At a first glance, the thought of writing a blog post or copy for your email campaigns doesn’t seem so difficult. You’ve read a million and one of each before, so how hard could it really be?
As it turns out, the answer to this is typically “a lot harder than you’d think.”
This is why freelance writers exist.
As anyone who has ever hired a freelancer can tell you, though, freelancer writers are not all created equal. Deadlines get missed, quality is lacking, factual errors could pop up, and the content may not fit your brand or your voice.
There are a few ways to find great freelance writers that are reliable, experienced, and have the training and knowledge to hit the ground running as soon as you hire them—and I’m going to tell you how to find them.
Know What You’re Looking For
Before you even start looking for a freelancer, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for and what types of tasks you need accomplished. Otherwise, you may hire the World’s Best Blogger but realize they don’t know much about writing copy for Facebook Ads, which is what you really need from them.
Writers may classify themselves in different ways. The terms you’ll probably see a lot include:
- Bloggers. These writers specialize in blog copy. They may or may not have other specialties.
- Content writers/content marketers. These writers typically specialize in multiple types of content designed to help your business, including blog posts, guest posts, white papers, ebooks, and more. “Content marketers,” like myself, often offer consulting and strategy services in addition to actual writing.
- Copywriters. This is a pretty big umbrella term, but if you’re looking for email campaigns and ad copy, copywriters are for you. They write content that sells.
- Copyeditors. For the sake of simplicity, we’re grouping this term under the writing category. Copyeditors will go through posts that you or someone else has written and clean them up. They may or may not offer fact-checking services.
- Ghostwriters. These writers come with all sorts of specialties; there are content ghostwriters, article ghostwriters, book ghostwriters. These writers should be able to emulate your voice, and you’ll get credit for the work. Be prepared to pay extra for this one; good ghostwriting is expensive.
Many freelancers, including myself, have overlapping specialties so we’re able to offer more than just once service. This alone is fine; if you’re able to find one great writer you love and stick with them, great! Just make sure that their talent is as strong across all departments (spoiler alert: sometimes it isn’t).
To Use or Not to Use: Freelancer Finding Platforms
There are number of different places businesses go to look for freelancers of all kinds, including freelance hiring platforms. Like freelancers, though, these platforms are not all created equal. From what I’ve seen (and have surveyed my colleagues to confirm), there are a few platforms where you can find decent writers, but you might not find the best ones.
This includes Upwork, and any other freelance finding platform where there are more low paying gigs than high paying ones. And here’s why you may not find great writers on sites like Upwork:
- These sites do have some great clients that are willing to pay well, but 99% of the jobs contacting writers ask us to write blog posts for $2 a piece. At one point, my hourly rate was set to $75 per hour, and I still had people sending me these jobs.
- The sites take a little while to pay, and once they do, Upwork takes a great big chunk of fees. When the fees increased last year, I left for good.
If you’re using Upwork and like it and it’s working for you, great! That’s what matters. But from my experience, there are other methods I’d recommend instead to find the best freelance writers in the business.
Problogger Job Board
Problogger lets you post job opportunities seeking freelance writers. The writers who peruse the site have a wide variety of expertise and experience levels, so you can probably find a great fit here. There’s even the option to let writers apply directly on the site.
The downside to Problogger is that you’ll probably get slammed with applications from writers, which can be difficult to sort through. Some of these writers might not actually be qualified for the position they’ve applied for. My best recommendation is to ask pointed questions like “How do you optimize your blog posts for SEO?” so you can quickly weed out less experienced writers.
What I don’t recommend doing is asking writers to create headlines or to pitch you ideas; this takes so much time on the writer’s side with very little chance of benefits, that a lot of talented writers will pass right over the job.
LinkedIn (ProFinder and Otherwise)
LinkedIn ProFinder is one of the newer platforms; it rolled out last year, and it allows clients to post jobs that they need done. Vetted, pre-approved freelancers will be notified of the opportunitity, and can submit proposals with estimated cost and a brief cover letter. The first five freelancers who submit proposals will be considered, and if the client hires someone, they do so off the platform. There are currently no extra fees, but at least on the freelancer side, you need a Pro account ($30 a month) to be able to participate.
If you don’t want to use ProFinder, LinkedIn can still be extremely helpful. You can search for writers, copywriters, content marketers, ghostwriters, and editors. Some writers will have recommendations, which you can use in addition to their portfolio to see if they’re someone you’re interested in hiring.
