On the one hand, marketing managers seem to have an ocean of website content writers to choose from, with thousands of profiles on each of the numerous freelance marketplaces like Upwork.
And so affordable, too. It’s right there in the name at Fiverr.
On the other hand, anyone serious about content marketing who has gone to marketplace platforms like that to find freelancers knows how little they will help establish your brand as a thought leader with authority. Freelance content writers working for pennies a word aren’t going to develop anything that will impress your buyers.Freelance writers working for pennies a word aren’t going to develop anything that will impress your buyers. Click To Tweet
So finding freelance web content writers isn’t the easy solution for your content development that it first appears to be. You’ll need a more careful approach than a posting on marketplace websites.
Our content marketing agency provides freelance content management, so we hire freelance content writers all the time. But most of the time when our client mix changes and we need another writer or two, we have to go out and find them.
And we can’t compromise on quality, because excellent writing is essentially what we’re promising to our clients. We’re not a full-service marketing agency. High-quality editorial is all we do.
So we’ve developed a system over the last few years to find content writers that works for us and that balances the competing factors of cost and quality.
The third factor we have to account for is time, because the prospect of reading and evaluating writing samples, interviewing writers, testing them and onboarding them was overwhelming the first few times we needed to. We put in a lot of time before we figured out some efficiencies.
Our process for finding freelance bloggers and other content writers takes about one month from launch to reviewing the test assignment, and we’ve laid it all out for you here. This is a long read, but if you treat it as a step-by-step guide, we think you’ll find it helpful.
Phase one: Preparing to search for freelance website content writers
Generally, this hiring guide is broken into two phases — preparing for your search and conducting your search. As you’re reading, you may feel that some of the preparation work at the beginning will delay you advertising the job opening for too long, but we’ve learned that slowing down here makes things move more quickly — and effectively — later.
And, because we are a small content agency, investing in an applicant tracking software isn’t cost effective for us, so we’ll be hacking together some tools that might appall a larger employer for whom an ATS is familiar. If you already have an ATS you’re happy with, you may want to concentrate on the “what we look for” aspect of this guide and to ignore the explanation of spreadsheets and bulletin boards.
1. Decide how you’ll pay writers
We hire freelance writers on a deliverables basis. (That’s also how we charge clients for our content marketing services.) Paying by the hour doesn’t make sense for writers, because the amount of it time it takes for a single article is so unpredictable. Even if you are hiring writers for a W-9 position, I think a salaried structure for a defined scope of responsibilities makes more sense than hourly pay.
You could also use by-the-word rates to pay website content writers. And many writers may be used to that if they’ve freelanced for newspapers or magazines. But by-the-word pay creates incentive problems and record-keeping problems.
To calculate the price by the deliverable, first we establish the minimum length of the article, and we use a per-word rate as a rule of thumb to calculate what’s reasonable for the market. And we do use that per-word rate in the advertisement, because that’s the language people recognize.
But later on we’re going to translate that rule of thumb into a set fee to deliver the article. That gives the freelance writer the latitude to run long on word count without feeling they are cheating themselves. And it gives you room to edit without worrying there will be a dispute about who owes whom for the change in word count.
Ultimately a deliverables basis for website writing services makes more sense for you because you know how many content assets you need in a month or in a six-month campaign. You are less likely to know how many words you’ll need in that period.
2. Design a “pre-qualification” test
The pre-qualification test is going to go in the job ad itself. After establishing a welcoming tone (more on that below), you want to challenge the applicants to demonstrate they will meet your high standards.
The pre-qualification test should not be time consuming for the applicants. Assume these are experienced professionals, and don’t demand that they jump through too many hoops just to get you to read their materials.
But there are people out there robotically applying to everything or who are vastly under-qualified. You need a way to weed them out quickly but without condescending to the serious applicants.
The test you design will depend on what you are prioritizing in your search. I’m always looking for website content writers who can “think like reporters.” So I test for that thinking. After selecting an example article, I put something like this in the ad as the test:
Please include in your email a paragraph with this short test: Review [the sample article] and suggest one or two ideas for a followup article on the same subject. What will readers benefit from exploring next?
