The internet is full of businesses looking to sell products and people willing to buy them. It's also full of companies (and scammers) selling knock-offs, setting up legit-looking sites to steal information, or any of a million other ways a consumer can fall victim to a bad actor.
One way people use to protect themselves and one another is product/service reviews. When you're shopping for an item, you read reviews of the item, comparable items, and people selling the items. Through these reviews, you make a decision whether or not to buy the item, and if so, from where.
This leads to the logical next step of businesses working to get more reviews. There are, to put it simply, hundreds of different ways to get reviews. You can email your customers, you can push website-based pop-up CTAs, you can include a card with every product you ship that asks for it, and on and on.
Or, you can just pay for them.
If you're trying to get more reviews for your business or your products – whether the reviews are on your site, on a third-party site like Google, Yelp, or Amazon, or whether they're just sent to you to use as you wish – paying for them is a quick and easy shortcut.
Should you do this? If so, how? Let's dig in.
There are two questions in play here.
The first is, should you pay for reviews? The answer here depends a lot on how you're planning to use them. If you're looking to just buy reviews on Google, Yelp, or what have you, chances are you probably shouldn't. Yes, I know that many, many companies do and that a huge amount of the reviews you read online are fake. That doesn't mean you should stoop to the same level.
The problem is, when you buy reviews, those reviews are caught and removed sooner or later. Sites like Google and Amazon regularly purge accounts and all of the reviews they leave. Other sites not only do that but also leave a report behind showing how many fake reviews you had, which can be worse than just losing the reviews.
On the other hand, you can incentivize reviews. You need a real person to really use your product to leave a review, but you're certainly not prohibited from sending them a review copy or paying them to write the review. Or, rather, whether you are or not depends on the site in question and how obvious you are about it.
For example, sites like Google and Amazon prohibit incentivized reviews. But at the same time, the entire industry of affiliate marketing is nothing if not incentivized reviews. So, it's just fine, depending on how you do it.
The second question, meanwhile, is whether you should pay writers to write reviews. In this case, the answer is a solid maybe, leaning towards yes. Writers can create deep, compelling review content, much better than your average ten-word 5-star Yelp review. Paying an experienced blogger to write and leave a review on their blog is way better, in general, than just another textless 5-star rating on an app store or Amazon.
The trick is figuring out how to use the reviews you pay for. That's what I'm digging into for the rest of this post.
The first option on deck is a combination of affiliate or referral marketing and blogger outreach.
Bloggers are writers, or they hire writers. So, you can approach them with an offer to write a review of your product or service for their blog. You can offer to pay them a flat fee or a percentage of the sales they refer, and you can do it through an official affiliate program or a more unofficial arrangement.
If you want to pay a writer to write this review, you either target a blogger who is a writer, or you pay a writer through a freelance hub or content mill to create the review for you. You then approach the blogger and ask if they'd be willing to publish the review for a fee.
You can also make your review more editorialized and call it sponsored content. Hiring a writer to write a review and then hiring a blogger to post it is among the more expensive options. However, it can also be highly effective, as long as your review is skilled enough and the blogger has an audience that is willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
There are a lot of quirks to writing reviews of this format. Long-form reviews are tricky to create in a way that is both compelling and reasonable. It's far too easy to step over the line into pushy, unbelievable sales.
Another option is to pay writers to write testimonials. It's against various terms of service to post these on sites like Yelp, Google, or Amazon. It's not, however, against any terms to publish them on your own site.
There are all sorts of ways you can pay for testimonials. You can take to the content mills and post projects asking freelancers to write you reviews for a few cents per word. You can find review specialists and hire them. You can even reach out to higher-profile writers in your business niche and offer to work with them directly; send them a review copy (and a payment) and ask them to write their honest opinions for you as a review.
Once you get these reviews, you can then use them on your site. You can use them on landing pages and on your homepage, and you can make a testimonials page to publish them. If the reviews are legit enough, you can even ask the person you had write them to post them on other review sites.
There are also sites out there that allow you to pay them to gather customer reviews and testimonials for you. They're pretty easy to find, though many of them likely just launder back to content mills.
The key with paying for testimonials is that it's only legal if they're real. The FTC has guidelines against fake testimonials as a violation of truth in advertising. So, at the very least, you need to get real people to write reviews based on their own usage of the product. Paying to incentivize those reviews isn't illegal, though if you hide it, you may run afoul of disclosure rules.
There are quite a few different platforms out there that pay people to write reviews, use products and apps, and generally, actually leave feedback on the things they do throughout their lives. You can find whole lists of them when you search for "get paid to leave reviews." You know, just as an example.
One of the most popular is Swagbucks. Now, if you go to Swagbucks, you'll see that the site is entirely focused on getting people to get paid to leave reviews and other engagements. How does this help you? Well, if you go to the bottom and click their Advertise With Us link, you'll find the other side of the coin. Swagbucks is part of a network of services by Prodege. You can pay them, and they will use their tools, their network, and their writers to leave you those reviews.
Swagbucks is far from the only site doing this. The caveat here is that you're not paying writers for reviews directly. Instead, you're basically paying market research and advertising agencies, and they pay other people to leave you reviews. Those people are generally not likely to be writers. Though, if it's just the reviews you care about, you might not be worried if they aren't professional writers on the other end.
Similar to the first item on this list, paying influencers to review your products is the core of what you'd call influencer marketing. You have a few options on how to do this, and it depends on the influencers.
The first option is a private deal. You approach an influencer, ask them if they'd be willing to publish a review of your product and ask them what their terms are. You may just pay them and give them a product and let them do the rest. Or you might produce your own review copy to give them to publish. If you do that, you'd probably want to hire a writer who can mimic the influencer's style unless you're going all-in on your own style with an "account takeover" type of marketing.
The second option is to go through an influencer's agent or representative. Some influencers offload the business management side of their fame to an agent, who will do things like handle the brand deals. You'd have to work with that agent, likely using their terms and processes. You may need to provide your own copy, or you might not.
A third option is to go through a third-party system. On the low end, you have reviewers on Fiverr who will work with influencers. On the high end, you have influencer marketing platforms where you can make private deals with specific influencers. It all varies.
The final option is simply to buy reviews directly. There are all sorts of platforms for doing this, and they can do anything from post directly on your review sites to send you review copy text to use as you wish.
The tricky part here is that a lot of these services are shady and can get you slapped with things like Yelp Consumer Alerts when (not if) they are detected and removed. Different sites have different ways to handle this kind of disclosure, so know what you're risking when you buy reviews. Some sites, like Amazon, don't really do a whole lot more than just remove blatantly false reviews. Others go out of their way to stigmatize brands that buy fake reviews.
That's why I always recommend buying real reviews, which means providing the writers with access to your product to make the review. It's just a lot more genuine that way.
If you're interested in hiring writers to review your products or services, there are a few things you can do to make it more likely to be effective.
The first is to provide the writer with a copy of the product or access to the service in order to write the review. It's fairly obvious when a writer is writing a review based either entirely on other existing reviews (if there are any) or on features pages or assumptions. First-hand, hands-on experience makes a review that much more realistic and compelling.
The second is to ask for honest opinions, not blindly positive feedback. No product is perfect. Different people have different ideas of what they want, what works, and what doesn't. What comes across as simple and intuitive to one person may be arcane and obtuse to another. A realistic review will mention troubles and blemishes; an unrealistic one will not.
Another tip is to limit where you use these reviews. Social media, your own site, your landing pages, and your email newsletters are all good places to use a review you paid a writer for. On the other hand, posting them to review aggregators is less likely to be valuable to you and can potentially even backfire.
Where can you go to find writers to buy reviews? That varies as well. Any of the content mills will allow it. So, too, will most freelance hubs, though it depends on the writer you hire whether or not they want to do reviews. Doing manual outreach to industry bloggers and journalists is also an option, as is posting jobs for review writers on job boards. It's all up to you; anywhere writers can be found, you can likely find people willing to write reviews for a fee.
Depending on who you ask, freelance writing can be anything from just one massive edifice (it's all just writing, right?) to a broadly varied and heavily subdivided industry.
I'm somewhere in the middle. I've seen lists with as many as 25-30 different "types" of freelance writers, but when you get that deep into it, you start to see things like "educational blog post writer" and "informative blog post writer," which, to me, aren't really different.
These range from specialists to generalists but have enough differences between them that focusing on the right kind of writer is hugely beneficial. Here are my twelve categories and some tips on how to hire them.
Every website is packed with written content. Someone has to write that content, and that's where website copywriters come in.
Website copywriters write non-blog content for websites. The writing on your homepage, on your About page, and on your services pages; these are all written by website copywriters.
These kinds of articles are usually much more self-aggrandizing, self-referential, and sales-focused than your average blog or content writing. They have a high bar for accuracy, consistency in tone/voice/information, and requirements to be persuasive and educational to people who are in the middle and later stages of a sales funnel.
Website copywriters are also usually a very temporary position. Once your business sets up all of your usual service pages, you don't necessarily need much more from a website copywriter, right? At most, you might need them to produce landing pages on occasion.
Content marketers are often mistaken for generalists, but content marketing is actually a specialty within content writing. Content marketers are the ones writing your blog posts, primarily, though they may also branch out into some website content, eBooks, and other related content.
