How to Hire and Attract Talented Freelance Content Writers
Most content marketers know the pain of spending hours editing sub-par pieces from writers who had great looking portfolios on the surface. This article will show you how to identify and attract the creme de la creme of freelance writers for your niche, based on methods we use at Grizzle.
We also asked some talented content writers what attracts them to their favourite brands, so you can do the same.
Here, we’ll explore both categories and the specific job boards, Slack groups and online communities that have worked well for us.
1. Posting to relevant job boards
Here’s a list of job boards that thousands of freelance writers use to find gigs:
- ProBlogger: ProBlogger’s job board is popular in the freelance writing community. Costs start from $70 to advertise your job for 2 weeks
- Blogging Pro: Blogging Pro charge $30 to post a job opening for 30 days
- Upwork: Quality can be hit and miss, but with a well-organised vetting system, there are plenty of strong writers
- AngelList: A popular job board in the startup and tech world. Free to post jobs on
- ContentUK: Run by yours truly! A small job board for freelance and full-time UK content marketers, and jobs are free to post
- Freelance Writing: A huge freelance writing job board, and ot’s free to add gigs
Understand that writers are partners, not a commodity. We spoke with Andy Shore, Content Manager at Benchmark about this:
You don’t always find the perfect writers from the start. It’s a process. As you work with them month-to-month, they begin to ‘get’ your style and audience.
Good writers tend to follow the outline I write and conduct research in a reliable manner. They’re pretty open to notes & feedback. I’ve got a lot of content to manage at Benchmark! By using freelance writers, I don’t have to worry about taking the time to write all the content out, and get it done in a pretty cost-effective manner. Hiring contract writers keeps costs down vs. full-time staff.”
Looking for more channels to attract writers? Blogging Wizard put together a huge listicle of freelance job websites suitable for a number of roles. Check out 23 to 36 for boards suitable for writing jobs.
2. Utilize freelance writing communities
Freelance writers are often active in micro social communities. These can range from public social spaces (Twitter, Reddit) to small private communities (Slack, meetup groups).
Slack Groups: There are many niche marketing Slack groups where talented writers frequent. These often have their own #jobs channels which aren’t overly congested, making it easy to reach writers and share job posts. Here are a few of our favourites:
Unicorn Think Tank: A medium-sized (invite only) Slack group in the marketing community filled with high calibre marketers. The #jobs-board channel has ~500 members.
Freelance Group: This Slack community (created by freelance B2B writer, Elise Dopson) is a tight circle of brilliant freelance writers. There is a #job-listings channel (80+ followers) where high-quality and well paid gigs are shared. The group is strictly invite-only for freelancers but i’d be happy to share gigs in the channel if you send one over.
Speaking of Elise, I asked her what she liked about working with particular brands. Here’s what she had to say:
I’m attracted to brands who treat their freelancers as a part of the team and a specialist–not a company who see freelancers as “the cheaper option” while treating them like an employee.
I had a situation a few years back where the person hiring me was paying peanuts for my writing, and expected me to do a handful of free add-ons because he was “already paying for my time”. Since then, I’ve steered clear of anyone who gives me the “employee” vibe. I’m a specialist working with you, not for you!
You can usually spot Freelance writers partaking in weekly conversations on Twitter:
- #ContentClubUK – every Tues at 11am (GMT)
- #FreelanceHeroes Hour – every Wed at 8pm (GMT)
- #FreelanceChat – every Thurs at 5pm (GMT)
- #ProCopyChat – every last Wed of the month at 11am (GMT)
- #GoWithThePro – every Thurs at 8pm (GMT)
These conversations tend to involve a set of questions around work processes (e.g “what are your top tips for productivity?”). Freelancers then tweet their responses, including the hashtag to join in on the conversation. Search for relevant hashtags (as above) to discover a pool of freelance writers. For example, here’s a question asked in a recent #contentclubuk discussion:
Good old-fashioned in-person meetups are ideal for connecting with freelance writers (while building rapport face-to-face).
Here are some resources for discovering meetups frequented by freelance writers:
- UK Content Meetups (curated by me)
- The Edinburgh Freelance Friday Night Meetup Group
- Creative Freelancers (New York)
3. Ask your network for referrals
Talented writers tend to know other talented writers!
Go through your personal contacts, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers. Make a list of writers who may regularly work with freelancers. Then, reach out to them with what you’re looking for.