I’m looking for questions in the response. If they frame the angle of the next article as an issue to be explored, that’s a good sign. If they frame it as a headline, they might be thinking more like a blogger than like a reporter. (I put a big premium on interviewing skills and starting with questions rather than with a thesis.)When hiring content writers, put a big premium on interviewing skills and starting with questions. Click To Tweet
The important point is that this test takes only a few minutes to include in their application email, and it acts as a natural “paying attention” test also. I know any email that doesn’t include this is from someone who didn’t really read the job ad or who isn’t taking us seriously.
3. Prepare “test assignments” for your final candidates
I don’t mean unpaid test assignments. That’s unprofessional, and any writer who agrees to do one is inexperienced and not going to develop real thought leadership content for you in the end. This approach is more like playing the lottery than a real plan to hire writers.
The kind of test assignments I’m talking about fairly compensate the professional writer who will be working on it.
But the test also needs to contain a low risk of exposure to you. You probably can’t afford to pay several people to work on material you can’t actually use.
So I usually assign our final candidates to work on articles that I actually need. Scary? Yes — because I can’t give our clients inferior work, and I can’t have work showing up late.
But with some creativity in the scheduling, I can make manage this. I look across all my editorial calendars to find assignments that, if the writer doesn’t deliver on, the delay won’t be a disaster. I’ll have time to reassign those to another writer or — more likely — my editors and I can jump in revise as needed.
Keep in mind, too, that you won’t be issuing these assignments to every person who applies. These assignments will be used in the final stage in selecting a writer after you’ve narrowed down your pool to a small handful of highly-qualified candidates.
Another approach is that I’ll often have some articles that are “want to do” rather than “need to do.” For example, our keyword planning for a given project may have lower value KW targets that aren’t as time sensitive.
I can also use our agency’s own content marketing blog as a test bed. I’ll go through the Trello board for our inbound marketing efforts to find blog articles that we want to develop, and those can be the test assignments for my prospective writers.
This approach has the virtue of spreading out the cost for these tests between my recruiting budget and my marketing budget.
The preparation at this stage is to identify five or six strong blog topics that will make worthwhile tests and that are shaped up with all the notes and guidance I would normally give to one of our writers. Then I reserve those articles to have ready
4. Set up a tracking spreadsheet
You want to be prepared to sort information easily when the applications start to flow in later. The key here is to make your review quick and repeatable, because the process below casts a wide net, and this will be how you manage what comes in.
Column A is the name of the writer of course.
The next group of columns are for what I think of as the “administrative review.” These record purely binary yes/no, complete/incomplete factors. Doing this helps me sort out the applications I don’t need to bother evaluating fully.
For example, I need to see writing samples, but you’d be surprised at how many content writers applying to a job don’t include them. This administrative step basically halts putting any more attention into this one.
The pre-qualification test mentioned above is another example. They have it or they don’t.
The next group of columns on the spreadsheet tracks issues that are more qualitative but that I attempt to score. For example, how strong is the writer’s experience in particular areas that we are interested in? In my case, it may be:
- Business writing experience
- Journalism/reporting experience
- Technology reporting experience
- Marketing or content marketing experience
- Education reporting experience
The idea is to narrow down in your mind what you’re looking for in a website content writer. Later on when you’re reading their resumes and samples, you will be tempted to get lost in the wide variety of their experience and think, “Oh, this one seems interesting.”
You can decide to interview someone who falls outside of your preconceived notions. But it’s important to have some preconceived notions to work from so that you can re-focus when your list of “maybes” is getting long.
My last “qualitative” column is for overall professionalism/presentation of their material. This is a spot where a promising candidate with less experience can stay in the running.
For each of these criteria I use a very simplified scoring system from 0 to 5. Zero is no experience. Five is exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll explain more below about how I use these scores, but low scores are not dealbreakers.
Next the spreadsheet has a column for more subjective notes and reminders.
Finally, I have two columns to track my decisions and the follow up process. (More below on follow up.)