Content marketers typically need to have a good working knowledge of SEO and how things like keywords work. They need to be familiar with web writing standards, and they should know how to format content for maximum ease of consumption. And, of course, they need to be subject matter experts.
One of the most important skills a content marketer can have is being able to write appropriate blog content that matches what a target audience is searching for in a way that can be persuasive for the stage of the sales funnel, without being overly persuasive or too "salesy" and driving them away. It's surprisingly difficult, which is why a great content marketer can have a long career.
Where content marketers try to avoid being overly sales-focused, sales writers are the opposite. Sales and ad copywriters are the people who generally write shorter, much more sales-focused content. They write the copy for paid advertising, social media advertising, and potentially even other forms of sales media, like radio and TV ads, print ads, brochures, mail flyers, email newsletters, and more.
These people often may not consider themselves to be freelance writers. Rather, they will tend to call themselves marketers, sales specialists, or other such roles. Often, the division between these roles depends on whether the individual is a writer first and works with a sales team or if they're a salesperson who picked up writing to better handle their sales optimizations.
Technical writers are just about as far away from content marketers as you can get. They aren't persuasive; they're instructional. They aren't prose; they're purely functional. They're dry, precise, and highly accurate.
Technical writers are the people responsible for things like documenting business processes, creating employee handbooks, writing internal knowledge base articles, creating support documentation, developing care and maintenance guides, and more. Any time you buy a product and get an instructional document with information on how to set it up, how to maintain it, and the various legalities, warnings, and other information, that's technical writing.
In fact, technical writing is an important enough specialty that I wrote an entire post about it.
Book writers are a specialty kind of writer focusing on long-form content. This content can be anything from a tell-all vanity book to an "auto"biography for a CEO to a marketing-focused eBook. Often, eBooks range from around 5,000-10,000 words and are more like extended blog posts, so content marketers can produce them. However, more biographical books tend to be written by people who focus on book writing.
Book writing is surprisingly difficult even for writers who are used to creating relatively lengthy website content. Writing that sheer volume – often with a conversational format, maintaining a consistent tone and voice throughout – can be a challenge. Book writers tend to charge a premium, and with good reason.
Book writers also need supplementary skills, like the ability to conduct interviews, go back-and-forth with a client quite a bit more than your average content writing, and work in phases on a per-chapter basis.
Fiction writing isn't quite as frequently a freelance career as other kinds of writing, but it's not entirely uncommon, either. Many fiction writers try to make it on their own, but also, there are quite a few major series' that have freelance ghostwriters producing the actual content.
Prominent examples include:
As you can see, in many cases, they're long-running series where the original author wrote the first dozen or two books but hired ghostwriters to carry on afterward. There are many such examples throughout literary history, as well.
Sometimes considered a kind of technical writer, these tend to be more company-focused and sales-focused than your usual technical writer. White papers don't have to be dry and boring, and press releases – while rigid in format – can be powerful and compelling in the right composition.
Writing white papers is a specialty skill, and many freelance writing professionals either don't know how to do it properly or don't want to. Those that can do it well are worth their weight in gold, though, so if you want to take advantage of white papers for your marketing, a good white paper writer is a great find.
Academic writers occupy a somewhat controversial niche in freelance writing. Generally, you see them in two forms.
First, they're the kinds of people hired to write up journals and reports on studies and academic topics. They may help turn the results of an experiment into a piece of writing for publishing in journals and industry publications, or they may be part of the research team themselves. They are often tied into academia and have other specialties, as well as writing. As such, they're not often freelancers at all.
The other kind of academic writer is the kind that essentially does homework for other people for a living. These can range from vaguely unethical to academic dishonesty, but they always seem to exist. I don't recommend pursuing this kind of career, though.
Video is increasingly important on the internet, and while there are millions of people producing videos, not all of them are writing their own scripts. Some are unscripted, sure, and some write their own scripts, but many more will take a general topic and ask a freelancer to convert it into a compelling script for them.
Script writing is unique in that the visual medium of video has unique pressures attached to it. The way people write and read is different from how they talk, and a freelance script writer will also need to keep the tone, voice, persona, and other factors into consideration as well.
Grant writing is sometimes a freelance role, though more often, it's part of being hired or volunteering for a non-profit or non-governmental organization. Grant writers are the people who write compelling proposals to present to an entity, be it the government, a capital firm, or an investor, to explain what they're doing and where the money invested as a grant would go.
Grant writing needs to be highly persuasive, but not in the same way sales is persuasive. The aims are different, the information necessary is different, and the tone of the presentation is different; it's all a very specialized form of writing. It's also hard to get a foot in the door since failure in a grant proposal is very challenging for a non-profit org.
Journalism isn't dead, as much as it looks that way when you read the latest articles on any of the modern news sites. News writers, reporters, journalists, and other writers are often freelancers today since it's cheaper for news orgs to pay freelancers than fund real journalism.
News writers can pick a topic and focus on it, like tech, games, beauty, health, or another niche. Writing is actually the easiest part of this career; it also requires a significant amount of networking, keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry, and proactive investigation.
Businesses very often outsource their social media management to a team that, combined, knows about managing social media ads, data analytics for the metrics, and writing for the post content itself. These writers specialize in short-form content, knowing the various quirks of each social network, and presenting a business in a positive light on those platforms.
This has a lot of overlap with sales and marketing writers but can be a specialty all its own. It varies, as well, whether or not it's a freelance career or whether the writer gets hired to work with a social media management agency instead.
Contrary to popular belief, social media accounts are rarely actually run by random interns these days. Social media is far too important to a business and its reputation to be left to a newbie.
When you want to hire a freelance writer, you have quite a project ahead of you. There are a ton of writers out there, but also a ton of people who claim to be writers but have little or no skill in the area. On top of that, just because a writer can write in one of these specialties doesn't mean they can write effectively in another.
The first thing to do is define the kind of writer you want. The narrower you are, the more likely you'll be able to find the specialists you want.
Next, come up with a way to test them. I highly recommend a paid test project, even if it's not at your usual full rate; good writers don't want to work for free. Evaluating a portfolio is a good start as well, but it's not always enough. Remember, a portfolio represents the writer's best work, not their average work.
When it comes to looking for writers, there are plenty of options. I've written numerous posts about job boards and freelance hubs where you can find good writers, so start there. You can, of course, also just post job listings, but those are less likely to be effective. And, of course, you can always check in with my job board up top.
Remember, too, that if possible, you want to find a writer who has knowledge and experience in your niche. The more familiar a writer is with your industry, the more accurately and comfortably they can write the kind of content you need. You may also be able to cross-train an expert writer in another form of writing, as long as they're a subject matter expert.
Do you want a deeper dive into one of these writing specialties? Do you have another you think should be added to the list? Remember, many of these can be subdivided into different kinds of writing, so the definitions aren't super strict. Feel free to leave a request in the comments, and I'll see about writing about it down the road. If you have any other questions, be sure to drop those down below, as well! I always love hearing from you and will gladly help you out however I can!
When you're searching for a freelance writer, you want to find someone who meets your needs.
Sometimes, it's hard to meet these standards. The best writers charge what they're worth, which is more than many businesses want to pay. Many writers charge a reasonable rate but don't have the experience or expertise you're hoping for.
Looking for writers online is far too often a crapshoot. You can put out a job ad and get people to apply, but you never know what you'll get, and you'll have to filter through a lot of chaff to find the good writers reaching out to you. You can look for writers with their own websites and advertisements, but far too often, they simply won't be available for the amount of work you need to be done.
It's no wonder that many businesses turn to content mills and freelance marketplaces to find their writers. One such platform is Draft.co.
If that name rings a bell, now you know what you're getting into. If you aren't aware of ContentFly, you can read my review of their service and platform over here. The short version is that they're on the mid to high end of content mills, but they're still a content mill at heart, with all the good and bad that implies.
Does their rebranding change anything tangible, or is it just a matter of the name that shows up on your invoices? Reading through their announcement blog post, chances are it's the latter; they talk a lot about ethos and "the joy of creating content" and all that, but nothing tangible about changing pay rates, fairness models, or the client-writer balance.
"That's why we built elements throughout the Draft brand that nod to the pleasure that comes from writing IRL. From paper-like textures and highlighter effects across our website to the calligraphic ink splotch on our wordmark, the tactile is made digital." – Draft.co
I don't know about you, but if I'm looking to get high-quality content written for my brand, I'm a lot more interested in the quality of the writing than I am about the "calligraphic ink splotch on our wordmark."
I will say that their pricing page reflects a change in pricing. In my review, I mentioned that they charge $375 for 4,000 words of blog post content. Their pricing page now shows that at $400 for 4,000 words, so a marginal increase. On the writer side, their FAQ still reflects 5 cents per word rates (so $200 for 4,000 words), which is unchanged. So, their rebrand increased their prices for the platform but not the payments for the writers.
As a potential client, this is a bit of a warning. Your writers are writing at a quality level befitting their pay rate. If you go to Draft.co to get writing done and you pay $400, you expect a certain level of quality, which may not be appropriately reflected in the writing you receive. Remember, too, that writers seeing a price hike that they don't get a cut of are more likely to move on to greener pastures if they can.
Now, I'm not saying Draft.co is bad, nor am I saying you should stay away from them. You're free to give them a try if you like. In fact, if you do, feel free to leave a review in the comments!
