How to Hire A Content Writer
- Clearly define your project
- Create an application
- Post on a job board
- Review writing samples
- Ask for a paid test project
- Have a short video call
How To Hire A Writer on UpWork
I suggest not using UpWork.
While you can use Upwork to find writers I advise against it for several reasons:
- Writers charge on an hourly basis
- You have to pay up front
- You have to use Upwork
I have nothing against the many talented writers who sell their services on Upwork. My problem is with Upwork itself.
I enjoy building relationships. If I’m going to pay someone to do a job I want to get to know them a little bit. We don’t need to be friends, but going through a company like Upwork makes that process complicated.
Upwork requires you to pay up front, either for a set amount of hours or you can propose a flat fee. I dislike both of these options.
The efficiency of writers can vary greatly on an hourly basis. Some writers can quickly knock out your project, especially if they’re familiar with the subject material and the project requires little research.
However, you’re at the mercy of the writer and they can take as long as they need to finish it. The longer they take the more you have to foot the bill for. There are many upstanding and honest writers on Upwork, but there’s also dishonest ones. I don’t trust online reviews anymore and Upwork is incentivzed to make sure their writers are booking work because Upwork takes a cut.
Then there’s the problem with paying up front. Again, I have zero problem paying people for the work they do, but I don’t like giving away all of the payment upfront for something.
For the writers I work with I offer to pay them 50% up-front for the first project. They don’t know me and I don’t know them, but I know how often freelancers can get screwed by shitty clients.
Where Can You Hire A Writer?
The best webiste I’ve used to find writers online is ProBlogger.
ProBlogger has a jobs board that is frequented by some top notch writers. Based on the applications I’ve personally received there are some fantastic professional writers that visit it.
And it’s not limited to just blog writers. Many people who applied for my job have written books and been published in major news outlets.
It cost $75 to post a job and it stays online for 14 days.
My last application was posted on a Sunday night and it had 20 applicants by the next day. Within 6 days I’d received over 50 applicants.
Out of those 50 I had five really solid applicants in my price range. If I could afford more I’d have 15-20 solid applicants.
How Much Does A Freelance Writer Cost?
The price varies by skill and experience, and you get what you pay for.
Writers on ProBlogger often bill their services on a per-word basis, which I prefer over hourly rates.
Prices can vary from $0.03/word up to $0.70/word. That’s a big range, and unless you’re a successful company you likely can’t afford the upper rates.
I’ve found the sweet spot to be between $0.07 and $0.12 cents/word. That strikes a good balanced experience and affordability.
Finding Writers For Your Blog
Within three days of deciding I wanted to hire a ghostwriter I found one and he was working on a paid sample project for me.
Deciding to hire a writer was the best decision I’ve made for my blog. Here’s why:
- It keeps me accountable (if I’m paying someone I need to take this seriously)
- He’s a better writer than me
- I can focus on other tasks
But before taking any action I spent an entire day planning what exactly the writer would work on, the process they would follow, and a backlog of 5 articles for them to get started.
This is the exact process I followed.
1. Clearly Define Your Project
This is the most important part. Sit down and write out exactly what you want this person to do for you.
- What type of articles?
- What industry or niche?
- How long on average should they be?
- What kind of outline will you provide them with?
- What format should they submit the final draft in?
- How much research should they do?
- Should they include images?
That seems like a lot, and it is. You need to fully understand all of that before posting on a job board.
To answer those questions I created a “How to Write for NickLafferty.com” guide. It’s written in Notion.
Checkout the other Notion templates I’ve collected.
It covers everything from who I am, what I expect, how I’ll pay, and what my SEO requirements are.
2. Create an application
I’ll be honest, I borrowed heavily from other writing applications on ProBlogger when creating mine.
The most important questions are:
- Link to writing samples
- Tell me about yourself
The first two are self explanatory. I want to know who you are and an email so I can contact you if I’m interested.
The third is also simple. Send me your writing samples to see if your style matches what I’m looking for. In my case I wanted someone who closely matched my writing style and avoided fluff and filler words like the plague. Someone who can cut through the bullshit.
