It's no surprise that content marketing has very quickly become the most important marketing channel for small businesses in the last few years. At ContentFly, we're quite thankful for that since it's letting us do things like, you know, buy food!
There's still a great deal of mystique around content marketing, however - doing it wrong can cost you thousands of dollars and months of wasted work. Do it right, however, and you've got scaleable organic traffic that'll take your business to impressive new heights.
There's about 10,389 tools out there to help with your content marketing (that's probably an accurate number), so that's usually not the problem. The problem for most content marketing campaigns is simple - the writer.
The issue of writer quality
With the growth of the gig economy, we've seen a huge flood of people getting into writing as a way to either supplement their income, or be their primary income (enabling freedom, mobility, etc.). Unfortunately, unlike something like programming, writing has a very low skill floor - as long as you know English, you can "write".
Although it's very easy to become a writer, its extremely difficult to become a talented writer. The ratio of talented writers to ones who aren't going to deliver kick-ass content is quite honestly absurd. For every 1 writer that makes it onto the ContentFly platform, nearly 60 don't make the cut.
To reiterate: for every 1 good writer, there are 60 bad ones.
Unfortunately, because of the way most common sourcing platforms today work, it's pretty hard to distinguish bad writers from good ones - hell, that's why customers even use ContentFly. If you use traditional channels like Upwork, you're almost guaranteed to waste lots of time and money on a writer that isn't up to scratch.
Step 1. Requirements
The most important step, before you actually go an hire a writer, is to figure out what your requirements are. Often a writer may be very talented, but what's produced won't be up to scratch because it doesn't fit your requirements.
When customers join ContentFly, we encourage them to consider the following questions about their needs & business:
- Audience. Who are you actually writing for? Ultimately, particularly for business writing to be effective, you need to have a clear idea of the demographic you're going after - the writing style that appeals to an older corporate audience is going to be markedly different than that which appeals to young techies.
- Research. One of the major things to consider when writing (or rather, when hiring for writing) is exactly how much research you'd like in your content. Again, part of this goes back to audience - but research is a huge component of writing, and your expectations must be aligned with the writer. There are some writers who excel at in-depth, well-researched pieces, whereas others are better at lighter, slice-of-life type work.
- Samples. The most important thing in ensuring you hire a writer that's up to scratch is to have samples of other blogs/articles that match what your needs are. Our clients who find the most success are typically those who can capture and show other blogs that are almost exactly what they need.
Once you have a clear picture of who you're targeting, the kind of tonality you need, and the level of depth you're looking for, that's going to offer a clean structure to find a writer that fits the bill.
Step 2. Try multiple writers
One of the benefits of the current copywriting marketplace is that it's significantly liquid - in other words, there are a lot of writers, and finding one to outsource to is not difficult. In general, especially when you're just getting started, outsourcing your work to multiple writers is much better than fixating on one.
This accomplishes a few different things.
First, it distributes risk. One of the biggest challenges with hiring a writer is the amount of time and money often spent on the first few wasted articles as you get your tone right - distributing among a few writers increases your chances of nailing one, and finding someone to move forward with.
Second, it adds some variety which, contrary to popular belief, is actually a good thing! A bland blog written by the same writer is likely to get a lot of redundancy - articles self-referencing, talking about the same things, etc. Multiple writers enables you to mix in different ideas which will prove itself over the long haul to your customers.
Step 3. Hedge your bets
The reason most people struggle with hiring a writer is that it's very expensive to experiment until you find the right one. Part of this is because most writers don't offer strong revision policies (this is a big reason why people use ContentFly, since we distribute that risk), so you have to pay up for any article you request, even if it heavily misses the mark.
There are 2 ways to mitigate this (well, 3 - but the last one is a bit too self-promote-y 😬)
First off, is to set revision terms early with a writer. Make it clear that you're looking for a long term commitment, but in order to be sure you need to have a strong rewrite policy on your first article or 2 - most writers will be flexible enough to accommodate, provided you don't request multiple revisions for every single article down the line.
Second, push for a draft/preview before you pay. This is something business owners commonly forget to do - don't just wait for the article to be finished and then pay up front, ask your writer to send you the first paragraph or two for your review (and allow yourself the option to re-neg on the contract if it's clearly not up to your standards).
It's a bit simplified, but with the advent of the copywriting industry in the last 5 years, the approach to hiring writers is a bi different. We've put together a couple of our main tips that we use to hire thousands of writers - hopefully you'll consider them for your next hire.
Or, you know, let us take care of it for you. 😉