I'll tell you right now: if you're looking to hire just any freelance writer, this isn't the place for you.
People that want to find really amazing, high-quality, professional content writers... follow me.
I've looked through countless articles (scanned, is more like it) about where to find freelance writers, and it's just... all the same.
The Writer Finder, Upwork, The Content Marketing Institute, and even the Time Doctor (a time tracking app) all give you a list of places like... well, Upwork and the Writer Finder and Fiverr, as places to find and hire content writers.
I'm not saying these aren't valid places to find writers. There are certainly plenty of good writers on freelancer websites.
BUT, I have a lot of reasons for hating on those sites, and you should too.
They set a precedent for cheap content. I get it, these sites are great at connecting a lot of foreign writers with new markets for better pay, but for a lot of highly skilled writers (especially in the US) the pay is shit for most assignments. I honestly avoided it altogether when I started freelancing.
It holds a lot of very inexperienced writers. (I know there are exceptions, but most don't have the skills to write lead generating copy)
These sites take a chunk of the writer's pay. That's not fair to the writer- they're already getting paid less on these platforms.
Companies go on there to specifically look for writers to do a job on the cheap, and they carry this reputation. Which propagates really bad content habits in companies.
Yeah, a lot of these center around pay. You can't get quality on the cheap.
Here's the thing about that though: there are writers that charge entirely too much and don't deserve it & there are writers that charge entirely too little for their quality.
So, where do you get a writer that is both affordable (at least somewhat, though you should expect to pay a little more) and high-quality (they can deliver on SEO, audience targeting, maintain brand voice, and reach goals)?
I'll cover all that below.
What is a Good Writer, and Why Can't You Find Them?
So, there's this general knowledge that platforms like Upwork and Fiverr exist, of course. And because a lot of people don't know where else to turn to when they have an overflow of content, they look for writers there.
When they get there, they're pleased to see that the majority of the projects and writers will do it on the cheap.
I mean, I took a look. The highest rate I could find was $150. But look at all these requests:
$100 for 2,000-3,000 words??? Excuse me.
It gets worse:
I'm tellin' ya, it's a really bad cycle of poor payments that lead to a lack of improvement in content.
(And yes, some of the posts on Upwork are content marketing agencies and companies.)
You're not like them, right? You're willing to pay good money for a good writer. BUT, this is part of the reason why it's really hard to find good writers. So I had to talk about it.
What is a good writer?
Fact is, good writers on Upwork are charging too little, and they're getting drowned out by the majority of bad writers.
Look, there are a lot of great writers out there. But that doesn't mean they're good at producing content for business blogs and can drive leads.
And that's exactly what you need.
I don't care if it's "just blogs" a good writer needs to do the following:
Learn about your brand, voice, audience, products/services, and goals for the content
Gather quotes and information from SMEs, even if they're an expert in the industry.
Optimize for SEO, not just with keywords, but with format, alt tags, and meta data. (Even if you do this yourself, a good content writer should know how to do this)
Add interlinks and external links with keywords as anchor text
Specifically target and write for the audience in the article, not for general consumption (and this is so much harder to do than most realize)
These are the basics.
But so many writers can't master them, because they're never trained to, and they don't even realize they need that kind of training.
All of it can be self-taught. It really can. But most writers don't know that there are other, better ways to produce content. Or that content can even generate money for a business.
And THAT is largely because most businesses don't know how this either. They think it's all about SEO and getting more traffic. But, when you're solving people's problems with content, a single article can do a lot for your business.
Where top marketing directors find great writers
I went around asking Marketing Directors- both within companies and with their own agencies- where they get their freelancers.
Nearly all of them told me it can be difficult to find really good writers. A lot of them have struck out in the past. But their processes for finding good writers seem to align.
Tom Shapiro, the CEO of Stratabeat, providing everything from branding to web design to content, mentioned he finds most of his writers through two channels:
"Finding great writers is difficult, but we've found the most success through two specific channels. The first channel has been referrals. For example, one of our business partners referred a copywriter to us two years ago, and he's completed more than 100 articles for us since that time. He produces between 8K-14K words for us on a monthly basis."
Referrals really truly are a great way to find really good writers, especially if you're working with other companies or agencies in a referral network (meaning, you pass off leads or info to each other to handle overflow).
But it does pose its challenges, since not every writer will fit every organization. What works for one may not work for the other. You also may get regular referrals, or at least have challenges getting those referrals when you actually need a writer (and that writer has the capacity for new work).
Tom has a solution for that as well. His second channel:
"The second channel has been LinkedIn, where it tends to be clear if the person has a great reputation. LinkedIn also has helped us to identify copywriters with specific experience and backgrounds, which has been invaluable."
