Your content calendar is full of great topics.
Only problem is this:
You need someone to turn those great topics into great content for you.
You need a fantastic freelance writer.
So you decide to get started looking for high-quality writers online and publish a job listing in a couple different freelance marketplaces.
“This will be easy as pie,” you think. “I’ll be done in a few hours. How hard can it be?”
Reality shows you otherwise: all you get are the same me-too writers who don’t even take the time to read your listing.
As a content marketer, I know what it takes to find and vet high-quality writers for your startup.
It turns out, there’s one simple technique that has made all the difference to me.
But before I get into it, here’s something you might not expect:
High-quality writers can’t be found by searching “high-quality writer”
The best writers aren’t hanging out in a virtual version of The Inklings.
There’s no Writer’s Land where all writers live together in harmony, singing happy songs and eating vegan food.
Nope, I’ve tried to find that place, but it’s not anywhere on the map.
That doesn’t mean writers aren’t easy to find.
Writers ARE easy to find.
We live in a world where anyone can access a basic note editor and a website builder. Click a few times, and all of sudden you are published author (in a blog nobody reads, but no one has to know). So, yeah, writers are everywhere. Go to a marketplace and ask for content, and you’ll get it.
Are these writers any good?
Is their content any good?
The fact is, if you search long enough, you will realize this:
The kind of writers – whether copywriters or content creators – you want are scarce AF.
Do you want content that:
- Commands attention? That will take a great deal of work.
- Builds authority? That will take a lot of time spent on writing.
- Drives action? That will take a clear understanding of your reader’s problems.
Despite their scarcity, high-quality writers exist in the real world. Call them unicorns, gurus, ninjas – whatever you want. At the end of the day, high-quality writers are regular people (well, kind of), just like you and me.
You don’t need magic skills to find a stellar writer. You need the right approach.
And to that end, I present you:
The Breadcrumbs Technique
If you want to find high-quality writers, you will likely commit the same mistake most people make:
You start looking for writers in places where no great writers work, like marketplaces, and hope to find one that among the crowd.
But here’s what you should be doing:
You should be looking at the breadcrumbs that great writers leave online.
Once you find the breadcrumbs…
…you will find the writer who dropped that breadcrumb.
In other words:
If you want to find high-quality writers, search for high-quality content. Whenever you find a high-quality piece of content, it’s because there’s a high-quality writer behind it.
Raising this important question:
But how do you find high-quality content?
Before you get started looking for high-quality content in your industry, let’s define what “high-quality content” is.
Truth to be told, it’s hard to measure what is high-quality and what it’s not; it’s a matter of preference and opinion. Everyone has their own thoughts on what can be considered “high-quality” and what it’s not. BUT, in my smart, beautiful and humble opinion:
High-quality content is any type of content that commands attention, builds authority and drives action.
That’s what it is from the business’s perspective, at least.
From the customer or consumer’s perspective, identifying high-quality content is like identifying porn: you know it when you see it.
As a rule of thumb – whenever you find yourself devouring a piece of content without realizing it – it’s because you consider it high-quality.
Still, I don’t want to leave it up to “your standards of quality.”
That’s the problem with content – anyone can say they write high-quality content without any standards, and call it a day.
Popularity: the only objective parameter to quantify an article’s quality
Just like Kanye, I consider popular content to be high-quality. You may not agree with me, but it’s a simple point of comparison.
When I say popular content is high-quality, I mean this: If you find an article that has been shared or linked to by many people, you conclude: those people must have liked it a lot. Since people only share things that make them look good (later, you will see why), we can assume every piece of content that is shared or linked to with a lot of people is high-quality.
The truth is that one of the best ways to get people to share content is to simply produce great content time and time again.
Now, let me show you 3 methods to find high-quality content pieces based on their popularity.
Note 1: I will focus only on articles because it’s hard to find who writes emails or ebooks. Just know that writers don’t write articles alone, even if that’s the only kind of content you can find.
