This month I started another round of hiring. I’ve been really inspired by other bloggers lately, including Anne over at Yeys.com who works with her team to pump out 150 pieces of content each month.
My content production each month has been OK, but I’m never quite happy with it. I go back and forth a lot between wanting to write more content myself to wanting to hire more out just to get things published faster.
The truth is, with just me and two other writers, it has been getting harder and harder to meet my goal of publishing 50 posts per month. A few months ago I purchased 100 articles from TextGoods and that helped keep my numbers up for a few months.
Hiring a Content Service
If you are just starting to play with the idea of hiring a writer to help with the content on your blog, using a service that specializes in that is probably the best way to go.
I have done it both ways and using TextGoods is absolutely a lot easier. The owner, Dane Eyerly, maintains a large, well-trained writers pool. It eliminates a lot of the upfront work that has to be done to find good writers.
While I appreciate being able to send over a keyword list and just let Dane’s team handle it, that comes at a cost too. His team is good, I don’t have to train them and I very rarely have to edit their articles.
Dane is able to wrap that all up into one cost as part of the service, but ultimately that means that the per-word cost is roughly double what an article costs me when I hire my own writers directly.
For a while, I had a backlog of content I could pull from to help boost my numbers. I think I have 15 TextGoods articles left to publish and a couple dozen from myself and other writers. But then I’m out. And I know there is no way of hitting my goal of 50 with my two existing writers only turning in 8-10 articles a month combined.
Deciding To Hire
So…that means I needed to decide to order more content or hire again. As nice as it is to order content and let someone else deal with hiring and training writers, checking for plagiarism, etc. It’s also expensive. Too much so for the quantity of articles I want to start producing on a regular basis.
Hiring writers makes more sense for me in the long run so this month I decided to just go ahead and bite the bullet and get it done and over with. Once the hiring process is over, writers are relatively easy to manage, but hiring can be difficult.
My process is inspired by Anne over at Yeys.com. If this kind of thing interests you, definitely check out her blog post about how she hires writers for her niche sites. but tweaked for my own personal needs. Here is a breakdown of my process.
Place an Ad on Upwork
I use Upwork exclusively for now. California has some weird laws about who does and doesn’t qualify as a 1099 employee.
In order to feel comfortable hiring freelancers directly I would need to consult a lawyer and a $400 – $600 consultation fee is, for now, better spent actually paying writers.
So UpWork it is.
I have had more than a few questions on the Project24 forums about my ad copy. There really isn’t much to it. This time I mixed it up a bit. I have two ads looking for two different types of writers.
Ad Copy for Common Niches
Most of my sites are in what I consider to be “common” niches. For me this means that almost any decent writer should be able to research the topic and create a well-written article even if they don’t have specific experience.
The ad copy is usually something like:
I am looking for a writer who can complete blog articles on a variety of topics on an on-going basis. Payment is per word, most articles are 1200 – 2500 words. Please provide your rate based on 1,000 words.
These are “ghostwritten” articles. No attribution will be provided. You will be asked to sign a separate freelance writing agreement.
Work is on an ongoing basis for a writer who can submit quality work and meet deadlines consistently. Articles that do not pass Copyscape will not be accepted. I ask that you be able to commit to at least two articles per week if selected for a long-term position.
Writing for me, you will need to follow specific templates that I will provide. You will need to cite your sources for all articles.
You don’t have to have tons of experience in writing to apply. New writers who are willing to learn are welcome to apply as well.
You must be able to fluently write American English. Native speakers preferred but are not required for excellent writers.
Submit a writing sample with your cover letter to apply. If your application is selected, you will receive 1 paid test article to complete within 3 days. I look forward to hearing from you!
*If you have a preference or specific experience among these topics that you feel you can best write about, please specify in your cover letter.*
– Star Trek
– Pool Maintenance
– Star Wars Trivia
The topic list at the bottom is typically a general list of my niches. This part has actually worked out well for me because I learn a little bit about a writer and often they will elaborate why they prefer one niche over another.
I set the job at a $12.00 fixed rate because you have to put an amount when creating a job listing on Upwork. You may note that I also bolded the part about, please provide your rate based on 1,000 words.
The applicants will almost NEVER submit a proposal with their amount per 1,000 words.
Almost always it will be buried in the text of their proposal, which is a pain and I do need to figure out a way to make it more clear that their proposal should be submitted for the amount they desire.
What can I say, it’s still a work in progress.
Ad Copy for Specific Niche
For one of my niches I prefer American writers with specific experience in the niche. In this niche, imposters would be spotted immediately and, since I put my name on the articles AND have significant EAT in the industry, I want to make sure the content is spot on. This ad is therefore tooled to target that type of writer.
