How to find, evaluate and hire writers for your blog.

Finding good writers your blog is no easy feat. That is especially the case if you’re looking for writers with deep expertise in a specific area.

Fortunately, through trial and error, I’ve figured out a process that works to find, evaluate, and hire writers for almost any type of content. That’s what I’m going to share with you below.

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed whether it was better to hire in-house, outsource, or build a team of freelancers.

While I’m partial to building a team of freelancers to scale a blog, the process below can also work to hire someone in-house.

Bonus: Get my exact word for word guide for onboarding writers, free. Click here to download it.

Finding Writers for your Blog

When I was first starting the blog at ThinkApps, I came across an interesting challenge — that challenge was sourcing writers for a technical blog (a blog about building software products).

So the problem that I had to solve was:

How do you find good writers for a blog that requires deep domain expertise?

Naturally, not knowing how to do this, I turned to Google for answers.

A lot of the content out there led me to sites like the writer marketplace Zery’s — which I ended up testing out. It actually turned out some decent content which got our blog some initial traction, but after the first month or two we stopped using their service.

The problem with Zery’s wasn’t their network of writers per se, but more the challenge of evaluating their writers through their platform.

Then I was turned on to sites like Problogger — which has a great writing job board that you can post to. This can be a great place to find good writers and I think it’s the largest writing job board out there.

I also tested posting job listings on AngelList and LinkedIn. AngelList ended up being my secret gold mine — and I still use it today for most of my writing hires. Reason being, that AngelList attracts a more tech savvy audience and it’s a relatively new platform (especially to people outside of the Bay Area). If people are searching for writing jobs on AngelList, I’ve found that typically they’re higher quality and better if your blog is in the tech space. Also, another great part about AngelList is  it’s free to post job listings.

However, through this whole process of finding writers, what I realized is that finding writers isn’t the hard part. You could use any of the options listed above successfully.

The real challenge is finding out which ones are going to be a good fit for your blog.

That’s where the process below comes in.

Evaluating Writers for your Blog

The reason most companies can’t find good writers for their blog is because they don’t know how to evaluate them.

I learned through trial and error that asking for the top two articles that a writer has written and then trying to interview them like any other candidate doesn’t work.

Yet, almost every writer job posting I see follows this process as the way to apply to their available writing job.

My guess is that most of the people hiring writers for their blog are just looking at what everyone else does and copying the same approach.

After spending countless hours reviewing writing resumes, talking to writers, paying them to write a post, and then 9/10 times being unhappy with what I got in return, I needed a better way.

I stumbled upon this process accidentally out of a need to save my time, and I’ve been using it for the last 1.5 years to source my writers.

Here’s the process to follow to evaluate your writers:

You create a word document — the document has 5 sections. Once the document is created — convert it to a .pdf that you can send to people.

Note: I made a full version of this document for this blog, so you can use it as a template for your own business. Click here to download the writer onboarding guide

About Your Company

This section gives some background about your company — anything that you think is important for someone to know about your business.

You should cover things such as:

  • Your business model
  • Your target market
  • The story behind why it was founded
  • Information about your products and/or services

About Your Content Strategy

This section walks the writers through your vision for your blog: Who the intended readers are, what types of stories/content you’re looking for, what your goal is with the blog, etc.

Writing Samples

In this section you’ll give some samples of writing that you like. The samples can be from your blog or they can be samples from other sites. Point out what you like about the articles — it can be the tone, how the article is formatted, or you can just point out the way that the person told the story.

Style that you’re going for on your blog

Point out the stylistic elements.

For example:

  • Tone of the blog is light but informative
  • All blog posts should go in depth on the subject you’re writing about
  • Blog post length should be between 1000–1400 words

The Writing Test

If they’re still interested in being a writer based on everything they’ve read, then I have them do this writing test.

This is essentially the interview process for the writers. If they pass the writing test, then I pay them for their first post and onboard them as a writer. If they don’t pass the test, then I don’t pay them for the post, and the writer can use the post however they wish moving forward.

Note: It’s important that you let the writer know this prior to doing any work. I’ve found this process to work well on both parts because it takes the risk away — if the writer passes the test, then they get paid and will get steady work moving forward. If the writer doesn’t pass the test, they have a piece of content that they can use however they wish moving forward.

Part 1 of the test:

Send an e-mail to the blog manager and pitch three story headlines (and a one sentence description of their thought process for each) that they would like to write about based on everything they read in the writer onboarding document.

Reasoning behind this step: This will test them for their ability to be autonomous. If they can come up with good story examples based on what they read in the document, they will likely be able to continue coming up with great stories with minimal guidance going forward. In order for your blog to be scalable, you must train your writers to pitch concepts and run with it.

*If they don’t pass this first step, I typically thank them for their time and say it’s not going to be a good fit going forward.

Part 2 of the test:

If they passed part 1, then the blog manager picks one of the pieces from the headline examples for the writer to write as a test post.

Reasoning behind this step: This will test them for their actual writing ability. Since the writer suggested the stories that they wanted to write, the writer should be able to craft a really high quality post.

If the post comes back with minimal editing needed, and has the right direction from a content/story perspective — then I pay them for the post, onboard them and hop on a 30 minute call with them to discuss the blog, company, and payment in more detail.

If the post comes back and it requires heavy editing, or the writer just plain missed the point, then I typically thank them for their time, let them use the post however they wish, and tell them it’s probably not going to be a good fit moving forward.

I’ve found that this process works so well because it works like a funnel. At every stage of the process, people will drop off, leaving you with only the best writers.

By using this process, it typically leaves you with the writers who are most passionate about what you’re doing, and the people who are willing to put in the effort to do quality work.

Hiring Writers

When I onboard writers, I typically give them the flexibility to post as little or as much as they want.

After onboarding them, I typically ask them how many posts they would want to contribute per month, and all I ask is that when they pitch a new post, they give me an estimated date that I can expect that.

That is how I manage the content calendar.

I typically try to build out a team of 3–5 writers — with all different skill sets for a new blog.

Writing team composition

I usually look for:

  • 1 writer with domain expertise in the market I’m in
  • 1 writer that can interview employees at our company, our leadership team, and/or influencers (because a lot of the time the best knowledge is in your company)
  • 1 writer that can research interesting stories and write them

Usually with these three different skills sets, I can assemble a team that can cover a wide range of topics for the blog. Also, between the three different writers I typically have an ongoing pipeline of new posts. If you only hire one writer, you’ll usually find that it is hard to keep a consistent posting schedule because you’re constrained by that person’s available time (unless you hire in-house).

Typically, the hiring process for writers is always ongoing. When you first start off, your first few writers will get you to a certain level of success, and as your blog matures, you’ll have to replace some of the earlier writers with better writers that have more subject matter expertise.

By following this process you’ll be able to build a rockstar team of in-house or freelancer writers.

To see all of our articles in this “How to Hire Writers to Scale Content Marketing” series, click here.

As always, if you have questions and/or comments, feel free to add them in the comment section below.

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