If you landed here, you’re probably looking to hire freelance content writers so that you can scale your blog.
Maybe you run content marketing for your company, you run a blog, or you’re the CEO of a company that was told they need to find high quality writers in order to be successful in content marketing…
You’ve been told:
“You need to find high quality writers with subject matter expertise in your area”
But after attempting to hire writers, you’ve realized that it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
I was in your shoes a few years ago, and attempted pretty much every way imaginable to hire writers for my blog.
I tried Upwork, Elance, writing job boards, Zerys, you name it…
And unfortunately, a lot of the advice I was given just didn’t work. I ended up spending hundreds of dollars on writers that couldn’t produce content that I was happy with.
However, after a lot of failed attempts, I finally found a process that worked.
I’ve used this process at the last 3 companies I’ve worked for, and have been able to scale my writing teams from 0 to over 20 quality writers.
The writers I’ve hired, have covered a wide range of topics – from Business Management, HR, software development, to marketing, you name it.
We even had someone use our process recently from the gaming space, here’s what he said about the results:
“I wanted to give you an update on how things are going. I went out looking for writers using your strategy. We got tons of great feedback and interest.”
“These guys know their stuff, their topics and content have been top notch so far, and they are pumped to get paid for what they love doing. We’re prepping the content and getting it up on the blog here soon. “
Below, you’ll find 5 parts to the series.
If you know you want to hire freelancers for your blog, and are just looking for the hiring process I’m talking about, skip to Part 4 and 5 (and read the full article that I link to at the end of each section). This will walk you through the exact process and will have templates that you can copy for yourself and for your company.
If you’re just getting started in content marketing for your company, then I’d read through all 5 parts.
Enjoy 🙂 Any questions? Feel free to add them in the comment section.
- Intro: Why we wrote this and who is it for
- Part 1: Should You Hire Writers or Use Existing In-House Resources
- Part 2: How to Set Up Your Content Marketing Team
- Part 3: Hiring full time vs. hiring an agency vs. hiring freelance writers
- Part 4: How to find, evaluate and hire good writers
- Part 5: How much to pay, how to motivate, and how to manage writers
Introduction to the Hiring Writers Guide
Why Did We Write This Guide?
Having run content marketing in some fashion for the last five years, I knew that finding quality writers was the key to success in scaling a blog. However, when I first started out in my career, I had a lot of trouble finding good blog writers. After talking with numerous blog managers and content marketers, I realized this was a bigger problem than I thought.
Does this sound familiar:
“I can’t seem to find any quality writers…”
“I don’t know how to find writers that can write about my subject matter expertise”
“The writers that I found off of Upwork or Elance just aren’t good”
“I can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars per article”
We keep hearing the same things over and over again. Finding writers that you can trust, and not spend a fortune on, isn’t an easy task.
Fortunately, I’ve perfected a process to find, evaluate, and hire writers. I’ve used this process to scale blogs to over 20,000 unique monthly visitors (multiple times).
Who is this guide for?
If you run a blog and are looking for writers with varying types subject matter expertise, this guide is for you. I’ll walk you through how to find writers that can cover the most mundane topics to the most technical topics.
We’re not going to give you generic advice like “Go Find Writers on Upwork or Elance.” We’re going to give you a process to use multiple job boards to find writers, give you a full process to evaluate them, and show you how to only work with the best.
This guide should be used by marketing managers, content marketing managers, Founders, Blog Editors, etc.
Part 1. Should You Hire Writers or Use Existing In-House Resources?
The first question that most people have is:
Should I use existing resources to write blog content or should I outsource the writing to someone else?
The best blog content typically comes from people in your company.
While they might not be writers themselves, they typically know the industry, the pain points of the customers, and the product or service you offer the best.
However, for this model to work:
- The CEO has to be alright with employees investing in time in content creation
- The employees themselves have to want to contribute to blog (and/or you need to incentivize them)
- You need to have someone manage a content calendar and deadlines
- You need to allocate at least 5% of employees time to writing
I’m not going to say this can’t work, however for the most part, it doesn’t scale well. The best situation that I’ve found is to have 3-5 team members contribute on an ongoing basis and then build out a team of writers to contribute to the blog as well.
By building your team this way, it allows your content to scale.
Part 2. What Should Your Content Marketing Team Look Like?
When starting off in content marketing, you only need to hire a Content Marketing Manager or Marketing Manager.
Three qualities that your Content Marketing Manager MUST HAVE:
- They should be able to create a content strategy ( a plan that states what differentiates your content from the competition, how they plan to attract your target audience to the blog, and some ideas around what type of content will do best for the company).
- They should be very good at content promotion (before hiring this person, they should be able to outline how they plan to distribute your content so that it gets seen by your target audience).
- They should be able to build and scale your writing team (They should be able to identify good from bad writers, they should be able to help dictate what type of content is needed for your company, and they should be
Other tasks that this person might do initially:
- Manage a content calendar
- Manage social media
- Manage blog e-mails
- Manage conversions
This person should be able to get your blog off the ground. However, this is a lot of work for just one person.
Once this person is stretched too thin, you’ll likely need to bring in a blog managing editor.
How should the roles be split between the Content Marketing Manager and blog editor?