Other articles you might find useful
- What is content writing anyway? A Definition of Content Marketing Based On What You Can Do For Others
- 5 Easy Ways to Create Great Content for Your Nonprofit Website
- Hiring a Ghostwriter: Because Your CEO Has Big Ideas and Very Little Time
- Marketing Writers: Ask Your Experts More Obnoxious Questions
5. Draft a contract or scope of work for content writers
The contract, master services agreement, independent contractor’s agreement or scope of work document will be more detailed than your job description. Generally, this will cover roles and responsibilities that you don’t want to have any misunderstanding about later.
You’ll revise and finalize the SOW after settling on the freelance writer who you’ll hire. But sketching it out now will help you anticipate what should come up during interviewing and onboarding.
Our scope of work for freelance writers includes:
- Names and addresses
- Objectives /purpose statement
- Project timeline
- Client responsibilities
Most of this is self-evident — but to clarify, ‘client responsibilities’ refer to me, not the businesses whose content strategies we’ll be executing. Personally, I think it is critical to include client responsibilities. This forces me to be clear about what is even possible for the writer to do and the ways in which I might be a bottleneck to their work.
Again, the more you can think through your objectives, terms and deliverables now, the more effectively you’ll evaluate and hire freelance content writers later
6. Draft an onboarding process
You’re going to onboard one or more website content writers at the end of this process. Drafting a freelancer onboarding checklist now will help you run better interviews.
- What software platforms will they need to be invited to? (Trello, right?) Will they be accessing your content management system? A shared Dropbox folder?
- How will they be oriented to your agency’s clients? Will they get creative briefs for each client? And, like we use at our content marketing agency, assignment briefs for each piece?
- How will you and the writer work together? Will you have weekly status calls? A kickoff call?
- What is the payment and invoicing process?
You can, of course, worry about onboarding your freelance writers later, but if you are clear in your mind about what can wait till later, that will keep you focused on what’s a priority during the interview freelance writers.
7. Set up your dead drop email address.
I’ve never had anyone abuse the email address that I share, but better safe than sorry. I like to use a secondary email address of some kind.
In some cases, we don’t want to put the company name in the ad, so we set up a Gmail address as the cut out.
If there’s no harm in including the company name in the job description, then we use our domain server to set up “hiringbloggers@” or something like that.
8. Write the ad and job description for your freelance website content writers
Now that you have designed all of the stages of the review and hiring process, you can finally start your actual search. For some marketing managers, writing out the job description is an exercise in clarifying his or her needs, and the result is an internal document not to be shared with the content writer until the interviewing stage or even on the first day of work.
But I prefer to combine the ad and the job description into one simple item — so my ad contains not only what I’m looking for, but what the writer can expect from the job.
As you being composing, remember, onboarding starts at as soon as people see this ad. The content writer you ultimately hire is going to get their first impression of you here, and you want people who are in sync with your company culture and values.
A lot of of people make the mistake of writing ads searching for freelance bloggers that are defensive or adversarial. I think they are anticipating the large number of unqualified people who will try to get in and the uncomfortable process of keeping them out. It’s tempting to go into “gatekeeper thinking” at this stage.
But picture the professional writer you want to work with at the end of this hiring process and the kind of working relationship you want to have with them. Right here is where that relationship starts.
So you should have a bias toward simpler and shorter. Don’t let colleagues who will comment on this go into “gatekeeper thinking” mode and start adding qualifications that aren’t critical.
The “How to apply” section will include the pre-qualification test you designed earlier, along with dead drop email address that you set up.
And whatever you ask them to submit should correlate to the rows on your tracking sheet.
If you’re interested in seeing more detail, check out Hire Writers for Content Marketing Using This Ad and Job Description.
Phase two: Conducting your search for freelance website content writers
This might seem crazy, but we still use Craigslist to advertise for bloggers, editors, editorial assistants and other content professionals.
We use the NYC site for the broadest distribution since people around the country go there to look for content writing jobs online. (Our fully distributed team has included people we found this way from every corner of the country.)
You can imagine the downside of Craigslist already. Everybody on earth can apply. So we do get a lot of junk applications.
But all that work you did earlier — most of which was going to be necessary anyway — will help you crank through writer applications quickly to find a good pool of candidates.
