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As more companies understand the ROI of content, every single one wants to increase their content production. However, not all of them can create content at scale, as they lack the in-house resources to achieve this.
While outsourcing has emerged as the solution and hiring external writers is the norm, we know how complicated the process can get. Finding the right writer becomes a huge challenge, from lack of communication to inconsistent writing quality.
To help you overcome this challenge, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to find high-quality writers and vet them.
Let’s dive in.
Before looking for external writers, identify your marketing goals and the kind of writing you need. It helps determine the type of writer you should look for, as each writer has an expertise and unique skill set based on the writing type. Here’s how you can go about it:
Do you want to increase brand awareness, generate leads, drive sales, or establish thought leadership in your industry? Defining your content marketing goals will give you a headstart in determining the type of writing and kind of writer you need.
Are you seeking SEO content writers, technical writers, journalists, or creative writers? Each of them has a unique skill set and experience—which may not translate to other types of writing. Determining the kind of writing you need, will assist in creating a job description (JD) to find the right fit.
Different content formats, such as blog posts, articles, whitepapers, eBooks, social media posts, and email newsletters, cater to different needs. While creating gated whitepapers or eBooks will help you generate leads, publishing opinionated or research-backed pieces will establish you as a thought leader.
Choose the type of content that’ll hit the mark depending on your goals, target audience, and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
Hire an external writer based on the type of content asset you want to create. It’ll ensure your content is accurate, informative, and valuable to your target audience.
For example, you’ll need a writer with an engineering or computer science background to develop technical content. But to create thought leadership pieces, you’ll need a writer with subject matter expertise and the ability to interview business leaders.
Determining your content marketing budget is crucial to understand how much you can afford for content creation and distribution. Your budget accounts for factors such as the content type, the frequency of production, and the promotion and distribution channels you plan to use.
On the other hand, you also need to consider the kind of employment contracts you can afford. Here are the three most common ones:
Many companies find hiring freelancers appealing, as they offer greater flexibility and lower costs than conventional options. They’re paid on a per-project basis, making it easier for you to control expenses and invest in content creation only when you need it.
However, you must remember that with freelancers, quality can vary drastically, and the process can become cumbersome if you don’t have the proper onboarding and production workflows in place.
Though this approach may come with a higher price tag, it assures the content meets and exceeds expectations regarding quality, effectiveness, and industry know-how. Agencies typically maintain a roster of skilled writers and subject matter experts, equipping them to handle a wide array of topics and projects. Plus, editors and strategists cross-check the output, ensuring it meets the brief perfectly.
In-house writers tend to be closely aligned with organizational goals. They are intimately acquainted with your brand and offerings, making it easier to create content your audience can relate to.
Moreover, you can nurture and develop these employees over time, allowing them to take on more strategic and advanced roles within the company’s content team. It makes sense to bring them on to create assets geared towards conversion as they have the most in-depth knowledge.
Quality writing requires skill, expertise, and time. While it might be tempting to assign content creation to an existing employee or hire a low-cost freelancer, you must understand that you get what you pay for. If you want high-quality content that engages your target audience and achieves your marketing goals, you’ll have to shell out a reasonable amount.
Depending on your current resources and marketing goals, you can decide what employment type suits you best. For instance, hiring a freelancer with subject matter familiarity would be best if you’re running short on budget. However, hiring an in-house writer would be your best bet if you’re looking to publish conversion-focused assets that also need to be distributed.
Once you have defined your goals and budget, you can spread the word about hiring writers through multiple channels. There are two ways to hire writers—by reaching out to them or having them reach out to you. Using a mix of both will help you find the right talent you’re looking for.
We conducted a short survey of content marketers to understand how they find writers for their teams. Here’s the response: An overwhelming majority of content marketing folks (~63%) rely on referrals from their network, followed by job boards and other social media platforms.
Remember traditional hiring listings where companies used to run job ads to attract writers? Job boards are similar to that, but with a modern touch. These websites list open positions, allowing writers to apply directly.
In our survey, we found that 50% of content marketers rely on job boards to hire external writers. There are specific job boards for writers where you can list your opening for a small fee and attract qualified writers. Some renowned ones are Problogger, Peak Freelance, Superpath, Glassdoor, and Smart Blogger.
Some writing job boards, like WriterAccess and nDash, also offer a content creation platform with tools to streamline your content creation process.
When you list your vacancy on a job board or any other hiring platform, your listing also surfaces on search engine results. Here’s a screenshot of the search results:
Alternatively, you can search for the type of writer you require and find them. Many writers optimize their social handles and websites for search, and you’ll find quality writers through these means.
Here’s a screenshot of the search results for ‘B2B SaaS Writer’:
Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are good places to post your open positions and tap into your network. LinkedIn also allows you to post your job openings on its job board for writers to apply.
Here are examples of hiring posts on LinkedIn and Twitter:
There are several freelance writing communities where writers hang out and network with other freelancers. These communities also act as a marketplace for companies to search for freelancers. You can tap into these communities and hire experienced writers.
You can find them on Slack, Discord, Facebook groups, Reddit, and other platforms. Some popular freelance writer communities are Superpath, Peak Freelance, and Freelance Writers Den.
Several companies, like SurferSEO, Jasper, Omniscient Digital, Peak Freelance, and WriterAccess maintain a database of writers you hire from. You can find the best picks from these vetted and experienced writer databases.