If you're not convinced Draft.co is a good option and you're looking for alternatives, here are a bunch I've compiled over my years in the industry. Some are cheaper, some are more expensive but guarantee better work, and others are pretty comparable. Feel free to explore!
We're breaking down these alternatives into three categories; Freelancer Hubs, Content Mills, and Job Boards.
First, let's talk about some freelancer hubs. Freelancer hubs are sites that allow freelancers to host profiles, and you get to pick and choose who you work with. The writer is free to choose their rates, optimize their profiles, and decide who they want to work with. You have to pitch them and hope they accept. The platforms generally charge clients to find freelancers and may charge freelancers to promote their profiles. But, once you find a freelancer, you're free to work with them directly, rather than going through the platform (and having the platform skim off the top.)
1. Freelancer – One of the most popular freelancing portals on the web, Freelancer is a great place to find creatives of all stripes. Since they're so well-known, they have a huge roster, and you're bound to find someone to meet your needs.
2. Upwork – Another of the old dogs in the industry, Upwork is rather well-known and decently well-regarded. Not everyone has the best experiences, but that's true of any major network, eh? Like Freelancer, it's generally a decent place to start your search.
3. Fiverr – Fiverr got a bad rap when it started off, but these days, standards have risen significantly. Instead of selling 1,000 words for $5, they tend to sell 100 words for $5 with "add-ons" to bring length (and price) up to par for decent freelancing work. Give it a look!
4. Contena – Contena is a writing-focused freelance hub with one significant drawback; it charges members to access. This can be a tall order for many freelancers, but some of their roster are pretty good at what they do, so it can be worth giving a look.
5. Yuno Juno – A relatively new freelancer job board, Yuno Juno isn't focused solely on writing, but you can find some writers in their ranks. At the very least, it can be a site worth giving a look at if you aren't having luck in other places.
6. Writers Work – This is a hybrid site that has both a mill-style post-a-job, get-drafts format and a freelance marketplace where you can browse writers and specific writing offerings to see what floats your boat. There's plenty here for everyone, at least if what you need is writing.
Next, there are the content mills. These all work in roughly the same way as Draft.co; you sign up, you post your assignments, and a random writer grabs them to write. Most content mills have options to hire specific writers if you like them, usually for higher rates than "open pool" orders, but they still take their pound of flesh from the payments. This commission covers everything from money-back guarantees to copyright protection to writer protections against common scams. They tend to be lower quality for the price than hiring freelancers directly, but a lot more convenient.
Note that "content mill" here is not a judgment of quality or condemnation; it's more a description of the format. Some of these can be quite high-quality.
7. Textbroker – Textbroker is one of the prototypical content mills, and they're firmly in the middle-lower end of the spectrum. They offer low rates, but the only worthwhile writing comes from the higher tiers, which are on the low end of acceptable for most companies. It can take a while to find writers you trust, but once you build a solid team, it's a reliable site.
8. Verblio – Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) is sort of like a combination of a content mill and a content marketplace. It has content mill functionality, but instead of having a project claimed and written by one writer, multiple writers can submit their posts, and you can buy as few or as many of them as you want. Those not bought go into a pool others can browse and purchase from later.
9. Zerys – Zerys is interesting in that it's a content mill that isn't frequently the center of discussion, and as such, they don't have a huge stable of writers or clients. Still, they do enough steady work to keep trucking along, so they can be worth looking into.
10. WriterAccess – Recently purchased by Rock Content, WriterAccess has long been one of the "top tier" content mills and has branched out into more expensive and boutique services as well. Some of their writers are exceptional, and most of them are "merely" pretty good.
11. Copify – This is another relatively new mill-style agency. Like a lot of the newer mills, they tend to obfuscate exactly how they work, but it's still the same old story; post an assignment, writer claims assignment, writing is submitted, etc. Give it a look if you're interested.
12. iWriter – One of the older content mills, iWriter has a huge array of pricing tiers, many of which are still pretty low for the industry overall. They're great for filler and fast-turnaround content, but you may want someone else for high-tier content production.
13. Scripted – Scripted is another mill-style content production platform that has revamped their image a few times over the years. Still, as one of the older players, they have a long reputation and are reliable, even if they may not be the ultimate top-tier content mill.
Another option is content marketplaces. There aren't many of these since they operate on a "spec" or speculative model. That is, the writer creates content and posts it to sell, hoping that someone will come along who is interested in buying it. Freelancers often hate doing work they aren't compensated for, so it's a tall order to get rolling on these kinds of sites, so they're relatively rare.
14. Constant Content – In a case of convergent evolution, Constant Content started as a spec marketplace and has expanded into a mill-style assignment platform as well. You can get some pretty great content here, but the pricing is a bit higher than your average mill.
15. DotWriter – The second (and last) marketplace I have to mention, DotWriter specializes in volumes of content, with a promise of getting as much as a year's worth of content in 45 days. You can hire specific writers and commission custom content, as well as just buy what they already have available.
Finally, you have more traditional job board options. I'm not going to post the usual generic job boards (Monster, Indeed, etc.) since they aren't writer-focused, but there are a few writing-specific job boards you can try out, including mine.
16. Freelance Writing Jobs – You're already here; why not check out that button in my navigation leading to the job board? At least, when it's available, you can do that. I'm still working on it, but it'll be up soon, I promise!
17. FlexJobs – Writing is remote work, so a remote work job board is a great place to go to find writing, right?
18. ProBlogger – The ProBlogger job board is one of the premier job boards for writers, though it has some ups and downs. The site itself is also a great resource for both writers and clients, so feel free to check it out too.
19. Behance – Behance is Adobe's creative marketplace and serves as a job board for all sorts of remote creative needs, including writing. It's high-tier but high-priced as well.
20. Freelance Writing – One of the oldest freelance writing job boards on the internet (around since 1997!), this is another great place to post your needs and hire writers.
So, there you have it; 20 different alternatives to Draft.co for your content production needs. They run the gamut from cheap and low-quality to high-price, high-quality boutique content creation. They're also just a relatively small selection of what's out there and don't even scratch the surface of content marketing agencies. That's a topic for another time.
Do you have a site worth adding to this list? Feel free to leave it in the comments, and I'll take a look. I'm always open to newcomers in the space! Likewise, if one of these folds, rebrands, or dies off, feel free to let me know. I'll gladly keep this list updated as need be!
There are many reasons why you might want a translator for your business. Maybe you're looking to expand into an international market and want to write marketing copy in another language. Perhaps you're already in an area where the population is largely bilingual, and you want to cater to both languages. Maybe you need a translator to work on communications with a manufacturing facility in China or Vietnam.
Whatever the case may be, you need to hire a translator, and you need to make sure you make a good decision.
Before we dig into specific tips about hiring a translator, let's address the elephant in the room.
Machine translation (whether it's Google Translate, a dedicated translation app, or a machine learning process) is going to be fine for something and very much not fine for others. It depends on two things:
Translating a sign that says "Buy One, Get One 50% Off" may be pretty trivial for a machine learning app to handle, depending on the language. Translating a user guide to a technical piece of machinery can be much harder, and translating complex medical journalism even more so. The more unique, complex, or varied the terminology, the harder it can be for a machine to handle.
The complexity of the languages involved is important as well. Many languages have words or phrases that are spelled in similar ways and have very different meanings. Alternatively, they may have multiple words that have the same meaning but different connotations.
A generic example might be content that talks about an expiration date being translated to use "death date" because expiration can mean death in certain usage. These kinds of relatively minor mix-ups can, nevertheless, dramatically change the end result of the translation.
The trouble with machine translation is that it has no way of handling or identifying these issues, short of experience in its learning data set. As time goes on, these tools will grow better and better (and things like Google Translate are already leagues better than they were a few years ago), but they still aren't good enough for most purposes today.
CAT Tools are Computer Assisted Translation tools. At first glance, this sounds like machine translation, but it's not quite the same.
They have some useful features, such as:
A good modern translator should have some experience with some kind of CAT tool and may even be able to make it accessible to you for team collaboration. There are a variety of different tools out there, so it can behoove you to ask what tool your prospective translator uses, so you can research it yourself.
Now, let's get into specific tips for hiring translators now that the software elephant has been ushered out of the room.
The first thing you want to do is figure out just how much or how little translation you need to be done. The scale of your needs will help determine the kind of person you hire down the road. If all you need is a few lines of ad copy or a brochure translated, that's a very different kind of project than translating multiple lengthy blog posts, an entire website, or a whole book.
Consider factors such as:
All of this information is used in two ways. First, it helps you know who to look for when seeking a translator. Second, it serves as a project brief when you approach a translator. Both are important.
The type of employment will matter when seeking a translator. Some translators prefer the stability of an ongoing relationship, while others prefer the flexibility of freelancing with multiple clients. You should have some idea of what kind of translator you want to hire.
Hiring an individual to translate puts all your eggs in one basket. This is fine for longer-duration, smaller-scale, or lower-need translation projects. However, it might fall flat if you need faster turnarounds, large volumes, or specific kinds of expertise in your translations.
Contracting with a translation firm can be a great idea to get consistently good, verified, and accuracy-checked translations, but it is likely going to be the most expensive option. You also don't know which of their staff of translators is working on your project and may need to verify consistency on your own.
