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How to Hire Writers for Your Blog

We’ve talked a lot about scoring a job as a freelance writer through your blogging—and Valeri Khoo will delve into the topic a little more this week. But today I wanted to look at the question from the other side of the equation: hiring paid bloggers to write for your blog.

Why hire writers?

For bloggers who love the writing task, hiring writers can seem like a crazy idea—something that’s only right for people who don’t like writing, or don’t have time for it. And for bloggers on a tight budget, it can seem like a waste of cash that could be spent attracting readers to your blog through advertising and guest posts—especially if your site attracts and accepts free guest posts from other bloggers.

But for any blog, paid writers can add value:

  • Fresh voices, without the editing: If you choose your paid writers carefully, you can amass a team of quality content producers who know their stuff, and how to express it so that readers understand it. This is most certainly not always the case with guest posters.
  • Reliably delivered content of reliable quality: This is a huge bonus to those who are strapped for time to write, but want to keep their blog filled with meaningful content that resonates with their readers.
  • Continuity: While guest posts are great, you may want a stronger core voice for your blog. In that case, paid writers can be great value, as over time, they’ll develop an understanding of your blog, a relationship with your audience, and a sense that they’re growing something through your site and your brand.

How to do it

Lately, I’ve been going through the process of hiring writers for Digital Photography School. Here are the stages in that process.

1. Place the ad

I advertised the position on the ProBlogger Job boards. Here’s my ad.

That ad was partly based upon one I placed a few years ago for a similar position. I tried to outline the process and what I was looking for, as well as some of the benefits of taking on the opportunity.

I also put an end date on when I’d accept applications.

The ad pointed people to a page on dPS, on which I’d set up a contact form specifically to collect the information I needed (it included fields for each piece of information I wanted, with instructions on what I wanted). I used the Gravity Forms plugin to create it.

I set up the form to send submissions direct to my Gmail account, and set up a filter in Gmail to direct all the application emails into a folder. This way, I wouldn’t have to look at them until I was ready to.

2. Promote the ad

This was a bit of a balancing act. I wanted people to find out about the job, but I didn’t want to be completely inundated with applications. So I tweeted it a couple of times from both ProBlogger and dPS Twitter accounts, and placed links to it from dPS and ProBlogger Facebook accounts, the G+ accounts, and on LinkedIn.

I considered promoting it in our weekly newsletter but once I saw I was getting a lot of good applications, and that people were retweeting it and recommending it to friends, I decided to hold off on further promotion.

All in all I had 100 or so applications come in. Having set up the contact form to collect the information I needed up-front was the best thing I did. The applications were almost all what I’d asked for, and presented the candidate details in a way that was easy to read and compare with other applications.

As the applications came in, I responded to each email with a quick templated reply. I said I’d received the application and gave the candidate a heads-up about what the process would look like, and when they could expect to hear from me.

3. Shortlist candidates

Once the period for applications ended, I closed the ad and began to shortlist candidates. This took quite a bit of time.

I’d asked applicants to give details of experience, previous writing examples, and so on, so it took a while to look over everything they’d submitted. The quality of applicants was amazingly high.

I was really only looking for one or two writers, but of the 100 applications I received, I’d have easily considered over half the applicants. It was so tough to narrow it down.

I used Gmail’s “stars” icons to categorize applicants, putting them into No, Maybe, and Yes categories.

“No” applicants immediately got an email letting them know that while we appreciated them applying, we’d not been able to accept everyone and that their application had not gotten through to the shortlist stage (this, again, was a template email that was the same for everyone).

After sorting through the “Maybe” and “Yes” applicants, I was left with around 25 applicants which were of such a high quality that I couldn’t bring myself to say no to any of them at this point.

Originally, I wanted to shortlist down to ten, but some of those in the 25 had up to 20 years’ experience! Others had really high profiles and experience in writing for the web, others were just amazing photographers, and some just had something about the way that they wrote that told me I needed to give them a chance.

All of these applicants got an email that:

  1. said that they’d been shortlisted
  2. outlined what the job was in terms of renumeration (we pay per post and give writers links in their byline to promote their own work, businesses etc.). I also outlined how many and what types of posts the job would entail
  3. told them that there was no pressure to proceed if what we were offering was not a fit for them
  4. gave them information on the types of posts we like (word length, pictures, our blog platform, our workflow for editing and publishing, topics, and voice)
  5. outlined the next step in the process, and inviting them to submit a trial post that would be published on dPS. This post will be paid at the normal rate, and would be an opportunity for them to see what writing with us was like. It would also give me and our audience a taste of what these writers could do, to help us work out if each one was a fit for the blog.