Note 2: Right now, you will focus on finding writers – not seeing whether they offer freelance content writing services. That’s something you will find out later.
Method 1: Search in your bookmarks
Take a look at your browser’s bookmark list and see what articles you’ve saved. It’s likely you will find many articles that you have found to be high-value for you.
Open all the articles you have in your bookmarks (at least those related to your industry).
Now, look at who wrote each of those pieces of content. In most cases, the author will be shown either at the beginning or at the end of the article.
Finally, copy the authors of those articles, and add them to an Excel sheet.
Too simple, you say? It is. 😃
- Search in your bookmarks for articles in your industry or niche.
- Open all the articles.
- Make a list of all the writers who created those articles.
Method 2: Search your Twitter feed
If you are anything like me (hopefully, not that much), you tweet everything you enjoyed reading related to your industry.
The reason why we share what we like doesn’t just stem from the fact we like sharing with our friends what we are reading.
It also comes from what Jonah Berger calls “Social Currency.” In his book Contagious, he explains:
What we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency. Knowing about cool things—like a blender that can tear through an iPhone—makes people seem sharp and in the know. So to get people talking we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions.
In other words, you share what you like, but also what you want other people to read so you look good as well.
That’s why we’re searching our Twitter feed to see what we have found to be high-quality in the past.
In your Twitter feed, look at the tweets related to the content you want to create. Open all the links that you find relevant. Then look for the writers of those pieces. Just as before, make a list of all the writers that you find.
Check out this article I found in my Twitter feed about creating a side hustle to make extra income:
This article is written by a woman called Andrea Huspeni, who apparently is a professional writer.
Right now, you won’t look around her site to see if she’s a freelance writer or not. You will put her on your list and see that later.
Super simple, isn’t it? 😄
- Go to your Twitter feed.
- Look for the past hundred or so articles you have shared.
- Open each link and see who wrote it.
- Make a list of all the writers.
Method 3: Search in BuzzSumo and Ahrefs
Both tools allow you to search by using keywords and finding content that was highly shared (in the case of BuzzSumo) or highly linked to (in the case of Ahrefs). With both tools, you’ll search for content that has been shared and linked to many times, and see who wrote that content. From there, you can find new writers to contact.
First, head to BuzzSumo and add a keyword related to the content you are trying to write. In the previous example, that would be “side hustle”:
Click “go” and on the next screen, you’ll find a great list of articles with writers who could help you create share-worthy content:
The writers you found have created articles that have been shared over 24,000 times about your specific subject topic. This guarantees these writers are experienced and could help you get more shares for the articles you publish.
Next, go to Ahrefs and repeat the same process:
You found a list of articles that have been highly shared and, most importantly, linked to.
Analyze the writers who have written these articles, and add them to your list.
In the case of both tools, you are doing the same thing: hacking your way to finding and interviewing successful writers.
And you’re doing it with no job listings, no fuzz, no problems. 😄
- Make a list of some keywords related to your industry or niche.
- Go to BuzzSumo, add the keywords you came up before, and search for articles.
- Open all the articles that have the most shared.
- Make a list of all the writers of those articles.
- Repeat this same process with Ahrefs.
Method 4: Search in groups and forums
Writers like to mingle with other fellow writers. They love sharing insights, common problems, questions, or simply enjoy the companionship of other people like them. This is especially true when writers work from their homes alone. :insert joke about writers: 😜
Two awesome places where you can find great writers are in Facebook groups, and to a lesser extent, in Reddit.
Some of the best Facebook groups for writers are:
Reddit, on the other hand, has some specific subreddits for writers, like:
Explore all these communities and see who participates in them. If your industry has specific groups where writers hang out, also visit them and repeat the process of getting to know the community.
In some cases, you may meet new writers who are still trying to make a name for themselves. Because of that, you may find some good deals – a new writer’s price will be lower than an established writer, but their content will still be high-quality.
