So you’ve decided to start a blog or website. Good choice – it will drive free traffic, create authority, and is perfect for building an email list. But where are you going to get all that important content? That will draw in readers and buyers like moths to a flame?
I’m a writer at heart and couldn’t stop writing even if I wanted to. But not everyone is like that. Not everyone has the time or passion for writing piles of content. So this guide will show you how to outsource it, while keeping an eye on quality and budget.
If you’re wondering, I write all the content on this blog, and probably always will. But I have hired writers for other blogs I have built up. So I have some experience here.
To build up traffic, authority and eventually search rankings, you will need to be publishing content regularly. At the very least once per week, ideally more than that (I’m currently publishing an article every day, but I’m crazy – proper crazy).
That takes time and energy. If you don’t have enough of those, you’ll need to pay someone to write your content. It’s that simple. But there are wrong and right ways to do it.
I’ll explain these so you can build up good content on a smart budget without getting burnt.
The main choice is whether to hire individual freelance writers, or to go with a content agency or a managed service. If you have a big budget, you can pay a big content agency hundreds of dollars per month and they will look after you and create some great content.
And to be honest you probably won’t need much advice from me, because those big expensive agencies know what they are doing (yes, possibly even more than me – I’m afraid it can actually happen sometimes).
But I’m assuming that you don’t have a big budget for a fancy agency. In which case you’ll either be hiring freelance writers from a freelance marketplace, or buying articles from some managed content service.
A content service is a website like Text Broker, where you just tell them what article you want, how long you want it to be, what quality you are prepared to pay for. Then they farm the job out to their big army of content writers.
I actually don’t recommend you go with a managed service. If you pay well you’ll probably get a pretty good article (most of the time), but the problem is, you have no control and no relationship. Each time you will probably get a different writer.
The main advantage of freelancers is that you can (eventually) find a really good one and stick with them, month after month. And if you negotiate a long-term plan, you should be able to get a good rate.
There is more effort and time up-front, but it will pay off in the long run.
So let’s talk about how to do freelance writers.
The two websites I recommend you hire writers from are Fiverr and Upwork. They’re both pretty good, but I actually think Upwork is better. It is really well suited to the type of long-term relationship we’re looking to build.
Now a common mistake that people make is that they post a job, find a writer, then just repeat that process. Either with the same writer or a different writer each time. This is not the way to go.
You want to quickly screen out freelancers to find the good ones and separate the bad ones. Don’t start with one article, start with ten articles and ten different writers.
You should have started your blog with a content plan (you DID create a content plan, right? If not, read this article right now and get started making one). So you should have at least a hundred or so article ideas.
Pick ten good ones (look for ones that are typical, not particularly long or short, hard or easy). Post ten separate jobs on Upwork.
Make sure to include essential information like the topic of the article, the niche of your website, word length, the audience you are targeting (is it young job seekers? Experienced lawyers? Retired dads? This is super important). And make sure to ask for an example of their work (if they don’t have one already linked on their profile). This will weed out the 20% of people there who just can’t write at all.
Check your responses (you should get lots, there are thousands of writers there looking for work). Check their rates, their experience, and their work sample. Reject anyone who can’t or won’t give you a writing sample.
Pick the ten best candidates – don’t just go on price! And don’t haggle on price now! You can negotiate on price later (we’ll get to that soon). Pick the ten strongest candidates, adjusting a bit for price (don’t go with someone who looks similar to others but costs twice as much, obviously).
Now as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. See what pieces you get back. Don’t worry too much if one of them is a day or two late (but if they’re a week late, that’s a problem). It should be pretty clear who the better ones are.
Now you haven’t finsihed yet. You want to get down to two or three writers (relying on one writer is risky in case they retire or change jobs or move to Mars or whatever). So drop out the worst five, and send another job request to the best five. Just like you did before.
Out of that five, pick the best two or three. Those are your writers.
What you want to do now is build a relationship with these people. What these people hate is living paycheck to paycheck and not knowing when they will be getting work. What they want is certainty of income.
So tell them you want a lot of content and will be requesting lots of articles. Ask them what discount rate they can give you if you order 10 or 20 articles up-front. This is why we didn’t negotiate earlier – you want to get some wins on the board and put some money in their wallet and then dangle a big carrot in front of their face (a supply of regular work) before you start haggling. That way the ball is in your court. They know you pay and can be relied on and have something they want.
You should be able to get at least 20% off their regular rate, especially if you pay for some of the articles up-front. That is another advantage of Upwork: it lets you split a big project into milestones (e.g. two groups of five articles or whatever), with partial payment due at the milestones.
They might want payment for each and every article as it comes – that’s ok, just split the job into as many milestones as there are articles and pay as you go. It’s too much hassle to do different jobs for each article, there’s too much Upwork admin for everyone.
Now the easy part – watch the articles come in and publish them. Make sure to keep in regular contact with your writers and to give helpful and honest feedback on their work. I wouldn’t recommend setting them up as WordPress authors and letting them publish unless you really trust them.
The final editing and polishing (images, SEO optimization, etc) will be done by you – unless you want to go all-out and hire an actual editor to do all that. I don’t have experience in that but I think Doug Cunnington at Five Figure Niche Site has so you might want to check his material out (he hires out huge amounts of content).
Make sure to maintain your brand image and message. Try to get the articles to have a simialr feel. If one of your writers produces content that feels different to the others, give it an edit or ask them to change it to be more consistent with your other material.
Run your articles through Grammarly at least before publishing (there’s a free Chrome extension for it). Or if you want to go a step further, put it into Hemmingway and see what comes up (you should probably do this for your own articles anyway).
I hope you found this guide helpful! Do you have any experience with hiring content writers? Or more questions? Share them in the comments below!