I will get right to it. This has been a major pain point for my business- and I have a series of quick checks to determine if the content writers fit my context or not.
- The first one is for you. Be clear about why you want the writer. I hire two types of writers. One from whom I need thought and originality. And the second type from whom I need standardised material and little to no thought leadership. Once you have this clarity, the rest of the tips just flow.
- Always ask for samples of their work- This could be an article they’ve published earlier, or a blog, or a post, anything. They don’t have to create fresh work to serve as a sample. I never ask writers to submit a fresh draft. If it’s a requirement for another client, I volunteer to pay. Creative work should never be not paid for.
- Evaluate the grammar, before you go into quality of content. I have learnt this the hard way. I thought that rules of grammar could be fixed, and that originality of thought is what counts more. Nada! In a business that churns out content, you can be contextually out of place, but not grammatically. The former will be forgiven, the latter not.
- A good writer is a reader too. To write well, you need to be very aware of your own thoughts and opinions. It could be contrary to common sense, but to know what you think it is very important to know what others think. It helps you take a stand, it helps with conversations and finally it helps you with being able to express yourself. I often ask my writers of their favourite authors and why so. It excites me when they name authors and works that are foreign to me (not to say that I am a world authority on reading, but it is just very exciting!)
- Evaluate their professionalism. I do this by explicitly letting them know that I need a sample by a certain time on a certain date. If they miss it, and still send the sample later, I call it out and listen to what they have to say. I had a weird experience with one of the writers that I almost hired in March 2020. We went back and forth on LinkedIn quite a bit. Then exchanged WhatsApp numbers and chatted about work and so on. His start date was 15th Apr 2020 and I had sent him the list of topics. I reached out to him on the 15th Apr and he didn’t respond. He pinged me almost a month later and said that it had skipped his mind that he was to submit work. Thankfully, I had another writer lined up. I told him that not responding and not meeting deadlines don’t work for me. To which he replied “No worries. I don’t want to be so hard pressed about deadlines either!”. So now you know what kind of work relationships you don’t want to get into.
That last story was a bit much for this post, but as you can see it’s still hurting.
Hire your writers by explaining to them that their writing depicts your brand value and that with very thought and word, they either take away from it, or add to it. It is no more difficult than hiring other workmen, but managing creative minds is tougher.
I have one fail safe method to ensure that my writers love working for me- I ask them to choose their deadlines.
PS- of course I have already worked backwards from my client.