You need to hire a content writer because you know that content marketing is the future. But… how do you figure out how to hire a content writer that doesn’t suck?
The great thing about finding a writer is that you can know for sure whether someone is good before actually hiring them. It’s similar to hiring a web designer. You can give them a project and see how they do without actually offering them a full-time job. You don’t need to get 6 months deep with a new employee to find out that they were blowing smoke during the interview process. When we hire content writers and designers, all we care about is their portfolio, how they perform a job we throw at them, and if they’re the right culture fit. It makes hiring for that position really easy.
We know and recognize that content is king, but we also know that it can’t just be any content. It’s got to be good content. Some people mistakenly believe that “Anyone can write a blog post these days.” Sprinkle a few keywords and phrases, attach a meme or two, add some throwaway headlines and you have yourself a blog! But nowhere is the adage “you get what you pay for” more apt than with an inbound marketing and content writing strategy. If you want quality work that will yield real results, a good content writer is the essential starting place.
The Nuts and Bolts of Good Content and the Writers Who Create It
Creating killer blogs that convert require more than getting some keywords down on the page and hoping that people will find and click through to your site. The best content writers are also excellent editors, researchers, and marketers. They don’t have to be data scientists, but they should understand and feel comfortable interpreting data into written content as it relates to your overall marketing strategy and goals.
It All Starts with Good Storytelling
Storytelling has become something of a buzzword in the inbound marketing world, but it is one of the oldest and most enduring human art forms for a reason – it is one of the most powerful tools available for fostering emotional engagement, especially among the sea of bad writing that clutters the digital landscape, from websites to social media. Consumers are no longer satisfied with being passive participants in a one-way transaction, they want meaningful connections with their favorite brands. Good storytelling is the key to opening that door.
Beyond the Blog: Look for Versatile and Adaptable Writers
Blogging is an essential component of a solid digital marketing platform, but it’s only part of the pie. Depending on your business needs and marketing goals, you will probably also need content for ads, newsletters, web pages, landing pages, emails, video scripts, social media posts, and infographics. The best writers can not only adapt for style and tone, they can also deliver effective copy across platforms and for a variety of mediums.
Look for the following qualities in a good writer when expanding a content writing department:
- Skill level
- Type of writing experience/portfolio
- Familiarity with and enthusiasm for your industry or brand
- Availability/ability to meet deadlines
Where to Find Great Content Writers
As the demand for quality online content continues to grow, numerous marketplaces have sprung up to help connect brands and marketers with professional writers. From straightforward ads on Craigslist (yes, professional writers check their ads regularly for interesting gigs) to requests for bids on auction type sites like Upwork, the important thing to remember when looking to hire a professional content writer is that not all writers are created equal. As with professionals in any industry, experienced and skilled writers will come with a higher initial price tag than the amateurs, but are ultimately well worth the investment in terms of ROI and what they can deliver. (Pro tip: if someone is willing to write a 1,000 word piece for $5, chances are you will have to invest a significantly higher price tag in terms of the time and money that it will take to compensate for poor quality).
While a resume and portfolio of previous work can paint a picture of a writer’s experience and writing ability, asking for a writing sample specific to the type of writing they will be doing for your organization is a better way to gauge whether it will be a good fit. A sample 400 word blog post on a relevant topic is appropriate, and many prospective employers offer payment for samples as a way to incentive good writers to take the time to apply. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to ask for a spec sample from every applicant. Think of it as a round two or three interview technique to hone in on the real contenders).
Be Clear About Your Goals and Expectations
Most professional writers juggle multiple gigs and clients, especially if they work freelance or as contract writers. Although it would probably be impossible to pinpoint what the workload and required time commitment will be down to the hour, it is important to give an accurate description of the job and your expectations in order to find the best fit. Some questions to consider before you begin your search might include:
Is it a full time, W2 position with full benefits, or a part-time contractor position?
Will they be required to work onsite, remotely, or both? Many writers are location independent, and the ability to work remotely can be a deal breaker. Consider what you can offer in order to narrow the pool with appropriate candidates.
Will they be working independently or as part of a team?
Do you have an seo team in place, or will the writer be required to do keyword research and pitch content ideas?
Will you need ongoing work for a long-term assignment, or do you just need temporary help for a specific assignment?
Will the content be ghostwritten or byline?
Are you a niche brand or publication or a digital marketing agency creating content for many clients across several verticals?
Think Like a Reader and Consumer
Despite the data-driven direction that society in general and marketing, in particular, have taken over the last few years, the best content writers are excellent storytellers at heart and can write interesting material about even the most boring topics. Do a little research into your market and see who is writing and producing the type of content you are looking for. If you find a specific writer that you like you can always contact them directly, or use similar writing as a template for prospective hires. Overall, rock star writers are usually made and nurtured over time, so think of hiring good writers as a long-term investment in your brand.