In fact this is precisely how I started working with Grizzle, after receiving this message from Tom on LinkedIn:
4. Source niche writers from dedicated boards
Here’s a tactic you can utilize if you’re looking for a specialist freelance writer (e.g in accountancy, science, cryptocurrency etc.). These can often be trickier to source than marketing writers!
Let’s say you’re looking for a cryptocurrency writer. First, head to Google and search for phrases like “best crypto blogs”. Usually, you’ll see some listicles appear. Here’s an example from Detailed:
Make a list of high-quality writers from these listicles by following this process:
- Manually go onto each blog and start flicking through the content
- Shortlist the blogs that use guest-writers as opposed to only in-house writers
- Flag high quality content that covers topics you’re interested in
- Note the author’s name and contact details if provided
Contact the authors on your shortlist directly and pitch your writing gig to them. Here’s an outreach template you can use:
Hi [first name],
Just getting in touch after reading your brilliant post about [post title] for [publication name].
We’re putting together content on similar topics like [x, y, z] at [your company] and have a writing opportunity that may appeal.
Let me know if this is something you could be interested in and I’ll send over more details!
5. Partner with a content agency
One way to save yourself the hassle of the above is to outsource the work to a content agency (such as Grizzle ?).
When it comes to identifying reliable agencies, make sure you get answers to the following questions:
- Can the agency share examples of content produced for other clients?
- Can they walk through how they’d approach solving your content problem?
- How have they helped clients with similar issues to yours?
- What results did they get for clients in regards to specific problems?
Gather proof around whether they’ve solved problems similar to yours. If you’re looking to optimize old content, ask for the metrics behind the work they’ve done e.g. “percentage increase in user sign-ups”.
Asking thorough questions can help you scope out whether an agency is reliable from the outset as well as the quality of their work. At Grizzle, we have a bank of exceptional writers with subject matter expertise in specific fields. We train them to use our proven content marketing methodologies, while allowing them to inject their stories and expertise into the content we create for clients.
Tips from an inbound marketing expert
I asked Veronika Baranovska, Inbound & Content Marketing Manager for Sendible, the question: how do you find quality writers for Sendible?
Here’s her advice-packed response:
It’s no easy task to find quality writers, and I’ve found that it’s even harder to find ones that will understand the industry along with the values and personas for the brand!
At Sendible, we aim for authenticity on our blog. When working with freelance writers, it’s important for our team to know that the topic is not only well-suited for us, but that it also matches the freelance writer and their experience. For example, if they don’t have any social media presence, we wouldn’t hire them to write about social media, even if they are pro at SEO.
To find quality writers, I’d recommend the following steps:
1. Search for them on Google, especially if you are after creating content that ranks well in search engines (for example, we’d look for “B2B/SaaS freelance copywriter” or similar).
2. Check relevant industry blogs for great writers who don’t write for your competitors.
3. Confirm their quality through their work. Confirm they’d be a good fit for your brand (think values, voice, tone and such). If the work is not publicly available, ask for samples.
4. Ask for a referral. Ask fellow marketers and business owners if they know someone matching your description. Some of our best freelance work came through referrals.
5. Consider a freelancer platform or service. This can be more expensive if you’re looking for quality, but great when you need a specialist. Tip: If it sounds too cheap, it probably is and it’s not worth your time!
If you go through these approaches and still need to broaden your reach, our friends at Smart Blogger have a list of 33 channels where talented writers are looking for work. Reverse engineer these tips to get in front of the right creators for your content strategy.
How to attract high-quality writers
Sometimes, the best writer for the job isn’t looking at job boards, or active in communities like those we’ve outlined above. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in them.
Here, we’ll outline the process we use at Grizzle to proactively find and attract great writers with subject matter expertise.
Craft an enticing job description for freelance writers
The job description is your chance to shine!
Common mistakes with job descriptions include being too wordy, using stuffy copy and only listing what you need from the writer without referencing the benefits to them.
Here’s what you should include in your job description:
- What the role entails
- Information about your company
- What you are looking for in a writer
- Benefits of working with your company (a key part of a job description that many exclude!)
For example, here’s how we do this at Grizzle:
How you position your company’s product or service, on both the job description and other touch points, can entice (or put off) writers.
You should let your company values and culture shine in everything you do. Freelance writer Marijana Kay explains what she looks for in a job description:
One of my favorite traits of good companies to work with is the way they treat their product(s). I find it really hard to write about something I don’t feel passionate about, so when a client shows that they deeply care about the way their product affects their customers, it’s a signal that I should too.
