Although writers might seem like a dime a dozen, the right one for your business can make all the difference. As a writer, my opinion is obviously biased, but I've also seen businesses completely transform in a matter of months by simply investing in better writing.
We currently live in a content-driven world where millions of people go online to find answers to their problems. Having a writer that can attract the right people can completely change your business.
Let’s just get the biggest problem out of the way first: Cost.
Yes, a quality writer is expensive. However, there are plenty of writers out there who have horrible self-esteem and will write your content for pennies. Will any of them be good at copywriting? No. Blogging? Maybe.
If you want to pay pennies for writing, you can search any of the usual sites: Upwork, Textbroker, Fiverr, the slavelabor forum on Reddit.
Be ready to be disappointed. If you want to play at a low-level of business and just sell some affiliate products here and there, great. You’ll probably be just fine with a cheap writer.
If you want to play at a higher level of business and bring in serious money, you’re going to have to pay a writer who can make that happen. (And yes, there’s a huge difference between writing without an overall strategy and writing that is part of a larger strategy. A quality writer will fit their work into a bigger strategy.)
The second hurdle: Credentials.
As someone who spent far too much money on a writing degree from a big university, I can say that credentials don’t really mean anything.
Writing for the internet is a completely different beast than writing to get an A+ on a college paper. They are not the same and mastery in one doesn’t guarantee mastery in the other. College taught me to meet deadlines, find quality research, and write under pressure. I had to learn how to write for the internet on my own.
I know a ton of writers with Master’s and PhD’s who cannot write online to save their lives, and I also know some college dropouts who fun six-figure blogs.
The third biggest point is that you need to be clear on what your business does and who you serve.
I’ve had far too many clients that come to me with vague requests and it's hard to form any kind of writing strategy when the client has no idea what they want.
They don’t really know their target audience and they have no defined brand tone. If you haven't defined those, then you're not at the point of hiring a writer quite yet.
Repeat after me: Writers are not business coaches.
Where to find a writer
So, now that we have all that out of the way, let’s actually go over how to find a writer. (I’ll also be skipping the obvious recommendations like asking your network, googling for one, etc.) Keep in mind, it still might be a little trial and error before you find the perfect match.
Few people believe me when I say how much of a gem Twitter is for finding people to work with.
Here’s a general rule though: If a writer is Twitter savvy, they are also often savvy enough to know how to write for an online audience. Twitter also gives you an idea of how the writer views the world and their writing style. You can write some Tweets that you're looking to hire a writer (or any other service), and you should get some pitches that trickle in. You can also search for writers in the search bar.
There is a forum on Reddit called forhire where you can write out what you need and writers will pitch you. There is a significant amount of writers there because Upwork currently takes 20% of the payment (which is ridiculous, IMO).
Recommended from your favorite influencers
Usually, big influencers have a list on their website along the lines of “recommended”, “love lists” that kind of thing. If you have a favorite website designer, they usually know a few quality writers they can recommend. That sort of thing.
If you have a favorite blog you follow, you might also be able to reach out to the blogger and see if they offer their services.
It will take some time to find a writer you like, but it will be worth it.
Things to know
Generally, you want to pick a writer who have the same tone your site does. Most writers have picked an area to focus on and excel in it.
You'll need to know what you’re looking for before you go searching for a writer.
Do you need website copy?
Guest blogs written?
An advertisement for a flyer you’re passing out in your town?
Get as specific as possible because this will help you find the a writer who can give you what you need.
From there, you need to decide your tone.
Do you want your personality to shine through?
Do you want to be matter-of-fact?
Do you want any humor?
Writers with a journalism background are usually matter-of-fact. They keep sentences short and right to the point.
Writers with a copywriting focus generally write with the audience in mind. They know their pain points and address them.
Writers with a creative writing background usually write longer posts with fun stories sprinkled in there.
Search through their portfolio (credentials don’t mean a lot, but a portfolio is everything) to see if their writing fits your business tone.
You also need to make sure that the writer has a general idea of your industry. If your industry can be understood through a lot of research, that’s one thing, but if your industry is so specialized that you only can hire experts, be sure to do that. You can google things like "(your industry) writer” and go from there. You will rarely find these kinds of experts on any general writing sites.
What you should expect
If you reach out to a writer, they should get back to you within a business day or two (unless they have a huge following and probably receive a million emails a day).
It’s been amazing through the years to hear how many clients were shocked that I got back to them within 24 hours. However, I have to say thank you to the writers who never responded to inquiries, because I appreciate all the money you sent my way.
The writer should also follow up with questions so they can be clear on what your goal is. For example, I usually ask a few customer questions when writing blogs and for copywriting I have a whole questionnaire that I have new clients fill out so I understand on a deeper level their entire business and vision.
Another good idea is to send your writer content you want yours to sound like. I’m not saying send them content to steal (although you might be shocked at how often people request this), but content with a similar feel. This helps more than you know.
When you’re just getting to know a writer, it’s always a good idea to start with a small project to get a feeling for each other.
I’ve heard from a ton of clients that they spent a few thousand dollars on a giant writing project only to realize it wasn’t the right fit a few weeks in. On the flip side, I’ve committed to giant writing projects and quickly realized the client and I were not a good fit.
You should both agree on the project, the scope of the project, how many edits are included, and when you will both hear from each other.
Those are my general tips for finding a good writer. It's generally like most other industries: you need to shop around a bit, test the waters, and ultimately give a few a try.