Important note: I’m not suggesting you should go to Facebook groups looking for bargains or negotiating lower prices. I’m just saying you can find writers willing to work for a bit less of their worth due to their lack of experience or interest in building a portfolio (like I have).
Your ultimate goal is to look for amazing writers who can help you grow your business. So treat them as an asset and investment, not as “something you need to do.”
- Enter at least one group for each social media channel and start looking for writers. Figure out: who has shared content that’s related to what you are looking for? Who seems to be interested in working with companies like yours?
- Engage with each community you decide to participate. Share a few comments or links.
- Only now can you ask an open question to the community to find what you are looking for.
Method 5: Spy on your competitors
Your competitors can be a source of inspiration. I’m not talking about stealing ideas. I’m not saying you should cheat. I’m talking about their writers.
What you want to do is look at the people who write for your competitors, and try to get them onboard.
Just go to your competitors’ blogs, and see who the writers are. Then, follow the advice I explain in the next section, where I show you how to get those writers to work for you.
- Read at least 3 of your competitors’ blogs and see who writes for them.
- Visit the writers’ websites and social media profiles, and see whether they are open to work or not.
- If they are, contact them.
Method 6: Ask friends and referrals
Writers love referrals.
How do I know? From all the countless conversations I have had with my fellow writer friends, all of them have told me referrals are their #1 way to get clients.
If you want to reach writers with that same high-quality of work, tap into your network and ask for an introduction from one of your peers. LinkedIn is a great spot to find who can give you an introduction.
If you don’t know a specific writer you want to target, ask your friends and acquaintances for a recommendation.
- Go to LinkedIn and create a status asking for referrals for writers.
- Repeat the same process on Facebook.
- If you know anyone who’s working with a freelance writer, send them an email asking for a referral.
How you separate freelancers from the non-professionals
By now, you have a list of possible writers.
Most of the writers you have found may not be freelance writers for hire. Some of them write to promote their own companies, while others hire ghostwriters (but shush, don’t tell anyone).
In many cases, even if the writers would work for you, they won’t have any availability. In some other cases, they won’t be interested due to many reasons (such as your business, your budget, your terms).
Maybe you’re thinking: Aren’t all writers desperate for work?
Well, sunshine, that might be true for some writers.But we are talking about the crème de la crème writers, the top dogs, the pros. These writers have so many clients, you will have to work harder to partner with them.
Even if you offered them to pay $1 per word, they won’t be interested in writing for you.
So, your first step is to separate the freelance writers from the non-freelance ones.
To do that, you’ll have to research the writers you found with 3 steps:
- Look for the writer’s LinkedIn and Twitter profiles
- Hunt down their personal website
- See if they mention freelancing or writing services in their profiles or their website
Let’s walk through this process by analyzing the writers you found previously from your Ahrefs and BuzzSumo searches.
That’s a good sign. But your search isn’t over yet.
Below her author bio are some links. The first one leads to her website. Her website doesn’t mention anything about freelance or writing services. Just before you send her an email, you find the following:
Clearly, she’s clearly not a freelance writer, so we’re moving on your list.
Fast-forward some time later, you find the following article from Forbes:
Ryan Robinson, the writer of the article, defines himself as a content marketer. This makes you sit up straight in your chair.
In that page, he clearly states his consulting work and his price. That’s a bingo!
Next, repeat the process with BuzzSumo.
The first article you found on BuzzSumo was for CBC News written by two reporters called Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja. A quick research shows both reporters work for CBC News. Meaning: they are both employed and not available for freelance work.
A shame, as the article was really good and by far the most shared, but you’ll have to keep looking.
In her Twitter profile you find the following:
Just to be safe, you check her website.
Immediately, you see that she’s clearly available for work:
You have a writer – score!
Repeat that process with all the writers you have found. At the end, you should have at least 2 or 3 writers in your pipeline.
With the list of freelance writers, now it’s time to contact them.
- Take the list of writers from the previous section and analyze their social media profiles.
