Woman using laptop

How to Find, Hire and Keep the Most Competent Writers

4/10/ 2022   |   Joanna C  |   Outsourcing

Good freelance writers help you climb Google rankings by engaging, serving, and enticing your target audience with content. How do you find and keep this versatile investment?

Notice that my title says “the most competent.” This isn’t a put-down. It’s just a fact. “The bests” are elite, expensive, and exclusive, and usually already working for themselves. Only the big shots get to hire them.

But who are the most capable freelancers? They have a keen eye for detail, all the better to absorb techniques from the best. You, as a startup or small business owner, might not be able to afford the elite but find a good writer, and it’s like striking oil.

What content can a freelance writer do?

Many freelance writers focus solely on a particular genre or style of writing. The various domains they can cover are:

  • Blog posts, website copy, and landing pages: Write top-notch blog posts and articles to increase your online profile, credibility, and audience. Focus on making your website’s most vital pages stand out from the competition, making sure your landing pages are highly targeted and have content and design that will make anyone want to click through and sign up.
  • Promotional copy like sales letters, emails, and paid advertising: Be sure that everything on your page is geared toward deciding to buy your product, service, or program seems like the logical next step for the customer.
  • Product descriptions and social media captions: Thinking about what your readers would Like, Comment on, or Share is an important part of upgrading your content creation process. More so, create attention-grabbing headlines and summaries to boost reader interest and, in turn, sales.

How to spot good writers

They have an impressive profile or blog. What makes it impressive? No wordiness. No fluff. Glowing feedback from previous clients. If you find them on freelancer sites, they have a good score on their reliability: deadlines, communication, and cooperation have consistently good ratings.

You can usually suss out their command of vocabulary and mechanics from their profile and cover letter (if they already applied to your job post).

They have a full job history and ongoing contracts. If people hire and keep hiring your writer, that’s proof that s/he is good. Even better if the clients’ fields vary. This indicates an ability to research and write in different niches.

When you invite them, they might mention they can only start with you next week, as they are booked this week. You might not want to wait, but it might be well worth it.

They’re published. Writers aspire to bylines. It’s their validation, the proof of their hard work and skill in their craft. Aside from their blogs, you should find their writing in third-party publications. Competent writers are good writers. Magazines, newspaper columns open to the public, and anthologies publish good writers.

If your business is in an established niche, it probably already has several online publications and/or specialty blogs you can browse for likely writers. Feel free to invite them to write for you. Bonus: authority authors like this would share their article on YOUR site with their existing audience.

The above criteria (great profile, performance, and publication), do away with having to interview your writer to ask and see if s/he’s capable. When you do talk, you can get right to it. The above answer the important questions:

  • experience (published work means you don’t have to ask for writing samples they might have secreted away somewhere…eh)
  • SEO knowledge
  • dependability

All that remains to be asked is their turnaround times and rates—behold, unsurprisingly, good writers are not cheap. Not expensive like the best ones (or the ones who think so anyway), but not cheap either. Still cheap if you compare it with worldwide standard rates, however!

You might get per-article, per-word, or per-hour rates. Many writers get scammed of their hard work, so they may ask for upfront fees, which typically range from 25% to 50%.
Ask if your writer’s rate includes any additional services you may need, like publishing the content to your content management system (CMS).

How to hire and keep your freelance writers

First of all, have a plan. Don’t be vague about “needing content.”

Does your niche even have room for blog pieces, or would it only need short blurbs? Or would you do better with videos? Not all businesses are the same; not all content has to be the same.

Lay out what you want and what you need. E.g., you want a lighthearted, conversational but well-researched piece on THIS topic every week and you need SEO and a strong potential of conversion toward THAT product or service, etc.

Is it going to be you or your writer? Ghostwriting is fine. But bylines are great. A byline would get you a happier freelancer and a lower rate in exchange for being able to add the work to their portfolios.

But all good writers understand ghostwriting. We no longer have to sign NDAs. We do website pages without credit and make quips for your social media posts without getting attribution either. It’s all in a day’s work, and it’s satisfying when the work (and the boss) is wonderful, useful, fun— something we can get behind on.

Find your writer/s. Writers looking for gigs browse freelancing websites and job boards like:

  • Fiverr: Simple and scalable global platform for connecting businesses with freelancers on demand.
  • LinkedIn ProFinder: A website dedicated to facilitating the search for and hiring of independent contractors.
  • ProBlogger Job Board: The go-to market for all blogging-related employment opportunities.
  • Upwork: A platform for companies and workers to connect and collaborate in novel ways.