The roles will be split by the Content Marketing Manager primarily handling the overall content strategy, promotion and link-building. The promotion likely taking up a majority of this person’s time. The blog editor will handle more of the day-to-day details of the blog.
The Day-to-Day Details include:
- Editing blog posts from contributors
- Managing the Content Calendar
- Formatting the blog posts and ensuring they’re optimized for on-page SEO in your CMS
- Helping out on the promotion front when needed
- Writing the emails to your list and managing the e-mail software
Once your blog starts getting a lot of traffic, and by a lot I’m talking 25,000+ monthly users, then you might also need to bring on a conversion optimization contractor or full-time employee to help convert traffic to customers.
Note: If you’re finding this post valuable, check out our content marketing course. We include lots of detail and examples not found on this blog, and have an entire module dedicated to hiring writers. Our course is also built into a community, so people ask questions, start discussions, and share their work in the lesson pages themselves, and we and other members give feedback.
Part 3. Hiring In-House Writers vs. Hiring A Content Marketing Agency vs. Building A Team of Freelance Writers
For the full article on this topic, click here.
Hiring writers in-house is a great option, however, unless you’re a large company, it’s typically too expensive when just starting out with content marketing. Also, another downside is that you’re limited to that one person’s capacity. It will be hard to find someone that can write 3+ articles a week, and you’ll likely need that frequency as your blog grows.
Content Marketing agencies typically are good at covering content at a high-level, at scale, but I have yet to come across an agency that have writers with deep subject-matter expertise in specific industries. Also, another downside to agencies is that they’re typically expensive.
I’ve tried both of those options at multiple companies and have found the best option is to hire freelance writers.
The benefits of hiring freelance writers:
- You can hire freelance writers with the expertise that you need
- Hiring a team of freelancers has the potential to scale more than the options above.
- The cost is typically MUCH cheaper to pay freelancers per post than to pay someone full-time or to pay an agency to manage content marketing for you.
For more on this topic see this post: Building a Content Team: Hiring In-house vs. Outsourcing vs. Hiring Freelancers
Part 4. How to Find, Evaluate and Hire Writers For Your Blog
For the full article on this topic, click here.
If you’re looking to build out a team of freelancer writers, you’ll need to know where to find them, how to evaluate them and then how to hire them (i’ll cover this piece in the next section).
To find bloggers, I turn to sites like Problogger, LinkedIn, and AngelList. Then I post a job posting looking for a writer.
Keep the job posting simple (for example here’s a posting I used recently) :
You must have a passion for career growth, people, and culture.
You are a storyteller. You can research.
You can come up with story ideas with minimal guidance.
You subscribe to this belief about content:https://seomoz.wistia.com/medias/jxl2nf6job
The key to finding great writers is in how you evaluate them.
Here’s a process for Evaluating 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Here’s the full post on this topic which includes the guide to help you evaluate writers: How to Find, Evaluate, and Hire Writers for Your Blog
Part 5. How to Pay, Motivate, and Manage Blog Writers (updated)
For the full article on this topic, click here.
Once you’ve found great freelancers, then you’ll want to formalize a working relationship with them. This is the most important part to building long-lasting relationships with them.
If you pay your writers too little, you’ll end up with bad quality content and your writing team will most likely leave you for better paying jobs.
On the flip side, most companies can’t afford to fork out $1000 per article. If their blog costs thousands of dollars per month just for content, there won’t be any budget left for anything else.
So how do you create a win-win relationship between the company and freelance writers?
I only pay writers per post. This incentivizes both parties to get a high quality completed post.
The range that I’ll usually budget per post is anywhere from $350-450 per post depending on the type of content that is delivered.
$200 per test project is the amount we pay writers for a test project. In part 4, we talked about giving writers a test project to see if they’re going to be a good fit. We pay a $200 flat fee for writers to do the test project. For the test project, we have writers listen to a pre-recorded interview that we’ve done, we share the angle of the article and then ask them to write the introduction and the first paragraph based on the interview and the angle we’ve given them.
$350 per article is the amount we typically pay writers that are just starting out with us. The blog posts can range from 1000-3000 words and the writer listens in and/or conducts the interview with the content strategist on our team to get the information needed for the article. Then the writer uses Otter.ai (we pay for this) to transcribe the interview and turn the interview into a full article on whatever subject we’re writing about. We pay $350 when a writer is just starting out because usually there’s a lot more editing needed when we’re working with a new writer.
$450 per article is the rate we pay for experienced writers on our team. We deem writers as experienced when their writing needs minimal editing. Writers typically get to this level after 3-4 months after working with us. The writer’s responsibilities are the same as outlined above, except we think they deserve a higher fee because their writing requires less editing on our end. We want to incentivize writers who can write well.
$500+ per article There are cases where we pay more than $350-450 per article. If we’re working on a mega project and there’s more work required than just writing, then there are cases where we’ll pay $500+ for the article. Also, if for some reason the article took the writer more time than usual, then we’ll usually add extra money onto the per article fee.
For more on how I set up my freelance team and motivate writers, view this post: How I Pay, Motivate, and Manage Blog Writers
To sum it all up
My recommendations are to:
- Hire a team of freelance writers
- Find them by posting a job posting to a job board and evaluate them using the process that I’ve outlined above.
- Pay them between $150-250 per post and focus on building a long-term relationships with them.
Note: If you found this post valuable, check out our content marketing course and community.
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