I'VE BEEN SEEING A LOT OF POSTS/QUESTIONS AROUND FINDING WRITERS…
So here are some tips from 4 years of hiring and over 600+ applications reviewed at my content writing and Public Relations (PR) agency.
A lot of this is basic, but towards the bottom, you'll find a few GEMS on not getting scammed that a LOT of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) users miss.
1. Your Business Model Matters
You have three options here:
A. Hire Native English writers from overseas (usually Nigeria or the Philippines) at a value rate. Good writers can often be found for around $2-$2.50/100 words.
Price in editing from a US/CA/UK/AU/NZ editor. Your editor (or you) will undoubtedly want to slam your literal heads through a pane of glass after editing a handful of these.
Don't get me wrong, THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. And honestly, many of these writers, had they been raised in the US, UK, etc., would have been EXCEPTIONAL in their craft. But I can spot these pieces a mile away, and its downright embarrassing when these mistakes are found on say a doctor's or attorney's website.
B. Hire a US/CA/UK/AU/NZ writer. Requires little editing, but will require additional SEO optimization (likely). This is the middle of the road option and is what we use at my agency.
C. Hire a US/CA/UK/AU/NZ writer also proficient in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and use of optimization tools (essentially a unicorn that most agencies and brands aren't prepared to pay a competitive rate for).
2. The Application – your best friend for screening candidates
A. Use open-ended questions. The actual questions don't matter as much as how they answer them. The goal here is to force applicants to use their brain, and to write out something more than a 'yes' or a 'no' answer. I judge the writing on the application as much as I do their sample work (more on that later).
B. Make it just tedious/long enough to weed out the tire-kickers, but not so long as to weed out strong applicants. Focus on your value proposition and 'what's in it for them' in order to get a good turnout.
Apart from the basic pedigree information (name, location, education, etc.), our application is 15 questions long, 13 of which require them to type out multiple sentences to answer.
As for value, we pay a highly competitive rate for a 'content agency', and we offer a range of perks including access to software, performance incentives, flexibility/autonomy, heck even Netflix subscriptions. Take care of your people.
3. Sample Work – don't get fooled
This is where you can really get tripped up.
A. Some writers will have immaculate applications but poor samples. We've absolutely seen writers PAY someone to write their applications for them.
B. Some writers will have poor/average applications, but great samples. Be mindful that live samples on websites that the writer does not own may have been EDITED by the website owner prior to publication, giving you a false representation of the applicant's actual writing acumen.
C. Always, always, check sample work with CopyScape AND Google
D. Fiction writers almost NEVER work out. No matter how talented, they have always had a tough time converting to writing non-fiction web content.
4. Probationary Period – a must
Always use a probationary period with paid 'test tasks'. I usually stick with between 2-4 depending on the writer and what types of content I want to see them tackle.
During this time don't waste admin on integrating them into your project management systems. I use Slack for fast onboarding with canned messages to get the ball rolling.
Once they pass this period THEN and only then do I migrate them into our actual system and onboarding process.
Given the 'flakiness' in the industry, you'll waste a LOT of time and energy on this if you're not careful. Trust me.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR DURING THIS PROBATIONARY PERIOD:
A. Ability to follow directions
B. Ability to take charge without a lot of handholding
C. Clear, consistent, respectful and even gracious communication
D. Ability to hit prescribed deadlines WITHOUT reminders
5. Fast, Hassle-Free and Low Fee Payments
I offer once weekly for anything turned in during that week. PayPal works fine but is horrendous on fees. Offer Wise (formerly transferwise) to eliminate virtually all fees and any conversion rate costs. Your writers will love you for it.
Always pay PROMPTLY. I pay before the pieces even hit editorial.
