In the great content arms race, a high level of production and a high degree of quality are necessary to succeed. Thankfully, the world is abundant with potential writers with the knowledge, skills and vision to help bring you to the top. All you need to do is find them.
Some sites need a high, constant flow of content in order to succeed. Some can grow quite successful on a much lower level of content production. Some successful blogs update once a week. Some successful blogs are networks with a dozen blogs each that receive 5+ posts per day.
The first thing you need to do is determine if you really need more content, or if you can focus your efforts in other ways, like marketing, for a better return. This comes down to your niche and your method of doing business.
For example, a technology blog will need a lot of content to keep up with the pack. Tech news is changing every day, so if you’re a week behind, you’re out of date. On the other hand, a home and living blog might not need very many posts each week, because each post is a deeply evergreen piece of content that remains valuable for years.
As for business model, how are you making money? Remember, the vast majority of the people you want to write for your blog are going to be freelance writers. They want to be paid, and a byline on your site isn’t going to do it. Do you make money based on views, based on product sales, or some other method? Consider the average price point for a post can range from $20 to $500 or more, depending on the length and the writer. Can your business sustain paying writers regularly and still have a positive ROI?
You also need to keep voice in mind. If you’re hiring ghostwriters, they need to be able to mimic your personal voice or the voice of your business. If you’re not as concerned with voice, you don’t need to be as restrictive. On the other hand, if you’re hiring writers who will post under their own names, you just need to consider perspectives and ideals. If you’re running a business selling bacon, you don’t want to hire vegan writers.
Once you’ve determined that you do, indeed, need to hire more writers, you need to find them. There are a few ways you can locate potential writers.
A passive “write for us” page. This is going to be one of your best recruitment tools, but it’s also tricky to get going. You need a place in your navigation that makes it easy for writers to find you, and you need to let those writers know your terms. This page is a great example. It shows you what the site is hiring people for, with examples. It shows how to register to write – Cracked is a large site, so they handle it all through an internal forum – and there are links to more information.
Your “write for us” page can be simpler in many ways, and still effective. You don’t need to set up a forum or provide examples of videos and photoshops you’ve purchased; you just need a submission form and some simple terms. Stipulate rules about links, payment terms, editing requirements, bylines and anything else you deem important.
Because this is a passive method, be prepared for a lot of spam. You’re putting out an open call, and a lot of people who don’t fit your blog will still apply. Some will be spammers looking to sneak in a link. Some will be low-quality writers looking to make money above their pay grade. Some will be excellent writers who don’t fit your niche or voice. Ideally, you’ll find a few in the perfect middle.
Ads on job sites, like Craigslist or Monster. If you’re only rarely hiring, you can put out general ads. Freelance writers are wary of Craiglist and the like, but you can certainly find good writers through the services. You just need an ad that doesn’t sound like it was written by someone in India. Topics, payment terms, methods of submission and contact should all be included.
Content mills. If you only need a few ghostwritten pieces to fill a gap in your schedule, you can buy them from content mills. Textbroker, Constant Content, Writer Access, Writer’s Domain, Blogmutt; these all have their advantages and disadvantages. Be aware, however, that the quality of the content you receive varies wildly. It might be worth it to pay for the top-tier work just to avoid the worst writers, even if the content you receive costs pennies.
You can also, if you find a writer you like through a content mill, reach out to contact them for direct work or work off-site. Just be aware that most content mills want to keep business flowing through their platform, and thus impose rules on writers to punish them if they try to circumvent the platform.
Poaching from other blogs. Well, not exactly poaching; find other related industry blogs and talk to the owners about a contribution spot, either as guest posts or as a regular columnist. Some will jump on the chance, while others will decline based on their own workload.
Freelancer hubs. Odesk and Elance are the two biggest freelancer hubs, and they include writers as well as programmers, graphic designers and web developers. You can find, again, all types of writers here, from the cheapest Indian outsourcers to some incredibly high quality – and high price – blog specialists.
When you have a few viable candidates, you need to test them for fit within your system. This typically means giving them assignments. The more direction you need to give them, the more maintenance they will require, and the lower your time savings are with producing the content. You need to make sure your writers are capable of meeting your requirements with as little guidance as you can afford to give. Maybe it’s nothing more than a title and a topic, maybe it’s a set of formatting guidelines and an industry with a weekly post quota, maybe it’s somewhere in between.
There’s no way to streamline this process; you need to see what they write, evaluate it and decide if they’re right for you.
As the person contracting the writer, you need to produce a contract that’s suitable for a writer to sign. Some of the best writers may have contracts of their own; if you can afford them, they might be a good investment, but you need to look over the terms. Some general points:
Hiring a writer can be a hit or miss procedure, but once you find a diamond, you can keep them around for months or years to come.
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