Awesome content is critical to growing a website’s traffic. But, on top of all your other responsibilities, you only have so many hours a day to write. At some point, it makes sense to hire freelance writers.
According to Neil Patel, all it takes is a simple formula, which involves hiring freelance writers. His proof? Well, the title of the post is “How KISSmetric Grew to 793,858 Visitors a Month by Using One Simple Formula”.
But, Neil and his team aren’t the only ones advocating outsourcing writing tasks to professional freelance writers. Many marketers have already adopted this tactic as well. In doing so, they exponentially increase the amount of content that they can create without sacrificing quality.
They create more content. They get more traffic. They make more money.
For some they may even get higher quality content than they would be able to create on their own. However, finding the right freelance writers can be a challenge. It can be time consuming, and some freelance writers may not be able to produce the quality you want.
There are a few notorious pitfalls when hiring a freelance writer which can stall success such as late deliverables, poor communication, or quantity-over-quality type content.
I’ve been through it all and learned from experience. Luckily for you, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid these problems by following these steps when hiring a freelance writer.
1. Identify your Needs
The pre-planning process is pretty necessary. You can’t just wake up one day and hire someone on a whim and expect to get decent results. By taking the time to plan your strategy according to your needs, budget, goals, etc., you can save time and money in the long run.
Freelance writers often know what types of assignments they are the best for and have specific topics they know well. Thus, the more specific you can be about your needs, the more likely you are find writers with the skillset that matches.
In planning, ask yourself the following questions:
What is the ultimate goal of the content; SEO, engagement?
Who is the target audience?
What type of content will best suit the goal; blogs, web copy, emails, white papers?
How many words should the content be?
Is it a short term gig or long term?
What standards do you expect the writer to meet in terms of deadlines, citations, grammar, style, communication, etc.?
The more you know what you want, the better directions you can give. The better directions you can give, the easier it is to find someone to complete the project.
2. Form Your Budget
Without a budget in mind, you’re going to end up unsatisfied, broke, or some deadly combination of the two.
Once you have identified your needs, it’s time to move on and figure out your budget. In general, you’re going to get what you pay for. So, start by deciding how much it’s worth to you.
If you’re just looking for “words on a page” for SEO purposes, that won’t cost as much as a highly engaging and stylistic article that provides an immense amount of education and entertainment value to readers.
Writers may be paid by word, by article, hourly or on contract. The pay rate for each writer can range widely based on their skill and the content type, see the average rates per word from Writer’s Digest, so it is important to have your budget beforehand.
Regardless which pay structure works best for you and the writer, sticking to your budget is key. Having a budget is even more important.
How Much is ‘Normal’?
For the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on content and article writing.
For blogging, you can hire a freelance writing for as cheap as $5 a post. Now, the $5 writer is probably not going to be a native English speaker and you’ll get what you pay for, but there is a wide range.
The top end writers will probably charge a few hundred dollars for a blog post. But, most will be under $100.
A lot of writers I know started off their career charging for $75 a blog post. That includes research, linking, etc. Overtime they raise their rates, though.
If you prefer to pay hourly, then you’re looking at $3/hour and up for non-native English speakers, and about $12/hour and up for native English speakers. Again, you’ll usually get what you pay for,
It really depends on the job and how much research is involved. There are inexpensive freelancers out there that are very talented. You can find great writers for cheap, but it’s not easy to do.
Generally, the more work you give to a freelancer, the better deal it will be per hour/post. So, if his/her rate is $50 a post, you can negotiate a deal and end up paying him/her $200 for five posts. If they charge $20/hour, you can try to pay $15/hour if you guarantee that you’ll have work for them for the next six months. Everything is negotiable, but remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably ain’t true!
3. Create a Job Posting
You know what you need, you know how much you want to spend, now you’ve got to let the world know. You need to create a job posting that is as specific as possible to get the best results. The aspects to include in your job posting are:
The subject matter
Type of content
According to SproutSocial, there are various places that employers can access in order to find freelance writers that fit their needs. These include 4 main sources which are career sites, freelancing sites, content companies and writing sites. Entreprenuer.com recommends Upwork, Elance, Craigslist and Freelancer among the best out there. See a more robust list of sites at the end of this article.
