Hiring Content Writers: Part One - Finding Writers

5 minute read


There are thousands of working freelance writers in the world, but if you’ve never hired one before, you don’t know where to find them. In this section, I describe the places where I sought writers and which sources were fruitful.

Upwork

Upwork is a marketplace for freelancers. I don’t love it, but it’s the best platform I’ve found for hiring contractors. It’s probably your safest bet if you’re hiring writers for the first time.

Screenshot of Is It Keto posting on Upwork
Is It Keto’s job listing on Upwork

Advantages

  • Upwork provides many writers in a unified platform.
  • Upwork publicly displays everyone’s hourly rate, so there’s less work for the client in price discovery and negotiation.
  • Upwork has a built-in escrow service, so freelancers are unlikely to defraud you.
    • In disputes, Upwork generally sides with clients, much to the chagrin of honest freelancers who get stuck with bad clients.
  • Upwork manages time-tracking and invoicing, making it simple to pay your freelancer.
  • Upwork handles all tax reporting, so you don’t need to collect tax information from your freelancer.
  • Upwork provides a default contract, so you don’t need to draft your own freelancing agreement.

Disadvantages

  • Upwork collects fees from both the client and the freelancer, effectively making it ~13-23% more expensive to hire someone.
  • Once you begin working with someone through Upwork, you’re contractually bound to pay them exclusively through Upwork for two years.
  • Upwork attracts cheap, abusive clients, which has caused many talented writers to abandon the platform.
  • Upwork fails to eliminate phony freelancers from its system.

College job boards

College job boards are a hidden gem for hiring content writers. At the start of the school year, I posted job listings on the online student job boards for two of my local colleges. Here were my results after three weeks:

School Applications Trial hires Permanent hires
Large state school 17 3 TBD
Small liberal arts school 8 1 TBD

The quality of candidates is on par with Upwork, but the wages are far lower. On Upwork, writers typically charge between $30-$75/hr. In my area, typical wages for student jobs are $11-$15/hr.

I offered $13/hr, which is competitive, given the job’s flexibility. Students can write articles for me whenever they want from wherever they want. Most student employment is babysitting or administrative work, which requires the employee to appear in a specific place on a rigid schedule. The freedom of a writing gig makes a substantial difference.

Is It Keto posting on a college job board
Is It Keto's job listing on a local college job board

The best candidates had experience writing for college publications. In the future, I may try reviewing college newspapers and reaching out to student journalists whose writing I like.

Personal referrals

One technique I used was just asking my friends if they knew any freelance writers. I found two writers this way, and they were among the top in terms of quality. They made the fewest grammatical errors and produced writing that was lively and interesting. They were also among my most expensive hires at $50/hr and $60/hr.

Oddly, they were also the writers that created the most logistical problems. With both of them, there were a high number of miscommunications and missed deadlines. They also fared worse at fixing their errors. They wrote content that mostly adhered to my style guide, but any mistakes they made, they kept repeating. Other writers were better at fixing bad habits after I pointed them out.

Printed flyers

I live in South Hadley, MA, close to many liberal arts colleges. Before I discovered college job boards, I tried putting up flyers on a college campus and around my town.

Is It Keto Job Flyer
Job flyer I made for Is It Keto using a template from Canva

I received only one serious applicant, and their writing samples were just poorly-written school assignments, so we never started a paid trial.

Soliciting from my blog (content marketing)

In December, I published an article about encountering a phony writer on Upwork. I thought the piece might attract the attention of other freelance writers, so I included a little self-advertisement in the article’s footer. It encouraged readers to email me if they were looking for writing work.

This strategy generated two applications, but neither one was strong enough to initiate a paid trial.

Screenshot of job posting in previous article
Mini job announcement in my blog post about a phony freelance writer

/r/HireaWriter

A few times throughout my project, I checked /r/HireaWriter. It’s a community on the social networking site, Reddit, for freelancers seeking writing work.

Screenshot of the HireaWriter subreddit
/r/HireaWriter, a Reddit community for hiring freelance writers

None of the writers seemed promising enough to merit an interview. The posts seemed geared toward cheap spam blog owners who are looking to pay bottom-of-the-barrel rates for barely-intelligible content.

Next step: the job description

Once you’ve found writing candidates, it’s time to write a job description that tells applicants what you expect.



Thanks to my writer, Morgan Province, for offering insight to help me create this guide. Special thanks to Alexis Grant of The Write Life for volunteering her time to provide me with feedback.

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