Good writers are in high demand. The issue is, there seem to be hundreds of thousands of individuals claiming to be exceptional writers. Even worse, the quality of those writers varies so much, it feels like a shot in the dark to find the right one. Even if you ask for proposals, you may find that many submissions are from individuals who have no business being a writer. So how do you find the diamond in the rough?

  1. Be willing to pay what a writer is worth.

A real writer and content creator cannot survive on $0.01 a word or $10 a blog. If this is their profession, they live in the US, and English is their first language, then they are trying to make a living, just like you. That means, it may cost you more than you expected to hire a gifted writer. Even writers who are just starting out in the business, are going to charge you at least $40.00 an hour. You have to remember, these writers are self-employed and so have to pay for their own self-employment taxes, health insurance, PTO, etc. Just as you expect to make a living in your business, a writer is no different. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and if you want experience, expect to easily double and/or triple the hourly rate.

     2.   Ask for samples.

Whether you’re hiring a freelance writer who is just starting out, or a more experienced writer, they’ll have samples. If they’re a writer—they write. Even if they can’t show you work from a client, due to contract specifications, they’ll have a blog or articles published online which will display their skill. A writer can’t help but write so if they have nothing to show you, then you need to move on, they’re not someone you want to do business with.

     3.   Bring up Style Guides.

Any writer worth their salt knows and follows a specific Style Guide. The four big ones are APA (American Psychological Association), AP (Associated Press), MLA (Modern Language Association), and CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style). No matter what style guide your chosen writer uses, the key is, they should have a preference and they should know what a Style Guide is. A Style Guide is a manual that specifically outlines the grammar, punctuation, and formatting guidelines that a piece of content should follow. The four Style Guides above are universally accepted, most of the time, it’s just a matter of preference.

  • AP—is used in journalism.
  • CMOS—is used in book publishing.
  • MLA & APA—are used most often in academic writing.

     4.  Ask for an outline of work with deadlines and key milestones. 

If you have a large project, whether you’re asking for website copy, a book, a series of blogs, or something else entirely, your chosen writer should be able to provide you with a brief outline of his or her scope of work. You don’t just want someone who knows how to write, you want someone who can write with a business mindset. You have deadlines and you need a writer who knows how to accomplish the task and meet your goals. By asking for an outline of the project, you test your chosen writer to see if they are methodical, thoughtful, and deadline-oriented. There’s nothing worse than hiring a writer only to find out a month into it, that while they may write well, they can’t follow through to completion.

     5.   Provide an opportunity for questions.

An experienced writer will have a list of questions ready to go before every assignment. In fact, they’ll refuse to begin work on the project until they receive your responses. What types of questions should you look for?

  • Can you give me characteristics of your voice? As a client, you need to be ready with your voice. What do you sound like? Are you enthusiastic? Are you ultra-conservative? Are you hip and young? Be prepared to give examples and answer clarifications from your chosen writer.
  • Within your field, do you have specific word choices? If you’re in social media, do you use “platform,” “page,” or something else entirely when referring to different social media websites? If you own a restaurant, how do you refer to your customers? Do you call them “clients,” “customers,” or “guests?”
  • Do you have a writing sample? A writing sample can be a big help to your chosen writer. A good writer is also a good mimic and a writing sample, even a 500 word blog, can provide invaluable direction and focus. Even if you don’t have a writing sample of your own, find a sample from another website, book, or new article that you want to mimic and provide that.

Although the five tips above are not all inclusive, they are a good starting point to ensure you know how to find a qualified writer. In the end, paying for the right writer will save you a lot of headache and frustration. And to be truthful, it will be cheaper because a good writer is also a quick writer.  So while you may pay more per hour, what you get out of the hour, will be well worth the cost.