6. Ongoing Spot Checks – don't get punked
What we've seen…
A. Good writers submit quality work, then get sneaky and decide to 'sub-contract' out to lower quality writers and collect the difference in pay
B. Good writers submit all original work and then try to slip in a plagiarized article here or there
C. Good writers submit all original work and then try to slip in either entirely Artificial Intelligence (AI) written content or stuff it into the middle so its less noticeable (i.e. good intro and beginning paragraphs and good closing summation but the middle is Artificial Intelligence (AI)
D. An oldie but a goodie…occasionally you'll get someone to use UTF-8 encoding. You will know this because SPELL CHECK is turned OFF in Word. Turn spell check on and the words will be flagged as 'misspelt even though they are not.
This is because UTF encoding can be used to make an article 100% unique in copyscape, even though it is a 100% duplicate.
Overall, very solid advice. I'd like to add that the 80/20 of hiring writers is giving them the right type of sample with the right objectives to see if they can write clearly, effectively, follow orders, and make deadlines. Then putting them through a series of samples each with a different objective to build the 4-5 most important writing skills. Whenever I hire and train writers, each sample has a single purpose, that way we simplify everything to the point that the writer can not stress over the sample and still come away with a key skill.
That comes later for us. Each content type has an Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) we've developed in-house.
Early on that can feel overwhelming, and for the first samples we like to keep it fairly basic. Giving them a general guideline and seeing how well they can hit the ground running.
This is usually something akin to taking the top 3 ranking pages for a given topic, and making that better.
Specific content types I like to train and we offer paid training for getting certified in each.
Kevin » Jesse
Oh, yeah for sure. I don't mean to give them an SOP or template to follow. I just give a very simple sample like "best 3 x of 2021". But I'm a writer myself who trains writers in key skills, so before every sample, I train the writer on a skill then give them the simple sample and see if they can correct the mistake they made in their previous samples. We don't move on until they do. I start with most important stuff first, then work my way to simpler stuff. That way, by the time they're done, they've gone from maybe a 4/10 writer to a 7/10 for the same price. But you're right, I wouldn't overwhelm them with an SOP or template. Just a simple article is all that's needed.
Jesse ✍️ » Kevin
Yep, I like that
Also, you'll make your lives a lot easier by zeroing on the key skills that actually matter to solid writing long-term, especially effort and clear tone of voice. Everything else is easy to build. Effort and clarity on NOT teachable. I've hired and trained dozens of writers and not once did anyone who couldn't write clearly ever learn to write clearly. If they can't do that, they're a waste of time IMO, unless you need just decent content. If. want super high-quality stuff, you must choose writers who write directly, with power, and purpose. Great advice though, Jesse, you know your stuff.
Thanks for sharing. I'm in the process of hiring a writer, so this was a great read. Do you have any tips for catching Artificial Intelligence (AI)-written content? Also, what would you say is a good ballpark for a quality CA/US writer without SEO expertise?
Whereas non-native writers can be given away by nuances in phrasing and wording, AI tends to read a bit 'off/strange'.
It is harder to detect but once you've familiarized yourself with AI content (read enough of it) its easy to spot.
One key thing is that the sentences don't have good transitions from one to the next or one topic to the next.
Another glaring giveaway is the transition to an unrelated or loosely related topic when its in the middle of discussing something else.
This is one of the major pitfalls of longform AI right now.
As for a ballpark on cost. Man, that can range a lot.
1. Agency – a content agency like ours saves time, handles editing, vets writers, provides more consistency in delivery, and SEO optimizes with SurferSEO/POP in house for you. Price ranges here can be $6/100 words up to $15/100 words on average.
We're generally cheaper than our competitors, but for reference, our two largest competitors start at $13.5+/100 words for SurferOptimized content. For non-optimized, you can get content for around $6/100 words on the low end.
2. Invidiual Writers – takes a LOT of applicants and vetting, and ideally you want to have a few (because they will flake, get busy with other work, have family obligations etc and will fall off the wagon).
For these, I'd say on the low end $3-$4/100 words is what you're looking at. MIddle ground $5-$7/100 words. And at the higher end, $8-$15/100 words on average.
