How to Hire and Manage Freelance Writers

how to hire and manage freelance writers

Content marketing requires extensive effort to really work. First off, you need tons of content. Then, that content needs to be really good. Once you have content, you need to keep producing more, plus promote the content, and then audit the content over time to ensure it stays updated and relevant.

That’s a lot of work for one person, let alone a team.

So naturally, if you’re running a blog or any form of written content, the natural next step is to hire freelance writers.

Great idea! But where do you start? How do you find freelance writers? Once you have them, how do you manage them? Keep them on track? Make sure your content schedule stays on schedule?

In this article, we’re going to talk about all of that.

The First Step is to Define Your Strategy

Hiring freelance writers won’t help anything if you don’t have a well-crafted content strategy. So, the first step is to create a content strategy. I’m not covering how to do that in this article, but you can read about my strategy for content research here.

I suggest coming up with a three-to-six-month calendar. This is just good marketing advice, but you also don’t want to hire freelance writers without giving them enough work to keep them around for a while. Make sure that your content strategy is based on your intended audience. You’ll need that information available so that your writers know who they’re writing for.

The next thing you need to do is determine your brand guidelines. This is the style and language your firm is going to use in its articles. This should be solely based on your intended audience.

Are you attracting academics? Then you need to be very professional and “smart” in language.

Looking for investors? Get to the point with information.

Attracting marketers? Use a lot of screenshots and give step-by-step instructions on certain topics.

Once you have a content calendar and a brand guideline, you can work on hiring writers.

How to Look for Writers

Let me start off the bat by saying: avoid Fiverr and similar sites.

It’s really tempting to go to Fiverr and hire some one-off writer just to get some words on a page. But that’s precisely what you’ll get: words on a page.

First, I’ll warn you, be prepared to spend money. Good money. The best freelance writers will only write for higher pay. If you want great content, you’ll have to pay up.

I can’t necessarily give you specific numbers and every writer is different. Plus, some fields require more research or expertise compared to others, so it depends on your industry too. But for me, as someone who writes for financial and real estate companies, my numbers usually fall above $250-$300 for a 1,000-word project.

The reason: you get really good content with me, it’s optimized for SEO, I know what type of content converts and receives engagement, and I can write about a diverse range of topics.

The best freelance writers provide the same value, so be prepared to pay numbers in that same category.

Once you figure out your budget for paying writers, it’s time to begin your search.

The 3 Things You’re Looking For

In essence, you want writers who have:

  • The ability to write well.
  • The ability to rank content on Google.
  • Written about a topic within the same umbrella as your content strategy.

You don’t need a writer who has ranked every article they’ve ever written first on Google. For one, that’s impossible. Second, that sort of thing depends on a number of factors that might be out of their control.

Instead, evaluate their past content and determine whether you think it has ranking potential. Or you could simply ask them for a sample of an article that has ranked well. For instance, I have a few articles that have ranked first or in the top three for some competitive and non-competitive keywords. I share these with firms because Google has already determined that they’re good.

Now, when looking for past experience in your subject, I have a few words on this.

When I started writing for real estate, I knew nothing about real estate. No, seriously, I knew absolutely nothing. But I started a blog for my company at the time and I needed to get content up.

Within five months, I had a top-ranked blog according to detailed.com and 40+ articles written. I used those articles, all of which you could visually see the progression in quality over time, as my portfolio to start writing for other firms.

Nowadays, I’m a full-fledged freelance writer, but the point is that I started knowing absolutely nothing. Of course, for your content strategy, you’ll want to start off hot, so make sure you’re getting writers that are a little bit farther down the line as a writer. But if they haven’t written extensively about your exact topic but have about similar topics, then I wouldn’t be afraid to hire them.

In my case, real estate turned into opportunities to write for natural resource investing. This is a natural pivot, as investing, real estate, and natural resources are all closely related.

Is there a learning curve? Absolutely.

But previous writing experience and general knowledge about foundational topics allow me to make the pivot as a good and experienced writer. You want to look for similar abilities.

Now, if your blog is about supply chain economics and you’re considering a writer who’s written solely about software development throughout their career, then that I’m not so sure is a good hire.

The main idea: don’t evaluate based on their expertise in your topic. Evaluate based on their style, ability, and base level knowledge and experience.

Note: For an in-depth list for the essential skills content writers must have, you can find that here.