Lastly, a field for them to talk about themselves. Unsurprisingly, writers want to write about themselves. I had people apply who lived on sheep farms and who have been published at big websites like CrazyEgg.
3. Post on a job board
I used ProBlogger and was happy with the results.
The cost was $75 and I received about 50 applicants. Per-word rates ranged from $0.03 to $0.70.
4. Review writing samples
This is the time consuming part. I suggest dedicating over an hour to reading sampkes.
Look for things like tone of voice, word choice, structure, and how they begin paragraphs.
You don’t have to be a writer to know what good writing looks like.
The fastest way I disqualified people was by how they began paragraphs. I hate filler words that don’t serve a purpose.
The first words of a blog post need to hook you and make you want to keep reading.
The job of the first sentence is to get you to read the second one. The job of the second sentence is to get you to read the third one.
If the first sentence sucks, or begins with a bunch of fluff, I move onto the next one.
Here are some of the worst opening lines from submissions to my application.
You can spend a ton of money marketing your business to everyone you come across, whether they’re interested or not.
A late summer afternoon during the summer can be dreadful and it can become worse when your ac unit stops working
The importance of antioxidants in your daily diet cannot be ignored
Look, I’m no English professor, but those opening lines put me to sleep.
Compare those opening lines to this one
If you’re a gamer, now is the time to get serious about ergonomics. Why? Because your health is at risk. Don’t believe me? I can show you in 15 seconds or less.
If you need help reviewing drafts, ask a friend or a significant other to help you read them. Start by reading something well written like a New York Times article or this except from A Farewell To Arms:
When we were out past the tanneries onto the main road the troops, the motor trucks, the horse-drawn carts and the guns were in one wide slow-moving column. We moved slowly but steadily in the rain, the radiator cap of our car almost against the tailboard of a truck that was loaded high, the load covered with wet canvas.
Use those as a palate clenaser in between reviewing drafts. If you don’t jive with someone, cross them off and move onto the next one.
5. Ask for a paid test project
Pay 👏 People 👏 For 👏 Their 👏 Time 👏
This is a second layer you can use to further vet out candidates. Put together a template for an article and ask them to write it. I offered to pay for half up front.
Here’s what my template included:
- Word Length
- Headings to use
- Supporting Keywords
- Any internal links to use
- Any notes or resources on the topic I thought would be helpful
The goal is to arm your writer with a clear idea of what they need to write about, what the structure should be, and roughly how long the length is.
Here’s part of the email I sent the writer who made the cut.
Thanks for applying to write for my website! I’m impressed with your writing samples and your writing philosophy closely aligns with how I write my own posts.
I’d like to move forward with a paid writing sample from you. How does that sound?
I’ve sketched out an outline for a post on TOPIC X here: link
I had estimated 1,000 words for that article. As we hardly know each other I’m willing to pay 50% upfront if you can get the draft back to me within a few days.
This person doesn’t know you and you don’t know them. But it’s very common for freelancers to get screwed out of money. Don’t be that person.
In the first email I send them my guidelines, the framework of the test post, and offer to pay for half up front. If they agree I send them half.
Within 4 days I had a completed draft back to me
6. Have a short video call
I’m a relationships person. I want to meet anyone who works for me.
But not everyone is comfortable showing themselves on video.
Here’s how I navigated that with my freelancer: | I’m also happy to introduce myself over a short Google Hangouts call if you’re comfortable with that. Not everyone is so feel free to decline.
Again, simple. Totally up to them.
I also think meeting face-to-face helps build the relationship and establish a rapport. You’re no longer an anonymous person over the internet. You’re a real person.
That’s it! Hiring a freelance writer can seem like a great idea but there’s a substantial amount of work that goes into that process.
You need to clearly define your process, write out a how-to write for you guide, draft a job posting, create a writing application in Google Forms, review the submissions, do a paid test, and finally meet them over a video call.
But it’s worth it, I promise. Finding a professional writer will vastly improve the quality of your posts.