What to Look For When Hiring a Content Writer
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Anyone can call themselves a content writer. There’s no degree in content writing, and the skills involved in content writing don’t necessarily require an English degree or advanced education. To be a content writer, you need to:
- Write Quickly.
- Write Well.
- Research Well.
- Have Common Sense.
Those are essentially the four skills of content writing, and while a degree in English or some type of advanced marketing studies can be helpful, they do not indicate the ability to write quickly, craft articles on a variety of topics to which the writer is likely to have little experience, or display the inappropriately named and rare skill of “common” sense.
This is a problem, because it means that Billy Joe Schmo may be a better content writer than Dr. Dave Skilled, Ph.D, but their qualifications may indicate the opposite. It also means that a company of 500 may be worse at developing content than an unkempt high school dropout living in a basement. The lack of qualifications also means that someone that found flipping burgers was too intellectually demanding can claim themselves to be a content writer, and those searching for a quality writer have no way of differentiating them from a writer with talent.
Tips to Find a Content Writer
All of these issues make finding the right content writer a fairly complex task, and one that involves a little bit of trial and error. Consider the following tips and strategies to ensure that you’re hiring someone legitimately skilled at writing interesting and valuable content.
- Viewing Sample Articles
The best place to start is by checking out their sample articles or portfolio. It’s where you’ll get at least an idea of what the company or writer considers “Quality Writing” because no good business is going to showcase their worst work. If the quality of the sample articles is acceptable, you can move forward, but still consider a fair degree of skepticism since there’s no guarantee the company or the writer you’ll have wrote the sample articles.
- Check Formatting – Including Website Formatting
One interesting way to judge content writers is how they format their articles. Quality content writers understand how to format their articles for the web. They’ll use bullet points, subheadings, shorter paragraphs, decent spacing – their writing will be pleasing to the eye, regardless of the type of content they’re writing about. Formatting is something web writers learn with experience, so quality formatting will imply some degree of knowledge of web content.
- Get a Sample
It may cost a small investment, but most companies offer single article purchases. Purchase one. The investment is small, there is no commitment, and you’ll be able to get an idea if the writer is someone you want to continue working with. Remember that writing is also subjective – two great writers may develop the same type of content, and you may find one is much “better” than the other according to how it matches your vision. It doesn’t mean the other writer is bad, but it may indicate that you prefer the style of another writer.
- Check Uniqueness
Great writers should be able to write content with a minimal degree of research and while relying very little on the work of others. Copyscape (www.copyscape.com) is the best way to ensure that the content hasn’t been stolen, but you’ll want to test for more than that. You want to make sure that the writer didn’t just steal all of the ideas from one single piece of content either. Do a Google search for a keyword or two, and see if the first one or two pieces of content are nearly identical in style to the one developed for your website.
Note that research is common. A great writer may not know how to write an article without a Google search of related topics, and this practice is both common and accepted. But their content still shouldn’t read like they rewrote someone else’s content directly. It needs to read as though they were an expert – as though they wrote it from scratch – even if you know with certainty that they didn’t. Searching Google for similar content and reading it yourself can be of tremendous benefit.
- Talk on the Phone
Finally, when in doubt, talk to someone within the company on the phone. How someone speaks is indicative of the quality of writing they’ll provide. Those that can’t argue in favor of their work, or whose English skills appear to be lacking are far less likely to provide high quality content.
Start Small – Go Big
Ideally, the best thing to do is start with a small project and move up from there. A small, 1 to 5 article project shouldn’t put too big a dent in your wallet, and you’ll get an opportunity to judge the speed and quality of the writer(s). If you like the content, you can move forward with a larger quantity. If you don’t, you end the working relationship, and try to find something else to do with the work the poor quality writers completed.
It’s unfortunate that “content writer” can be thrown around with so little regard, but it’s the nature of a subjective business – most poor quality content writers genuinely believe their work is of the highest quality, and in some cases a high quality writer may be judged as writing poorly by someone that has a different view of what “good writing means.”
But don’t forget that you’re under no obligation to use any content writer beyond an initial article, and you can ask content writers as much as you want about what they provide before making a purchase. Ask questions, view samples, do some online research, and start with a small trial project, and while you may have to go through a bad writer or two, you’ll ultimately find the quality content writer you’re looking for.
Bio – Micah Abraham is co-owner and lead content writer at Great Leap Studios, a New York based content writing company. Learn more about content writing at www.greatleapstudios.com.