I asked each applicant to let me know:

  • firstly, if they wanted to proceed, knowing how we reimburse and what we expect
  • secondly, if they did want to proceed, to nominate a trial post topic and tell us how quickly they’d be able to get it in.

4. Process trial posts

Within minutes of sending out these emails to the shortlist, I began getting replies. In fact, 100% of them indicated that they wished to proceed and were happy with my explanation of how we work.

I’m now in the process of responding to them all to lock in trial post topics and deadlines. Some have already written their posts in anticipation and excitement, and are very keen.

I’m putting each of the 25 writers into a spreadsheet so I can track the progress of their topics, and when posts will come in, so that I can begin to work on our editorial calendar—it’s going to take a few weeks to publish them all).

5. Final selection

This last phase will entail analysing the submitted posts, looking at how the applicants worked and, reviewing how their posts were received by readers.

I’m a little fearful of this last selection, as the quality of the content is really high already. I may need to look at hiring more people than what I was expecting!

Interestingly, a number of applicants have already indicated that if they don’t get the paid role that they’d like to guest post regularly (and a some of those who didn’t make the shortlist have also asked about guest posting). So it may turn out that this process unearths some good candidates for that, too.

Find the writer who’s right for you

These are the key take-away messages I’ve learned through this experience (and other efforts to hire writers):

  1. Know what you want in a writer and communicate it clearly.
  2. Be clear on the selection process that you want to lead people through before you begin. Ours is quite involved and takes time, and we try to communicate this early on.
  3. Compensate people. We are not the highest paying writing job in the world, but we pay a lot more than some do. We also try to make the work worthwhile, by giving our writers profile-building opportunities.
  4. Give people an opportunity to prove their worth. Giving applicants a chance to write a trial post was something I tried last time, and it was a great step. Some found in the process of writing a trial post identified that it wasn’t something they wanted to do regularly. That meant they withdrew, which I had no problem with. Others thrived, and wrote posts that highlighted them as people I definitely wanted to hire. Paying for these trial posts shows applicants that you’re serious about finding quality.
  5. Clearly communicate each step of the journey. The emails I’ve sent to people at each step are all about communicating the process, outlining what we need from people and when we need it, and answering FAQs (which saves everyone time in the long run).

Have you ever hired writers for your site? What tips and advice can you add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Raiyan Adam says:

    I’m in a process to look out for paid writers. This post comes at a right time. Thanks Darren

  2. Mahaveer says:

    Hiring writers can bring more authors to your blogging community and larger the community, the larger the blog grows. I agree with you that hiring writers gives new voices to your blog.

  3. Ben Troy says:

    Well thanks for highlighting this important issue. I would recommend professional writers for a blog as they generate content on a regular basis. In the early days we have to invest money in order to reap long term benefits as a blog. I guess paid writers not only assist in populating a website with content but also enable a blogger to focus on traffic generation towards a blog.

  4. Mi Muba says:

    Writing for blogs is little new trade but the interesting aspect of this field is that everyone writes about how to make money and a few want to write on how to spend it; specialized writers on technlogoy, blogging, web development are many but on general topics like health, enviornment and sports are quite less. I recently hired a writer for my blog http://www.pollutionpollution.com. He is doing his job so well but his approach is writing for the sake of writing; this is the main disadvantage of hired bloggers. If owner of a blog writes he writes with the heart and a hired writer writes with the mind. This is the big difference and hence why most of the bloggers write themselves instead of taking risk of hiring paid writers. Exceptions are everywhere.

  5. I don’t hire writers for my blog because I’m a professional writer myself and I’m trying to display my own work. But I’ve hired lots of writers over the years for various clients and when I was a senior editor at a large metropolitan daily newspaper.

    I applaud you, Darren, for deciding to use professional writers and for agreeing to PAY them. So many people expect writing to be done for free — it’s a breath of fresh air that you see the value in writing.

    That said, it sounds to me as though your hiring process was a little fraught — for you, although clearly not for your applicants. How much time did this take you? While it’s important to be fair and, as you say, to communicate very clearly, it’s also important to keep your own hiring process manageable.