Consider a retainer model
One of the biggest pain-points experienced by writers is having a steady and reliable stream of freelance work.
After talking with our own writers and experimenting with different models at Grizzle, we’ve found a monthly retainer model gets new writers excited the most. For example, $x a month for 4 articles.
Pay your writers well
When you’re on a budget, it’s tempting to avoid paying premium prices for writers.
You may have difficulty articulating to your boss the long-term ROI of high-quality writers.
But let’s say your company’s product is worth $1,000 per month. You need blog posts that will drive traffic and generate quality leads, and want to hire a freelancer to take care of the job. You’re faced with a choice of two writers:
Writer 1: charges $150 for the post. Their portfolio seems okay. However:
- The writer totally misses the brief. This means your content manager spends hours rewriting the post instead of other lead generation tasks.
- The copy is unengaging. Google Analytics shows a high bounce rate, low conversions, low time spent on page. Readers are likely unengaged and not entering the marketing funnel.
- The post is unoptimised for SEO. It’s ranking poorly after 6 months.
The missed lead generation opportunity is high. Let’s compare this to:
Writer 2: £400 for the post. Their portfolio looks brilliant.
- The writer gets the brief spot on. Minimal editing is required. Your marketing team can focus on other high-ROI activities.
- The content is value-driven and engaging: The avg. time spent on page is high, signalling trust from your target audience. They start entering your funnel via contextual and targeted CTAs.
- It’s optimised for SEO: The post quickly ranks on Google and generates lots of organic traffic.
Over 12 months, which writer will have generated the most revenue for the company?
As Gareth Hancock puts it, quality writers are attracted to brands that understand the value they’re bringing to the table:
For me, a brand that understands the value of content marketing is a massive tick. If they get the importance of content, they usually get the importance of good writing and good writers. That means they’re willing to give me the time and resources I need to come up with the right words.
Note that the average day rate for UK copywriters in 2019 is £349:
How to qualify writers
Once you’ve identified potential writers, you’ll want to assess whether they’re a good fit for your company.
Here’s a process to help you screen and measure your writers:
1. Assess their portfolio
Have a look through the candidate’s writing portfolio and take note of quality indicators:
- Do they demonstrate expertise in your niche? Someone who’s an exceptional SaaS writer may not be the right person for your crypto blog. Be careful not to cut corners here! Niche writers with specific expertise may come at a premium, but the alternative is content layered with incorrect facts. This can leave readers distrusting not only your content, but your entire brand.
- Is their writing style a good match for your brand? Someone may be superb at writing corporate content, but may struggle to with a more personal and light-hearted tone.
- Have they written for similar companies?
- Is their content accurate with minimal grammar mistakes?
- Are links to data are credible and attributed correctly?
- Is the writing easily digestible for your intended audience?
- Do they use structure to good effect?
2. Run a paid pilot project
It’s hard to assess how a writer communicates with clients through a portfolio alone. Not to mention the quality of work they’ll deliver compared against their portfolio.
Running a paid pilot project (as we do at Grizzle) can be a low-risk way to test this. Here’s how:
- Provide the writer with a brief and set an agreed deadline.
- Offer relevant feedback once you’ve received a draft (i.e areas that could be expanded upon, tone of voice etc.) and allow the writer to make adjustments. ((We’ll cover more on creating freelance writer briefs and providing feedback in Part 2 of this series)
- During the pilot project, keep in mind the following questions:
- Did the writer meet the deadline?
- Did they ask clarifying questions to truly understand what you’re looking for?
- Did they meet the brief?
- Did they take into account any brand guidelines provided?
- Did they listen to feedback?
The above exercise should provide you enough insights to gauge whether the writer is a suitable fit for future projects.
3. Include qualifying questions in your application
Typically, job descriptions for writing gigs request a portfolio and cover letter. This low entry barrier can leave companies inundated with applications (we had 400 applications for a writing gig we posted to Pro Blogger!).
Adding an extra step of questions during the application phase can help qualify suitable writers earlier on. Add questions to flag any deal-breakers (the writer’s lead time, long term goals, compensation expectations, expertise areas etc).
As an example, here some questions candidates must answer to apply for writing gigs at Grizzle:
We include questions around their strengths weaknesses to help us identify their self-awareness; a key attribute for taking on feedback and iterating.
Once you've found a writer that's a good fit for your brand, it's time to empower them to do their best work. Continue to part 2 of our freelance writers series where we cover how to do just that.