Top Tips for Hiring a Content Writer
Many businesses are slowly coming to the conclusion that the content on their site is perhaps not quite good enough, now that Google are cracking down on the quality of content.
With this in mind, content writers are getting busier, as more companies are turning to professionals to ensure that their content is top notch. However, the nature of the internet means that everybody who has ever thought they ‘might have a book in them’ turn their hand to writing content as a means to get published.
While this is all very well when it comes to things like consumer reviews on Amazon, it’s often not good enough for business sites, especially those in a specific niche. This means that it’s necessary to find and then retain a good content writer who will be able to talk authoritatively about your industry using good grammar and spelling.
Using freelance sites
There are plenty of good writers to be found on the likes of PeoplePerHour, eLance and suchlike, but there are also plenty of hobbyists and writers whose first language isn’t English. While we all appreciate that people have to earn a living, no matter where they are from, unfortunately there are some that don’t cut the mustard, as general things like sentence structure sometimes don’t translate very well.
Of course, that’s not to say that someone with a different language is going to be a bad writer, just that you should take care and ask for samples before agreeing to have them write a huge amount of content.
Which bring us to the first tip:
Ask for writing samples
This has been common practice within the writing/journalism industry for a very long time and any writer that is serious about what they do should be able to show you a portfolio, even if they’re just starting out.
Bear in mind that young writers, perhaps just graduating from a degree course, will perhaps not have many published samples to show you, so make sure that you check over what they have thoroughly and offer a paid writing test if you want to make sure that the standard of their work is good enough.
Some companies offer a writing test but don’t offer to pay for it; this is not considered good practice and is sometimes just a means of getting free content. Every professional expects to be paid for their time, even within the creative industry, so to not do so is something of an insult.
Experience relevant to your niche
Does the writer have any experience with regard to your niche? Will they be expected to carry out regular content writing surrounding subjects they know nothing about? If so, then it’s advisable to hire someone who has a good working knowledge of your industry and can talk about it with confidence.
However, a good writer should also have the ability to conduct research and adapt their style to suit an audience. This is not really the case for industries in which very specific knowledge is required, such as finance and technology though. It will be necessary for the writer to demonstrate that they can do the business when it comes to what you do.
Testimonials and recommendations
It’s not 100% necessary to get references, but they are always nice in order to figure out how a person is to work with. LinkedIn can be a great resource for this, as many people use the site to endorse each other and recommend services.
Does the writer have a website? It’s also a good idea to look at the content and their own blog, as this will give you a good idea of the standard that they produce.
Rewrites and cash
It’s better to establish up front if the writing is willing to do a rewrite for the same price, or if they charge extra. Most professionals are happy to carry out one rewrite, but won’t go above three for the obvious reason that it’s unpaid time.
If a good brief is provided to the writer, then only minimal edits should be necessary, so it’s important that you furnish them with as many details of the project before it begins. On that note, some writers will charge an hourly rate, others will charge per word, whilst others still will charge by post or project.
Make sure then that you get a clear idea of how much it’s going to cost up-front. This can be done by creating a content plan, which many digital savvy writers will be able to help you with.
A contract for deliverables is also advisable. There are many professionals that don’t ask for this, but then others may let you down when it comes to deadlines and delivering the work. I heard about one company that paid a content writer up-front, with no contract and he is still waiting for it to be finished 10 months down the line: unacceptable!
SEO and marketing material
It’s also an idea to ask prospective writers if they are familiar with writing for SEO and if they understand sales terms such as call to action. Plenty of content writers are more than au fait with every aspect of digital marketing, but others just do the writing. Your SEO company can probably supply you with a writer for regular content for this too.
It’s also a good idea to get a good overview of the writer’s skills, as some might be more suited to your needs than others. Can they work in WordPress and Joomla, uploading content if necessary?
Can they supply images and an assurance that these are legally available for you to use? Will you want them to create white papers or offline content that may need some graphical skills? All things that might just make the difference to how smoothly your content marketing projects are carried out.
Time and turnaround
Some writers are quicker than others and often have varying workloads, which may mean they can’t take all of your work on. Ensure you ask how quickly they can produce a simple blog post, on average, and what the turnaround is on jobs that need to be done in a hurry.
Some of the freelance sites use time-tracking software, so that you can keep an eye on how much time they are taking, but it’s not really necessary to do this if you get a good professional. This is because much of a writer’s job is based in trust, so it doesn’t make very good business sense to try to overcharge you.
If you’re really concerned, then ask the writer if they will base the job on word count, rather than time. This can be per 500 words, or per word, depending on how the writer works.
Do bear in mind that you get what you pay for and while it might be tempting to pay $5 for a 1000 word article, it’s unlikely that it will be of much use to you in the long run. The reported prices for content vary wildly online, from as little as £5 per piece to prices running into the 1000s.
If your chosen content writer has a great reputation and provides an extensive portfolio and references, then they will want paying professional rates, despite the fact you can get cheap content online.
Think about the value you’re gaining
With content, it’s all about the value that you’re giving to your readers and followers and for the professional writer, it should be about the value that they’re giving you. This means a high standard of writing and competitive pricing, compared with others in the same niche.
It’s well-known now that duplicate content is damaging to a site’s position in the SERPs, so do ask if the content that they provide is unique and see where you stand on copyright issues too.
Writers that use text-spinning software to ‘rewrite’ existing content are to be avoided, as should those who are not prepared to reveal their sources of information and annotate accordingly. Plagiarism is of course completely unacceptable and so you should use Copyscape in the first instance to check content.
There are also a number of online tools that you can use to check that content is unique, although bear in mind that quotes may be picked up as such if they are used heavily in a piece, especially a short one.
Many smaller businesses avoid paying a content writer, but for SEO and the overall value you’re giving to your customers, the ROI is completely provable. The increase in traffic can make a real difference to conversions, so DIY or cheap content is often impacting your business in a negative manner.