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How to Hire Content Writers: Step By Step Guide

Search engine traffic remains one of the best sources of website visitors and leads for businesses today. But to attract organic traffic, your website is going to need high quality content that places well in search rankings.

This is where content writers come in.

But if everyone is looking for great content, how do you find and hire freelance writers for your website? In this post, I'll show you our hiring process for recruiting top notch content writers.

What you will learn

  • Things to consider before you set out on hiring external writers for your blog content
  • How to modify the perfect job posting that we use, to help you attract applicants
  • How to evaluate your candidates and shortlist only the most suitable writers
  • Things you should do to retain and manage your writers

What to consider before hiring freelance content writers

The first step in the journey to hire writers is understanding your content needs. It's crucial to first identify the type of content, frequency, and target audience you're aiming for with your website content.

This will help you find the right writer who has the skills and experience to cater to your role's specific requirements.

Content volume

Content volume will play a significant role in how many writers you decide to hire for your blog's content. We know that Google and other search engines favor fresh content that can help you improve search engine rankings.

But publishing content frequently requires more effort and a bigger content marketing budget to hire writers.

We faced the same stumbling blocks when it came to scaling our content marketing.

However, with Google publicly embracing AI content in the SERPs, we are now able to use Surfer AI to publish over 5 times as many blog posts every month, with a single SEO editor.

At $19 per article, using Surfer AI to generate a significant portion of our blog posts saves us thousands of dollars in writer fees every month.

For example, Surfer AI generated over 3000 words for this blog post that saved us almost $300 in writer fees and several hours of research and on-page optimization.

A study with active content marketers showed that Surfer AI is 10 times faster than the average writer, and 7 times cheaper.

Does this mean you don't need to hire writers?

AI tools like Surfer AI aren't mean to replace writers, but rather to assist them to create high quality search engine optimized content in a fraction of the time it took previously.

What it does mean though is that you don't have to hire 5 different writers if you want to publish 20 blog posts in a week.

You can now hire one content writer and have them edit and optimize all your blog posts written by Surfer AI.

AI can help you scale content like nothing else.

In fact, it worked so well for us, we have almost automated our entire SEO workflow with AI.

When you review content writers, assess their ability to handle your desired content frequency, ensuring they can meet deadlines and maintain a consistent output with or without AI generated text.

Your content strategy may dictate that you only need 3 articles per week amounting to 12 articles in a month.

However if each article is over 3000 words, you will likely end up needing to hire more than one writer or use AI, unless you already have enough in house writers.

Type of content

Different content formats require unique writing styles and expertise.

For instance, creating affiliate review roundup posts demand more research and a conversational tone, while writing technical articles requires in-depth subject knowledge.

It's essential to hire a content writer who can adapt to your preferred content format, instead of first hiring a writer and then training them in your niche.

When searching for a writer, differentiate between a technical writer, content writer and an SEO copywriter.

Although they sound similar, they offer different skills for content formats such as blog posts, landing pages, and product descriptions.

Target audience

The success of your content will depend on how well it resonates with your target audience.

A skilled content writer should be able to craft content that appeals to your audience, and search engines while driving engagement and conversions for your website.

Hiring a writer familiar with your industry and target audience can ensure that your content is relevant, informative, and valuable to your readers.

Ask potential candidates about their experience with your target audience.

Assess their understanding of your particular niche and their ability to write articles that address your audience's needs and preferences.

Where to find content writers

There are several writing job boards you can post on, as well as on Facebook and Linkedin groups.

I've found the most success by posting on Problogger, Linkedin and our careers page.  

Each approach has its benefits, and the most suitable option depends on your specific requirements and resources.

Here are some additional ways you can find website writers.

Freelancer platforms

Freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr offer a vast pool of content writers with diverse skills and experiences.

These platforms allow you to review writers' profiles, writing samples, and client feedback, helping you shortlist blog writers that meet your criteria.

When using freelance platforms, remember to post detailed job listings outlining your content needs and expectations. This will attract the best writers and make the hiring process more efficient for you.

Content writing agencies

Content writing agencies offer a streamlined approach to hiring SEO writers.

