The decision to outsource content writing is a big one for agencies and businesses.
Brand images, marketing strategies, and ad campaigns are built on content. Producing impactful messages is crucial for every business on the face of the Earth – and you can’t trust just anyone with this task.
As many quickly learn, the pool of content writers has a very, very wide range of talent. The process to hire a content writer is rarely easy. Everyone wants an exceptional writer at the cheapest price. The stark reality is finding a skilled content writer on the freelance market (at the right price) can feel like a needle in a haystack.
Most of the rockstars have been scooped up by agencies or businesses.
Fortunately, it’s not hopeless.
Whether you’re searching for a freelancer or a content writing agency, there are a few common threads in exceptional writers (even if they don’t have decades of experience).
Why Hire a Content Writer?
I’m going to put this bluntly.
Content creation should never be half-assed.
Content is how businesses promote their offerings, connect with customers, and develop relationships. Humans these days are exposed to more brand messaging than ever before. Through the endless scrolling, we’ve developed a keen sense to spot bullshit from a mile away.
In other words, it’s painfully obvious when businesses take shortcuts with content creation.
Creating excellent content takes time, dedication, and passion. As a business or agency owner, it probably feels like your in-house team is juggling a million things at once – and there are simply not enough hours in the day to sit down and create meaningful content.
Hiring a content writer can be a game-changer to free up your precious time while producing high level brand messaging. However, a partnership with a content writer is like a marriage – not everyone you meet is a match made in heaven.
In this post, I’m going to help you in your search for a reliable content writing partner. Let’s discuss six key skills that indicate you’ve got a winner.
1. Established (and Proven) Content Writing Process
Content Writers are only as good as their writing process. As an agency, there is nothing worse than paying a writer to miss the mark by a mile. Not only are you paying them for their work, but you’re spending hours editing and rewriting.
At the end of the day, the best trait in a writer is minimal revisions.
When you hire a content writer, one of your first questions should be:
What is your process to reduce/eliminate revisions?
The writer should be happy to walk you through their workflow that involves:
- Proper research
- Understanding brand voice/tone
- Researching target customers
- Outlining the content
- Asking for client input
- Gathering reference materials
- Managing day-to-day tasks
- Handling revisions (if any)
With a sound process for content writing in place, revisions should only be cosmetic. If edits involve large-scale conceptual changes, you’ve got a big problem. Skilled writers hate big revisions – and they’ve developed processes to avoid them.
2. Niche Adaptability
When you hire a content writer, you need a chameleon. Like the lizard, the writer should be able to blend into whatever industry they are writing for and sound like an expert. Keep in mind, the actual writing is only part of what it means to be a content writer.
When approaching different niches, the best content writers can do the following effortlessly:
- Research any given topic
- Understand who the customers are
- Empathize the customers’ pain points
- Find the hot-button issues and the topics that drive action from readers
In other words, a great content writer is a) an eager student, b) a relatable teacher, and c) a lively motivator. If the writer checks these boxes, creating impactful content for any niche is easy.
3. Flexibility in Writing Style
The best writers are incredibly versatile.
Just like niche adaptability, a content writer should be able to switch their writing style to fit a range of clients. For example, you may hire a content writer to create messaging for a light-hearted travel company one day, a technical manufacturing company the next, then an extreme sports store after that.
Obviously, you can’t use the same approach for all these clients – the writer will need to adapt to fit the mold.
As you’re screening a writer – or content writing agency – you’ll need to understand how they gauge a brand voice, target customers, and work within a tone that makes an impact. Ideally, they will have some onboarding documents and processes for this purpose.
Note: most content writers are not brand strategists.
If you need to flush out a client’s voice, tone, company values, USPs, etc. from scratch, get in touch with a branding agency. A copywriter/content writer’s role is to align their writing style with the client’s goals – not develop a brand strategy from the ground up.
4. Understanding of SEO Writing Best Practices
Content writing and SEO go hand in hand.
Plain and simple: if a content writer – or content writing agency – advertises blogging services, website copywriting, or any other type of readable content on the web, they need to have an understanding of SEO writing best practices.
Now, most digital agencies that outsource content writing have an SEO lead in-house for keyword research and content structure. The writer should be able to take the information given to them and create an SEO-friendly piece. On a baseline level, this includes:
- Create 100% unique content
- Proper keyword usage (no stuffing)
- Google readability standards
- Basics of E-A-T
- How to use header tags
- How to write metadata
- Proper linking – internal/external
When you hire a content writing agency, SEO may be part of their service offering.
As you get comfortable with their quality and results, you can gradually step away from micromanaging – and focus on selling more content services.
5. Excellent Communication Skills
Most people think of writers as witty introverts – and they’re not wrong. However, this is never an excuse for poor communication. Communication is everything when you hire a content writer.
As an agency, you need a writing partner you can rely on to meet deadlines, respond well to feedback, and gather the information they need to write a killer piece of content.
This goes beyond reliability.
Excellent communication skills transfer to the page.
If a writer knows how to ask thought-provoking questions and glean hot-button insights, this is a great indication they know what will make people tick. There’s a reason many of the best content writers have a background in journalism. They are inquisitive, excellent storytellers, and know what it takes to craft meaningful content that motivates people to take action.
6. Knowledge of the Latest Trends
This one sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many content writers remain stagnant in their craft. Content marketing is constantly changing. The strategies that worked wonders one day may be completely obsolete the next.
The best content writers make it a point to stay informed on how the industry is shifting. This includes knowledge of:
- The latest mainstream brand victories
- The latest brand failures
- Changes in search algorithms
- Shifts in social media platforms
- Innovative ways to challenge convention in the field.
A good way to gauge this with a content writing partner is by simply asking what an average day looks like. The best content creators held onto their student mindset – and they likely spend the first 20-30 minutes of every day reading an article, listening to a podcast, or watching a video about the latest trends in content marketing.
This is a sign of a content creator who is genuinely dedicated to their craft.
- A content writer is only as good as their process.
- An excellent content writer is both a quick learner & a relatable teacher.
- Look for content creators who have proven experience in different writing styles.
- Knowledge of SEO best practices is a baseline requirement of content writers.
- Communication skills translate to quality writing.
What’s the Next Step?
Knowing where to start when you hire a content writer is not easy. Truth be told, you’re probably going to run into some dead ends. To reiterate, rockstar writers don’t come cheap – there’s no way around it.
What you need to do is weigh the value of your stress against the cost of a skilled content creator.
How much editing/rewriting is acceptable?
How valuable is it to trust a writer to produce excellent work for you (without having to be micromanaged)?
Always remember: the messaging you put out there is a direct reflection of yourself – whether you’re selling content writing services to your clients or simply posting to your own website. You can’t trust just any writer with this responsibility.
Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of how to conduct your search for a content writer.
At Razorcopy, we provide trusted content writing services to over 50 digital agencies. Our tried and true process is designed for SEO blogging, website copywriting, eBooks, email messages, and more. For more information about white label content creation, send us a message or email me directly at [email protected].