    Your shortlist sounds a little long to me. I would have been inclined to share the list with a colleague or two to try to whittle it down a bit. (Say to 15, rather than to 25.) These same colleagues could also have helped you with the initial winnowing process, which you described as “so difficult.” You’re hiring a writer, not a brain surgeon or NASA engineer, so the initial review should have been pretty fast and relatively painless.

    Giving people an opportunity to prove their worth is a TERRIFIC idea both for you and the applicants and I always encourage people to do this. There’s nothing like seeing how people perform by actually giving them a dry run at the job. I predict you’ll get some very good writers from this process. Congrats!!

  6. Tristan says:

    How much are you paying them per article?

    • Paul says:

      That’s the same question I had.

      How do you work out what a blog is worth? Do they get a % of the add revenue too?

    • Ben Troy says:

      It depends on the post quality , maybe from 10 to 15 dollar for 1000 words post

      • Sean says:

        10 to 15 dollar for 1000 words post?

        Are you joking?
        You will never get GOOD content and a professional writer to work at those rates!

  7. Akshay says:

    Yes, the same question like Tristan.
    This is the main part to know because I have shortage of money and some other bloggers like me too.

    can you please tell us that?

    I don’t want to waste my money at all.

    • Ben Troy says:

      It seems you have never tried the power of outsourcing, hiring writing freelancer offers many advantages,especially for niche site content. If you cannot afford, publish content yourself with some researches on related plr articles at no cost.

  8. Shelby Roth says:

    Great tips indeed! Hiring writers is actually a great and fundamental inspiration but it also matters with the compensation I believe! I liked the problogger advert; sounds very attention-grabbing and I think with that, you will get to perk up your blog writing the best. I can confess that a good written blog is an eye-opener for all voices and making it come factual must go with you hiring the best writers who will make it successful and I’m glad that is what you have given. I actually enjoyed the ideas, very encouraging and inspiring. Thanks a lot for sharing! I look forward for the next!

  9. I completely agree with you on the need to hire writers; @ Darren, I like the procedures. They are essential and thanks for the good information.

  10. I have been actually thinking about this and I am glad your post came at the right time Darren. Gratitude!

  11. Les says:

    It’s an interesting approach, however, costs can be difficult, especially for those blog owners who don’t make a lot of money from their blogging. I find that publishing guest posts works equally as well. You still have control over the content you publish, and the only cost is a link back to the writers own site.

    When it comes to paying writers, you run the risk of either under paying and not getting a quality writer, or over paying and not getting any return on your outlay. In business, you do have to spend money to make money, however, the online world is a little different, more so given a single change a search engines algorithm can see your site going from hero to zero overnight. I am interested to hear how much blog owners pay their writers.

  12. Hi Darren,

    Kudos to you! Honestly, I think you’ve handled the whole process, from ad placement, responding emails through to the shortlist process and everything to come after that, exceptionally well.

    Offering to pay freelance writers for trial work certainly shows how serious you are in getting the best performers out there. Also compensating writers willing to put in the work to prove their worth – well done!

    Sadly so many other people out there are “hiring” freelance writers – you hear about people writing “trial” publications for literally WEEKS and in the end they never get paid or hired. Worse is, often at times all those “trial” publications are conveniently published on the “employer’s” sites, claiming full ownership of course.

    As a professional freelance writer myself, if a client wants examples (which is only fair before you invest in someone’s work) I will send them to previous work I’ve done hosted for them to access like the rest of the public (blog, guest posts, etc). This is an easy way to see what their intentions are. If they offer tp compensate you for exclusive trial work, no problem. Of course if they won’t accept either option, well I’m sure you can add your own imagination…

    I believe you will receive quality content from these guys on your shortlist, all because of the way you kept an open relationship with them throughout the whole process and showing them you value their worth.

    Again, well done!

  13. Lorri says:

    A bestfriend plus i are thinking about creating any blogging and site-building web site, yet we all do not know what type to make use of. All of us essentially may you need to be uploading arbitrary things with regards to certainly not we’d like this website to be fun and decorative, an excellent normal style and design..

  14. I’ve been using hired writers for my websites for a few years, and to be honest, I have a hard time using freelancers to make up a bulk of the content. Freelancers are good for doing the odd post, but I’ve just seen a few blogs lose their direction by hiring too many writers.

