Education may not be one of the most glamorous niches online, but it's nevertheless hugely important to the people who rely on it. If you have a business in the education industry – whether it's a site like Masterclass offering courses, a store selling school supplies, or a blog focusing on education techniques, home-schooling, or another education subject, you need high-quality content that complies with modern sensibilities.
To do this, you need a talented, experienced writer.
Here's how to find them!
There are a few critical questions you need to ask yourself about your blog here.
1. First, what is your specific niche and topic? Are you a store selling educational supplies? A blog offering perspectives and lesson plans for home-schooling? A site selling educational courses? An accredited university hoping to attract students? All of these have very specific needs and, more importantly, specific considerations.
A writer who is experienced in writing for post-secondary educational venues might not do as well writing for grade school level subjects. Conversely, someone who usually writes about K and Pre-K children entering school might not be able to consider all of the facets of a blog about getting a Master's degree.
2. Second, what is your primary objective with your blog? Obviously, you're going to have all manner of specific objectives for various portions of your blog, like educating readers and encouraging sign-ups for your newsletter. Overall, though, are you trying to educate parents, educate students, convince people to sign up for education or tutoring, or something else?
This is important to know because writers who are experienced in one might not be great in the other. In particular, writers who are used to marketing might find it hard to "turn off" the marketing brain when it comes to writing more educational content. The compulsion to add a call to action can be tough to ignore.
3. On the technical side, you also want to know what your content needs are. How frequently do you plan to publish new content? How long is that content going to be? Many education-focused blogs don't have the breadth of topics necessary to publish daily, at least not without a roster of experts bringing in their own personal experiences. Instead, a less-frequent schedule with deeper, longer posts is more often successful. Obviously, there are examples of every kind of blog out there, though, so don't feel too limited.
Education is also limited by various regulations throughout the industry. Though most of those regulations apply to educational institutions, it's a good idea to at least know them, even if you don't need to comply with them. You don't want to teach someone something that violates the usual ways of teaching and leave them struggling when they reach that subject in class, right?
4. It can be beneficial to pin down your audience as well. Knowing who you're writing to is helpful in the content writing world, so writers who know they'll be writing to high schoolers researching their schools will be able to write in a different way than if they were targeting parents currently home-schooling their children, and so on.
All of this should give you a fairly robust profile of who you are, what your needs are for your blog, and what experience and expertise you need out of your writers.
Your next choice is to determine what kind of relationship you want to have with your writer or writers.
First, decide if you want someone with a reputation to be writing for you with a byline or if you just want someone to write content published under your name as a ghostwriting relationship. Both of these are fine, of course. Ghostwriters help you build your own authority and are more adaptable to your voice and needs. Writers with their own byline on the line will write in their own voice and with their own expertise. They may not agree with everything you want to convey, though, so you need to vet them comprehensively.
Second, decide if you want to contract a freelancer, contract an agency, or hire an employee writer.
All of this allows you to determine where you want to look for writers. If you want freelancers, you can check freelancer hubs like Upwork. If you want agencies, you can search for educational content marketing agencies or generalist agencies that can handle educational content. If you want employees, you can use all of the usual employment venues, like Indeed or LinkedIn.
Unlike many other forms of freelance writing, education has steep enough requirements that it can be a good idea to set up interviews rather than just skipping to writing tests. You want to be able to talk to your writer and ask them about their qualifications and experience. What have they done in the past in the niche? What certifications or expertise can they demonstrate? Do they come across as knowledgeable when you talk to them about the subject? Do they agree with you on the key points you would want to make?
It's up to you how detailed and structured you want this interview to be. Some people prefer a fully formalized job interview, complete with pre-screening and multiple stages. That's fine for, say, a university hiring for a frontline blogging position. When you're a smaller storefront selling educational supplies, it's probably overkill, and all you'd really need to ask is about some qualifications and experience.
Writing tests are the core of any freelance writing and blogging, and education is no exception. Your goal is to create a test project that is, more or less, everything you'll be asking the writer to do under normal circumstances.
This is also a point of variance between different companies. Some businesses and blogs will want a bare minimum; give the writer a title, a core keyword, and a few style tips and see what they produce. Others want to micromanage every aspect of the post.
Neither approach is necessarily bad, but different writers excel in different environments. Some might prefer the micromanagement, where they can essentially fill out a template, hitting all the boxes and do a minimum amount of independent thinking. Others prefer to be able to write their own way and find any detailed requirements to be intrusive.
One critical component of a writing test is payment. I say this a lot; one of the most common scams in writing is businesses putting out a call for writers, asking for test articles, and ghosting the writers. They then use the test content without having paid for it, leaving the writers out their effort and with no compensation. It's either an illegal violation of copyright or just really shady if you have a ToS that says you get the rights to the test project, but either way, experienced and skilled writers will simply not participate.
Paying a reasonable rate for your writing tests is a good way to attract good writers and ensure that you're trustworthy.
Evaluating the test projects can be a tricky task. I generally recommend a three-step process.
The first step is a clean read-through. Just read the submission and see how it feels. Does it cover the topic? Do you feel educated or in agreement upon reading it? Does it make you want to read more or confirm what you already know? Or are there awkward passages, gaps in logic, or disagreements within the post that make it difficult to read?
Sometimes, writing just doesn't jive with your style, even if it's technically proficient. It just means you and the writer probably won't work well together, and that's fine.
The second step is a technical scan. Run the content through Copyscape and make sure it's free of major plagiarism. (The occasional sentence similarity can pop up, as can quotes, and both are fine, so don't take any hit at all as immediate rejection. Human review is necessary.) Then, run it through a tool like Grammarly and keep an eye out for major issues and errors. Grammarly is likewise not perfect, but it can give you an idea of how much work it will take to edit and publish the content the writer produces.
The third step is a more detailed review of the content, using whatever requirements checklist you produced when you created the assignment. Does it use the right keywords, does it include links, does it make the point you wanted it to make, and so on. If the writer passes all of these reviews, you can move on to the next step.
Once you've tested out a few writers, you can choose the one that seems best to work with. My recommendation here is to get a contract signed by both parties.
Contracts are super important. They provide a legal framework that, if all goes well, will never need to be invoked. But, if there's an issue or a falling out, a contract is a fallback that ensures you never pay for work you don't get, and the writer gets paid for all the work they do. I've written about contracts in greater detail here.
From there, it's just a matter of officially picking up the writer and working with them on an ongoing basis. Sometimes a relationship works fine and is fruitful for years, and that's great! Sometimes, you'll need to look for a new writer every six months. It happens.
Do you need help locating good writers? Why not try out my job board, now launched and ready to use?
You can browse available jobs to get an idea of what writers are looking for, and click here to post a new job on the board for writers to peruse. I'm doing my best to attract the best writers in the industry to this board, and I hope you'll find exactly who you need. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line as well or read some of my other hiring guides or my blog as a whole. There's plenty here, and I'd be more than happy to help you out however I can!