Investment in content marketing is a “must” if you want to reach a broader audience. You’ve decided on an initial content marketing budget for a reasonable period of time, at least 6-12 months. Now you need someone to help you create the content.
There is indeed a large pool of writers available. However, one of the most difficult things for business owners and marketers is finding the right writer.
In my experience, when hiring both in-house and contract writers, there are three things to consider:
- Where am I going to find writers?
- Who are these writers?
- What will they write and what will it cost?
I’m going to share the answers to these questions with you. You will then be able to create a hiring strategy that will work for your business, and will help you hire a content marketing writer who can draft engaging content, effectively represent your brand—and hopefully — help create leads.
How do I find not just a writer, but the right writer?
The Internet is a beautiful thing and enables us to access writers like never before. The downside is that there are hundreds of writers who will apply for any particular job listing. Unfortunately, many of them aren’t qualified to write about the topic you’re covering.
As you begin your search for a writer or writers, be wary of the writer who can’t back up his or her words with a stack of content samples.
Listed below are some sites where writers can look for jobs, and where you can post ads:
- Craigslist – yes, you can find writers here too 🙂
- LinkedIn Profinder
- Twitter and other large websites where you can screen by reach and skills
Be sure not to neglect your larger network of current and former colleagues, acquaintances, and professional organizations. Someone among all of those people may know just the content marketing writer you need to hire.
Who are these writers?
Once you find some writers, it’s all about finding out who they are. Sure, they told you they were writers, but does their definition of “writer” match yours? As you meet and connect with potential writers, here are five questions you need to ask each of them:
Can you write?
This may sound obvious, but first things first! This person must to be able to put words on a page that engage your audience. This means no typos, misspellings or weak grammar. Ask for writing samples that illustrate the person’s skills and abilities. Review these samples for the following:
- Grammar and style
- Research ability
- Variation of tones, subjects, and styles
- Content structure (demonstration of web writing skills)
- Absence of repetition
- Absence of fluff
We’re not just talking about the difference between “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” According to the Harvard Business Review, grammar skills are not only necessary for content, but they are also an indicator of other positive work attributes, including attention to detail, critical thinking, and intellectual aptitude.
Are you not only willing to write, but also to rewrite and revise?
Good writers understand that revision is part of the process. Hire writers who can take feedback and who are willing to revise their work to meet your expectations and needs. However, don’t demand an excessive number of revisions — be reasonable — and don’t forget to express your appreciation when the writer hits the mark. Define your expectations right from the start, and let the writer know that you expect any revisions to be free of charge. Provide writing guidelines. This will help everyone to be on the same page, and will reduce a lot of “back and forth” between you and the writer. Shown below is an example of the writing guidelines used for Ignitur.
What’s your writing experience with content marketing?
Does your prospect have experience with content marketing? Speaking as someone who regularly hires writers, I can honestly say that many writers don’t start out specializing in content marketing. This is okay, but you need to know their level of experience.
Many of the writers I work with have had jobs in the corporate sector – writing internal communications and training content. Others have become writers of content marketing following careers as journalists or public relations specialists.
The important thing about these writers is that they’ve taken the time to learn about content marketing, to understand the differences between content marketing skills and copywriting skills, and to acquire experience in the field. You need a writer who can create content that resonates with your readers, ranks with search engines, and inspires social sharing.
Do you have any experience within my industry?
It behooves you to have a content writer who not only understands the basics of content marketing, but also understands the specific pain points of your unique audience. Such a level of understanding enables a writer to articulate relevant concepts and engage with your audience effectively. A good content writer will be able to learn about your industry and get up to speed fairly quickly. However, a writer who is already up to speed can save you time and get your message out there that much quicker!
Over the past few years, my team and I have found that hiring freelance writers for large content projects requires us to ask a lot of questions. We also found that most of our hiring mistakes occurred when we forgot to ask the questions we should have asked. As a result, we created a freelance hiring checklist that includes the questions we always ask writers about their process, writing abilities, project specifics, rates, and contract details. I recommend that you create a similar checklist to ensure that you not only know what questions to ask, but that you also remember to ask them!
And the all-important question: What is your expected payment rate?
“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly-defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action,” wrote Joe Pulizzi (founder of Content Marketing Institute) in his book Epic Content Marketing.
When you consider the role that content marketing plays in the success of your business, it becomes even more apparent why it’s important to hire writers who have the ability to deliver quality content. The challenge is paying for that level of quality.
When talking about what to pay writers, I usually define it in terms of cost per word ranges and what businesses can expect based on those ranges. In my content marketing workshops, I usually break down the per word ranges and their associated expectations as follows:
- <$0.10 per word: Do not expect great results at this rate! Often writers willing to work for these rates are not native English speakers, have limited writing skills, or aren’t going to provide the quality of writing you need to represent your brand. Although we have hired writers at this rate for basic projects, and have received good results, you’ll probably spend a lot more time editing and rescheduling projects using more qualified writers when your “bargain basement” writer doesn’t work out.
- $0.10-$0.20 per word: Although this rate will get you better quality writing, it offers very little incentive for research or interviews. I find that this range tends to be better for easier projects that need little research, and don’t require industry expertise.
- $0.20-$0.50 per word: This is our most common rate range for writers. It offers a high enough rate to provide incentive to a decent writer with experience to do research or to interview subject matter experts, and to perform reasonable edits. Most companies can find writers in this cost range who will produce solid and accurate writing. In addition, this rate makes it more likely that writers will want to write for you, learn your style and preferences over time, and eventually work more productively.
- $0.50-$1.00+ per word: We typically use this rate only for topics that require expertise in complicated subject matter (e.g., IT and software development topics). This is also a reasonable rate for projects that require more research, interviews, and other work beyond just writing. Examples of articles at this rate are magazine and print features, as well as content contributed by “thought leaders” who add value through the audiences they attract. This rate may also apply to conversion-focused copywriting projects where the emphasis is on converting visitors, and not on writing longer content.
As you determine a fair and equitable rate, consider these additional questions:
- Do you need one small project or do you have a large number of ongoing projects? (If you have multiple projects, the potential for multiple projects may appeal to the writer.)
- Do you need immediate turnaround? (Some writers expect a rush fee for content that requires a quick turnaround. Either be prepared to pay more, or simply avoid rush jobs.)
- How often do you anticipate extensive revisions? (It’s fairly standard for at least one round of edits and content revisions. If you foresee needing more, you will need to specify and negotiate these terms at the beginning of the project.)
- Will the projects require travel or meeting with you? (A writer may not charge you for travel time, but he or she will take this into consideration when calculating the rate.)
- Are you expecting the writer to provide photography or graphics? (Additional output will almost always require extra compensation.)
How you answer these questions will help to highlight the scope of your project, as well as the various factors that will impact the rate you offer to writers.
According to CEB, buyers make it through about 57% of the purchasing process before they talk to sales. Whether it’s through website copy, white papers, case studies, blog posts, or social media (all of which comprises content marketing), the writers you hire are talking to those buyers. A writer’s words are a critical part of the success of your pre-sale conversations. Taking time to search for, select, and hire the right writer is worth the investment.