These agencies have a roster of pre-vetted writers, ensuring you receive high-quality content tailored to your content creation needs.

While an agency's content writing services may be more expensive than hiring a freelance writer, you'll benefit from a dedicated account manager, editing services, and a more consistent output.

When choosing a content writing agency, research their specialization, client testimonials, and past work.

This will help you find an agency that aligns with your industry, content goals, and quality standards.

Networking and referrals

Networking events and referrals from industry peers can lead you to experienced content writers with proven track records.

These connections can provide insights into the writer's work ethic, industry knowledge, and compatibility with your business.

You've likely seen social media posts on Linkedin that solicit applications, and have been quite successful.

This is a good option if you have a decent SEO budget and are looking to hire a content writer from a competitor or closely linked companies.

How to hire freelancer content writers

Finding a freelancer writer for your website requires a well planned approach that can help you attract the best freelance content writers for your needs.

An effective application process can also help keep unqualified applicants out of your candidate pool so you're not buried under tons of below par applications. As content marketers, we have found ourselves in your shoes several times.

And we now have the task of hiring freelancer writers down to an effective scalable process that works for different industries and niches.

Here are 5 steps to hire a content writer for your blog or website.

1. Create a job posting

A job listing is your first point of contact with potential candidates and sets the tone for what they can expect from the role.

Be transparent in your job description, and ensure you cover day to day responsibilities, the candidate's requirements and other relevant information.

This will help potential candidates understand what the role entails and whether they are a good fit.

Outline your requirements

Be clear about your needs and expectations.

Start by defining what you're looking for in a freelance writer.

Are you looking for someone with a specific area of expertise? Do you need someone who can work on a variety of topics?

Include skills and qualifications required along with any specific needs for the role.

This will help you attract the right candidates and deter those who may not be a good fit.

Some examples of requirements can be

  • minimum industry experience
  • native or near native English
  • ability to meet deadlines
  • commitment to 5000 words per week
  • 4 day turn around per 3000 words

State their responsibilities

Be upfront about what the role entails and what you expect from your web writers.

This will help build trust with potential candidates and set the stage for a positive working relationship.

You can include responsibilities such as

  • original research and case studies
  • 8 blog articles per month or 20,000 words per month
  • on-page SEO implementation
  • proofreading and editing
  • internal linking

Highlight important information

Ensure that your writers know whether you are seeking a one-time assignment or long term contract.

It's also useful to include payment terms because it can attract experienced writers who will usually pick and choose their applications.  

On the flip side, you'll also receive unqualified applicants if you're paying well.

Share your long-term goals and successes, and tell writers about who they will be working with. Communicate your company's culture and mention any benefits that the role may include.

This can help attract candidates who are not just interested in the role, but also in being part of your company's journey.

The goal of your job posting is not just to attract candidates, but to attract the right candidates.

By being clear, detailed, and authentic, you can increase your chances of finding a content writer who is a perfect fit for your needs.

An example of a job posting for freelance writers

Modify the below template we use successfully to post jobs to hire a content writer.

We are looking for experienced and competent [SEO content writers/freelance writers/ghost writers] who can write on [your industry and topics]. 

You should be able to commit at least [X,000 words per week] starting at X cents a word. We offer [any benefits such as hands-on training, access to tools, etc] and you can expect [number of words per week/month] based on your performance.

The blog posts you write will often showcase [what are they writin about] and require a genuine understanding of the topics you cover. We’re looking for evidence of good SEO writing and an all-around understanding of topics you’ve written about, but you don’t have to be an expert. 

You do however, have to be an expert at research. 

Here are a few websites to look at to understand the quality of writing we’re looking for. If you can envisage yourself fitting into any of these, we’re probably a good fit.

  • [Mention at least 3-5 blogs you want to emulate in quality]

Key requirements

  • Native or near-native level English 
  • Comprehensive research skills
  • [X000 words per week at minimum]
  • Basic SEO understanding [metadata, links and images]

Helpful but not essential to have experience with SEO and research tools like Surfer, Answer the Public, Google Trends.