The upside of Craigslist is that it’s affordable, and it’s easy to set up. Also the jobs get widely syndicated and viewed, since many some sites pull the best freelance content writing jobs together to repost for their readers.
9. Post your search for freelance bloggers to Craigslist
What to include in the job ad? Mainly the material above, with a couple small differences.
First, Craigslist won’t let you post an email address, so the cutout address won’t be included. People will respond through Craigslist. Use that email address on the PDF version that you’ll circulate elsewhere in the next step.
Second, you want to create a thoughtful subject line that will help content writers find you and to help your ad stand out from the rest. Think of those blue snippets in Craigslist as your call to action.
Some of these companies are missing a chance to stand out a little.
Third, you can make your ad stand out by using an illustration just like a header of a blog post. Spend a dollar out of your stock photo account or create something in Canva. Again, the goal is to attract the interest and welcome the person or people who will end up being your next website content writers. An image that communicates your brand values will make your posting pop and will get people excited about applying for your marketing position.
When you’re building the ad, set it for Manhattan, but be sure not to activate the map function active or people will get the impression you actually have an office in midtown.
When you tell Craigslist where to send the responses, use the cutout address. This will keep your regular email from blowing up with notifications and will keep all the applications and your responses in one spot.
Paste all your text over into the ad editing window, check your formatting, add in the photo and other extras, double check all the settings, pay your $45, and away you go.
10. Distribute more broadly
Save your original job description as a PDF (this time with the cut out email address included) and send that PDF and the link for the Craigslist ad to the managers of other freelance writing websites that have job boards.
And send them a nice thank you note later. Some of our best leads have come through this redistribution.
Then send the PDF to personal contacts who you think may be able to lead you to good candidates. Networking is your friend here.
However, I have learned that because friends and colleagues want to be helpful, even if they don’t have any good leads, they will offer to broadcast it on this or that Facebook group or other list they have access to.
Unless the group sounds like the perfect pool, that can backfire. I usually tell personal contacts that I’m really only interested in people they would personally recommend. For the cattle call approach, I’m doing my own thing on
11. Put in a little time every day reviewing applications
Now applications from freelance writers are going to start coming in. In my experience, I get about 10-15 applications each day over the first week the ad is out. And that’s about all the time I keep the ad up before deleting it, so I don’t have good data on how the traffic tapers off.
So I’m going to have 80 to 100 applications to get through. I try to keep up by putting in an hour every evening reading all the newest applications. And 15/hour is a good pace I’ve found.
First I grab the name only and put it in my spreadsheet so I can log my response, even if they turn out to be a non-starter.
12. Use a simple code to record your impressions
And many of them do. Depending on your criteria, you’ll see some details — or a lack of detail — that make you rule out an application at a glance.
Remember the columns for tracking responses? All but a few are ultimately going to coded TN — Thanks, but no. Do that for the non-starters as you go, and we’ll talk about how you send responses later.
For the applications that pass the first sniff test, look next for the information that lets you do the administrative review. Do they have the material you asked for? If not, mark those TN right away also.
This stage will be a test of your convictions. Are you really requiring everything you say you required? Because there will be content writers applying for your job who seem interesting but who also don’t do the little things right.
My advice is to imagine what happens later when something is due to your boss or client and you are depending on someone who doesn’t do the little things right. Our agency’s vision is to providing the best web content writing services, and that’s not going to happen on good writing alone.
TN — Thanks, but no. Don’t be shy about deciding that right away.
If a website content writer sends in everything you required, then you’re on to reading their email closely and opening their resume or LinkedIn page. This is also the point where I read over that built-in pre-qualification test to get an impression about their approach.
Then I usually pause before looking at the actual writing samples. I want to note what experience they have, and here is where the scoring system for subjective criteria starts to get used. Do they actually have business writing experience, for example, and is it substantial? That’s a 5 for that column. No sign of it? That’s a 0.
Zeroes and other low numbers aren’t dealbreakers. No one can have all the experiences I’m interested in seeing. A couple of 4s or 5s are good strong signals that the person is worth interviewing, but I might pick up other signals.
