Simple Cheat-Sheet to Improve Your Process of Hiring a Writer

August 30, 2021

FACT: If you find yourself with a terrible hire, it’s likely because there was a problem with your hiring process.

FACT: The process of writer hiring is fundamentally different from that of hiring a gardener or a tutor.

When hiring, you are likely to encounter different market dynamics and evaluation metrics. For instance, if you wanted to hire an English tutor for your daughter, you’d comb through applicants’ academic transcripts and analyze their GPAs.

Not so with writing.

Here, writing samples and portfolios are key. But where should you start, and how should you go about the entire process to get the writer of your dreams—the one who seems to check all the right boxes?

Here is a process that you could follow if you want to succeed in writer hire.

Step 1: You Need to Have a Writing Recipe

Imagine you want to prepare some delightfully aromatic roast turkey for your thanksgiving dinner for the first time—but you don’t have a recipe!

You don’t know what ingredients you need and in what quantities.

The truth is that you may mess up greatly and turn a delightful dinner into a memorable disaster.

That is exactly what you may be getting yourself into if you are hiring without determining what kind of a writer you want—and the skill level that the task requires.

In short, you’re setting yourself up for monumental failure.

If you want to hire freelance writers, you need to start the hiring process on the right note. This is the foundation. You mess up here and you’re done.

The first step is to carefully pick your niche—the area of writing that you want to delve into.

Freelance Writers Niches

Here are some examples:

  • Academic writing: This is formal writing, normally well-referenced, suitable for theses, dissertations, and other research papers.. 
  • Copywriting: This is writing that promotes something. In most cases, copywriting promotes a product, a service, an idea, or even a person—like during political campaigns.
  • Article and blog writing: This is writing that is a bit more informal and is usually meant to educate, inform, or entertain the reader.
  • Grant writing: This is specialized writing that aims to win some form of funding from an organization.
  • Technical writing: This could be an explanation of a technical process or a complex idea.

At this stage, you should also determine the level of skill and subject matter expertise that you’ll need for the job — and whether it’s a task that a newbie can ace, or it calls for significant experience and understanding.

Step 2: You Need to Prepare a Budget

How much should you set aside for the task?

This will largely depend on factors highlighted in the first step of the process, specifically the type of content you want to produce.

For example, the average pay of a grant writer in the US is $35 per hour while that of a content writer is $22 per hour.

But one way of estimating your cost is to have an idea of the writer’s own salary expectation. And this is how it stacks up according to one survey:

And so, you could pay as low as $1 per hour to as high as $100 per hour. It depends on the niche and the skill level.

Step 3: You Need to Choose Your Payment Plan

At this point — before you post a job — you need to consider whether you want to pay hourly rates or project-based rates depending on certain milestones.

And it can be a real headache deciding which one to go with.

However, for your writing project, the following decision matrix could be helpful:

Job FactorHourly PaymentMilestone Payment
Is it a continuous work?
Is it a one time project?
Is there mutual trust?
Is there a time deadline?
Can the task be broken down into milestones?
Do you need to carefully track progress?

An important aspect of project-based payments is the pay-per-word arrangement which is popular with many content marketing agencies.

Step 4: You Need to Settle on Recruitment Method and Medium

Just like with your roast turkey for thanksgiving, you need to know where to source the best turkeys — the best writers in our case — who can churn out high-quality content.

You could go with online job boards and freelance platforms, or you could individually recruit through your own informal channels.

In fact, according to a survey, the majority of freelance writers report being engaged through referrals and word of mouth.

Online job boards that you could get great writers from — depending on your content needs — include the following websites:

  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Craigslist
  • Writer Finder
  • Textbroker
  • Freelancer

But you may want to know that professionals are shying away from most online job boards because it’s now becoming difficult to find quality writers on those platforms.

And while these are legit platforms, beware of  scamming risks.

One example is where you engage with a reputable account on Upwork, yet the account has already been sold to a novice with no writing talent, or worse, a con.

Craigslist is particularly risky when it comes to scamming.

But you could also consider Facebook job boards like:

  • Remarkable Freelance Writers in Africa
  • Cult of Copy Job Board
  • Copywriting Unleashed Job Board

And many others.

If you decide to follow the route of job ads on Facebook and other platforms, you should brace yourself for a massive perusal process. You should expect to laboriously scour through over 50 applications within two weeks of the initial advert!

This could be overwhelming.

You can now understand why many clients opt for simple referrals.

Or why platforms that churn out great content through factory-type collaboration like CopySmiths are increasingly being considered.

Step 5: You Need to Recruit & Agree on Terms of Engagement

Finally, you need to agree on the terms of engagement and recruit the candidate. You’ll need to set very clear expectations. This will considerably reduce confusion and improve success.

With all this done, go ahead and recruit.

What You Should Remember Before You Hire a Writer for Your Blog

An unpleasant reality is that you could still end up with a writer who is out of his depth and burn your fingers.

But the most reassuring FACT is that you’ll reduce this chance if you meticulously follow the hiring process to a tee.

But that is not enough.

You could actually increase your revenues by up to 350%.

But good writing requires time and talent.

SEO writing — the kind that makes your page rank first on Google search engine— requires some technical experience as well.

Katrina McKinnon


I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of CopySmiths and Small Revolution. In my 20 years of experience, I have helped online businesses create high-performing content specifically on an eCommerce store's blog. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.