- Check their websites for more information.
- If you clearly see on their website that they offer writing services, leave them on your list or create a separate list. Next, you’ll be contacting them (we’ll get into that in just a min).
- If you can’t find anything on their website that indicates they offer freelance writing services, email them asking about their services. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
How to contact freelance writers so they wanna work with you
All high-quality writers have 1 thing in common: they have more clients they can handle.
Due to their high demand, high-quality writers are more used to rejecting clients than accepting them.
Consequently, you must be sure to contact the writers with care. You can’t just send them an email asking for one 500-words article (please, don’t do that) and then complain when no writer answers you.
How you contact high-quality freelance writers is key to get their attention and respect.
Think of your email as a pitch, not as a contact.
A contact sounds as if you are doing them a favor; like you’re their boss and you call the shots. No freelance writer who respects herself likes being treated that way.
The former, in contrast, makes it look as if they are in charge of helping your company grow. They are the experts who know what they are doing and you follow their advice.
3 elements to snare an in-demand writer’s attention
Your pitch must have 3 elements to spike the interest of a top-notch writer:
- An understanding of the writer’s work and background
- Concise information about who you are and what you do
- A clear idea of what you want from the writer and why he’s the one to help you get what you want
1. Understanding the writer
There’s nothing more annoying than getting a pitch from a potential client who doesn’t know who I am or what I specialize in.
A mediocre writer may not care about this – his job is to churn out content without much care of the quality of his writing.
In contrast, a high-quality writer has a large array of previous work showcasing her skills and background. In many cases, you find this work via a portfolio supplied upon request or a Contently portfolio.
Before you pitch a writer, read at least half a dozen of her previous work so you get an idea of her style.
2. Be clear about who you are and what you do
… So the writer can get an idea of how he can help you.
“You” in this case refers both to yourself or to your company.
If you are an executive looking for a ghostwriter to help you grow your network and increase your authority in your industry, let him know this. Think of this process as if you’re applying for a job – the writer needs to profile you to see if he can help you.
What’s more, explain what you or your company does. Include information on your value proposition, your clients, and any other valuable pieces of information that you think could help the writer get a better idea of who you are.
3. Be clear on what you want her to write and its purpose
You may not be 100% sure of what the writer will end up writing about and that’s cool. BUT, at the least, you have to share a basic outline of your content strategy.
- Your content marketing goals
- What you have written about
- Your target audience or personas
- What you have gotten so far from your content marketing
- What content you like, so the writer can get inspired or emulate
Also, by explaining the work’s purpose, she gets motivated. There’s nothing better for a writer to feel like her works have an impact and belong to a larger purpose than itself.
Your pitch template to a high-quality freelance writer
Perhaps you’re wondering,
How would a pitch that includes all these elements sound?
I made a template for you to adapt:
My name is [NAME], [ROLE] of [COMPANY], a [STATEMENT OF COMPANY / VALUE PROP].
I’ve seen your work on [SITE] and I loved it. I liked how well you talked about [TOPIC] and the steps you laid out.
I’ve been looking for content on [TOPIC1] and [TOPIC2]. Since you have experience with both topics, I think you could help [company] grow its traffic.
I’d like to discuss this opportunity further somewhere late this week. How does [DATE + TIME WITH TIME ZONE] work for you?
Have a great day,
- Develop a pitch similar to the one I showed you before
- Pitch the writers you discovered
Finding high-quality writers ain’t easy (but it’s WORTH it)
Truth be told: there aren’t that many good writers creating high-quality content.
Meaning: hiring high-quality writers is a complicated matter. You’ll need to do your research.
But it’s time well-invested, so your content stands out again and again.
To find and hire high-quality writers, do these 4 steps:
- Find high-quality content
- Find the writers of the content
- Vet them to see if they are available for work
- Pitch them to attract them
Have you struggled to hire writers? What, in your opinion or experience, makes a writer worth hiring?