If you're hiring an individual, you have the choice of hiring an employee or a freelancer. Freelancers are best for short-term projects, one-off translations, and sporadic needs. You can find them on general freelancing sites like Upwork, as well as translation hubs like TranslatorsCafe or ProZ. Using a freelancer hub helps you locate translators and verify their quality through other client reviews, as well.
On the other hand, hiring an employee is best if you have ongoing needs, want one employee to handle all of your translation consistently, and don't mind hiring someone on for a full role in your organization. The advantages and disadvantages of an employee relationship are well-documented, so be sure to do your research first.
Unless you're extremely generic, chances are pretty good that you're going to want to find someone who is familiar not just with the languages you're translating to and from but with the industry you're writing about.
Consider how difficult it is to write accurately about a subject you're not familiar with. A clothing retailer isn't going to be an authoritative voice on biohazard cleanup, a materials engineer isn't going to write well about childcare and education, and a theoretical physicist isn't going to be a deep well of knowledge on dog training.
Every specialty has terminology, phrasing, common knowledge, and turns of phrase that end up worked into writing on the subject.
Your translator needs to know when to translate, when to localize, and when to leave as-is.
A specialist will be able to adapt their translation style to your needs. Moreover, they will know when a word, phrase, or process needs to be kept as-is in the destination language and when it can be localized instead.
Translation can be done by someone who is simply fluent in two different languages, but that's far from all there is to it. Proper translation, especially in certain industries, may need further verification and certification.
For example, the American Translators Association (ATA) has a certification that translators can earn. This is a "live" certification, meaning it requires ongoing education to continue to keep translation expertise alive. If you're hiring a translation expert, you may want to check to see if they have this kind of credential and verify it.
As for industry expertise, you may want to check for various industry accolades, certifications, and credentials. For example, maybe you work in healthcare, and you need someone who can be HIPAA compliant in their translations. Maybe you're in a government position and need to hire someone with a security clearance. Maybe you want someone with some level of tech or IT certification. There are many possible options, which will vary depending on your circumstances.
When a translator submits a translated piece of content to you, you may also want to use a third party to verify the accuracy of that translation. Sometimes, this can be as simple as a native speaker of the destination language you can trust to verify accurately. Other times, you may want to pay another translator to verify the accuracy of the initial translation.
Translation is a complex and critically important role for an organization working in more than one language, and that means it's worth the money you pay for it. Unfortunately, all too many businesses look to hire cheap freelancers and end up getting what they buy.
General translation rates tend to range anywhere between 9 cents to 40 cents per word translated. Why so much variance? All of the factors listed above have an impact. The difficulty and complexity of the topic, the complexity and rarity of the languages involved, and the turnaround time can all impact pricing.
Sometimes, you can negotiate a lower rate for "repeat" translations. For example, if you have a bunch of different advertisements with similar ad copy but enough difference that you can't reuse the same text, you may be able to pay a lower rate for all of it than normal because it's so similar.
Per-hour payment is relevant if you're hiring an employee but is rare for freelancing and agency work. A low per-hour rate can look enticing, but an inexperienced translator can take a long time to perform a project, and that can cost more than the translation normally would. It also tends to undervalue skilled translators and hinder those who gain experience working with you.
Per-page rates are very rare and almost never used.
So, there you have it; just about everything you need to know to get started hiring a translator.
Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments or drop me a line. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you may have!
When you have a website and a business online, one of your main goals is likely to grow your authority and reputation. Of the many ways to do that, content marketing is one of the most common. Running a blog with a regular posting schedule means filling it with a lot of top-tier writing, and if you're here, you're either hiring freelancers to do it, or you're considering it.
Freelancers aren't the only way to get high-quality writing for your blog, though. Another option is guest posts.
They're meant to be an example of an authority in your niche stepping in and contributing to your site because they recognize you as a worthy venue they can use to promote themselves. You accept it because, hey, having that authority post on your site gives you some of their authority and audience. They'll likely share and link to the post they made, giving you a boost in the process.
Plus, a relationship that starts with a guest post can expand into networking and partnerships down the road. Not every guest post will lead to such a deal, but some can, and that's a good opportunity to keep in mind.
With guest posting, you have to decide how you want to go about it. You're the publisher in this equation, and you generally have three options.
As you might guess from the title of today's post, we're talking about the third one today. You want to set up a guest post guidelines page, listing out the rules and expectations you have for guest posts to be successfully published on your site. This page should have a handful of specific elements, but what are they? Let's discuss.
Your guest post guidelines page should be largely a list of rules that any potential contributor should comply with if they want to be published on your site.
There are two main purposes for this page.
Many people assume rejection from sites that don't mention accepting guest posts, and it's better not to waste everyone's time by trying when you're doomed to fail.
If you want every post on your site to be 2,000+ words, you don't want to accept a 1,000-word guest post. If you want everyone to write about topics relevant to your niche, you don't want someone stepping in with something unrelated. These rules help you filter out and ignore or reject the pitches that clearly don't comply.
Here are the most important elements of a guest post guidelines page.
The first section of your guidelines page should introduce who you are, what you do, and who you would want to guest post on your site.
You can also outline the benefits of guest posting on your site and set expectations for what a potential contributor might need to have or do to be accepted.
Thank you for your interest in contributing to BrandNameBlog! We're a boutique agency working with high-end clients in <niche> and are among the foremost leaders in <industry>. By partnering with us, you gain exposure to our audience of <number of monthly actives> and a mention from one of the top agencies in <industry>.
Our clientele expects the exceptional from us, so we expect the same from our contributors. If you have what it takes to create awesome content, keep on reading! We'd love to hear from you.
Of course, your introduction shouldn't make claims that aren't true. If you're a small-time business just trying to get off the ground, calling yourself an industry leader won't quite resonate, for example. By adding specific statistics like your monthly users, you can show potential guest contributors what kind of audience you're likely to have.
The second section of your guest post guidelines should be a rundown of the kinds of topics and coverage you want from a contributor.
This outlines the broad range of topics and formats you accept and potentially calls out specific kinds of posts you don't want to publish.
In general, we accept blog posts on marketing of any kind, as long as it's relevant and can be justified. However, we greatly prefer topics in B2B marketing, case studies, growth hacks, small business growth strategies, and SEO/Content Marketing content.
You can also include a section that helps potential contributors filter their submissions or tailor them toward your audience.
When you're brainstorming ideas for guest contributions, ask yourself: will this topic be beneficial to our audience (<description of your main focus topics for your audience>), and will it provide actionable, useful information for them to use? Are you qualified to write about the topic with authority? Do you have unique information or insight that can be of value, not just to our visitors, but to the industry as a whole? If you think so, please get in touch.
You may also want to specify whether or not you're primarily trying to get guest posts from other companies or if freelance writers looking to build their own brands are acceptable as well. You can also include links to alternative options for, say, applying to become a writer for your site or paying for a sponsored post.
The following section should go into more detail about what makes a good guest post and what guidelines you want your contributors to comply with if they want a post to be successful.
Here's an example of this section:
Detail: Every guest post we publish is in-depth and detailed. Surface-level and beginner's content need not apply. If it's something you can see already in the top few posts of Google, it's not uniquely valuable enough for us.
Length: Minimum 1,500 words of in-depth content. Our typical blog post is 2,000 words long, and we want your content to fit right in. Depending on the topic, some shorter posts may be acceptable, and longer posts might as well.
Tone and Style: Conversational style is important. This isn't academic content. Our audience is knowledgeable, so don't speak down to them or go over their heads with jargon. Keep it PG-13, too.
Informative, not Sales: Our audience trusts us to be informative, and they don't read our blog to have some product shoved in their faces. Any guest post that primarily promotes a product or service will be rejected.
Well-Cited: Whenever you make a claim, back up that claim with data. We want to see cited sources unless you performed the research yourself, in which case, provide your data if possible.
Original: We do not syndicate content, and we do not publish content that is copied from somewhere else. The occasional quote is fine; a full copied section or post is not. We'll be checking!
Obviously, our rundown here is just an example. You can change this to be more or less strict, depending on what you want or need out of your contributors. If you want to syndicate content, that's fine too, but be aware that you need to handle the technical SEO aspects of that (like canonicalization) properly, or else you risk penalizing your site.
This is where you have some decisions to make. One of the biggest is how much input you want to have in the content creation process.
Generally, there are three "tiers" of processes that are common in guest posting.
In general, the closer to title-first you start, the more control you have over the resulting content. At the same time, though, this can feel very micromanage-y and can take up a lot of your time and energy managing it all.
On the other hand, full-post submissions might open you up to less well-aligned content you accept just because it's easy and decently written. It does turn off some contributors because it's a lot of effort up-front if the post gets rejected, but a good guest contributor can use the content elsewhere if you reject it, so it's not the worst thing in the world.
This section also specifies how you want to receive your potential guest posts.
Finally, have your contributor write themselves a bio. You don't necessarily want to do the research into who they are to write one for them, but you'll probably want to have one. Optionally, ask them for a headshot to attach to it as well.
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that all of this is completely customizable. You can have whatever process you want, whatever guidelines and restrictions you want, and you can customize all of it. Our guidelines and rundown here is just one example.
Here are some other real-world examples you can use for inspiration:
Each one of these is a similar setup but a different process, a different level of guidelines, and a different format. It just goes to show that pretty much anything will work.