This is my favorite freelancing platform, and aside from LinkedIn ProFinder, it’s the only one I use regularly. Writers get to set their minimum rates, and are only shown jobs that meet that rate. The clients I’ve worked with have all been exceptional, and have all raved about the platform, too.
Clearvoice is not a free tool for those hiring freelancers. It is a great full service tool, however, with options to hire qualified writers and content marketing experts to help you develop strategies, manage your content calendar, and write and edit your content. The freelance writers need to apply to the platform, and are vetted before being accepted. And even then, you’ll get to choose which freelancers you want to hire for individual projects. If you find one freelancer you really like, you can offer jobs specifically to them in the future.
All of Clearvoice’s plans give you access to their network of approved writers. Their standard plan costs $249 a month, which can help you find and manage writers. You will pay the writers on top of this fee.
I highly, highly recommend this method of finding the best freelance writers. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s the best way to get a freelance writer you know you can trust off the bat. Ask colleagues and friends for referrals. More than half of my new clients come from referrals from current or past clients.
Many businesses of all sizes have used a copywriter, content writer, and/or ghostwriter at some point, just like many have hired a graphic designer or site developer at some point. Your colleagues and friends would never send someone to you that they wouldn’t recommend (and if they do, you need new friends).
Contact Writers Who Wrote Articles You Love
Massimo found me this way and recruited me to write for AdEspresso over two years ago. After referral work, this is the second most common way clients find me. This strategy has some great benefits: if you’re able to find a writer who is already writing posts you love, you know that they’ll almost certainly be able to replicate those results. When you assign them their first project, you can also say “I loved your casual writing style/ data-heavy focus/ specific hypothetical examples—can you include that in these posts?” This is helpful for both parties, and can help you get what you want more quickly.
Some writers will have their contact information in their bio under their article. If they don’t, you can google their full name and “writer.” If they’re serious about what they do, there’s a good chance their website will pop up and have information about services they offer and a contact form.
If you’re really stumped and can’t find a site, check out the publication’s Twitter or Facebook. See if you can find a tweet with the article; the post might have the writer tagged.
Characteristics to Look For in a Freelance Writer
There are several characteristics that I recommend looking for if you want to hire the best talent in the industry and weed out some of the frauds. As a freelancer who has worked with and hired other freelancers, in my experience, the best freelancers you can hire:
- Prioritize deadlines. The biggest complaint I hear from new clients is “all our old freelancers never made their deadlines.” This is an enormous problem with the freelance world. One trick to use is to see if the writer has any long-term clients; if they have several clients that have stuck with them for several years, that’s a good sign that they’re turning in good work on time.
- Have an awesome website. A writer’s writing is their livelihood, and if they don’t have a site outlining some basic information and some writing samples, they may not be fully invested in it. In my personal experience, you’ll get the best results from someone who is writing full time so that you can be a priority instead of their “real job”… and that means they’ll have a site.
- Have experience or training to back up their claims. Anyone can call themselves a “full time freelance writer” or a “copywriter,” and many people do—even if they really aren’t. They should be able to show you projects they’ve worked on, classes or training they’ve taken, or certifications.
- Do not come cheap. Quality writers charge high rates. If they’re not, they’re either trying to create a portfolio or aren’t really that good. Don’t ask them to write for exposure (we get real annoyed, real fast); they’ll be worth the investment.
- Have SEO & strategy experience. Writers who understand the strategy behind the content they write will be the most beneficial to your business. They should understand SEO basics, along with strategies like how to generate brand awareness. These writers create goal-driven content that reads well for people first and Google second.
How Will I Know if They’re a Good Fit?
This is where Massimo’s strategy of contacting writers he likes comes in handy; you’ve seen something in their style of writing that you like, and you already know they can deliver it. Writers you contact can often show you writing samples to showcase a body of work.
When in doubt, you can always ask the writer to do a small, paid sample project, like a 400 word blog post instead of a 1500 word post, priced accordingly. (Don’t ask us to do this for free: we’ll say no.)
It’s also worth noting that even the best freelance writer may not be the best fit for your specific business. I’ve done a few sample projects and realized I wouldn’t be a good fit and normally figure it out before the client. I bow out and refer them to someone else instead. If you notice that your writer isn’t a great fit for your needs, you can start looking for another.
There are some incredible, outstanding freelancer writers (and similarly, graphic designers and marketing consultants, and on and on) out there who can help elevate your business, you just have to know how to find the best out there.
Knowing where to find them and what to look for is essential, and remember that content from a great writer is an investment for your business that is always worth it.
What do you think? How have you found the best freelance writers? What qualities do you look for in your freelancers? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!