Dealbreakers 

  • Poor compliance with content guidelines
  • Superficial writing.
  • Plagiarism

2. Evaluate potential content writers

Speaking from first hand experience, your inbox is going to be flooded if your job listing offers a decent rate, and includes benefits in the role.  

Unfortunately, the internet is filled with examples of poor quality content, and everyone with a computer offers freelance writing.

For this reason, you can expect to receive a significant portion of unqualified applications for the freelance content writer's role.

It's crucial to have an application review process that can streamline the hiring process by helping you quickly separate high quality writers from the crowd.

Create an application form

An application form is a great way to evaluate applications and shortlist the most suitable writers from others.

I like to ask a few simple questions that can help me assess their writing style and proficiency.

Here are some questions you can modify for your job listing to hire a freelance content writer.

  • Name
  • Location
  • Capacity [words per 30 days]
  • Short bio
  • Links to 2 of your best articles
  • A short summary of your SEO/content experience.

It allows me to gather all the necessary information about a candidate in one place.

This can include their contact information, work experience, writing samples, and any other details you think are important.

It's a good idea to add in a test question in the application form.

It will act as a filter because only the most motivated and experienced candidates will take the time to answer this question.

It doesn't have to be long, and can be something along the lines of

Explain in under 100 words an overview of how you would [describe a situation that you need the writer to have experience in]

For example, in our case, we're looking for content writers who understand SEO concepts well.

And so my test question could be:

Explain in under 100 words an overview of how you would rank a 3 month old blog with a $300 budget.  

It doesn't have to be elaborate but the answers will tell us if the candidate has basic SEO knowledge, and can be shortlisted onto the next round.

However, here's a note of precaution.

With the availability of AI writing tools, you will find that a large number of applicants rely heavily on them to answer your test question.

Instead of using AI content detectors which have been proved to be faulty, I suggest using ChatGPT to seek out answers to your test question.

Add variations to your question and familialrize yourself with the answers it generates.

This will help you identify patterns and similar structures when someone is using AI generated answers to your test question.

Review portfolios and writing samples

A writer's portfolio and writing samples provide valuable insights into their writing abilities.

Examine their work for flow, technical accuracy, readability, and consistency in style and tone.

This will help you determine if the writer can create content that aligns with your brand and engages your target audience.

If a writer's portfolio doesn't include samples relevant to your industry, don't hesitate to request additional work samples.

This can give you a better understanding of their work and ensures you have a comprehensive understanding of their capabilities before moving them on.

In rare cases, we've moved writers to the next round where they didn't have relevant articles but exhibited exceptional research and writing skills.

Seek industry experience

Hiring a professional writer with industry experience guarantees they have the technical knowledge to create authoritative content.

Familiarity with industry-specific terminology, processes, and trends allows the writer to produce content that resonates with your target audience and positions your brand as a thought leader.

This type of content is invaluable for businesses looking to establish themselves as industry experts and build trust with their customers. It can also help to increase website traffic and boost conversions.

3. Conduct interviews and tests

Conducting interviews and tests are essential to help you make decisions that leave no room for mistakes.

Putting your candidates in real life scenarios that mimic the role they are applying for can greatly aid your hiring decisions.

Writing tests

The truth about hiring a freelance content writer is that you don't know how good (or bad) they are until they have written an article for you.

Administering a take home written test that you decide the topic for, can help you assess their writing skills in a more controlled setting, ensuring that they have the necessary expertise to write high-quality articles for your website.

You can conduct writing tests in two ways:

  1. Assign a topic to the writer and nothing else. This approach can help you evaluate their subject matter expertise, writing ability and research skills for your industry. You can gauge how independent they are, and make a decision based on the needs of your role.
  2. In the second scenario, you provide a detailed content brief and your website content guidelines. This is more helpful for the writer and can work if you don't need your writers to be very independent, or have personal experience.

Make sure you set a reasonable deadline for completion that reflects their role's expectation.

When assessing the submitted work, consider accuracy, clarity, creativity, and adherence to your content guidelines.

Interview questions

Interviews allow you to evaluate the writer's understanding of your industry, target audience, and content needs.