The keys, more than anything, are in the keywords. You want to have a specific phrase like "write for us" or "submit a guest post" somewhere on your page, usually in the URL and the H1 headline, so that people who want to reach out can find you via Google. You'll also want to link to it from your main homepage, navigation, or footer somewhere, so it's easy to find.
All that said, it's pretty easy to put together a guest post guidelines page. The hard part is deciding on your process.
Don't worry, though; you can always change as you decide you don't like how it's working down the line!
If you're a freelance writer looking for work, you've probably seen Craigslist recommended as an option. If you're a company looking to hire a freelance writer, you might think of Craigslist as a great choice. For both sides of the equation, it seems like Craigslist might be a great way to link up, but is that really true?
Well, if you do a few searches online, you'll see two things:
Now, these two things aren't really mutually exclusive. You can have a platform full of scams, but if you filter past them, full of gold.
So, here's the truth.
Knowing what they are and how to avoid them is paramount, which is part of why I wrote this post. Check it out before you start investing in Craigslist so you know what to watch for.
If you're a business owner, hiring manager, recruiter, blogger, or just someone who needs to pick up a writer to do some work for you, Craigslist can be a good place to go.
Craigslist has a few advantages over other sites when it comes to freelance writing.
For one thing, it's traditionally always been more focused on freelancing and gigs than it has on full-on jobs. If you post a writing job on Indeed or Monster, people are going to assume it's a full employment relationship, not necessarily a freelance gig or contract job. Craigslist, though, has that expectation built in.
In fact, writers have been finding gigs through Craigslist for just about as long as the site has existed.
The question is, how can you find those writers?
Craigslist is divided into thousands of sub-sites, each centered around a geographic location, typically a city or municipality. Larger cities may have subsections, and smaller cities may be lumped together, depending on the area.
One of the tricks to marketing with Craigslist is knowing that a ton of these areas aren't all that valuable to use. If you can work with a writer in any location in the United States, should you spend your time writing an ad for Topeka, Kansas, or for Los Angeles? One will get nearly an order of magnitude more exposure.
Generally, you want to post in major metropolitan areas, like NYC, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas. It's up to you how many cities you post in, of course. You should also post in your own local region, simply because local reputation can help attract writers familiar with your company already.
Craigslist limits you to post to one city every couple of days, which isn't very good for volume exposure, but if you prioritize the top cities, you can still find writers fairly quickly. If you want broader exposure, you can consider hiring someone to do it for you, but that has its own problems.
Writers are extremely wary of being scammed on Craigslist, and with good reason. For every legitimate business posting a gig, there are a dozen posting something exploitative or fake. You need to differentiate yourself from them in a variety of ways.
A good listing should have:
You also want to be clear about who you are. If you're hiring as an anonymous company, you're probably a scam. It doesn't take much to disclose who you are, and encourage writers to research you before reaching out.
You may also consider telling potential writers NOT to contact you through Craigslist and rather to visit your website and contact you directly. This way, you can ignore all of the bots and scams that try to reach out through the Craigslist contact form and weed out anyone who can't read. It also verifies your identity rather than linking to a business and claiming you're that business when you're really not (which is another common scam.)
Likewise, your copy and offer need to be good and well-written. If you're hiring "thousands of writers ASAP" or promoting how much a writer can make with copy like "Earn up to $2,000 per week!", you're indistinguishable from the scams.
Between these two points, you have everything you need to find writers on Craigslist. Everything else is standard. Figure out how to test your writers, work out a contract, and so on.
As a business looking to hire, you're used to posting ads and waiting for people to come to you. But, you can also go to the Services section and find the writing/editing/translation section there. You can find writers who advertise themselves and their services and browse through them, looking for promising options. Now, there will probably be plenty of issues with this, too – people reselling writing or using AI writers or spinning software, for example – but you can find legitimate writers there too.
Now let's look at the other side of the coin. You're a writer, and you want to find a job on Craigslist. Can it be done?
Yes, but again, you need to know how to go about it the right way and avoid scams.
Much like how companies that can hire someone anywhere in the world can post in locations they aren't based in, you can find jobs in areas you don't live. You just need to go to those CL sections. Again, major metropolitan areas are generally the place to be. Check out Los Angeles, NYC, Chicago, Dallas, and so on. You can also check your local area to see if any local companies are hiring, of course.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams on Craigslist targeting writers desperate for cash. They usually are very vague about what they do, promise near-unbelievable amounts of income, and don't specify a company. There are more sophisticated scams as well, which are harder to spot, but you can grow to recognize them over time.
As a general rule of thumb, if a company wants you to submit unique writing and isn't paying for it, don't work with them. If they want you to pay anything – application fees, account access, etc. – don't do it. And, of course, go with your gut instinct. If something feels too good to be true, it probably is.
Safeguard your personal information, too. If a company is asking for sensitive personal information like SSNs or other IDs or wants your bank access, and so on, they might just be trying to steal your information. Some of that information is necessary, eventually, for tax and payment purposes. But, a legitimate company shouldn't need that stuff from you right away and won't demand it.
Ideally, any company posting a legitimate job advertisement on Craigslist – for actual employment or for freelance gigs – will identify itself. You should be able to research the job and identify whether or not they seem to be legitimate, active, and actually looking for writers. You may be able to find their listings on other job sites or even their own website, as well.
You can also consider asking to chat on a phone or Zoom call to make sure the person hiring for the job is legitimate. Yes, I know; many writers are introverts and don't want to do that kind of thing. It might not be necessary, but it can give you some peace of mind.
When you see a listing, ask yourself questions about it.
These kinds of questions can help you determine if a gig is even worth applying for, especially if it's legitimate.
While getting paid work is important, it's also important to get work doing something you enjoy. If you don't like, don't watch, and don't care about sports, applying to be a sports writer won't be a good fit.
Craigslist has writing/editing/translation sections under both gigs and services. As a writer, you can post your services as a writer and see if anyone wants to hire you.
If you want to do this, consider browsing the section above for posting an ad on Craigslist to see how it works and how to do it effectively.
Now, for all that I've said that you can use Craigslist, is it really a good option? For writers or for businesses?
It's a functional option. You can use it to find writers or, as a writer, to find a gig. It takes time and patience to find those opportunities, but they DO exist.
The question is, is it any better than other options?
Truthfully, probably not.
If you're a writer, you have plenty of options to find gigs. You can work for content mills like Textbroker or content agencies like Writer Access or Verblio. You can establish profiles on sites like Freelancer and Upwork. You can even work on Fiverr for a decent rate per hundred words. Once you have some clout under your belt, you can even make your own website and proactively advertise your services.
As a business, you can go to all of these same places to hire a writer. You can find writers on content mills or through agencies, or on Fiverr or a freelance hub. You can also just post your job opportunities on job sites and trust that writers will apply, knowing it's freelance work. And, of course, you have your website's careers page, or a "write for us" page that can attract people from Google too.
Is it worth using Craigslist? Sure, if you want to. Is it the best option? Nope, not at all. It can be a good way to find writers or writing jobs as a supplement to other options, but those other options are probably going to be better.
Speaking of other options, whether you're a writer looking to find a writing job or a business looking to find a freelance writer, why not check out this very site you're reading right now? Just check out the top of the page and browse our directories. I want to have a useful writing job board for both writers and clients, and I can't do that without you. If you have any questions, be sure to let me know! I'd love to help out however I can!
Nearly everyone with a website wants that website to have more traffic. Traffic is how you grow a reputation, build a career, and make money. So it stands to reason that you would want to drive more traffic to your site however you can. One of the biggest strategies on the modern internet for traffic generation is content marketing, but what does that mean?
Here are 20 different ways to drive traffic to your website, mostly focused on leveraging good writing.
This one is easy to say but hard to do. Writing content that has deep value to it means understanding what your potential audience is looking for and providing it to them. It might be information, it might be instructions, it might be guidance, a comparison between products or services, or something completely different.
In fact, a huge part of modern marketing is figuring out what your audience wants, so I'm probably doing you a bit of a disservice by glossing over it. Luckily, there are plenty of excellent guides out there to read and learn.
Writing about a topic isn't easy, but writing with enough expertise to convey it to someone in simple terms is even harder. It requires a functional understanding of the subject (which is why it can be tough to find the right freelancers to write for your topic) and the ability to explain it.
Moreover, you need to be able to format your writing in a way that makes it easy to consume, including breaking it up into chunks, using lists and formatting, and making use of other content format strategies.
To a certain extent, the search engines facilitate an "if you build it, they will come" attitude. However, the truth is, you need to do a bit of encouragement if you want people to actually visit. One of the better ways to do so is by linking to your content on social media, but you need to write a compelling post on that social network as well.
Consider Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Pinterest as options, depending on the kinds of people who are most likely to browse your site. Remember, different social networks have people with different interests, so you need to reach them in the right way, using the right language.
When you write content for your own site, you gather a fraction of the traffic for search queries that include it and from other sites that link to it. It's broad but shallow in most cases. What if you know of another site that has an audience you would very much like to reach? Well, guest posting is an option.
Guest posting involves writing high-quality content – the same as what you would for your own site – but offering it to another site to publish. They put your name on it (and link to you), and you bring in some portion of their traffic.
Sponsored content is like guest posting, except you can be more focused on advertising yourself. Why? Well, usually because you're paying for the opportunity. There are quite a few sites that will happily publish sponsored content, especially if that content is somehow relevant to their audience and topic.
They just charge for the opportunity, with a price that scales depending on the level of traffic and interest the site usually gets. If you have the funds, a good sponsored post can go a long way for traffic generation and brand awareness.
If you're ever struggling to figure out what you want to write, you can always turn to audience engagement. Pick a question and ask your audience to submit their answers, either via a newsletter, a post, or a social media post. Then, compile the best answers, add your commentary to them, and publish it.
Everyone you quote may even share the post as well. You can do the same thing with other bloggers in your industry; send out a question to as many as you can, and compile the answers in a post to share them with your analysis and commentary.
This is kind of the flip side of the previous option. Look around at comments and on discussion boards to see what kinds of common questions your audience is asking. When you find a question you can answer, write a compelling piece of content that answers that question, and publish it.
You can also share a link to the answer in the original discussion if it's still active and relevant. This method works best if you have a fast turnaround time and a broad level of expertise, but it's also just a great way to get more ideas for content.
Another interesting option is to become part of a conversation or start one based on content that is popular and trending. Identify a piece of content that has some room for a difference in opinion, and write content advocating that opinion.
You can even wrap up with a conclusion that the original was right and you were just arguing for the sake of argument if you generally agree with the points being made. This can be a fun one because it can spur discussion between proponents of different perspectives.
"Anything you can do, I can do better" is an excellent motto to have as a content creator. In fact, it has been enshrined as a strategy known as 10x content. 10x content is content that is "ten times better than the inspiration."
It can be tricky to create, especially since so many others have been working on it themselves, so the average standard quality and depth of content is immense these days. Still, every niche has opportunities to single out weak content and outdo it, and it's a powerful strategy to leverage.
All too often, I see content creators write blog posts and then never look at them again once they're published. It's one thing to pay attention to comments, but it's another thing entirely to keep an eye on the content itself. Every so often, it pays to go back through your old content and perform something of a content audit.
A good content audit will do a lot for you, but one of the main benefits is to identify old content that can be refurbished and re-shared. Plenty of the topics you cover will be evergreen, or nearly so, and it won't take much work to bring them back into relevance.
Influencer marketing was all the rage a few years ago, and then it kind of dropped off when people collectively realized that about 85% of the people who call themselves influencers really weren't. That said, these days, you can still do influencer marketing; you just need to have a better idea of who you want to reach.
Of course, this makes influencers much more valuable, and you want to treat them accordingly. Consider this something similar to guest posting, where you create content tailored to their audience, and ask them to share it. It can work quite well!
Quora is a great site for a lot of different reasons. For one thing, real people ask real questions, and you can use those questions as inspiration for blog posts. You can also write "lite" versions of the posts and post them as answers, or vice versa; write answers and then expand those answers into full blog posts later.
It's a great way to gather ideas and a great way to share those ideas when they're completed.
Just because you've written content doesn't mean you can't use it again. Content syndication is the "legal" way to repost your content on sites other than your own in a way that won't get you penalized by Google or slapped by a site for spam.
LinkedIn is one of the prime locations for content syndication, though you can also use Medium, and some industries have entire websites dedicated to content syndication. Yahoo News, for example, gets most of its content via syndication.
Medium has a lot of pros and a lot of cons as a platform. This isn't the post to go into detail about it, though. One thing Medium is great for, though, is as a venue to write content that you're interested in but which doesn't quite fit on your main blog.
Those tertiary topics, special interests, or cool posts that just won't work otherwise can all fit nicely on a Medium spin-off blog.
A common piece of advice for blogging is to choose topics that are high search volume but low competition. Finding topics can be very difficult because if the search volume isn't high enough, they aren't worth covering, but if competition is too stiff, you won't get any traction.
I say, write it anyway. If it's a valuable enough topic, even if you don't rank in search for it, you can still gain traffic from manual sharing and have the potential to go viral anyway.
Writing doesn't have to mean text content. You can also write scripts for podcasts and YouTube videos, and produce them. Sure, it's harder than I make it sound, but it's a great way to reach an audience that otherwise wouldn't be interested in plain old text content.
If you can hook them with your videos, they'll be more inclined to read your longer content elsewhere. Also, the barrier to creating good videos has been dropping every year, with most of the equipment you need already built into your phone. The key, really, is in the editing.
Another way to repurpose and gain value from existing content is to expand your top-performing content into eBooks.
You can self-publish these and ask for an email address, which you can use for further communications, or you can publish them on Amazon or another eBook marketplace and sell them for a bit of profit. Of course, you'll need to do some heavy marketing to promote them.
There are a ton of different ways to bring people to your website for the first time. The trick is to get them to keep coming back. One of the best ways to do that is to create a newsletter. Ask for people to sign up for your newsletter in any way you can, and as you build a mailing list, send out something valuable every few days.
You might want a daily digest or a weekly roundup; whatever you choose, stick with it. Write valuable and unique content directly to your newsletter subscribers, and of course, encourage them to come get more on your site.
There are a ton of communities online made up of people just like the ones you want visiting your site. So, why not find them and go to where they hang out? It might be Reddit pages, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, or Discord servers; whatever it may be, find them and work your way into their communities.
Then, you can share your content when it's valuable and not as blatant advertising.
Okay, so being an interesting person isn't directly a marketing strategy. What it is, however, is a great way to be memorable when people read your content. Use humor, establish a voice, and be real; people will connect with you and come back for more.
No matter how you plan to bring more people to your website, writing is at the core of it all.
With that in mind, why not pick up a few great freelancers over on our job board while you're already here?
The world is filled with paperwork. Everywhere you look, you find people flaunting their titles, going to school to get new titles, or undergoing training to earn certifications to improve their job prospects.
You see it in every industry. Lawyers need to pass the bar. Medical professionals need everything from nursing degrees to doctorates. Even IT has a huge array of certificates for everything from ethical hacking to network administration.
It stands to reason that any career will have certificates, but is that really true? Well, sort of.
Pretty much every possible career you could imagine has an array of possible certificates. The question is, are those certificates worthwhile?
If you're looking for someone to paint you a picture, which would be more important to you?
For most people, it's that second one.
The same holds true for most creative pursuits. The proof is, as they say, in the pudding. You want someone who can demonstrate that they have the skills and that they can produce work that fits what you want. You wouldn't go to an art school's alumni list and pick an artist blindly, would you? Of course not; you'd look through public portfolios and look for an art style that matches your desires.
Writing is the same way. It doesn't matter if a writer barely has their G.E.D. or if they graduated from Harvard; if they don't produce the kind of writing you want, it's not going to do you any good to hire them.
Likewise, as a writer, it's all about the work you can produce. A certificate isn't going to be proof of anything other than your ability to pay for a certificate.
Writing isn't like IT, where there's a centrally-recognized authority like CompTIA that issues certificates as proof of knowledge. Sure, there are hundreds of universities with writing programs, and you can earn anything from an Associate of Arts to a PhD in Literature, but all those degrees prove is that you can make it through academia.
I've personally known freelance writers who are extremely successful and have never pursued higher education. I've also known writers with advanced degrees who leverage them to great effect and just as many who are toiling to pay off student debt with a degree that has been soundly ignored.
Here's another question. If you get a certificate in copywriting, what does that say? Or, if you're looking at a writer and they tell you they have a certificate in copywriting, what does that mean?
Copywriting is a huge and varied industry. There's a ton of difference between writing a product description, writing a sales-focused landing page, writing general informative blog posts, writing a white paper, writing a press release, writing social media posts… the list goes on.
To an extent, the skills to write one can transfer over to another. Someone who can write a persuasive landing page can probably also write a persuasive blog post. On the other hand, someone used to writing casual, informative blog posts may not know what it takes to write a technical, sales-first white paper. Someone used to writing 300-word product descriptions and 200-word social media posts may not be capable of writing 2,000-word blog posts or 5,000-word eBooks.
Most certificates for copywriting just say something like "certified copywriter" and don't specify in any greater detail what, exactly, that means. And, again, anyone looking to hire a writer is vastly more likely to a) ask them for their portfolio to scope out their past work and b) send them a test project to see how they perform, than they are to care even the slightest bit about the credentials they claim to have.
Another way to look at things is to look at the certificate programs that exist.
If you search for writing certificates, you find things like:
Most of these issue certificates, but those certificates aren't worth the paper they're printed on. No marketing manager is going to be looking for a SkillShare or Coursera certificate. These are the kinds of things promoted by YouTubers as a way for them to make affiliate money, not widely sought-after credentials from accredited schools and programs.
Many of these courses are also quite short. They're small series' of videos, eBooks and self-study packets and tests, or even just tests you can take and see if you can pass them. Many of them don't actually have much in the way of authority or nuance; they test you on things a tool like Grammarly or a headline analyzer can do for you.
As a copywriter, you need the skills to pay the bills. That means being able to showcase your ability to write, and that means having the ability to write in the first place.
Writing skills can be trained! Educational programs are fine for this. Even some of the certificate programs listed above can teach you valuable skills you can leverage in a writing career.
You can learn things like:
The point that I'm trying to make, really, is that the certificates aren't all that valuable, but the skills you learn may be. I'm not here to trash any particular programs. I'm sure some of them are great. Moreover, different people learn in different ways. Some great writers have never studied writing or taken a writing course in their lives. Others got where they are through a ton of structured training.
Again, though, this all ends up expressed through the way you write and the way you market yourself. The content you have in your portfolio, the specialties you promote, and the way you talk about the industry: these all can have an impact on your ability to get a job writing professionally.
Promoting that you have a writing certificate, especially from a site like Udemy or SkillShare, where pretty much anyone can register to create their own course? That's just going to make you look gullible.
Now, as a freelance writer, sometimes certificates can matter. Sometimes they can matter a lot. The thing is, they aren't copywriting certificates. They're certificates in other areas of expertise.
One example is in marketing. If you're a freelancer looking to get into fiction ghostwriting, you don't need marketing experience. On the other hand, if you want to get hired at a content marketing company, having a certificate that shows you know what you're doing might help.
What kind of certificates might be relevant? Indeed has a list here, and though I don't agree with all of them, you can see the kinds of certificates I mean.
Industry-recognized sites like HubSpot, CopyBlogger, or Semrush can all be valuable. This is because:
Take a look at the personal site for Kristi Hines, one of the most prominent freelance writers in marketing. Her profile page lists a few certifications, but they're certifications that are relevant to her specialty in marketing. They aren't certificates that prove her ability to write; they're certificates that prove her knowledge of marketing, analytics, and sales.
That, I would argue, is the kind of certificate you'd be looking for. However, it varies depending on the industry you want to break into.
If you're a freelance writer with a passion for cars, you probably don't need a Google Analytics certificate. You'd be better served with some kind of automotive specialist certification or training. A writer who wants to break into writing authoritatively about software development and network administration could get some of those CompTIA certificates to showcase more than casual knowledge.
You don't need to know enough to do the career – though it can help – but you need to know enough to write authoritatively about it.
It all depends on the certificate and your goals.
If you're looking to be a content marketer, knowing the ins and outs of marketing and earning a certificate from a globally-recognized marketing firm like HubSpot can be a great idea. People in the industry recognize their name, recognize their authority, and know that the certificate means something.
On the other hand, getting a copywriting certificate from a course offered on Udemy? Probably a lot less valuable.
I'm not going to say it's worthless. It's always possible that there are businesses and individuals out there who will be impressed by having a certificate, especially if they're used to seeing writers who don't have certificates and don't know enough about the industry to know that certificates aren't terribly meaningful.
At the same time, someone who is familiar with the industry might recognize that a certificate is meaningless and might be skeptical of your abilities if you're promoting having one. It's almost a badge marking you as a novice.
In the worst case, if you paid an exorbitant amount for a certificate – and some of these certificate programs can cost thousands of dollars! – you might become a target for scammers. After all, if you have the money to pay for a certificate, you have the money to pay for the privilege of applying to this definitely real, totally illustrious business' writing crew, right?
More so than a general "copywriting" certificate, though, you can benefit from getting certificates in areas of expertise or special interests. If you know you want to focus on an industry, proving to people in that industry that you're a specialist rather than a generalist can be a big help.
On the flip side, say you're a business owner, hiring manager, or another decision-maker, and you're looking to hire a writer. Should you look for one who has a certificate?
Much like with writers, this depends on the certificate. Think of it how you would consider a degree from a university. A degree in software development from MIT or Virginia Tech is going to be way more valuable than the same degree from ITT Tech.
When hiring a freelance writer, you generally want to look at their portfolio first and foremost. Does their style and their fluency in your topic and language fit with your needs? If so, you can look at things like certifications. Do they have certificates in your industry? At the same time, you can look for other signs of industry expertise, like having worked with other businesses in your industry before or having held a position in the industry before switching to writing. Someone who spent a 20-year career as a network administrator and who pivoted to writing will have a pretty good idea of what goes on in the industry, eh?
Certificates are most relevant when they come from a recognized authority and when they promote a relevant skill. Unfortunately, the majority of the copywriting certificates available aren't actually valuable to anyone other than the company you're paying hundreds of dollars to get it from. You're better off putting in the time to build a portfolio to demonstrate your skills directly.
Have any further questions about copywriting certificates? If so, please feel free to leave a comment down below, and we can continue our discussion on the topic further!
In the world of business, content takes many forms. Content can be focused on sales, with ad copy, product descriptions, and landing pages. It can be focused on organic marketing with social media posts and blog content. Or, it can be focused on thought leadership and high-level publications in the form of white papers.
White papers are an interesting kind of content that most businesses should be aware of, even if they don't usually create them.
Let's dig in.
White papers today are often short statements and coverage of a company's products and services, but they didn't start out that way. In fact, the original White Paper was issued by the British Government, and for many decades, white papers were primarily developed by governments and nonprofit organizations.
In many ways, white papers have more in common with academic writing, research papers, and journalism than they do with marketing writing and ad copy. White papers started out as a way for an organization to issue a statement with research, backing, and an explanation of rationale. They were, essentially, meant to distill a complex issue down into a concise and understandable set of talking points, which both presented the position of the issuing organization and invited commentary on the issue for further discussion.
White papers also used to be quite long. Modern white papers are around 6-8 pages long and are occasionally even shorter, with plenty of space taken up by formatting, diagrams, and additional information. In fact, the ideal range of a white paper should be between 3 pages minimum and 15 pages maximum, according to industry surveys.
In the past, though, they were longer – often much longer. The first white paper known as a white paper, called the Churchill White Paper, was published in 1922 and was 31 pages long. In 1920, a paper that may have been a proto-white paper, the Review of the Civil Administration of Mesopotamia, was 149 pages long.
So, as you can see, what we think of as white papers today is very different from what they used to be.
Today, a white paper is largely used by businesses (rather than governments) to issue statements. These statements are akin to press releases; they're high-level reviews of something the company is involved in. They can take three different forms, in general:
Backgrounder white papers are white papers meant to explain a company's product, service, or entire being in-depth. Think of it as a company history and profile; it's an introduction to why the company exists, what they do, and how they benefit their audience in doing it.
For example, this White Paper from Black Insurance goes into detail about who they are, what they do, and how they do it. It's exceptionally long for a modern white paper – 37 pages, specifically – but a good portion of that is taken up with images and diagrams, so it's not as dense as it seems.
The problem solver white paper is less focused on the company and more focused on the problem the company is working to solve. While it can position the company as the solution to the problem, it doesn't need to; it's more often meant to showcase the company's thought leadership and authority in the niche.
For example, Aetna's white paper on Cardiovascular Disease showcases one of the world's foremost causes of death, and while it doesn't position Aetna as the solution to that problem, by existing as a top-level report, it positions them as an authority in the space.
The industry report white paper is another thought leadership white paper. It's used to present the state of an industry as a whole, analyze trends and showcase common problems and solutions. Again, like the problem solver, it's meant more to build authority on the part of the creator rather than promote any given product.
An example of this kind of white paper is the Content Marketing Institute's Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends analysis. Published every year for over a decade, this high-level analysis of the industry is a hugely relevant and useful resource for content marketers in the B2B space.
If you're looking to get into white papers and publish one for your business, you want to make the best paper you can, right? So, what are the key elements of a great white paper?
Every white paper needs to have a tight focus on a specific topic. That topic needs to meet certain criteria; otherwise, the white paper will fall flat.
This is why so many companies write about themselves; what else do they have where they are the best authority? Unfortunately, many white papers end up overly self-promotional and thus fail the second point. As much as many business owners don't like to admit it, the average person doesn't care about their brand journey.
I've written before about how important having a purpose is in the content you create. That's even more true with white papers. You need to define a specific audience you're trying to target, so you can have a specific focus and a specific goal.
Knowing your audience helps you define everything from the complexity of the topics you cover to the level of industry jargon you assume the audience will know. Getting it wrong means you'll either be giving the equivalent of a child's book to a PhD, or giving a PhD Thesis to a child.
The introduction of your white paper is arguably the most important part. It needs to hook your audience far more than the usual blog post or eBook intro because if your audience isn't hooked, they aren't going to read the rest. That's fine for a blog post, but a white paper has a much higher investment behind it, so a failure is a lot worse.
A good intro will introduce the topic, but more importantly, it engages the specific audience and explains to them precisely what benefit they'll get from reading the white paper through.
The flow from point A to point B to point C in your white paper should be more than just a meandering train of thought. It needs to be deliberate, with logical consistency and an easy-to-follow path. You don't need to couch it in a story as the word narrative implies, but you certainly can. A white paper formatted as a case study of an individual, branching out to extrapolate how that individual's experiences are reflective of the industry as a whole, is a powerful format.
A good white paper is deep, with a ton of useful and unique information and insight. You want this to be used as an industry resource for months or years going forward. Plus, establishing a data-driven format gives you the opportunity to create a series, like the Content Marketing Institute example above.
Good white papers are often extremely good in terms of graphic design. They make frequent use of images, diagrams, illustrations, and charts to present their information and add flavor to the narrative flow of the paper itself.
The ending of a white paper is nearly as important as the opening. It wraps up the core value of the white paper, and it's generally your only opportunity to add in a sales pitch or recommend your business. Since the bulk of the white paper is informative, the conclusion is where you get to dip into sales or include a call to action.
Creating a good white paper starts with topic ideation. For those of you who just groaned, yes, you have to brainstorm topic ideas just as much here as for your content marketing.
You need three things defined before you can start to outline a white paper.
Who are you writing to, about what, and why? Once you have all three of those defined, then you know what you need to write, what you need to give your audience to make sure they're engaged, and what kind of research you need to do to make it compelling.
The second step in writing a great white paper is that research. You want unique and relevant data only you can provide. Maybe that's an in-depth case study of a client or a deep industry survey. Maybe it's data only you can harvest aggregated across your clients. Whatever it is, it needs to be something only you can provide; otherwise, it doesn't offer enough unique value to be worth a white paper.
Once you have all of this down, you can start outlining. You have your purpose and your audience, and you have your data; now sculpt the narrative. Determine the problem you want to introduce and elucidate. Elaborate on why the problem is important to address and why it's a modern challenge. Convince your readers it's a problem that needs solving and then introduce your data on how it may be solved. Lead up to your final pitch, whatever that may be.
You'll probably need to create several drafts of the outline alone. You may need to do more research or discard some of the data you already have as irrelevant to the actual conclusions you want to make. It will take iterative refinement to develop the outline you need.
Now, finally, you can write the actual white paper. Use compelling language targeted at the right education and familiarity levels of your audience. Start with your intro and your abstract. Proceed through the piece, keeping everything punchy and compelling as you go through. Again, having multiple drafts is normal and helps you refine the piece along the way.
Next, you can do your editing, formatting, and graphic design. Figure out how the white paper's information fits on the page. Consider using a responsive format rather than a traditional PDF. Prune down the word and page count if necessary.
Does all of the above sound like a lot of work? That's because it is, undoubtedly. Luckily, there are quite a few freelance and professional writers out there who specialize in white papers. You'll still need to define your topic and do your research, but you can rely on your writer to convert that information into a compelling, high-tier white paper.
Of course, that kind of expertise won't come cheap. Various sources place the cost of a white paper somewhere from $3,000 at the low end up to $10,000 at the high end, though, of course, not all of that goes to the writer. You may have to hire a graphic designer, an InDesign specialist, or even a research team. That said, the expense is well worth it when you see the results you can get.
Do you have questions about creating white papers? If so, feel free to ask away in the comments section down below! I'd be more than happy to help you out however I can. Or, you can skip right to hiring writers by checking out our job board.
Blogging is about more than just writing content for your own website. There are any number of other venues you can use to build thought leadership and exposure, whether it's through guest posting, sites like Medium, or articles on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a surprisingly popular venue for blog posts, though it's not applicable to everyone. The demographics of a LinkedIn audience are skewed, and they may not be receptive to certain kinds of content.
Oberlo has a good rundown of these statistics and more if you want more detail and context.
For the sake of this article, I'm going to assume that you've done some legwork and you've determined that your audience is, in fact, active on LinkedIn. If that's the case, then you want to write content for LinkedIn articles that has a decent chance of going viral. The only question is, how can you do it? I've put together a dozen top tips to help you achieve that reach.
A viral article starts with a viral-worthy topic. If it's not something people care about enough to share with their friends/family/coworkers/audience, it's not going to go viral. On the plus side, there are plenty of possible ideas out there.
Some possible ideas include:
Picking a topic you know a lot about and can use to add value to a discussion is great. You also want to make sure it's a topic with enough nuance or flexibility that people can discuss it.
Writing a great headline is absolutely critical because most people won't read anything if the headline doesn't catch their attention.
Some tips for a great headline include:
Neil Patel has an excellent guide to creating compelling headlines over here. It's more of a general guide for marketers, but just about everything he says applies to LinkedIn just as much as to your own blog, so it's an excellent read.
The majority of the people who see your LinkedIn article will only see the title and cover image and won't look any closer. The ones who click through will be interested enough to start reading your intro and maybe a table of contents, but you have a lot of work ahead of you to keep them engaged.
There are a lot of language tricks you can use to hook someone – like starting off with a question – but one of the most important factors is an easy, logical flow throughout your whole post. Leaps in logic, jumps in topic, anything that breaks the reader's attention is enough to turn them away, often without sharing, commenting, or otherwise engaging.
Anyone can write surface-level news reporting and parrot basic analysis from actual industry sources. Your job is to be those industry sources. Deep, analytical content is important for positioning yourself as a leader in your industry.
Of course, the deeper and more focused your content is, the less likely people outside of your niche are going to care about it. One common technique is to find some kind of insight or influence in your industry and figure out how the same thing might apply to another industry or to the world as a whole.
Make bold claims, and back them up. If people disagree, great! That fosters conversation.
Speaking of fostering conversation, taking a controversial stance with your opinions is one of the greatest ways to go viral on any platform. By posting something with a firm stance, especially when the topic is divisive, you get people arguing. People who argue also share the post (either to support you, back up their own opinion, or try to dunk on you), and they comment on it to argue with other people in the comments. All of this sharing and engagement is excellent for your chances of going viral.
Just make sure you aren't being transparently manipulative with an opinion you don't actually hold or taking a stance that runs counter to societal norms. You want to foster a good-spirited argument, not your own ostracism from society.
An excellent way to weaponize controversial opinions is to take a common opinion, invert it, and use it as your headline. That gains attention, and then you can either back up the position or prove it wrong throughout the course of your post.
One of two tips in this post that don't have to do with the writing directly is this: make use of great images. LinkedIn articles start with a cover image to go with your title, and you can add other images along the way. Make these relevant to the topic, as unique as possible (don't just grab stock images), and compelling visually.
Trust me; everyone is bored of a picture of a chain on your link-building article. Find something new.
One of the best tips I can give you for any web content you create is to keep your paragraphs short and your sentences punchy.
Make liberal use of formatting (bold, italics, underline) and bullet lists, subheadings, and even images to break it all up. Make each thought carry the reader on to the next without giving them time to pause and reflect, because that's when they duck out.
Remember, too, that something like 57% (or more, by now) of LinkedIn traffic comes from mobile devices. If you're filling a screen with a wall of text, you're going to bore your readers and drive them away.
Keywords are an important part of SEO; there's no doubt about that. If you're used to creating content for Google, though, you'll probably have a tricky time optimizing for LinkedIn's search. LinkedIn treats keywords a lot more like Google did a decade or three ago.
Primary keywords, exact match keywords, and topic keywords; these are all good. Synonyms and latent semantic indexing and all of the contextual matching Google does are absent in LinkedIn's algorithms.
If you want to go viral on LinkedIn, you need people to want to share your content. If your headline alone isn't enough, pull quotes may be.
One way people may get confused is by using quotes from other sources as your pull quotes. While it's good to quote others to back up your points, those shouldn't be your pull quotes. Your pull quotes are all you – something another user can cite you as saying, with a link to your post to share the source.
Your pull quotes should be punchy statements that showcase the value, topic, and purpose of the post. You want other people who see the quote to be interested enough to click through and read the post themselves.
I don't mean unique in the "duplicate content penalty" sense; I mean unique in terms of the coverage, angle, and value of the content. If every post you publish is just something another influencer wrote (and probably did better), why would anyone want to share your posts?
Now, that doesn't mean you have to avoid any topic someone else has covered. You just need to figure out how to put your own unique spin on it. If they go broad, you go deep. If they go deep, you compare to other industries. If they go long, you make it snappy. Make your content worth reading.
Comments do several things, all of which are beneficial to your articles.
On top of all of that, comments can also add points or data you didn't think of or know about, which can further improve your content.
To round out this post, I need to discuss the other half of going viral: promotion. You can't just write a piece of content and hope it will go viral; you need to promote it as well. There are a lot of different ways to do so, both using LinkedIn's tools and external channels.
1. Use the @ feature to ping relevant people.
While you don't want to be spammy with this, if you tag relevant people (such as people you quote, people you respond to, and people you cite as sources), you can get your content in front of them. Then they have a chance to respond or even share your content with their audience, giving you an instant boost.
2. Share your article in relevant groups.
LinkedIn groups are a great way to promote your content, but the groups need to be relevant. You also need to make sure to only share with highly relevant groups, so LinkedIn doesn't bop you for spam. The last thing you need if you're going to try to go viral is people purging your content because they view it as spammy.
3. Share your article on different channels.
There are all kinds of other channels you can use to promote your LinkedIn articles. You can share them in your business newsletter. You can post them on your Facebook page or your Twitter feed. Most of these channels can even support multiple shares of the same links several times over the course of a few days, which can further encourage getting exposure and shares.
4. Publish at the right time of day.
A minor but relevant step you can take is to make sure you're publishing your LinkedIn article just before peak hours for your audience. Remember that a huge number of the people using LinkedIn are working traditional 9-5 jobs and have families, so their free time to read articles is relatively limited. The time they spend on LinkedIn is spent on lunch breaks and commutes, and you want to be at the top of the feed when they happen to check.
5. Build your LinkedIn personal/business network.
Another key to going viral on LinkedIn is engaging with the whole system. You need a highly optimized profile, you need as many connections as you can get, and you need to rack up those recommendations. The better your account looks to others, the more visibility you will get. It's all a LinkedIn-specific form of trust signals.
There's more than just these steps, of course. I don't have the space to create a truly ultimate guide to LinkedIn virality, nor the time to keep it up to date. Hitting all of these main points, though, will get you most of the way there. After that, it's more of a matter of luck, the algorithm, and the whims of the community at large. Good luck!
After reading today's article, do you have any questions? Was there anything that was mentioned in this article that you'd like to be discussed a little more in detail? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below, and I'll help you out however I can!