Hiring writers isn’t as clear-cut as you might think, and if you’ve never done it (or if it’s been a while), you may find yourself with a poor fit.
Learn the basics below to steer clear of common pitfalls.
Why hire a writer to begin with
On the surface, writers are plentiful. You can go to sites like Fiverr or Upwork and get heaps of words for a minimal budget.
Only, those words probably aren’t going to help your business much, and they certainly won’t have much effort put behind them.
So, let’s discuss why you need to spend some time hiring a good writer.
You don’t have time to keep hiring writers
Hiring anyone takes time, and constantly hiring for the same position gets old.
Lower-quality writers will under-deliver, require a great deal of time with editing, and may promptly leave you for the next easy job.
You’ll spend more of your time hiring and correcting simple mistakes than you will receiving any benefit in the first place.
Hire quality, hire once, and be done.
There are too many SEO factors to stay on top of
Good writing looks at various factors.
If you’re not always on top of SEO and digital marketing, you’ll quickly find that the rules change quickly.
That said, there are some reliable factors that generally ring true with all quality writers, all of the time:
- They know how to use the right tools to ensure quality, SEO-focused content
- They work from a draft built on SEO-focused research
- Their content is always optimized for on-page SEO and external links
- Good writers will also help you update old posts for maximum impact
If you don’t find a writer with these traits, you will find yourself back at the job board with another posting.
How to hire a writer
Your website needs content, and the pitches in your inbox aren’t going to respond to themselves. A writer will help you offset your content workload and make headway against your competitors, so it’s important to hire the right person.
Here are the 7 steps we’ve found to help you embark on how to hire a writer – one who is right for the job.
1. Create a workflow
Hiring a writer doesn’t help you much if you have no way to effectively track projects, assign work, and facilitate communication.
There are too many elements at play to leave your content to chance.
A solid internal workflow that includes automation to track progress and measure KPIs will allow you to maintain a series of checks that ensure a quality finished project.
Build a project board that involves a researching phase, an editorial phase, and keeps your future writer in the know. Here’s a look at a workflow you can build in a popular Kanban workflow:
When building your workflow, it’s also a good idea to look into time-saving measures or unnecessary steps.
Something like Wordable, a tool that lets you import content directly from a Google Doc into Wordpress can streamline your workflow so your writers can focus on more important KPIs:
2. Post the job listing
Once the workflow is in place, post the listing.
There are plenty of job boards and freelancing sites that try to ensure quality on both sides of the equation, like ProBlogger, We Work Remotely, and more.
LinkedIn is also popular — at least according to 93% of hiring managers.
3. Screen out spam and low-quality candidates
The amount of noise you can get from writer job boards can be mind-blowing.
It can also inundate your inbox for months if you’re not careful, so take some basic measures to weed out the spam from the serious inquiries from day one.
There are a few methods you can use.
If you’re receiving email inquiries, set up an email filter and request that all candidates use a specific subject line.
To set one up in Gmail, click the down arrow in the search bar, and fill out the filter with your desired subject line:
Then make sure you have a way to easily view all your emails at once.
Now when a candidate reads your listing and follows the directions, you’ll be able to quickly find them in your inbox. It’s a quick way to weed out who has and hasn’t read your posting.
Or, if you use a form, opt for a system that allows you to test and select candidates without going back and forth between spreadsheets, documents, and email.
4. Build a shortlist
Don’t just select the first good writer that drops into your lap.
Wait for your listing to mature, and then start assessing candidates you think may be a good fit for your brand.
We recommend using a simple template like this one:
You can download it for yourself here.
Depending on how many writers you need to hire, we recommend building a shortlist of at least 10 writers for one hire.
5. Have everyone on the shortlist do a paid test piece
This is where you test the mettle of your potential hires.
Have your shortlist candidates create a paid piece of content that fits into your overall content marketing plan.
It’s a good idea to have them create pieces for topics that you would actually publish — even if you don’t publish the finished result. This checks whether a writer can work well with you, research and write for your niche, and take any feedback you send their way.
6. Hire the best fit
Let’s be clear: we’re not saying hire the most proficient, best writer.
Hire the best fit for your brand.
There are likely plenty of writers who can write for your company, but the best way to move forward is to focus on relationships with writers who go beyond simple proficiency. They will also communicate well, meet deadlines, take feedback willingly, and minimize your time in the edit.
7. Train, give feedback, and evolve
We can’t talk about how to hire a writer without talking about what comes once you’ve made your choice. It doesn’t stop there.
You need to continue working closely with your new writer to make sure they fully understand your voice, brand, and audience.
The best way to do this is to provide direct feedback with in-document comments or video overviews.
You may also want to start looking into working with an SEO team to elevate your content even further and avoid simple mistakes (like keyword stuffing).
It’s surprising how advanced keyword research has become, and new techniques like a keyword gap analysis are a great way to further train writers and boost your brand. If you’re unfamiliar, a gap analysis according to Loganix:
“goes beyond standard keyword research, and finds keywords 2 or more competitors are ranking for in organic search.”
However you move forward, you can rest assured that the writer you’ve hired is a good fit for your company.
Hiring a writer may not be simple, but you can’t afford the continuous setbacks you’ll experience with a bad hire.
Use the insights above to slow down, find a writer that fits your brand, and train them to be the optimal voice for your content.
With the right fit, you’ll have one less headache to worry about in your day-to-day.
Jeremy is the CMO of Wordable, a productivity tool that helps you export from Google Docs into Wordpress in no time.