Creating a job post doesn’t take much time, and you’ll probably get more applications than you can handle.
4. Be Selective
Assuming you post your job in the right places, you’re going to get a lot of applicants. Unfortunately, many of them will be spam.
One tip for weeding through these is to include a specific instruction somewhere within your application.
For example, at the end of one of my job postings, I wrote, “Tell me about similar work you have done and how you would approach this job.”
Most people won’t do this, so you should only read the applications of people that followed your instructions. Anyone who can’t follow these simple directions is probably not someone you want writing for you.
Once you’ve weeded out the ones that didn’t follow your directions, you’ll still have some decision making to do.
What exactly should you be looking for?
When reviewing freelance writers who have shown an interest in your job, there are several attributes that you are going to want to look for. These include:
Samples of writing done in the past
Proactive and curious; asking questions and taking action
Express the importance of deadlines, prompt communication
Proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax in communication and samples
Ask for references who you can contact that the writer has worked with previously
On job websites, review their profile, reviews and ratings
Look for a writer who has an established reputation, social media presence and experience
5. Pay for a Short Writing Sample
Always ask writers to write a short piece before signing them on for a large project. Then you can evaluate them in action to find out if they can be trusted with larger projects. Take note of the following competencies:
Ability to follow directions: Did they meet all of the requirements that you set at the beginning of the project?
Tone: Was the style and voice in alignment with your needs?
Originality-plagiarism free: Google will mark down any content that is duplicated from another location. Additionally, there are legal copyright issues. Ensure writers are truly writing original content by scanning documents with a tool like Copyscape.com
Interesting read?: Do you find yourself losing interest in the copy, or do they continually use tactics to keep you engaged?
Facts: Is all of the content true and cited where necessary to back up facts?
Formatting: Is the content formatted properly to improve SEO and make it easy for the reader to scan?
Grammar and spelling: Is proper grammar and spelling used throughout the copy?
6. Hire More Freelance Writers than you Need
Sometimes you may have two or three candidates that you really really like. It can be hard to make a decision of who’s going to be the best fit.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit more money and want to save time, hire a few different freelancers for the same project. It may cost you a little extra money, but it’ll save you time interviewing, comparing, etc.
After the project is done, keep the top performer and let go of the rest. It’s like a human split test.
7. Build Long-Term Relationships
If you do find writers that you enjoy working with, be sure to hold onto them. Build a long-term relationship so that you always have someone to turn to when you need content.
This means ensuring that you keep a friendly business relationship so that writers are going to want to work for you again.
This can be done by giving specific instructions, expressing appreciation, and always paying on time.
8. Where to Hire Freelance Writers
Posting your job is easy, but if you really want quality freelancers, you’re going to have to seek them out. The best of the best aren’t usually the ones that are chasing clients. They’re already writing and making money.
So sometimes, you have to seek them out. Below is a list of some sites and places where you can search for freelance writers.
Now that you know my secrets, you can hire freelance writers to help grow your business. By implementing these steps, you can save yourself countless hours of sorting through freelancers that don’t meet your needs and cut straight to the chase of getting high quality content made for you at a reasonable price.
Once you’ve done that, you can reap the benefits of being able to scale your content production and therefore get more traffic, email subscribers, and sales.
Simply remember to do some planning ahead of time. Have a budget in mind, give specific directions, and be genuine.
I hired a freelance writer to write this article about hiring a freelance writer. Pretty meta, right. Learn by doing! Here’s how I did it…
I started by putting out a proposal on Elance. I received applications from several qualified candidates, so I gave each of them a different assignment.
For this freelancer and this assignment, I gave her an outline of the topics I wanted to cover, who the audience is, and a link to an article I really liked on the topic. Then, I asked her to find 3 more high quality sources to link to, reference/quote, and learn from.
I paid $54.80 for the initial draft and it came to about 1000 words.
Then, I edited it for content, and asked her to do a few small revisions based on my feedback. After she completed the changes, I sent it to one of my editors to edit for content, style, and grammar, and to elaborate on a couple points that I felt needed more explanation.
Lastly, I did a final proofread, made a few adjustments, and added this ps section.
Now, blog posts can be a great way to grow your business. But, without awesome content, it’s going to be hard to stand out. Luckily, I’ve written a book on How to Create Awesome Content….
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