*Sales copy is a whole different beast and not included in those estimates.
Tyler » Jesse
Dude thanks so much for this detailed reply, it's super appreciated.
Makes sense regarding AI content. I was playing around with Jarvis the last couple of months, and these tips overlap well with the issues I saw. Hopefully, that trial will give me the eyes to catch it.
Yeah sorry about the open-ended question lol, I know it can range a lot. But wanted to get your view on it. Those price ranges make total sense and are in line with what I was thinking.
Thanks again, and will definitely follow these tips in my hiring process moving forward. Cheers.
Jesse ✍️ » Tyler
Happy hunting! Hope you find some rockstar writers 😎
As someone who writes for a living, it isn't hard for me to catch content written by Jarvis or any other AI writer. Unfortunately, many writers charging a few dollars an article use Jarvis or other AI writers. Jesse is right on the money with those tips though.
Jesse ✍️ » Jefferson
I've noticed a lot of the $1-$3/100 word services (especially on forums and marketplaces) shifting to AI content masquerading as a real writer.
Jefferson » Jesse
True. I know of some guys that don't use AI and charge $3 per 100 words but they aren't native writers. That being said as a Native writer, the pushback I receive is "why would I pay you X when I can hire a guy for $3, far more value." That's one reason why many native writers (not myself) have made the move to using AI. Some do it better than others.
Josie » Tyler
Hello Tyler, I'm looking to write for someone.
Please check your PM. I will be sending some links to my work.
I remember when I heard about the UFT encoding for the first time – shocking – but it didn't surprise me. Writers do a lot of shady stuff if you let them get too comfortable (doesn't apply to everybody – I've had excellent, loyal writers for years).
Anyways, never heard any talks about UFT from a single soul again until today.
If you know UFT, you know your content game. Excellent analysis – really helpful,
Thank you for the kind words.
Once upon a time ago (prob some 10+ years back) I created one of the first mass article tools using UTF encoding.
We sold it with PLR packs that could be mixed and matched and then encoded while leaving keywords intact.
This was back in my Blackhatworld days lol.
Article Magic (in case anyone wants to dig through the archives hahaha).
Of course, I don't advocate that, nor would I suggest anyone try it.
On top of it being potentially blackhat depending on the source article, it is duplicate content as far as Google is concerned.
The amount of shit content that still exists on page 1 (for a lot of low comp keywords) is a clear giveaway that Google still has gaps. However, Google algo has come a long way in assessing, identifying, and rewarding (the last one is what we all want) quality content – more specifically the product review update was a big help in weeding out webmasters who wanted to get 1000 for $5.
And now that you brought up the good-old black hat days – people used to get away with keyword stuffing, terrible grammar, plagiarism and so much more – it's like the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) was a blackhat maestro's playground (maybe it still is but I'm no expert here).
The biggest question is where do you go
Where to find the writers?
Well, its a challenge. Out of the recent 267 applications we reviewed, my content agency only hired 10 people. Out of those we'll probably weed out a few more.
So there's a benefit in time, quality, consistency and reliability in hiring an agency like mine to handle the content.
If you're wanting to find your own writers, the following have been helpful for us (I'll probably do a separate post on this).
But a quick list is Reddit, quora, medium, college professors, student interns, local writing clubs, etc.
Happy hunting 🙂
Your agency only does e-commerce? What do you charge
I'm paying 20 usd per 1000 words and its working well for me
Nice. We've never been able to find writers in that price range that didn't require another hour or so of editing by a top tier writer.
Granted our clients are picky (and so am I lol).
Different projects require different levels of quality and expertise though. Happy to hear that's working out well for you 🙂
Keep crushing it!
Igor » Jesse
Thank you for sharing your experience – awesome workflow, very useful tips!
You're most welcome.
If you have any questions let me know.
I'm glad to hear that you found some value in there.
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