Brittany Mendez, Content Marketing Specialist at StaySense, uses WriterAccess to find external writers for her team. She says, “We let WriterAccess rate and grade the writers from experience and the tests that they take in order to become a freelance writer. Then, we pick a few that we think are suitable for the job, and we start them out with a few articles to see how they would work for us.”
You can reach out to your professional network and ask for referrals. As colleagues and business associates recommend writers they’re happy with, you’re bound to get quality writers.
Our survey found 63% of content marketers rely on referrals from their network to find writers. This is because people recommend writers only if they really like their work and have had a good experience with them, ensuring their credibility.
Here’s a template for asking for referrals from your network:
“Hey, [name]! Hope you’ve been well. I’m looking to hire a [niche] writer for a [content marketing] project. If you’ve previously worked with a writer or know someone who’d be the best fit for the role, send their names across. This is for X type of writing in the Y niche. Thank you!”
Multiple factors come into play when assessing a writer’s qualifications, such as their published work, writing experience, research aptitude, and more. Adopting a structured evaluation process will help you screen candidates and hire the one that meets the desired criteria. Here are two ways in which you can vet your writer pool:
A writer’s portfolio is a reflection of their best work. However, in some cases, it doesn’t tally with the quality of work they produce.
Diana Briceno, Head of Content at VEED, says, “Unfortunately, it’s easy to fake a portfolio. It’s also impossible to tell how good the first draft is and how much of the work sample was hours of an editor’s work. A short test or paid trial helps to get a taste of how strong their skills really are.”
To vet them, here are a few more factors you can consider:
Rates: Ensure the writer’s prices fall within your budget. Check whether their experience, work quality, and scope of work justify the rates they quote. Ideally, the higher they charge, the better their proof of work.
Consistency: Evaluate how consistently the writer maintains their quality of work across various publications and genres. Ensuring the writer can consistently deliver well-crafted content, even on topics outside their comfort zone, is crucial. One way to do that is to review their testimonials or speak to their references.
Quality: Examine if the writer’s grammar usage, style, tone, and sentence structure cater to the target audience. You must also assess their ability to provide a logical structure and flow to the content and incorporate coherent arguments.
Dozie Anyaegbunam, Senior Content, and SEO Manager at UserGems, suggests looking into their personal pieces, as they aren’t heavily edited by an external editor.
Publications: Consider the reputation and credibility of the platforms where the writer’s work is published. Writers with a history of publishing in reputable outlets within your industry are likely to deliver well-researched and higher-standard content.
Industry experience: Check whether the writer has worked in the same or related industries. Writers with relevant industry experience are better equipped to write in-depth and insightful pieces about the subject matter. In some cases, they might’ve worked in a corporate or consulting job in that same area—making them the perfect fit.
Based on the above factors, screen candidates and run them through a trial project or paid assignment before offering the contract.
Many content managers prefer offering a paid task to test whether the writer is a good fit for the company. In this phase of the process, there are a few things you can look out for:
After the paid trial, interview the small pool of qualified writers. If it’s a fit for both ends, offer them a contract. Kellie Davis, Director of Content at Impact.com, says working with writers who understand the company’s customers and how they interact with content is important.
“I’ll invite them for a quick 30 min Zoom chat if interested. From there, I really let them lead the conversation. I ask them about their background and the types of projects they like to work on. For instance, I recently interviewed an enterprise-level writer with strong strategy and data storytelling experience. I didn’t know that going into the interview, but when I learned about it I immediately knew what projects I had for her to work on. It was a perfect match,” says Davis.
The onboarding process aims to minimize the learning curve, leverage the writer’s skills and creativity, and provide them with resources to understand the company’s expectations and work culture. Here are a few key components:
Company and brand introduction: Familiarize the writer with the company’s vision, mission, goals, target audience, and brand personality.
Michaela Mendes, Head of Content and Strategy at SetSail, agrees. She says, “This helps them understand where the company fits in the market—which translates directly to the content they create.”
Document sharing: Provide writers with essential documents like a content manifesto, style guides, templates, checklists, and any other reference materials that will guide them.
Technical and logistical support: Ensure writers access all necessary tools and platforms for content creation, communication, and project management. This may include AI tools, content management systems, or shared calendars for deadline visibility.
Internal support: Assign a point of contact from the company who can provide guidance, answer questions, or address any issues throughout the onboarding period. It ensures the writer feels supported and engaged, resulting in no ambiguity.
Once you’ve onboarded the writer, give them detailed briefs and kickstart your content production. It’s important to remember that the onboarding process needs to be customized to your internal workflows. Our survey found that some content teams are very hands-on and provide video walkthroughs, and conduct several 1:1 meetings.
On the other hand, content teams have an entirely automated process from contract signing to email intimation (with the necessary internal documents) and onboarding onto the project management systems. Find what works for you and run with it.
Hiring an external writer is a great way to keep your content engine running. It ensures you produce high-quality content consistent with your overall brand message. It’s also the most optimal option if you lack writing skills or have a busy schedule. With their seasoned knowledge and expertise, external writers can help craft compelling stories to attract readers and engage them in meaningful conversations.
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Content Camel is a sales enablement tool used for sales content management. High-growth sales teams use our system to quickly find and share the right content for each specific sales situation and measure content use and effectiveness.