Then I open the clips and read them.
It really isn’t that overwhelming. And, in reality, clips don’t actually tell us much. If the samples are published by an authoritative source, they will be universally well-written, because they’ve always had an editor involved. There’s really no telling what kind of copy the writer actually turned in to the editors.
So we’re really looking for signs that other editors have already given them a thumb’s up. The more professional and exclusive the publications, the better. More likely is less exclusive publications but a lot of consistency, which is a sign that editors have relied on the writer and kept rehiring them.
Ultimately I’m going to have to judge website content writers by the copy they send me in the test assignment. Right now I’m trying to judge if getting to that stage is worthwhile.
When I have finished reading all the material, I then put down a number for overall impression of their application and writing samples. A 5 — and maybe a 4 — is someone I want to talk to.
To bring on a single new website content writer, I probably want to get four or five strong possibilities on the phone, so I’m hoping to spot that many. I code those as IV for interview. I might have a few others marked as M for maybe who I circle back to if the pool isn’t as deep as I had hoped.
Meanwhile, there are other people who I know won’t work out for me now but who have interesting experience and who I might want to follow up with later for other roles. I mark them as L — maybe later. I’m going to customize a response to them.
You can use your own categories, of course, but here are ours again:
TN = Thanks, but no. (Standard non-personalized response.)
IV = Interview. (Email to schedule interview.)
M = Maybe. (Postpone answering right away until I’m done with interviews.)
L = Maybe later. (Customized rejection about possibly continuing the conversation at another time.)
13. Make a tentative decision about which writers to interview
Now I review all the materials again from the writers who I marked as a 5 or 4, revise the scores if needed and confirm which few I want to interview. There are usually some maybes in the mix, because the whole point of interviewing is to get an additional impression. I have definitely ended up hiring some maybes in the end.
A score of 3 and below generally is someone who I’m not impressed enough with to keep considering, so I mark those as TN.
I delete the Craigslist post now. And I make sure to keep checking the email address, because a few applications will still drift in.
Then I email my choices and start scheduling, setting up 30 minute calls, aiming to get them all done over a two-day period.
Here is an example of the email I usually send to the freelance writer at this stage:
Hi Sarah. Thank you for being in touch. Your experience looks interesting, and it would be good to chat when we can find time. Will you contact me at [my actual email address] with some times when you are free to talk and a number where I can reach you? In the meantime you can learn more about our work at . . . .
I also use this touchpoint to get more specific writing samples. If they mentioned a relevant writing experience of a kind that wasn’t included those with their clips, I’ll ask them to send some along in advance of the interview.
For example, I’m often looking for writers with significant interviewing experience like a feature reporter for a newspaper or a magazine. So I’ll ask them to send me the piece they have that incorporates the most different original interviews.
14. Prep to interview writers
I prepare a sheet with two lists applicable to all: standard questions I want to ask and standard talking points that I want to communicate.
For each individual, I start a fresh sheet with questions specifically for them. What did you do at this magazine? What was the process between you and the editor at that newspaper?
I explain my own content development business and how we work with clients. And, as with the job ad itself, I’m trying to set a welcoming tone.
One of my standard questions is to describe a typical assignment and to ask how they would begin tackling it. I’m usually listening for creativity in the research or interviewing stage and for experience finding people to interview.
I’m always eager to ask freelance writers what they are working on currently. Freelancing can go wrong if it’s a side hustle and they don’t have as much time for it as they imagine. If they only have the ability to work at night after their day job, then we’ll need to talk about how that is going to work. That suits some contract writing jobs less well than others, and I prefer to hear they have experience managing that.The ideal is a true freelancer who has experiencing juggling assignments and clients. Click To Tweet
In other words, just as with every other hiring decision, how we will work together can be just as important as the actual skills.
Our agency does have a couple website content writers now on our team now who freelance only on nights and weekends, and that means longer timelines. So I have to keep in mind a more limited group of assignments that I can give them.
But if the writer is a true freelancer and has the flexibility to turn around an assignment quickly, that’s ideal.
