There are lots of questions to ask before you hire someone to write for your blog or website. The first question you have to ask, though, is:
1. What Type of Writer Do I Need?
No two bloggers are alike!
What type of writer do you need – a copywriter or a content writer? What’s the difference?
A copywriter writes with a goal in mind. Typically that goal is getting you to take some sort of specific action. A lot of the time, the goal is to get you to buy something. Sometimes she will want you to sign up for something or do something. Every word of their copy is written to subtly persuade you to take the action they want you to take. The best copywriters can make you think that taking action is your own idea!
A content writer, on the other hand, just wants you to know and feel something when you’re done reading her work. Content typically has an educational slant and is meant to inform and entertain. That’s it.
Most blogs are content based, not copy based. This is because, from an entrepreneurial perspective, the rest of the site does the selling. The blog is supplemental material to endear the seller to her traffic, keep the Google bots crawling the site’s pages, and to establish the seller’s expertise within her niche.
For example, let’s say you’re an insurance salesperson. On the front page of your site, you’ll want to have copy that talks about insurance and ultimately gets the reader to call you for a quote or to sign up for your email list. On your blog, you talk about the nuances of an insurance policy. You talk about how California car insurance quotes differ from those in Arizona or New Jersey. You share pictures that showcase your participation in your community’s clothing drive for needy families.
See the difference?
So let’s assume you want to hire a content writer for your blog. You’re too busy serving your clients to come up with blog content on a regular basis and are ready to bring in some help. How do you find the right writer for you?
2. What Is Your Relationship with and Expertise Level in My Niche?
Anybody can do the research and learn about a niche or audience. It’s best, though, to find a writer who already has some practical expertise in your field. This way the blog posts will feel like wisdom and less like “Here’s what I just learned!”
You want to hire a blogger who keeps up with your industry of his or her own volition. Understanding industry trends and how they relate to past issues and what they could mean for the future of a niche is important.
3. How Much Writing Experience Do You Have?
Anybody can say that he or she is a great content writer or blogger. Always ask for samples of a potential writer’s work before deciding whether or not to hire that person.
Note: If the writer does not have any applicable samples (and some don’t; everybody has to start somewhere), it is completely okay to ask that writer to complete a sample or two just for you. Make sure, though, that you offer to pay for the sample. Asking people to write samples for free makes you look like a scam artist.
4. What Other Types of Writing Do You Do?
These days pretty much everybody has at least a little bit of blogging experience, even if it is just personal blogging. Asking about other writing experience is a good idea.
Having professional experience with other types of writing (like, say, copywriting) can prove beneficial to you later on. It also shows versatility in style and adaptability to different working environments. Both of these are important! The last thing you want is to hire someone who is going to showcase your style and voice over their own.
5. Do You Feel Comfortable Doing Interviews?
A good blog writer will be able to get content from lots of different sources – including other people. Being able to conduct and write up interviews is a great asset for your blog and is something you want your writer to be able to do.
6. What Is Your Research Style?
Anybody can regurgitate Google. You want someone who can find information anywhere. We’ve talked about interviewing skills being important. Being able to track down information via other sources is important, too. You want a writer who won’t blink at the idea of using the library. You want a writer who understands how to do periodical searches, how to search records, etc.
7. How Much SEO Experience Do You Have?
Good blog writers know how to contextually incorporate keywords and links in a way that pleases both readers and search bots.
8. What Is Your Relationship with Images?
Most bloggers understand that blog posts need to have at least a couple of images within them. Not all bloggers know how to include images that are contextual to what they are writing. You want a blogger who knows how to track legally usable images and build them into a post in a way that enhances the written content instead of detracting from it.
9. What Is Your Availability?
Most professional and full-time bloggers write for a few clients at the same time. It’s important that the person you hire actually have the time to create quality posts for your blog – however many you hope to publish each week.
10. What Are Your Rates?
Blogging rates vary wildly, but here is a universal truth: you get what you pay for. You might balk at someone charging $0.06 per word, especially when you will likely have applicants quoting rates as low as $0.005 per word (a.k.a. $2.50 per 500-word blog post), but remember: You get what you pay for. The super cheap writers tend to have style and context issues. The return you’ll get from a more expensive writer, if that writer is genuinely good enough to warrant the higher rate, makes those higher rates worth paying.
Another common and highly applicable “rule” of hiring a writer is this: Your options are good, fast, and cheap. Pick two.
Note: Throw out any cover letter or resume that includes any variation of the phrase “I write real good for real cheap!”
Hiring a great writer for your blog is going to take time. Everybody looks good in a cover letter or resume, but, like every other employee, it’s more a matter of how someone performs day to day and what kind of working relationship you can build with that person that matters most. Be prepared to work with a few people before you find the perfect fit.
Erin Steiner is a professional copywriter and blogger from Portland, Oregon. In addition to helping her clients put their best faces forward, she specializes in putting her own life on the Internet via blogging, YouTube, and social media.