"I use my personal LinkedIn network to search for freelancers. I can tell a lot about someone's writing skills based on their posts and engagements with others."
Nicole Bump, a freelancer that is building an empire and hiring other freelancers to handle some overflow (essentially transitioning into her own agency) also sees LinkedIn as the place to go for finding great talent.
But I love her comments for the fact that she really gets into the WHY people love looking at writers on Linkedin if they want quality:
"I always suggest finding writers in your own network—or adding them to your network if you don't have any yet. Then keep an eye on what they're sharing. If they produce solid content for their own audiences (e.g. on LinkedIn, on their own blog, etc.), that's probably a good indication they're good writers in general. They've done that research on their own, and they wrote the posts on their own, and it's highly unlikely anyone else edited them, so you're getting a real view of their capabilities."
Essentially, when a writer writes on LinkedIn, it reveals a lot about them. It's a genuine look into their skills as a writer. Their ability to connect with and build an audience from content. The insights they share. Can they write for a target audience?
You can see all of that in the type of content they post.
This isn't a secret to me. It's why I post on LinkedIn every day (okay, I skip a day here and there).
Nicole wasn't done with her insights. She also recommended nDash.
Now, as you read earlier, I'm not totally a fan of writing platforms. But I do believe companies should have diverse ways of looking for writers, and writers should have diverse ways of being found.
Platforms like nDash and MarketerHire have stepped away from the reputation of Fiverr and Upwork as cheap places for writers, and have instead become sources of high-quality marketers.
The quality is better. The prices are generous but not over the top (on nDash at least). Everyone's happy.
One more place to find a writer: Facebook!
There are a lot of really great marketing groups and freelancer groups on Facebook. If you're looking to network with freelancers or even find one right away, you can often post a listing in those groups.
Other places to find freelance content writers for hire
Great marketers know how to market themselves, so it's likely that you'll actually see them in the circuits.
You'll see their articles on trade publications.
Their articles will pop up in organic searches for the questions you're trying to answer (kinda like this article).
You'll hear others in your industry talking about them.
You'll see/ hear them on podcasts.
Read their articles on trade publications you consume.
See their guest posts on your favorite industry blogs.
And/ or... they'll have a following on social media because people see them as experts.
There is a caveat here:
It takes a lot of time to develop this kind of following and not every content writer is great at social media. It takes a lot of time to leverage enough podcasts and guest posts to get any notice.
& It takes a lot of time to gain enough domain authority on your blog to surpass the big giants in marketing. It doesn't happen a lot.
Those that make it this big are often pretty expensive. Kaleigh Moore, for instance, is a very in-demand e-commerce writer. She charges around $1,000 per 1,000 words.
She's been freelance writing for 7 years but really gained her traction as the go-to e-commerce writer 2 years ago.
What am I trying to say?
If you have the budget, pay attention to notorious freelancers with a reputation and following. If you're engaging in your industry, these people should be obvious. People talk about them.
You don't need a notorious blogger to get high-quality content, and it's not always viable.
This is just one method for finding writers and a good way to prove they know what they're doing.
If you find an article you like, find out who the writer is. Maybe they're just starting to get into the publications and guest posting. Either way, if you like it, they can likely produce similar quality writing for you.
You don't have to find someone with a big name. Just find someone engaging in the right places and sharing great content.
I've found a number of clients on Twitter, just from answering questions and engaging with the right people. It goes the other way too.
If a writer is engaging with you, look up the rest of their stuff. See what they're up to. Maybe even read their social content for a while. It's a window to their soul... (oooo)
Takeaways about where to find writers
When you searched for where to find good writers, you'll have found a bunch of listicles telling you to go to Upwork, Fiver, Problogger Job Board, Contently, and even Craigslist...
Don't get me wrong, they have their place.
Also, don't get me wrong, I believe there are quality writers in those communities.
But I think most good content writers, with knowledge of other content marketing practices, know to go where their audience is. NOT the other way around.
Freelancers should consider themselves more like service companies than single entities on the internet.
Most companies market themselves, and understand that buyers need to be nurtured (most of the time) before they're willing to buy-in. I think it's the same with writers.
Buyers have been burned in the past, and so they're a little cautious spending good money. They buy-in because of reputation, noticeable results, good reviews, value propositions, and a good demonstration of why you should buy.
Why should a writer be any different?
In that case, the best place to find good, quality content writers, is in your own communities and networks.
You hang out on LinkedIn, connect with writers there, and read their stuff for a bit.
You hang out on Twitter, pay attention to people's bios. There's a good writer sharing good stuff in marketing already.
Read Fast Company, Content Marketing Institute, Crazy Egg, just pay attention to some of them.
It may be difficult to find good content writers, but maybe you should stop searching and start noticing.