15. Interviewing freelance writers
I try to keep the interviews to half an hour. This is all by phone or video chat, of course, because our team is distributed.
When I am interviewing for a content writer position, I dig for plus marks that weren’t part of the job ad, such as helpful experience with SEO writing, content marketing experience, writing for business blogs, etc.
But I also try to reassure them that these aren’t dealbreakers. I have a lot of faith that web writers with journalism experience can compensate for gaps in domain expertise with help from our editorial team.
If my sense during the interview is that they are still in the running, I shift the conversation to giving them one of the test assignments I reserved earlier.
A brief interlude about treating freelancers with respect (and why it’s good for business)
Several times above I referenced giving an answer to everyone who applies to our website content writer jobs. Please please please do not neglect this step. I’m going to get on my soapbox for a minute.
I’m on a mission to show the value of supporting and developing freelance members of hybrid teams as much as you do internal employees.
Part of working well with freelancers is answering your job applicants. For one thing, it is rude to invite someone to send you a proposal and then not to respond to that proposal.
Second, rudeness has an effect. That’s a few dozen people who are going to be left with a bad impression of you. I know a lot of editors who feel, “Who cares? They’re disposable. I hold all the cards here.” Those editors must not think karma matters.
Third, treating freelance writers as disposable is so common that this is an easy way to set yourself apart. You’ll be surprised at the gratitude you’ll get from the people you reject. I’ve even heard about them third hand: “A friend of a friend told me that she applied for a content writing job with you, and she didn’t get it, but she got your note, and . . .”Treating freelance writers like professionals is an easy way to set yourself apart from most of… Click To Tweet
Fourth, you might want to circle back and say yes to one of these people later. One person who has worked with me as an editorial assistant and writer for more than two years is someone who I passed on once and who applied again to a later job ad.
OK, off the soapbox now.
16. Give a definite answer to all the other applicants
You could be sending responses to rejected applicants earlier in the process. However, the process is much more efficient if it’s done all at once. (This step takes me about an hour.) However, you also don’t want this to drag on forever, which is why it’s good to get through the interviews above as soon as possible.
Make a decision now about your group of maybes. Are they definitely out or going into the maybe later group?
Next, set up two short emails in the canned response feature at your cutout email address where the applicants contacted you. The first response is just a flat no thanks that goes to almost everyone. Here is an example:
Thank you very much for your interest in this position and for taking the time to inquire about it. I wanted to let you know that we’ve filled the position. There was very strong interest by many qualified people, so I’m sorry that we won’t be able to give a more personalized response. Good luck with your pursuit of freelance work and with all your other endeavors.
No one likes getting that, of course, but it’s better than never hearing back.
The second canned response is set up for the people who I flagged as “maybe later.”
Thank you very much for your interest in this position and for taking the time to inquire about it. I wanted to let you know that we’ve filled the position. There was very strong interest by many qualified people, so I’m sorry that we won’t be able to give a more personalized response.
I did want to let you know that I was impressed with your experience and qualifications, so I hope it will be okay to reach out to you again in the future if my client mix changes.
Good luck with your pursuit of freelance work and with all your other endeavors.
I modify that second paragraph with specific details about the individual application so it will say something like “impressed with your experience at company A.”
Once those canned responses are drafted, I open my tracking sheet to get to work.
The name in the top row should correspond to the oldest email sent to the cutout address. Confirm that the names match, remind myself what I want to say, hit reply, open the appropriate canned response, put their name in the salutation, personalize as needed, hit send and mark that as done in the last column of tracking sheet. I label that column as Responded, and put a Y to indicate I’m done.
Keyboard shortcuts are your friend here, allowing you to move to the next email with a keystroke and repeat.
For anyone who I interviewed but who I decided not to give a test assignment, I pause to write a more personal note acknowledging and thanking them for the time they put in.
17. Review the test assignments when they come in
A week or so later, depending on the test assignments, articles to review should start arriving from the content writers. I rely on my assistant editor assessment a lot here, because she’ll have to work with weak material in subsequent assignments if I get it wrong now.
Here is what I look for:
- Does it look like a real effort or are they treating this like any other blogging job they get on UpWork and Fiverr?
