How to hire the right freelance writer

March 27, 2020


John Thomas

Gain insights and tips on how to effectively hire the right freelance writer for your content needs on Draft.

Hiring writers sucks.

Really hiring anyone is a pain, but hiring writers in particular is very difficult. We know first hand – Draft screens and interviews dozens of writers every day.

There are a few main reasons why hiring writers is particularly difficult compared to other vocations:

1) There’s a low skill-floor. Anyone with some basic linguistic competence can claim to be a writer. Everyone is technically a writer.

2) There’s a high skill ceiling. The good writers are really, really good. Which also makes them really, really hard to find. And the noise of hundreds of crappy content mills certainly doesn’t help that issue.

3) Marketplaces are bad. Upwork, Freelancer, etc. are all terrible ways to find a good freelancer – why? Because it’s not an optimized marketplace – you just see what their search engine wants you to see.

Companies waste thousands of dollars and months of effort on poor freelance writers who don’t deliver what they’re looking for. On the flip side, if you find the right writer, you’ll likely have someone you work with for life.

To optimize your search, we’re publicizing the criteria we use every day to filter the top 1% of writers and add them to our network.

Know your voice (aka the Triangle Method)

Nothing is going to hamstring your ability to find a writer than if you don’t know the tone-of-voice that fits your business. The easiest way to do this is the triangle method:

1) Find your top competitor blog. Not all of them, just one.

2) Who’s your best customer? What blog do they frequent the most? (Probably unrelated to your field)

3) What’s your favorite personal blog?

Once you have all 3 of those, find the Venn diagram between them. Catch the similarities in vernacular, see what makes each of them tick. You’ll quickly find that there are a lot of similarities and these 3 blogs will be your reference. When sifting through samples, always compare to those 3 blogs. When you find writers send them those 3 blogs.

Trust us, it works.

Be open demographically, but be wise

The fact is, while speaking about content, we have to acknowledge one thing.

There are some countries in the world where there are a lot of writers, and they don’t always have the kind of quality you’d want representing your business. Places like India, Nigeria & the Ukraine have thousands of writers who are eager to make a living writing, but aren’t native speakers and don’t necessarily have a strong command of the language.

With that said, some of the best writers we have encountered have come from countries you wouldn’t expect.

The challenge here is to be cognizant of the fact that there is a lot of noise coming from non-Western locations, but if you find reliable ways of sifting through the noise, you’ll likely find hidden gems. Writers from eastern countries, in our experience, are often more flexible to work with and, because of much lower cost-of-living, charge lower rates.

Note: These are obviously generalizations and will differ on a case by case basis. However, since you can’t interview every writer on Earth, these generalizations are helpful.

Have clear requirements/expectations

One thing we’ve found through working with hundreds of businesses is that often times the issue isn’t with the writer or with the client, but more with misplaced expectations. One expected something completely different from the other, and that miscommunication screws up the value chain.

From a customer side, you need to go in knowing exactly what you’re expecting, and more importantly, you need to communicate that with the writer.

Ensure you have sample articles (the Triangle method outlined earlier helps with this). Make sure you’re clear with prospective writers on the amount of hand holding and research you’re hoping to have involved. Be diligent about your brand voice, give them all the assets you have – any thought or expectation that’s in your head is never going to be properly converted.

You’ll be disappointed at the end and assume it’s the writers fault, when really you simply didn’t communicate your expectations properly.

Demand a flexible revision policy early on

Writers will typically be very stubborn about their rewrite/revision policy (and so they should be – it’s too easy to abuse flexible policies by bad actors). However, you should make a point to get full rewrites/revisions on the first article or 2 – this enables your writer to build a good faith relationship with you and, more importantly, it gives them ample opportunity to learn what you really need.

Not only that, you essentially get multiple chances to communicate expectations – and if at the end of a full revision/rewrite period you still aren’t happy, that’s a sign there’s a value misalignment, and you should look elsewhere.

On the writers side, it adds a lot of work, but it gives them a chance to guarantee future business because, let’s face it, you don’t want going to go through this again.

Or, you can just let Draft take care of all of this for you.

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