Where to Find Writers

There are a bunch of places, yet a lot of folks end up on Fiverr and other cheap sites.

When it comes to hiring great writers, you can start with word of mouth. Ask your coworkers, friends, family, or whoever you know that might have a good connection somewhere.

The next place to go is Medium, which is full of fantastic writers. Just read around and shoot out inquiries.

Then, the next place would be to find the personal websites of writers that you’ve seen in other publications. Most freelance writers have personal sites that allow you to connect with them (such as this one). This is a great way to find the absolute best writers.

Those are three places that can reliably find you great talent. No need to look further.

What to Say When You’re Hiring a Writer

This is something that can be done so well without too much effort. But instead, time and time again, I see firms botch their hiring pitch for good writers.

Listen, and let me make this clear. If you initiate a conversation with a freelance writer, you are the leader of the conversation. You offer the pay rates, the job, the ideas, the content you need written, and you provide the ideal timeline if they choose to work with you.

Going back and forth in emails about rates and timelines and ideal expectations is just a waste of time. If you’re serious about content and you want to hire a good writer, then you ought to have a plan in place by the time you initiate a conversation.

The best first impressions companies have made on me are the ones that offer their pay rates and expectations out of the gate so that the conversation isn’t a waste of our time. If there’s a conflict that is incompatible, then the conversation ends with no hard feelings.

Negotiation is fine. I’ve been through plenty of them whether it was for pay rates or something else. But there’s a difference between negotiation and then not having the faintest clue about what you want to pay your writers.

Remember, when you’re in the market for good writers, you’re hiring professionals. They know their worth and what they bring to the table. Approach them as professionals and you’ll see higher rates of acceptance and healthy relationships. Not to mention—great content.

Important Note: If you’re hiring writers. Make sure you have a contract for them to sign so that there’s some sort of legal protection for both sides. A common theme across all of the top firms I’ve ever written for is that they have me sign formal contracts.

How to Manage Your Writers

Well, you’ve made it this far. Congratulations!

Now you have the privilege of managing your writers and assigning them work. The point of hiring good writers is to relieve a lot of the editorial and managerial burdens that you deal with whenever you work with poor writers. Good writers write well enough that they require little editorial oversight (longer projects tend to require a lot more though).

In general, you should assign work to writers with a reasonable lead time (usually one week) unless you’ve agreed to something quicker or longer. Sometimes, when sensible, sharing content calendars and integrating your writers into a project management system is a great way to keep everyone accountable and on the same page.

As for managing them, they usually don’t need their hand held. It’s fine to send them brief outlines to make sure the right points are getting hit from an SEO standpoint, but don’t think that you need to send full-on briefs to them. The best writers do well when given the space to be autonomous.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate with them, which brings me to my next point.

How to Communicate with Your Writers

Communication is important. Try to answer your writer’s emails within a day. That’s my bottom-line advice.

Sometimes we have questions about a project that’s coming up and we need clarification. The later you answer their questions, the shorter amount of time they have to make corrections. Try to get back to them relatively quickly. I understand you have responsibilities elsewhere, but content needs to get out on time to be effective.

Another tidbit is to always provide feedback when you can. Give encouragement, constructive feedback, be direct and open about their writing, and try to lead them towards your vision. At the end of the day, good writers take pride in their work and want to do a good job. Allow us to do the right thing for you by communicating your goals.

Creating Loyalty and Building Relationships

Writers can make a profound impact on your bottom line as a firm. At least they could if there’s a proper marketing strategy in place.

With that in mind, if you strike gold with a writer, it should be your utmost priority to keep them on your side. At the end of the day, freelancers have shaky job security. No matter what we do, that’s the nature of our profession. Of course, some of us have our own businesses or other, more secure jobs, but a lot of times you won’t know a writer’s individual circumstances.

So, to keep a top-performing writer, I suggest building a real relationship with them. Then, if you can, give them extra work, pay them more, offer them more meaningful types of projects, and make them feel important to the company’s success.

You’ll see them continue to give you better and better quality work, putting you and the company in a stronger position.

In Closing

Hiring freelance writers can be a great experience. But finding the right talent can be challenging.

However, if you follow the steps above, it should make the process a little bit easier. Remember, keeping things simple is the best way to get good results.

Of course, if you’re looking for a good writer, I’ll use this line to insert my marketing plug and let you know that you can contact me for work here.

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