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June 1st, 2011
10 min read
One of the big bottlenecks for blogging is, ironically, the actual blogging.
It can be pretty time intensive creating all your own content. So, depending on your business model and your intentions, there are times when hiring other writers is the best way to go. It is what I do over on PCMech and, were it not for them, PCMech wouldn’t exist. I simply don’t have time to keep up with that site and this one all by myself.
As part of a long-term marketing effort I’m working on for PCMech, I recently took to finding some new writers. We’re still in the very early stages of getting them going, but I thought I would spell out the process.
When To Find Other Writers (And When Not To)
There are two things you have to take into consideration here:
- Your niche.
- Your business model.
Some niches don’t require as much content flow as others so it might be just fine to write it all yourself (especially if you enjoy it). In my case, PCMech is in the technology niche and that niche usually sees a LOT of content flow. If PCMech was updated only as often as this blog, it would die off. So, since a higher volume is needed, I need more fingers on the keyboards.
Secondly, writers cost money so your business model needs to be considered. Will you be making enough money to pay them? Can you set things up so that the ROI of each writer makes them profitable for you?
If you’re in a high-volume niche, you might need to consider hiring other writers.
One case where you cannot really make the switch is when your blog is closely tied to yourself. If your blog is part of your personal brand, then the only person really suitable to post there is YOU. In that case, you really shouldn’t hire writers. There are exceptions (like guest posts), but there is a line there that can be tougher to cross.
How To Find Them
There are many places you can go to find potential new writers:
- Your own blog and mailing list. If you have an established audience, you can turn to your own crowd for writers. After all, they’re familiar with your niche (in theory). You do need to pay attention to their writing skills, however. A good blog reader doesn’t make a good blog writer.
- Industry Forums. If the forum rules allow it, you can post an invitation to apply. Another way to go (which would work with any forum) is to simply participate in the forum like any normal member. As you identify the best posters, you can private message them about your opportunity.
- Niche blogs. If you identify some smaller niche blogs in your market who are good writers but don’t have the audience, you can directly contact them about writing for you.
- Problogger Job Boards. This is where I went and it worked out quite well. It costs a little bit to post the ad, but I got close to 70 responses from it and it worked out nicely.
- BloggingPro Job Boards.
When you post an ad somewhere for it, you need to pay attention to the way you post the ad. Think of it like a blog post. Make it interesting, have a call to action, and be sure to provide all relevant details. Look at it from THEIR viewpoint. What would attract a good writer to respond to your ad? Take into account the following:
- Solid headline. The actual headline for the ad should be specific about the niche you’re looking for.
- Be as specific as possible. Specify the kinds of topics you would want covered by them. Who is your ideal writer? Describe that person as best you can.
- Be human. People won’t respond to stuffy corporate-sounding crap. Your opening should sound like a fun opportunity. You should be looking for a relationship with a like-minded writer, not some top-down approach where they feel like you’re being their boss.
- Tell them what to do. What you don’t want is a resume. They suck and they’re all written to make stupid things sound impressive. So, tell them exactly HOW to respond to your opening. What email address should they send to? Do you want sample posts? Links to stuff they’ve written before?
- Use negative qualifiers. You want to do your best to weed out wastes of time and you can do that with qualifiers. For example, you can tell them to respond with a certain email subject line. If they don’t do that, then it shows they didn’t read the ad and they’re probably just mass applying. Saves you time. Also, you can think of things which might not be a good reason to apply and specifically tell them not to. For example, with PCMech, some out there in tech writing would only apply so they can get free hardware. So, I tell them straight-up that this isn’t a review thing and you won’t be getting free hardware.
How To Evaluate Them
Most likely, you’re going to find people of ALL skill levels applying – especially if you post to an open platform. The thing about blogging, too, is that it is a specific skill. An interest in the topic doesn’t mean you can write about it. And blogging is a form of writing which is a little different than other writing. A good blogger should be able to write in such a way as to get, keep and HOLD attention throughout a piece. He/she should know how to craft a good headline, a solid opening, compelling sub-headlines, etc. He should know to make posts which are easy to scan and not read like big, long term papers with big-ass justified paragraphs.