    The only way I’ve had success by hiring writers, is by hiring them full-time and on-site, that way they are dedicated to the blog and it’s vision. I also have to closely monitor the content and while is sounds like it’s less work to hire writer, being an editor is a job by itself. When I don’t focus on editing the direction of the site veers off course, and it’s happened before, the reader get angry.

    But still, it’s worth it to have a writing team!

  15. To this writer who pitches his work online, this gives an interesting look at what happens on the other end. Believe me, there are all kinds of online outlets that are searching for writers.

    Generally, I shy away from companies/blog owners that expect me to audition, even if it’s paid. If my clips and any correspondence are not enough to let you know what I bring to the table, I’m not going to waste your rime. If this so-called audition is unpaid, consider yourself lucky if I don’t respond, because such preposterous requests make me less than civil.

    Had to laugh. $10 or $15 for a 1,000-word post? Unless you’re going to the worldwide market, you can’t be too particular at that rate. I would find that offer to be an insult, but then I know what my value is.

  16. Rhea says:

    I work for a company that does ghost writing. Clients hire our writers to write blog posts, press releases or web copy. This is a great post, thanks!

  17. Martin says:

    Have you considered selling the full methodology (including flexible email templates of the emails you used, that others could adapt to their own hiring needs)? I suspect doing so would create a very saleable product / book (at the right price point). You could even give the project to one of the writers you hired.

    If you decided to go with this suggestion, you could perhaps combine it with info on how to get the most out of your writers, and – at the same time – seek to address some of the points bought up in the comments that your Post has attracted.

    Please let your newsletters subcribers (of which I’m one) know if you decide to evolve and sell such a product as I imagine it would help many overcome the reluctance I have, about outsourcing writing assignments via the more typical fashion through one or more of the well know outsource platforms.

  18. i have just hired a writer for my blog has i was busy with my studies and was not getting to much time for writing the articles for my blog and he is also doing a good work.In short, hiring writer is always a food choice if you have no time for writing your own article.

  19. Hi Darren – this is a great guide for those who are wanting to hire writers for their blogging needs, just hope that they wouldn’t see us as people who work for ‘free’ ( because we’re ‘free’+lancers ). There are many debates on freelancing forums about trial posts – should they be paid or not to do a sample/spec work? For some, they see it as a learning curve, an extra in building their online rep.. and for others, money talks. Here’s what puzzles me a lot: Whenever I send out applications to blog for someone, I get a response that they want me to help them map out their digital marketing blue print instead. At one time, I was even told to just stick to the technical side of things and leave writing content to the rest of the team. Seriously, I don’t know if I would feel delighted or insulted.

  20. Kiran says:

    Great post, Darren. I have seen many instances where a writer goes into dark after accepting the project. This will make the hiring process even more painful.

  21. Nisha Advani says:

    We plan to hire writers for tech website, though we just want one , at the most two we were confused on how to go about it. I came here randomly while i was reading some other posts and found it quite satisfying and now i can go around and place some ads in the local newspaper to invite writers. Could you throw some light on the costing of articles or per word costing or something on that .Thanks Darren

  22. I’ve been tossing around the idea of hiring a few people to write for my blog. Thank you for this post, it came at the perfect time!!

  23. Daksh says:

    i have just hired a writer for my blog has i was busy with my studies and in my college and was not getting to much time for writing the post for my blog and he is also doing a good work.In short, hiring writer is always a food choice if you have no time for writing your own post.

  24. It’s a welcome idea to hire writer and not writers at the same time. Choosing a single freelancer to write quality content for blog is a good resources especially for company’s blog, product blog’s, news blog and among others. But the basic tips for choosing the right person has been well said here, a single quality content can double the attention of readers. Since most writers want to proof they are the best in freelancers community, getting the best or hiring one wouldn’t be a problem. Most writers believe in native English, why some write in american English. The choice is your’s to test their old written articles and see other works on their client’s blog.

  25. Taran says:

    Great post.I feel hiring writers for a small blog is waste of money.Most of big bloggers don’t hire writers that write their own content.

  26. gaurav says:

    thanks for this awesome article.
    i have hired some professional writer for my blog has i was busy with my job and was not getting time for writing the articles for my own blog.