** Update : As of November, 2010 – We have instituted a lot of the ideas delivered from this post to launch CopyPress : a content development solution that employees over 300 US based copywriters! **
It’s easy to keep repeating the SEO mantra of ‘content is king’, but at the end of the day, sometimes it can be difficult to produce mind blowing and optimized content on a daily basis. Sure, some companies are blessed with a copywriting and public relations team which can churn out content at the flip of a switch, but what about the companies and consultants who do not?
A great copywriter is worth his or her weight in gold, but it can take years to find a writer who can transform what they learned in copywriting school (if one so exists) into SEO and blog post style copywriting; like having a 1,000 word article writer transform their thoughts into the restricted world of Twitter posts or AdWords copy.
For the rest of us, we tend to go onto the web and try such services as eLance or Odesk, which can deliver good people, but a lot of trial and error AND wasted money is needed to find those good people after you’ve burnt through hundreds of bad ones.
So, how do yo find a good copywriter? I’m going to review some tactics which have worked for me and others, along with some resources that should help you along your path.
To start things off, here are some tips we discussed at IM Spring Break on hiring and grading copywriters :
- Never pay for your first article : If you were a magazine, newspaper or other publication, chances are you would require that the copywriter pitches you with a fresh article given the criteria you want. For example, if you have a home improvement site, give the copywriter 2 or 3 ideas for an article, a deadline, the amount of words and other basic info and see what they come back with. If it’s great content, then formulate a copywriting agreement. If it’s not good at all, move on to another writer. At least this way, if you get bad content back, you’ll only be losing money in time, and not paying out a writer. Furthermore, you’ll have an idea on how they are at reaching deadlines and turn around.
- Do They Have a Grasp of SEO? : So once you obtain your first sample article from the prospective copywriter, look at their writing style and their structure. Do they have SEO in mind? I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve spent re-doing a good article with no SEO what-so-ever. If you find a good copywriter, make sure to introduce them to keyword research tools, basic SEO guidelines, and the proper use of headers. This will not only save you editing time, but also will help with your traffic in the long run.
- Formulate a Payment Structure : This is a rather big one in my book. If you are outsourcing a copywriter for the purpose of generating good content for a low price, not to over pay them. I suggest that if you are contracting out to India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Russia or even New Zealand; get a grasp of the local payment structures and common wages. Chances are that you’ll pay way too much if you do not. If the average daily income is $5 and you’re paying someone $10 an hour for their time, something is wrong with the picture. Sure, if the contractor is churning out good content and service, then bonuses are key, but start at a managable and reasonable level so you can move up the payscale when needed, and not overpay in the beginning.I’d like to also add that paying per blogpost or per word is fine, but paying per hour and expecting a certain number of posts per hour can save you a lot of money, and heck, don’t most of us get paid on an hourly scale anyway?
- Performance & Success Metrics : Link I hinted to above, use success metrics to grade your writers. Set up measurable metrics like the number of inbound links, bookmarks, votes and traffic each of their posts receive. This way, you’ll have some numbers behind the performance and this will also incentivize your writers to push your content out via social media networks and communication tools like Twitter. Give your writers that produce the most return different bonuses and keep the ones around who are producing. And if some aren’t, don’t be afraid to let them go because you may be opening up a spot for the next future Rockstar.
So, where to begin finding copywriters?
As I mentioned before, Odesk is a good place to begin. One aspect I really like about Odesk is that it uses screenshots to track the hours worked by the freelancers. So, if you’re paying for 20 hours of work per week, and 5 of those hours you’re seeing nothing is being done or the freelancer is playing World of Warcraft, you can catch them and either reform them or let them go.
Furthermore, Odesk works in a very professional atmosphere, working almost like a matchmaking service, and helps you to interview and select the best people for your job. Then, using Odesk, you also manage your remote development team, so it pretty much has all the services you need rolled into one in terms of managing a copywriting team.
In addition to Odesk, I’m also a big fan of using Craigslist as a recruiting tool for copywriters. By utilizing Craigslist, you can target seasoned professionals in various fields who are in your local area.
- For example, if you have your Home Improvement site, why not look for out of work contractors who can also write? There are a lot of people out of jobs right now who need extra money and live right in your backyard. You never know, you may be able to not only find some really good local writers via Craigslist, but also bring them into the office for a part time or fulltime gig if they do turn out to be the Rockstar who you desire.
- Furthermore, on a personal level I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that I can help out someone in my local area who is highly qualified, and can honestly churn out more work in an hour for a competitive rate (in the office or Starbucks) than an offshore copywriter may charge for just one article.
- By hiring a part time contractor, I can give them the goals of churning out one or two articles or posts an hour, get them commenting on the posts of others and also using their social media networks to assist with our projects. These are also people who have networked in the local business area, and can perhaps bring in new clients or make excellent connections. They know other likeminded local people and can attract other students and interns to our business, and other Twitters via TweetUps.
One other service I’d like to mention today is TextBroker, which is a little different and simpler than the above methods of finding and hiring copywriters. TextBroker is a content generation marketplace which matches your ideas with quality copywriters (with strengths in various categories) who accept jobs and deliver them to you in a timely manner, matching your asking price on the piece of content.
TextBroker’s pricing structure is fairly cheap, and if you don’t like the content as provided by your writer, you can refuse it or ask for a rewrite. If you like it, you can “favorite” the copywriter and work with them via the TextBroker system in the future. TextBroker gives a reasonably priced fixed-word-rate or direct negotiations to get the best price possible. You’re not going to get the best work out of this service, but if you need to churn out 100 articles or posts for a site and need original content (all articles are checked for duplicate content via Copyspace), this might be a good option or alternative.
I only manage copywriters for several projects, but I’m sure there are many readers who manage a lot more. Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.