Outsourcing Content Creation

Content is an essential part of search engine optimization and a key to link building and visitor retention. Both search engine spiders and visitors thirst for new articles. Satisfying both is not an easy task, as it requires time and some experience in the industry about which you’re writing. If you can’t meet this challenge yourself, you might consider hiring freelance writers to do it for you. This article will tell you what you need to know to find the right writers and keep from getting burned.

If you don’t have the time or the will to write your own content you can outsource it to professional writers. In this article I will review the options you have when it comes to outsourcing and give you some tips on where to find writers, how to hire and what to look for.

Where to Find Writers For Your Website/Blog

Freelancers’ Marketplace

There are a number of specialized websites where you can hire freelance workers for almost any task, including copy writing. Pricing models vary depending on the website. Some sites let workers decide their rate (per article, per project, hourly etc), while others have a bidding model where employers post jobs and people looking for work bid. The idea of the bid model is to pay the least amount of money to the most experienced person.

Marketplaces have a system which catalogs past projects that you can review before hiring a writer. You will not see the actual articles that a particular writer wrote, but the people/companies he or she worked for, volume of work, satisfaction score and comments (sort of like eBay feedback). Usually the more positive history a writer has on a job marketplace, the more he will charge, while newbies are willing to work for less in order to establish themselves. Don’t get greedy here; there are many writers willing to do the job for $5 per 500 – 1000 words, but you get what you pay for.

Here’s a list of job marketplaces:

  • Elance

  • People Per Hour

  • Guru.com

  • Go Freelance

  • Get a Freelancer

  • oDesk

  • iFreelance

  • SoloGig

  • ContractedWork

  • Project4Hire

  • FreelanceWork

  • AgaveBlue

  • FreelanceJobSearch

  • FreelanceAuction

  • Mac Freelancer

  • WriterLance

  • Hirelancer

Payment methods vary depending on the website, but you can pay using various systems including credit cards and PayPal. If there are disputes you can consult with website managers to resolve the problem. Again, it is important to hire writers with a good history and a couple of references (preferably with examples of their work).

{mospagebreak title=Writers from Other Countries}

Many people work out of third world countries online, where your dollar is worth a lot more than it is in the US, so keep the location in mind. I have not had any experience with writers from non-English speaking countries, but there are plenty of them online. English is the international language, and half of Earth’s population speaks it; the question is – how good are they when it comes to writing copy? Leave some comments if you have had any experience.

Hire a Professional Agency

There are many agencies that specialize in nothing but copy writing and content creation. They usually have an in-house team of writers that write articles all day long. Agencies cost more than freelance writers, but are more reliable when it comes to deadlines, style/content specifications, etc. Do a Google search for “copywriting agency” – you will see hundreds of results. Ask for references before giving them your money.

Finding a Professional Sales Writer

A sales letter is different from content. The goal of the sales letter is to sell your products or services, while content is there to inform readers and to attract links. Sales letter writing is a lot different from content writing. Anyone can do research and write a decent piece of content to put up on a website/blog. It won’t attract links, but then again, very few outsourcers will give you content that gets links, with the few exceptions of industry professionals, who cost a lot and probably compete with you.

Sales letter writers specialize in pushing people’s buttons in order to sell your stuff (if you think about it, the entire field of marketing is built on pushing the buttons). There are many self-proclaimed experts, who will write you a letter and share the profits, but real professionals ask for money up front. Pricing starts at 5K and up. Some of the best writers are booked for months, so to get to them you really have to sweeten the offer.

{mospagebreak title=Judging Writers by Their Blog}

Serious and quality freelancers usually run their own independent blogs, quite successfully. The success of the blog can be your quality indicator. If a freelancer has a readership (an audience), is mentioned on other blogs, has a good amount of backlinks and receives comments on most of their posts, you can be sure that he will do a good job for you. Running a successful blog indicates one thing – interest in what the person is doing. It takes passion to come up with new ideas, without recycling the web over and over again (I’m guilty of it myself), so a good blog is a big resume booster.

What to look for on the writer’s blog:

  • How many readers does a particular writer have? Industry leaders have the most readers. Use Google Reader/Bloglines or other RSS reader services to check the number of readers. If the number exceeds 1,000, then you’re dealing with an expert. About 40 – 100 readers is very good as well.

  • How many backlinks does the blog have? In the blogosphere, backlinks are a direct quality measurement. Use Yahoo Site Explorer to check backlinks.

If you find a particularly popular blog, chances are that writer will cost a fortune. Just ask for recommendations and he will probably direct you to a new talent.

Guest Writers

Guest writing has become very popular for two reasons. Those who write guest posts get a backlink to their website, while website owners get quality content for free. It’s a win-win.

Forums and Job Boards

Just like SEOs, writers have their own forums, where they discuss techniques, make suggestions for improvement, and cheer each other’s victories. You can browse copy writing forums to find good writers, but here are a few rules by which to abide.

  • Do not post a job offer. Forums forbid it anyway, but that’s not the reason you should not post a job offer. Discussion boards are packed with newbies and so-called experts. Newbies come to forums in search of advice, while “experts” give crappy advice to anyone who will listen. There are many good folks who know their stuff, but you have to spend a few weeks/months on the forum to know the true players and fakers. If you post an offer you will likely be ignored by experts, while the newbies will jump on.

  • Spend some time on the forums and find out who is who. Once you have an idea of the members, contact a particular writer with an offer.

Looking for writers on forums takes time, but you can spot true professionals who know their stuff.

As for job boards, you may want to start with Craigslist. It has a job board where you can find cheap content writers and students who need a few dollars on the side.

{mospagebreak title=Guidelines for Hiring}

  • Ask for examples of previous work and for work referrals. Do basic due diligence here, as you would anywhere else.

  • Define your job clearly. State the number of articles you need, topic, deadlines, word count etc. The more detailed you can be, the better.

  • Don’t be cheap. $5 for 500 words will buy you a worthless collection of words. Quality costs money.

  • Look for someone with experience in your industry (more on that below).

  • Define payment terms up front. It is a good idea to print out a contract that you and the outsourcer will sign, in order to protect yourself and to avoid conflict.

  • Start out with a simple project first if you’ve never dealt with a particular person/agency in order to try them out. As they deliver and you become more confident, you can start giving them more complex projects. This is how you build the relationship.

Keep in mind that in order to write for you, writers have to research the topic and come up with their own ideas. If they are new to the industry, expect articles with recycled content and no original ideas. I am not trying to trash writers, or say they don’t know what they are writing about, but rather make the point that you should not expect expert level content with original ideas that will get you links when you hire someone on the outside with no experience in your industry. Before writing about a topic, writers sometimes spend only few hours (or less) reading the web, and then spit back what they learned in their own words. It cannot be original.

On the other hand, unless you’re blogging for links, content does not have to be original. Sometimes all you need is food for the Google bot with targeted keywords, where OK content does just fine. It all depends on your goals.

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