So, you’re looking for not just writing skills, but BLOGGING skills.
Writing samples are paramount. Preferably, you’d see prior blog posts they’ve written and are currently online, not simply samples they’ve written just for you. But, whatever works.
Also, pay attention to how they apply. Are they personable? Did they take the time to respond the way you asked them to?
I had some people who just sent me a resume and a shortie email. That doesn’t work for me and I simply deleted them. Others told me they could write about anything and everything…. and I don’t buy that. Generic for-hire writers are not nearly as good as somebody who is actually NATURALLY in that niche and writes about it because they LOVE it. So, I recommend steering clear of these generic writers or people who submit samples from completely unrelated niches.
I also got a few companies responding to me, where they have a team of writers and could generate content on whatever I asked them. My recommend: steer clear of that, too.
As you evaluate them, I recommend that you try to respond to everybody who replies – even if you think they’re no good. Be polite, and part of that is replying. If you need more information from them, ask for it. The ones that stand out, flag the message so you can pay special attention to it.
What To Pay Them
This is always a touchy subject and a hard one to decide on. Generally, I think a pay-per-post model works best. In other words, every post of their’s that you publish, you pay them an agreed rate.
When I got responses back from the Problogger job board, the range for pay was varied. The lowest I got was $4/post, and it went up from there with the highest being a couple hundred dollars per post. On the average, it was coming in with $7-$20 per post. It varies based on experience, as you might expect.
Simply put, the better writers will cost more. The person who came in at well over $100/post was an outlier and not statistically representative, but that person clearly had the most experience and wrote for a few reputable tech magazines in the past. He was good, but I couldn’t afford that.
The cost-per-post will also depend often on the length of the post. So, consider that. Do you need big, long tutorials or will quickie 250-word posts work for your blog? With some authors, you may need to work out a graduated scale.
As the blog owner, your job is to consider the ROI. Let’s say you pay a writer $15 for a post. Your job is to ensure that the lifetime value of that post comes in at more than $15 so that it is profitable. So, you need to consider the ads that can show on that post, any affiliate products that can be mentioned in that post, the SEO-targeting (and thus potential traffic draw) of that post. Much of this will come to the management process of your writers, but these are things that need to be considered.
So, before you make decisions on pay, you should know your metrics. You should know the “hot topics” of your market, where the money is flowing, and how you can get it. Then, your job as the owner is to steer your writers into authoring posts that aren’t simply filler, but actually strategically placed to ensure the ROI and make a profitable online publication.
You’re thinking like a PUBLISHER here and not just a blogger. There is a distinct difference.
Legal Considerations On Hiring Bloggers
On any writer who you decide to hire, I recommend you have a signed agreement between you and them. The key elements of that agreement should include:
- They are an independent contractor and not an employee.
- The agreed per-post rate.
- That payment is contingent on you actually publishing the post, not simply that they wrote it. You’re the one paying them, so you need to be the gate keeper to posts going live on your blog so that you can control ROI. If they write a post which you cannot use, you don’t owe them a dime for it if you don’t actually publish it.
- Who OWNS the content. You want to avoid copyright disputes later down the road if/when this writer moves on. So specify clearly who owns the copyright. You can either specify that you own all rights or you could consider a split model. With the split model, the agreement would state that you have exclusive rights for a certain time frame (6-12 months), after which they are free to re-publish the piece elsewhere but you maintain non-exclusive rights for life. Lastly, you want to be sure the agreement specifies that you can use the content in any way you please, including commercial for-sale products you may create in the future.
- How they should invoice you. Do you want them to invoice you one per month? How will you pay them? Paypal? Specify that in the agreement.
Right For You?
Hiring writers for blogging isn’t right for everybody. It really depends on the kind of publication you’re creating and how big you want to be with it.
The next phase of this process is how to manage your writers. As I perfect this process, I’ll share the details here. Management is a key part of the process. These writers don’t share your vision of your site. Also, without clear guidance, your for-hire writers won’t know what to do. They’ll either go off on their own and write whatever comes to mind, or they’ll simply leave. Good management and topic control is crucial to making the ROI of hiring outside writers in your favor.
So, we’ll talk about that one a little later. 🙂 Once I have it worked out.