, be open, give them feedback and you’ll get almost a finished product that will require minimal tweaks. Here are some things we always do when we hire writers and bring them onboard:

  • Be specific in requirements: tell them what’s expected (article length, keywords, title, sources, internal links, etc.).
  • Structure: this is just as simple as sharing with them the type of structure that’s expected for each piece of content. Give them an outline of all the sub headers and categories. And be flexible, as they may want to add new ones or remove the ones that are not working.
  • Don’t be afraid to pay for quality: good content costs money. Don’t skimp on it.
  • Think of the reader first: will the reader understand the content? Are the main points and conclusions visible and easy to find? Always put the user first.
  • Buyer persona: tell your writers who’s the end consumer of the content they produce. Who are they? What do they like? What interests them? That way they’ll craft the right bit of text for them.
  • Give access to your team: make them feel like they are part of the wider team and share the contacts of your colleagues, just in case you are away, or the freelancers can’t reach you at some point. It does pay off in the long run as you’ll end up having a more committed network of writers.
  • Give access to customer data and information: always, help the writers get an idea of who they are writing for. It will make the output much better.
  • Feedback: give feedback. Always, all the time. Tell your writers how they are doing. Tell them how they could improve. Praise them when they’ve exceeded expectations. But also ask for feedback from them to you. How are you doing?

How much does a freelance writer cost?

In content writing, as in almost everything in life, you get what you pay for. The truth is that good writers are not cheap. But it pays off, trust me. Unless you hire someone who’s still learning and you train them to your brand’s tone of voice and style, it’s always a safe choice to rely on those who have proved they can deliver what you need, when you need it and how you need it.

So, you get a general idea, depending on the freelancer, you could be paying them by the word, sentence, article, or project. Common rates for those charging by the word is around 6cents per word, although 7 or 8cents per word is not uncommon. You should also expect to pay over £200 for 1k word articles. However, depending on the project and your relationship with the writer, you can negotiate. If you’re in it in the long run, it’s worth establishing a good relationship in which both parties win.

And this is how we at MOGmedia hire and work with great writers for our content projects. If you happen to need help with content strategy, creation and delivery reach out. We’d love to hear more and help you get where you deserve.

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