- Did they communicate professionally about problems or questions during the writing process?
- Clean copy.
- Clear writing.
- Good sources.
- Good quotes used effectively if the test involved original interviews.
- A sense that they are speaking to the audience I described to them. (Or attempting to.) It’s not a good sign if they produce an elementary primer on the subject when the creative brief emphasized that the target reader was very familiar with the subject.
And I’m looking for how we work together next in the editing process. Every draft, at best, is only 95 percent of what we need out of it. (More on that in this article on the 10 Stages of Editing.)
Are they responsive? Are they needy? I want to know if we’ll work together effectively on that last five percent. I’ve learned the hard way it’s a mistake to hire “strong writers” who go dark during the revision stage.
The dealbreaker for me is when my assistant editor and I ask for a revision — rewriting the lede to emphasize a different point or developing a point in the body more — and what we get back is a few words moved around. That’s a clear sign we’ll have problems later. They’ve got the wrong idea about what a freelance content writer does.
And here is what I don’t worry about too much and can overlook:
- Not “getting it” — i.e. not understanding the client and what they need.
- Too unfamiliar with the subject.
- Copy that isn’t using the keyword effectively.
We can work on those issues as long as they are good researchers, interviewers and writers and as long as they work professionally.
18. Let down the writers you aren’t going to hire
Assuming that I am bringing only one freelance writer on board, it’s time to decide which one and to let the rest go.
However, for freelance blog content, there isn’t such a bright line between a yes or no. I might not use someone today but would consider using them when our content agency gets busier.
So, unless I’m convinced we’ll never work well together, my message back is usually that I don’t have enough work at the moment to use them for what we discussed in the interview, but if my client mix changes, I’ll be in touch.
In all cases, I try to let people know what was strong about their work. And I let them know how much we appreciate their time.
Lastly, I ask everyone to invoice me at their convenience, and I pay freelance writers asap. Remember, these were paid test assignments.
19. Choose your new website writers and review the scope of work with them
For the person who you want to add as your new website content writer, identify the next single assignment or batch of assignments you’ll give them and prepare for the onboarding process.
Go back to the SOW drafted earlier and see if it needs to be updated.
Review the list of onboarding details you drafted earlier and see if that needs to be updated.
Then email the SOW to the freelance writer and ask them to confirm that it all looks good and to let you know they are ready to get on the phone to discuss the next assignment.
Once you are on the phone, have the standard kickoff meeting that any independent contractor or consultant would have. Review details and launch the work.
20. Break it down and store it
Have you hired the freelance website content writers you need and have them working on producing blogs, white papers and the rest?
The last step is to make sure everything is tidied up and saved for later.
- Check off the tracking sheet and make sure you didn’t forget to answer anyone.
- Check that you deleted the notice on Craigslist.
- Email anyone who recommended a friend or colleague to you so you can thank them and let them know the resolution.
- Email anyone who helped you circulate the post and tell them to call off the search.
- Check the dead drop email address for anyone freelance writers who submitted applications in the meantime, and send them the template response.
- And see if any of the people who you said no to have answered. In my experience, you’ll be seeing some very sincere thank yous for that simple courtesy.
- If there are ongoing conversations that you are keeping warm for other roles, note that in your tracking sheet and/or move the conversation to your regular email address.
Takeaways – 6 key principles for finding freelance content writers
Please let me know in the comments if you have any suggested improvements to this guide. We learn more every time we search for a freelance writer, and we’re always refining the process (and updating this guide).
In the meantime, let me leave you with these rules of thumb:
- Resist the pull of the cheap writer pool. Time and money invested in good writers will save you management and editing time later.
- Set up a simple note-taking system so you can move through the applications quickly.
- Plan how you will onboard freelance writers so you can focus on the right things during the interview.
- Treat freelancers with respect. This will distinguish you and your business (and it’s the right thing to do).
- Have a bias toward a welcoming tone. Don’t slip into gatekeeper thinking and end up making a poor impression on your applicants.
- View this as a chance to find someone now and later: today’s maybes might become tomorrow’s next hire.