Finding Writers for Your Content Marketing

May 28, 2013
Finding writers for your content marketing engagement

If you decide that outsourcing content creation is your best option for keeping your content marketing rolling, the next step is to find writers. There are many ways to do this, but there are several high-level things to keep in mind while you search for and vet your writer network.

Writer resources

While you may be able to rely on personal networks to float some names your way, chances are good you’ll be starting from scratch — fortunately there are lots of online platforms where companies can post a single request and receive applications from dozens or hundreds of interested writers. Digett has had great success with sites like Ebyline and Elance.

Alternatively, there are many agencies with whom you can partner who have already done this kind of searching and have created a network of writers. This adds more middlemen—since you’re often working with the agency instead of directly with a writer—but can cut down on some of the upfront work (we’ve got a great article on hiring an agency versus hiring freelance for content creation).

The process

Once you know where you’re hoping to find writers, you need to outline to applicants the scope of work and the kind of content for which you’re looking.

The name of the game here is “setting expectations.” Tell people:

  • Your company’s industry and a quick description of what you do
  • What kind(s) of content you need (articles, whitepapers, etc.)
  • Content amounts/frequency (one article a day, a whitepaper per month, etc.)
  • Whether or not you already have an editorial calendar
  • Whether or not the writer can contribute topics
  • What you intend to pay per piece of content

And so on. You want to give writers (or agencies) as much information as they need to decide if they are a good fit for you.

Whether you work with freelancers or an agency, each should be able to provide you with a description of their work, writing samples, and pricing. Then it’s a matter of deciding which writer you like best.

Bonus points: Interview potential writers on the phone or in person if possible. This gives you a better feel for their personality, and makes it easier to ask follow-up questions or go into more detail about the project.

Lastly, remember that the devil’s in the details. Pay close attention to the writer’s location — it’s always easier to work with someone in the same country and in the same time zone. That writer from Australia may be great, but if you’re in Texas it’s going to create a lot of unnecessary hassle.

Start slow

One thing I recommend is to make any long-term agreement tentative until you’ve worked with the writer for a given period of time. It’s great if you’re looking for someone to write eight blog articles a month, but don’t guarantee that agreement until you’ve collaborated on the first two or three.

I know it can be frustrating to go through the entire hiring process only to have to start all over again, but it’s a bigger misuse of time to have to work with a writer who isn’t as close to ideal as possible — whether it’s a knowledge, skill, or personality issue. Taking time to find the best writer will make your life so much easier.

Money matters

No writer worth their salt works for free, and you should embark on this process with the expectation of paying at least $100 for a blog article (whitepapers and other bigger projects will be priced higher).

The more niche and/or technically complex your industry, the more you will need to pay for content, and the fewer exceptional writers there will be. For example, it’s much easier to find a great writer for a blog about fashion or home decorating than it is about Electronic Health Records or IT services.

It’s certainly possible to get a blog article about a highly technical topic for $30 or $45, but remember that you get what you pay for.

On a more nitty-gritty level, most sites like Ebyline or Elance allow you to pay a writer through their system, or through the writer’s PayPal account. Some writers may want to manage their projects on the platform on which you found them, or they (or you) may have another site that is standard.

Whether you conduct your business on the original freelance writer platform, on a different platform you or the writer prefers better, or via email or phone or even in person, is up to you — whatever process works for all parties involved is the one you should follow.

Collaboration is key

It’s both exciting and a little depressing to consider that finding writers is just the beginning of a content marketing engagement. You’ve taken the burden of writing off your shoulders, but as I’ve written before:

You also still have to be involved in content creation. The best freelancer in the world, one who knows everything there is to know about your industry, is still not a company insider. They don’t know your company’s values, objectives, or customers, and it’s up to you to stay involved and make sure that the content he or she produces adheres to your mission and properly serves your audience.

It’s a tough road, but it can be a rewarding one. Build a solid network of great writers, work together to take content to ever-higher levels, and enjoy the journey!

[Image: Erica Cherup]