September 23, 2020

What to Look for In a Content Marketing Writer

Creating great content that reflects your brand takes work. Not every writer is going to be a fit.

If you can't find a writer with the expertise, style, and workflow that matches your needs, you'll end up paying for three or four articles, then calling it quits. Back to relying on paid ads.

That said, if you can find a content writer (or a few of them) that can deliver blog posts that match the quality you and your customers expect, you've got a great recipe for growth.

Is There Such Thing as a 'Content Marketing Writer'?

A content marketing writer is someone who can write blog posts that your ideal customers actually want to read. The posts will show expertise, be engaging, and provide answers to the questions your audience cares about.

That's it—no long-winded definition.

A content marketing writer could have a background in journalism, writing, or simply have written a lot in their full-time job and wanted to pivot to writing full-time.

What Kind of Portfolio Should You Ask a Content Writer For?

When hiring writers, don't ask for a long CV/résumé. You're wasting your own time.

A CV won't tell you much about how someone can write.

If anything, it'll help you see how good their copywriting chops are (the skills are similar, but not quite the same) as a CV is simply a way to sell yourself to someone else on a single page. But, it's not the same as writing long-form content like a blog post.

So, what should you ask for instead?

Keep it simple.

Ask for:

  • Links to blog posts they've published
  • What types of jobs they've had in the past

These two questions should tell you everything you need to know about a writer.

Why Links to Published Blog Posts Are a Good Filter

Most good content marketing writers will have a portfolio of content ready to share with you. Traditional job application forms ignore this.

Links to real blog posts, live on their client websites, will show you what standard of quality you can expect once you pay someone.

Good writers will be happy to send you their portfolio. After all, they're proud of it.

Some writers may have an NDA or not want to share links to published posts, but in our experience, only a low percentage of people who have to sign NDAs for blog posts so this shouldn't be much of a problem.

It's also an easy excuse if someone doesn't have a portfolio but wants to get hired.

Real-World Work Experience Helps You Avoid Fluffy Content

Another filter you can apply to your applications is asking what real-world experience someone has.

Good content should resonate with your readers. It's easy to spot fluffy content from a writer that doesn't really know what they're talking about.

Let's say you run a SaaS company that sells a customer support tool.

Who would you rather hire:

A writer with an extensive portfolio of quality articles on healthcare, finance, gaming, but has never worked in customer support...

...or,

A customer support specialist recently turned content writer but who only has a few samples (they're new to writing).

The answer is obvious.

Hiring content writers with real-world expertise in your field will ensure that your content is high-quality, void of fluffy fillers, and results in articles that your customers actually read.

Should You Ask Content Writers to Write a Free Sample?

No.

If you're writing out something like:

"Write 500 words on [insert your industry here] and we'll use that to as part of your application"

Stop now.

Let's unpack why this is a bad idea.

Reason one: You're asking for free work

Free work in itself isn't always bad. If a writer doesn't have much experience they'll likely be happy to write a free sample (or entire blog post) for you as it's a way to get their foot in the door.

That said, we've rarely found free work to be a good indicator of quality (which is why we don't ask for our writers to do any).

The main problems here are:

  1. If someone has other paid work in their pipeline, your free sample will be rushed - you won't see the real quality
  2. Experienced, high-quality content writers will instantly close the application form

Would you go to a dentist who was happy to fix your teeth for free just because you asked them to?

Thought not.

Reason two: They don't know your brand

Most writers or content marketing agencies (like Contentbulb) will start off by learning about your brand.

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What motivates them?
  • What jobs/tasks can your product/service help them with?

If you're asking for a free sample without giving someone this information, they're left guessing. You'll get applications that won't impress you because the writer doesn't know anything about your company. The content could be good, but it won't resonate with you, and you'll miss out on hiring someone that was potentially a great fit.

On the other hand, if you offer to pay for samples, you'll have skin in the game.

You'll be more likely to offer them guidance and send them your brand voice/tone/style guidelines because you want them to deliver quality work. It may cost more in the short-term, but if you find a good writer to work with you'll save money in the long run.

Skills to Look for in a Content Marketing Writer

1. Writing Style

Writing takes time to master. If you compare two posts, one from a content mill, and one from an experienced, well-paid writer, the difference will be night and day.

SEO has evolved, and you can't get away with a keyword-stuffed blog post if you want to rank or get results using content marketing.

Look for writers with a style that keeps people reading and who speaks in the same way your audience does.

2. Self-Editing

If you receive a blog post that's full of typos and grammar mistakes, you'll need to send it back for multiple rounds of edits.

Look for writers who are rigorous with their editing process.

Most content marketing writers will use software like Grammarly and run it through a spelling and grammar check in Google Docs as well.

If someone sends you a document full of typos, they're cutting corners.

That said, mistakes can happen. If you only spot one small error in a 2500 word article, it's likely not an indicator of overall quality. If you point it out, most writers will never send you a blog post with a similar mistake again. Use your judgment here.

3. SEO Knowledge

This is an interesting one. Most job titles people put out for writers go something like:

  • "Hiring SEO Content Writer"
  • "SEO writer needed"

SEO and writing have become synonymous for many companies.

That said, you shouldn't always bundle the two together. If you have existing team members working on strategy, your writer doesn't necessarily need to know anything about SEO.

A basic knowledge of SEO is useful, but, it's not everything.

Content marketing is different today than it was five years ago when you could rank with articles that read in a robotic way.

Focus on the writing style first, then look at how well it's optimized for search.

That said, most experienced content marketing writers and content marketers will have a good knowledge of how to rank articles and best-practices.

Where to Hire a Content Writer

There are a variety of sites you can go to when hiring a content writer.

We wrote more in-depth about how to hire content writers in this article.

To summarize, here are a few places you can go:

  • Use your own careers page
  • Look at bylines on blog posts you enjoyed
  • Use freelance market places like Upwork
  • Join industry Facebook and Slack groups

How Much Should You Pay a Content Marketing Writer?

The rates will vary greatly.

We broke down all of the costs in our post on Content Marketing Pricing, but to give you a rough idea, expect to pay anything from $100 - $1000 for a good-quality blog post.

Another option is to work with a service like Contentbulb - our prices start at $0.21 per word and we work with you to create a content strategy that makes sense, and deliver quality content thanks to our experienced writers.

Investing in Content Marketing as a Lever for Growth

Content marketing is an amazing way to grow your business. Good content can get you ranking highly for keywords that you'd have to pay $$$ for if you were bidding for ad positions.

Once you pay for a blog post, it's an asset that can drive qualified visitors to your site and product/service for years.

You'll need to work with a quality writer if you expect it to work, though.

Cutting costs on your writing will lead to disappointment and ultimately you'll end up spending that money on editing time and hiring new writers down the road.

If you're thinking about using content marketing at your company, let's have a chat. We'll walk you through our process that helps SaaS companies get more traffic and more customers through SEO.

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