In addition, there are a number of content marketing platforms available:

  • Contently: Provides some of the most valuable brands in the world with the content marketing solutions they need, including expert content strategy, a cutting-edge content marketing platform, and one of the best creative networks available.
  • USource: A provider of original written content for thousands of customers – spanning Australia, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Southeast Asia and has 65 client-facing digital staff and has completed 120,068 hours of digital projects.Their curated base of writers and editors collaborate with clients to produce a wide variety of engaging content, with emphasis on copywriting, analytics, SEO, paid digital advertising and graphic design.
  • WriterAccess: A marketplace for freelancers that works with over 500 different agencies and has nearly 2,000 different users.The platform provides marketers with streamlined workflow tools that make it simple to move content from the brainstorming stage to the live website.
  • Textbroker: The website to order one-of-a-kind articles from. More than 100,000 freelance authors based in the United States who can write on virtually any topic are made available to customers through this online marketplace.The German-based parent company serves customers worldwide in 36 tongues.

Make a budget and a calendar. Writers love deadlines. Give them something specific or something regular (weekly, monthly, etc). Or have them tell you when they could submit and agree on that. And, of course, writers enjoy being paid well. Low-balling will get you sub-par writers with even worse writing!

Agree on how the payment is made. Some writers prefer hourly rates because of the billing protection,and simply stick with it even with escrow protection on fixed payments now.

Test out the waters. To see if you like working with a new writer or company, you can do a short trial, such as one blog post, one web page rewrite, one email. Expect to pay for this trial, although some might offer it for free.

Take this opportunity to see their communication style and ability to meet deadlines and apply editorial feedback.

A little friction is acceptable when you start while you and your writer learn each other’s preferences and styles. Be clear, prompt and detailed about feedback to steer your writer in the direction you want them to go.

The “write” practice in retaining your writers

Skills are more valuable than gold. The process of finding and hiring great writers (and other employees) can be difficult in the current global talent gap. It’s also the age of entrepreneurship. People discovered their talent and preferences for time management during the pandemic, so they don’t stay in jobs they don’t love. The Great Resignation is still ongoing.

So when you do find writers who understand what it takes to make content that readers and search engines will care about, do your best to keep them.

As businesses struggle with skills gaps and a shifting workforce, employee retention has taken on increased importance.

    1. Pay well. Competitive salaries are a great way to hire and retain employees but regular performance-based pay raises and/or bonuses show a company’s commitment to the employee and can build goodwill.
    2. Take stock of your work culture. Instead of constantly checking up on your freelancers, put more effort into developing a welcoming and interactive company culture.Poor treatment of employees and unhealthy workplaces are things of the past.
    3. Build a real sense of community. Writing can be solitary and lonely. So give them a place they can be comfortable in with their colleagues. Something as simple as freedom to chat with each other, an “office day” to work together and dine out, or bigger events like a trip or Christmas parties. This is a great way to build loyalty and solidify their place in the team.
    4. Book regular feedback sessions. This heads off potential issues and fine-tunes your own methods. You also avoid unhappy writers who eventually resign.
    5. Don’t stifle. Expect a check-in schedule, not an hourly or daily report. And don’t outline things rigidly either.It’s enough to have a topic and audience. A keyword or phrase helps. A headings-and-subheadings format? Excessive. Density? Outdated. Let the writer work.A weekly or biweekly milestone submission is sufficient for a 30,000-word mini e-book. A good writer would check in with you every other day to assure you the work is progressing, ask you questions, and consult you on the work’s direction.
    6. Feed your writer. Yeah, your payment turns into food, but I mean little canapes of appreciation and a regular dose of no-pressure. Let your writer write. If the content is part of a campaign, assign other parts to the rest of your team. Give feedback on things they’ve done well as much as for things you want fixed. If you have a good writer, you’ll only need to tell them about corrections or adjustments once. They’ll remember and improve. But always give credit where credit is due, every time.
    7. Writers are low-maintenance. That is, when you find good ones.

Final musings

Making a long-term investment in writers pays off. To gain and maintain the interest of your target audience and earn their loyalty, you need content that is both high-quality and interesting.

Following these will help you find–and keep– the most qualified writer/s for your project.