They can also showcase aspects of your writer's personality that won't shine through on paper.

Interviews may not always be necessary, especially if you're hiring short term or for freelance work that won't involve much collaboration.

However, if you are hiring for the long term, or hope to absorb an applicant should there be a future need for an in house writer, interviews can be helpful.

I suggest not interviewing until there's a real need for it, just because freelance writers often drop off and the role involves a high turnover.

If you hold interviews, ask questions that reveal the content writer's expertise, industry experience, and understanding of your target audience.

Inquire about their experience with various content formats, industry knowledge, and familiarity with content management systems, and content writing tools you are using.

These questions will help you gauge their suitability for your content needs.

Assess communication and collaboration skills

Effective communication and collaboration skills are critical for content writers to work productively with your team members.

During the hiring process, assess the writer's ability to articulate ideas, illustrate industry concepts, and stick with instructions.

Open communication channels with your content writer ensure a smooth workflow, timely delivery of projects, and the ability to address any issues or concerns promptly.

A simple way to tell if they'll get along with your current content marketing workflow, is if they followed your instructions.

For example, during the application process, you can also ask them to email you their writing samples and mention a subject line to include.

This will help you filter applicants by subject line, and reconsider those who don't follow simple details like this.

4. Set expectations and guidelines

After you've done the work of selecting a freelance writer for your website content, it's crucial to set clear expectations and guidelines regarding content, deadlines, and schedules.

This will help you manage writers and ensure they understand your requirements to deliver content in line with your editorial calendar and website copy.

Share content guidelines

You should already have established content guidelines that outline your brand's voice, tone, and style.

Share this along with your content outline and  information on content formats, target audience, and any specific requirements for each piece of content.

For example, if you are in a B2B industry, perhaps your blogs and press releases require a more serious tone, without room for creative writing.

Compare that to a blog about travel and your articles may be more casual.  

This will help the writer create content that aligns with your brand and engages your target audience.

Set deadlines and schedules

Setting realistic deadlines and schedules is vital in ensuring timely delivery of content and maintaining a positive working relationship with your content writer. Communicate deadlines clearly and provide sufficient time for revisions and adjustments as needed.

Deadlines should be realistic and achievable, and should be communicated clearly to the content writer.

This will help ensure that your content is delivered on time and that you maintain a positive working relationship.

5. Managing and retaining your content writer

To manage and retain your content writer effectively, provide regular feedback, offer incentives and recognition, and maintain open communication.

These practices foster a productive working relationship and will encourage your writers to deliver their best work.

If instead, you have decided to hire a content marketing agency specializing in your area, you don't have to worry about writer management because they'll take care of it.

Provide clear feedback

Provide regular feedback on the writer's work to help them improve and grow professionally.

Constructive criticism and recognition for a job well done can be motivating and ensure they remain committed to delivering high-quality content.

Incentives and recognition

Offer incentives and recognition to motivate your content writer and show appreciation for their hard work.

This can include bonuses, awards, or public recognition of their achievements.

Even a byline if they've predominantly been ghost writing helps!

Communicate openly

Maintain open communication channels with your content writer to address any concerns or queries promptly.

This ensures that both parties are on the same page and can collaborate effectively on projects.

Regular check-ins and updates help keep the workflow smooth and the relationship strong. You can use tools like Slack or even email is fine, as long as you communicate effectively.

Key takeaways

  • Evaluate potential writers by reviewing portfolios, writing samples and industry experience.
  • By understanding your content needs and effectively evaluating potential writers, you will find the perfect content writer for your business.
  • Set expectations and guidelines, provide regular feedback & incentives to manage & retain a content writer.
  • Foster a productive working relationship with your content writer through clear expectations, regular feedback, incentives, and open communication.

Conclusion

Hiring the right content writer is instrumental to driving your business's success through engaging, high-quality content. As content marketers, we know that finding a great writer can be difficult but have managed to implement this process successfully for some time now.

We are now able to publish high quality content much faster as a result of combining AI writing tools with human SEO writers. Let us know in the comments below what you've had the most success with when it comes to hire a content writer.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics