Running a blog is hard work. It's no wonder that thousands of companies outsource their content writing every single day. Freelancers with content creation skills are in high demand, and some of the best charge rates that would make your head spin, and are worth it.
Outsourcing anything can be a challenge. Any business process you outsource makes you reliant on a third party to be successful and effective in their duties. Identifying good service providers, reviewing services, and training them; it's all going to take time and may have some false starts.
Something like content writing? It's just as hard but has an added layer of difficulty.
The truth is, outsourcing content writing is tricky, but not actually as hard as it sounds. You just need to know how to go about it properly.
Luckily, since it's such a common problem for so many businesses, there's plenty of information available on how to do it. We've compiled that information here for you, so you should be able to use this guide to get up and running quickly and easily.
The first thing you need to do is set goals. You know you need to do content marketing for the nebulous reason of "to help your business grow," but what does that mean? Different goals necessitate different kinds of content marketing, different kinds of calls to action, and so on.
Goals might include:
Of course, the reality is that you'll want all of these at some point. Content marketing can do all of it, but you need to be explicit in your goals so you can measure them, focus your efforts on them, and measure the effects those efforts have.
A regularly-updated blog with informational and tutorial content can build a great reputation but won't do much to convert users into customers.
Once you have your goals, you need to determine your target audience. Defining your audience in terms of general personas and archetypes allows you to target different kinds of content at different kinds of users. One single topic can be taken in multiple different directions depending on the target audience, after all.
A good audience persona is named and characterized, like a character sheet or profile from a game. It should include:
You'll also want to define whether your content is B2B or B2C. Your personas work the same way, but for B2B, you often add a layer of company persona on top; you're still targeting the individual decision-makers, but you have information about the companies they represent as well.
Critical decisions are the foundation of what you're going to be paying for.
There are a few that will guide your searching for content creators.
All of these decisions require some introspection and decision-making. You also might make certain decisions and decide later on that they aren't working out and want to change the parameters. As long as you haven't signed a lengthy contract, you're always free to do so, of course.
One of the most important decisions you'll make is whether to go with a freelancer or an agency. They each have their pros and cons, and neither is the "best" option. You need to decide which works best for your goals and intended workflow.
Agencies are more reliable and will have stronger contracts, more redundancy, and often more services available. They generally do more than just writing – they can handle images, social media, eBook creation, promotion, and more. They'll have multiple layers of overview and editing to ensure you get the best quality content you can.
On the other hand, agencies are generally pricey compared to freelancers. They also have more turnaround time and red tape to go through to hire them, may have required minimum contracts, and have their own processes; they're less flexible and adaptable to your needs. They also may not truly be experts or may even be silently reselling content from other sources.
Freelancers are cheaper and often faster, with shorter turnaround times. They tend to be quite responsive but can be fickle or flaky, particularly with unproven clients who may be more trouble than they're worth. However, they can also often adapt to your needs and, through gradual pressure over time, be molded into a perfect writer for your needs.
On the other hand, freelancers are often specialists in writing and may not want to do other things like social media, promotion, image creation, or other forms of media. Good freelancers can also sometimes be hard to find because there are a lot of people out there who claim to be writers but aren't really that good at it.
Whether you go with a freelancer or an agency, the rest of the process is fairly similar.
The decision to hire a freelancer or an agency is yours, and at this point, you need to start looking for one. You can find them all over the place – they have their own websites, or hang out on job boards, or on LinkedIn, and so on – but it's up to you to determine if they're the one you want to work with.
First, consider communication. How well does your freelancer or agency communicate? Do you have a dedicated account manager for an agency? Is the writer responsive? Do they ask the right kind of questions to determine whether or not they want to work with you? Are they experts in your industry?
Of course, content creators want your business, so they may say anything they can to get it. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Thus, one of the best things you can do is ask for a trial run. Offer to pay for a test post or two to get a feel for the process, communication levels, and workflow. Different people and agencies will have different processes – no two content creators are alike – and a lot of your decision will come down to compatibility.
What do we mean?
Well, with an agency, you might typically operate outside of business hours, so if they shut down after 5 pm and are hard to contact, they might not be good to work with. Or, a freelancer might prefer using a text chat to communicate, while you prefer a video call. Or, you might have different ideas of how independent the content creators should be.
Check out resources like our interview tips for hiring writers for advice. If you have specific questions we haven't yet covered, feel free to ask in the comments, and we'll do our best to help you out.
There will always be some adaptation when you start working with someone to outsource a process. Your vision of how things work might not account for certain elements of the process, like revisions, images, meta data, and publishing. That said, you may not need to fully adopt the process that your freelancer or agency typically uses. Sometimes they may be flexible. Freelancers are often more flexible than agencies, as well.
A good process likely includes developing a content brief, target keywords, and topic ideas. You may go back and forth with the writer to refine a subject or answer questions, or you may not. A draft submitted may need revisions. How much you handle versus how much your freelancer or agency handles depends on your process, and can evolve over time.
It may take a few weeks or a few months of working together to iron out how the full process will work. Be aware that there may be some growing pains, and don't discount a service provider because of a few relatively minor issues.
That said, you do need to set lines in the sand to make sure you're getting what you want to get out of the deal. If the content is sub-par, you don't need to accept it for fear of looking bad or "breaking a promise" to a freelancer. Not every relationship works out, and both sides know it. It happens.
Deal-breakers may include things like:
Anything that constitutes a bad enough breach or a large enough red flag is grounds for seeking another source for your content. There's nothing wrong with shopping around!
As you build your relationship with your chosen freelancer or agency, and as you run your content marketing, you'll want to think back to those initial goals you defined. Watch the content you publish, and see how well it performs in reaching those goals. From there, you can determine whether you will need to make changes to the process, find a different person to work with, or otherwise adjust the relationship.
Content marketing isn't a fast or immediate process, but one that bears fruit over time. Give it that time, monitor how it performs, and take it from there.
Do you have any questions about successfully outsourcing your content writing? Was there anything that we spoke of in today's article that you would like additional clarification on? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below. We'd be more than happy to answer any of your potential questions!
Content marketing is serious business. SEO and content are how online businesses succeed today, and if you want to be one of those companies that makes it, you need to invest in content. That means one of two things: either contracting a content marketing agency to do it for you, or hiring writers to write for you.
If you've chosen to hire a writer and you want to pick up a freelancer or three, you need to go about it the right way. That means posting high-quality job descriptions. So, what goes into a good job description for hiring a freelance writer? Let's take a look.
Every good job description starts with a job brief. The job brief is written in plain language, includes relevant keywords, and is limited to 1-3 paragraphs of information about the job. It's not meant to be comprehensive, nor is it meant to be bogged down with fine details. It's a general impression that tells your potential applicants whether they will be right for the job or not.
Start with the job title. Job titles should be relatively specific and standardized to the industry. You want something that the majority of your potential applicants will read and know more or less what it entails. There's a difference between "freelance writer" and "blogger" and "content marketer," for example.
Your job description should be fairly simple but encompass the key points of what you need someone to do. If you're hiring a writer just to write content, you would say something like, "Our company is seeking a talented blog writer to join our team in producing top-of-the-line pillar content for our website." If you're looking for a blogger with experience in SEO, meta data, and marketing, you might say something like, "Our company is seeking a skilled blogger to produce content, manage SEO, and handle social media marketing as part of our marketing team."
Your goal is to narrow down your potential candidate pool via self-selection. People who are not confident with the meta data, SEO, and marketing aspects will likely not apply to the second example but would feel comfortable with the first.
Remember, as well, that this is your introduction. This is the first thing that a potential writer sees other than the title of the post, so you need to make a good first impression.
Note: You may also want to make it clear what type of position this will be. Specifically, is it a single short-term project, a long-term ongoing relationship, or something in between? This can be a critical detail for a writer to know before they apply.
Consider what you want your freelance writer to do for your company. What will their responsibilities be? For example, you might list things like:
Then, if you're asking them to handle more of your marketing, you may also include items such as:
One thing to keep in mind here is that you may want to avoid "responsibilities" that should be considered a basic level of skill or expected performance from any writer. For example, "proofreading your own content" and "maintaining originality" should not necessarily be job requirements because they are core aspects of the industry. Anyone submitting sub-par content or copied/plagiarized content should expect to be in violation of their contract, not just not doing all of their responsibilities.
Another example, from BetterTeam, is "submitting your own tax returns in a timely manner." It's not a job responsibility to file your taxes, and no freelance writer worth their salt needs the reminder. This should be left off of job descriptions, despite its presence in the BetterTeam template.
It's usually a good idea to carefully consider everything that your freelancer will be doing and write those responsibilities as they are core to the job. Also, avoid "other duties as required," which is usually a red flag for scope creep and uncompensated additional work.
Much like your list of responsibilities, your list of requirements needs to be carefully crafted. There are three primary tips you should keep in mind.
Let's look at each of these a little closer.
First, any requirement that should be considered expected just makes your company look like you don't know what you're looking for. For example, listing "familiarity with word processing software," "own a computer or laptop," or "strong communications skills" should not be listed as requirements. Sure, your writers will need all of those things, but no one who considers themselves a professional writer and is applying to jobs online is going to not have those things. It's like hiring for a role as a delivery driver and stating that the applicant must know how to drive. No one who applies to such a role will fail to meet that requirement.
Second, any requirement that isn't 100% necessary should either be removed or added to a "preferred qualifications" list. For one thing, lengthy lists of unnecessary requirements are suppressive of certain categories of applicants and can, in extreme cases, even be considered discriminatory.
One big example is requiring a Bachelor's or higher degree in writing/journalism/communication. Thousands of high-quality freelance writers never went to school for writing, so you'd be eliminating many excellent candidates for no reason.
The third tip relates to things like familiarity with your CMS or with your industry. They may be nice to have, but you can train a writer to learn them quite quickly.
Your company overview shouldn't take center stage, which is why it comes in later in the job description. It's important enough that it needs to be there, but anyone looking seriously at applying with you will likely do their own research into you elsewhere. So, do two things.
First, write a compelling company profile. Second, provide links or resources for further reading, such as to your LinkedIn profile, your Glassdoor profile, or your Careers page.
Your company profile should be 2-3 paragraphs that go over the answers to questions your writers will have, such as:
By "contentious space," we mean positions where opinions can run hot. For example, a blog in the health space may dislike traditional medicine, or it may distrust modern medicine and prefer promoting alternatives. A finance site might promote cryptocurrencies, or it might not. And, of course, any politicized issue can be very contentious. This can be important to discuss because you don't want to hire a writer who holds opinions counter to your own and will have a hard time writing for your perspective.
Cultural attributes can be things like embracing a fully remote company culture. It's important to avoid focusing on aspects of culture the writer won't see; it doesn't matter if your break room has a pool table and a snack bar if they're a remote worker who will never see it, for example.
Freelance writers often expect a rather casual application experience, usually revolving around sending an email with a link or a few samples of their work to be reviewed. After that, if they are selected, they will likely be asked to write a test piece or two, which should be paid. Then, they will either be hired/contracted or not.
That said, different companies hiring for different kinds of roles will have different requirements. You want to make it clear what type of position this will be – W2 versus 1099, short term versus long term – as well as what steps the writer will need to take to apply. Provide relevant links, email addresses, and instructions.
Be sure to know about the sites you're using to post your job ad. Some sites will restrict the links you can include in your job ads, and some prefer to have you use their system for applications. This isn't always very useful for a freelancer or writer hiring process since they tend to be geared towards traditional employees.
Additionally, you can always go to freelance writer hubs or content mills and hire writers directly through those platforms. If you do, make sure you know the rules about contacting writers outside of the platform. Some are both very strict and very aggressive in defending their status as the middleman, so trying to work with a writer you find on one of those platforms, outside of the platform, can open you up to liability.
Freelance writers, moreso than many other professions, live and die by the project. They want to know critical information about your role, potentially even before they apply for it.
The pay rate is a big one. Are you paying per word, per project, or per hour? What is your rate? What are your expectations for revisions and additional duties like meta data, marketing, or other aspects of the job that don't translate nicely into a per-word rate? And, of course, if you're hiring as an actual employee with a W2, what will the salary range be?
Benefits may or may not be applicable. Freelancers generally don't expect company benefits and have to pay for their own healthcare and retirement, but if you offer any sort of additional benefits to freelancers (even if they have to vest into them), you may want to promote them. Alternatively, be careful about promoting "benefits" like flexible hours for a freelance position because, by definition, when you're hiring a freelancer, they have that flexibility.
Growth opportunities are a big one for temp-to-ongoing relationships. For example, if you're hiring a writer for a short-term project with the option to potentially convert into a regular contributor, that can be a huge incentive for some writers who really want the stability of an ongoing relationship. Likewise, if you offer an introductory pay rate but can raise the rates after the writer proves themselves, providing both a timeline for that raise and an idea of how much it would be can be very attractive.
All of the above might sound like a lot of complex detail, but it's really simple once you get right down to it. Just be honest about your company, your expectations, and your requirements, and avoid falling into the trap of using the same template everyone else does since those templates are packed with nonsense you don't actually need.
Just be reasonable, give it some thought, and write something aimed at attracting the kinds of writers you want to work with, and you'll be good to go.
Are you currently in the process of writing a job description for a freelance writer position? Is there any particular section that you are having struggles with? If so, which one is it? Did today's guide perhaps assist you with that struggle? Be sure to share all your thoughts and comments down below! I'd love to hear what you think, and would be more than happy to assist you however I can, if needed!
They say that everyone has a book they want to write. Most people either don't have the skill to write a book or don't have the time to do it.
When you're a business owner, entrepreneur, or thought leader, writing a book can be an excellent way to build your brand and reputation. Having a book or two to your name gives you clout and authority, shows off your expertise, and tells others a lot about what you have to say on the subject.
Ghostwriting is a time-honored tradition—the practice of ghostwriting goes at least as far back as 500 BCE. Many famous authors throughout history, including greats like Shakespeare, used ghostwriters for at least some of their output.
Whenever you see a high-profile business owner or celebrity who published a book, and you wonder how they found the time to write it, the answer is usually simple: most of the time, they didn't. Today, a considerable amount of what you read is ghostwritten. Millions of blog posts, hundreds of thousands of authoritative books, magazine articles, and more are all written by ghostwriters.
There's nothing wrong with ghostwriting. Done right, you're simply giving your information, opinions, and expertise to a writer who crafts it into something compelling. You aren't riding on the back of someone else's authority; you're just using a tool (in the form of a professional writer) to convert your raw ideas into compelling writing.
It's not substantially different from how nearly every book has an editor. That doesn't make the writing any less than the author's, right? Well, with a ghostwriter, it's still your expertise, processed into a more polished form.
Hiring a ghostwriter to write a book for you is different from many modern forms of ghostwriting. Ironically, it's because ghostwriters have shifted in the last few decades.
Throughout history, ghostwriters would typically produce long-form materials like books as a matter of course. Today, long-form books are a relative rarity. You're much more likely to hire someone to ghostwrite blog posts for you, which means many ghostwriters have shifted their expertise into the shorter format of a blog.
This shift means that finding someone who writes long-form content like a book can be difficult. Moreover, you may encounter people who seem good at the outset but produce sub-par work - this can waste time and money. In extreme cases, you might be simply unable to find a good ghostwriter and give up entirely on the idea of a book.
The truth is, it's entirely possible to hire a good ghostwriter for a book-length manuscript. You need to know where to look and, more importantly, what to look for.
When you're hiring a ghostwriter, what's the essential quality to look for?
Is it the quality of their writing?
No. Let's be honest here; there are a lot of good, well-renowned books that have mediocre or terrible writing. It's all about the information and how it's conveyed, which can be done in various styles. More importantly, it's impossible to measure writing quality beyond a certain point objectively. Someone who is very casual and very formal can both be excellent writers; the important part is whether that style matches what you have to say.
Is it the price they charge?
No. A good ghostwriter is going to be expensive. A low-paid ghostwriter will be making thousands from you, even from a sheer price-per-word standpoint. While you do get what you pay for, it's very easy to both under-pay and receive bad writing or over-pay and get bad writing. Price is almost entirely disconnected from the quality of the book you end up with when all is said and done. Price shopping isn't worth it. Find a writer who works for you and matches your voice, and pay what they ask; you will be paying a lot one way or another. Most eBook writers will charge you in sprints, usually by chapter or a certain amount of words, so you won't have to pay all at once anyway - this is a long-term project.
Is it whether or not you like them as a person?
No. Your ghostwriter might have very different perspectives, outlooks, or personal qualities than you. They might disagree with you, socially or politically. While you don't want to pick a ghostwriter who hates you and will sabotage your writing, how well you like the person doesn't matter. It's the same way you wouldn't hire a manager just because you enjoy them as a person; you would hire them because of their skill as a manager.
What is it, then?
Fit. It would be best to have a writer who can handle what you give them, work with you in a way that works, and produce a compelling book. How does the writer work? How does their voice capture your voice? How well can they mimic your style if you have one? How well can they convey the information on your topic with nuance, detail, and a compelling narrative?
There's no one website you can go to and find talented ghostwriters. There are hundreds of such sites out there. Most of them won't have what you're looking for, but that doesn't make them bad sites; it just means they cater to a different audience.
Generally, you have four options.
Ghostwriting agencies are content production agencies that employ writers of their own. They're companies that specialize in producing content for other people. They have a whole process; they interview you, extract all possible value out of you, develop an outline, and make a great book with checks and verification.
A ghostwriting agency will be very good at producing quality work because they have an established process that works and numerous opportunities for feedback. It's the most hands-off version of the process. Since the agency handles much of the administration, overview, and editing, you need to submit to a few interviews, be available for the occasional question, and pay them on time.
On the other hand, a ghostwriting agency is likely the most expensive option. Their process, their experience, and the fact that they have a whole team working with you rather than just one writer can make a big difference. Plus, while the bulk of the payment may go to the writer, the agency takes its cut. You can expect to pay the most through this option but have the smoothest process.
There are a lot of different websites out there that offer a marketplace for freelancers and contractors to find new clients to work with. Sites like Upwork, Freelancer.com, and others all provide these services.
These are centralized sites where you can browse hundreds of freelancer profiles to pick the most promising potential writers to pitch with your project. Some of them also allow you to create a profile with your project and allow freelancers to pitch you with their skills and portfolio, which will enable you to choose the best possible writer out of those who apply.
These sites often take their cut, though it will be lower than what you would pay an agency. The writers will also have publicly visible pricing, so you can see what kinds of rates you'd be getting into when you review your writers.
Finding a book ghostwriter can be tricky, as it's a niche subset of a niche freelance career. The biggest downside here is that you're still combing through many writers who are not suited to your task. You'll find writers who may say they specialize in books but don't, or who specialize in ghostwriting but have never written something longer than 3,000 words.
Many of the best freelance ghostwriters have their websites. They have graduated beyond needing to work through freelance platforms and have their portfolios, landing pages, and profile sites. They may also primarily advertise their position on sites like LinkedIn.
The trouble for you is finding them. There are thousands of them out there, but only so many will ever show up on Google. You also have to pitch, communicate with, and vet the writer directly. You'll likely also need to pay other people yourself for graphic design and professional editing.
This strategy can be the cheapest option, but it can also be the most time-consuming option between finding, pitching, and working with a freelancer of this caliber. Also, vetting them can be difficult; most ghostwriting contracts have NDAs associated with them, so the ghostwriter might not be able to say what they've written before and will have only a limited selection for their portfolio.
If you have the time and patience to find a great writer, hiring a freelancer may be the best choice for you.
It can often be more affordable, and you can interview and vet dozens of writers to find the writer that has the best voice for you. By posting a job listing, you'll receive hundreds of eager writers who are more than willing to help you write your book. These are attractive projects to contractors, particularly due to the long-term work and the high price tag, so you might be overwhelmed by the response.
This is both a pro and a con, and if you can get past this step, this will be the best option for most.
Depending on the kind of relationship you want with your ghostwriter, you may or may not have an in-depth pitch.
At the bare minimum, you should be able to present a writer with a pitch that includes:
Remember, a good ghostwriter will be worth the money, but they will charge what they're worth. A non-fiction book in the 100–200-page range – like what you see written by politicians and business owners all the time – can run you quite a bit of money. Anything under $10,000 is likely to be sub-par and may not be worth your time. Many good ghostwriters will charge between $20,000 and $50,000 for that book. Some of the best – ghostwriters whose books have landed on the bestseller lists and who are legitimate experts of their own – might charge upwards of $100,000 or even more.
When you find a potential ghostwriter to hire, give them your pitch; if they're interested, you can continue discussions. Sometimes, a writer won't be available – maybe they have a lot of work lined up already – and other times, they just won't want to work with either you or your subject. That's fine; move on.
If your potential ghostwriter is interested, it's time to talk shop.
Different writers have different approaches and will work in different ways. You want a writer with enough detail and feedback built-in that you can feel confident that they're producing what you want.
You will also want to ask about any special clauses in their contract. What happens if you don't like what they produce and can't get it right? If you sever the contract, do you pay a fee? In extremely high-value cases, you may even want a contract lawyer to look it over and offer feedback.
Finally, you may want to ask for a test chapter or just an introduction. This book is a paid project – after all, even if you don't like how it turns out, it's still labor you ordered – and it can show you how well the author can capture your voice, tone, style, and nuance. It would help if you had a writer who's writing comes off as quintessentially you. Otherwise, your book won't be compelling.
Once you believe you're satisfied with the writer, it's time to work. You will discuss with them the book's overall thesis, the supporting evidence, and everything necessary to develop an outline. Once an outline is produced, you will likely take things chapter by chapter. Most ghostwriting for books and other long projects is paid per chapter, often with an advance. It's never all-or-nothing, especially for high-value projects. The writer wants to protect themselves, after all.
So, work with the writer. Please review the content they produce at each step of the way. Don't be afraid to request revisions, but be wary of being too nitpicky with details an editor can polish or that will be buffed up in a final draft.
Build the book, polish it, edit it, and publish. It's entirely possible to do; you just need to know how to hire a talented ghostwriter in the first place.