Hiring Content Writers: Part Five - Terminating Writers

If you’ve followed this guide, you’ve hired writers on a trial basis, which means that many of them won’t work out. This section explains how to gracefully end those relationships and refine your search for future candidates.

Example termination notes

Here’s an email I wrote to one of my writers that didn’t work out:

I appreciate the work you put into these, but the content is pretty distant from what I’m looking for, so I’m afraid this is not a good match.

I’ve mailed you a check for the hours you worked. It’s scheduled to arrive by 9/16.

Thanks again for your work, and best of luck in your future projects.

And this one is my harshest:

That’s twice in a row that you promised work by a certain date and didn’t deliver or give an update, so I’m afraid I need to end our relationship here.

I mailed you a check on Saturday for your hours. I don’t need edits on the remaining articles.

Best of luck in the future.

I don’t claim to be an expert at firing people, but all of my terminations have gone smoothly. The writers accept my reasons for ending the relationship and have never accused me of acting unfairly.

Keys to a graceful termination

The rules for artfully ending a relationship are similar to the rules for giving feedback:

  • Remain objective
  • Stick to facts
  • Focus on the writing rather than the person
  • Avoid insults or negative editorializing about their work

Bad: Your writing is terrible, and I hate you.

Good: Unfortunately, your writing doesn’t match the style I’m looking for, and I don’t feel that we communicate well.

On a platform like Upwork, it’s especially important to avoid acrimonious terminations because writers leave feedback for their clients. If they give you a low rating and accuse you of mistreatment, you’ll have a harder time attracting talent in the future.

Learning from your mistakes

Before you begin interviewing again, review your job description and style guide. Think about patterns of error with your last writer and what changes earlier in the process might prevent them.

  • Revise your job description
    • Can you prevent misunderstandings about the work by clarifying the job description?
  • Update your example articles
    • Do you have any new articles that can serve as better models of what you want?
  • Re-read your style guide
    • Are there recurring patterns of error that you can warn about in your style guide?

For example, with Is It Keto, I noticed myself burning too much time fixing grammar errors for my writers. I revised the job posting to make grammar proficiency an explicit requirement and paid closer attention to syntax when evaluating writing samples. This drastically reduced the time I spent fixing grammar errors. The requirement caused candidates to proofread their work more thoroughly, and I learned to bail fast on writers with poor grammar.

Termination is part of the process

After letting a writer go, it’s easy to feel discouraged. You’ve invested hours into screening and training a writer only to throw it all away and start from scratch. Depending on how you structured compensation, you may have even paid them for an article that’s too shoddy to publish. That’s never a good feeling.

Instead of allowing the termination to bring you down, recognize the positives. Each iteration of this process gives you a better sense of what you want, helps you more quickly eliminate weak candidates, and improves your skill as a manager.

When you find the writer that matches your needs, it’s a tremendous partnership, but you need to put in the work to find them.

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.