The ad copy is usually something like:
Manatee Bloggers Wanted
I run a manatee blog and would like to add a few ghostwriters to my team. **Manatee experience is a must.**
These are “ghostwritten” articles. No attribution will be provided.
The articles you will be writing are very basic, common sense things to a manatee lover, bordering on “do people really want to know this about manatees?”
If your test articles pass, you will need to sign a freelance writer contract to continue writing for me at which time you will be able to choose which topics you write.
I will provide a rough guideline for the article but you will need to do research when necessary. Otherwise, you have creative liberty with how to write the article as long as it is accurate and family-friendly.
The initial job will be for one test article between 1250 and 1500 words. All articles are paid by word count. Please quote your rate per 1,000 words.
The ideal person will be able to complete at least 1 – 2 articles per week on an ongoing basis.
In this case, I do also ask them to answer an industry-relevant question when submitting a proposal. This is something like:
“What is your favorite manatee viewing location and why?”
For this type of job post, I typically set the price at $15 and get bids ranging from $12 per 1,000 to $100.00 per 1,000.
Evaluating applicants is the easiest part and is typically pretty quick. I look at a few things when deciding whether or not to move forward with a particular writer. These include:
- Rate – My max is 2 cents a word right now. Period. Writers who bid more than that are archived.
- Proposal – Is their proposal well written? Did they seem to have used a blanket proposal for the job or did they actually read my job post and write a response specifically too me?
- Profile – I read through their profile. Is it well written?
- Reviews – Do they have reviews? Are they good/bad?
- Sample Articles – Did they include sample articles? I’ll typically read a minimum of 2-3 samples.
Plenty of writers can’t be bothered to even read the job post before submitting a proposal. They will copy and paste some blanket statement. This round, for example, I had people that included proposals about their awesome sales copy or marketing and SEO skills.
They didn’t even mention how much they love manatees!! The nerve!
I can’t be bothered to hire writers who can’t be bothered to respond to my post like they actually read what I wrote so these applicants are rejected immediately.
What if you don’t get very many applicants?
It isn’t uncommon for me to receive a lot of applicants but I do believe part of that has to do with the fact that I have spent a lot of money on UpWork.
Freelancers can see how much a prospective client has spent on UpWork, job postings, and Client ratings and use that to make a decision whether or not to submit a proposal for your listing.
If you are new to UpWork and aren’t getting enough proposals, keep in mind that you can browse freelancer profiles and invite up to 15 of them to submit a proposal.
As you spend more money on UpWork, you will start to get more and more freelancers applying for your jobs.
Sorting Through Applicants Quickly
The easiest way I have found to quickly go through applicants is by using the very handy thumbs up or thumbs down button on applicants.
👍 Thumbs up means you have shortlisted the applicant. This lets me know I wanted to followup with them and hire a test article.
👎 Thumbs down means you don’t want to move forward with the application. The best part about UpWork is that they don’t tell the applicant that you have given them the thumbs down so it isn’t like they will get a rejection email or anything.
Tracking Writer Applicants in ClickUp
At this stage, writers who go the thumbs up get moved into ClickUp so I can track them better. I get them set up in ClickUp for tracking before I hire them so that I can properly track them through the process.
If you don’t have a ClickUp account yet, you can get started for free. In fact, their Free plan is probably sufficient for 90% of bloggers. Here is my referral code which earns me points 😀
Doing this has for sure saved me hours. Last time I hired I didn’t use ClickUp and the process felt very disjointed. This time, I always knew exactly what was going on with any specific writer.
To start, I create a folder called “Human Resources”. That folder has two lists. One called “Hiring” and one called “Active Writers”.
The “Hiring” list is where I keep track of all my applicants. This list is setup with the statuses of:
- In Communication – I use this status when I have a question to ask before sending an offer.
- Offer Sent – I have sent the writer an offer to write the first test article.
- In Progress – The writer has accepted the offer to write the test article. They will stay in this status through both test articles.
- On-boarding – The writer has successfully completed the test articles and I have sent them details about being added to the team, including my writing contract and ClickUp On-boarding videos.
- Not Hired – I chose not to hire the applicant.
In addition, I take advantage of the custom field options in ClickUp and set up a custom field for notes, progress, rate/1,000, and Rating.
I then set up my list view columns and the result is an area where I can easily see which stage each applicant is in at any given time.
Once in the system, I add the writer evaluation checklist to the task. If the writer makes it to the on-boarding phase, I add the writer on-boarding checklist. That looks something like this.
Writer Progress Tracking
As the writer goes through each stage I’ll add notes to the task via the comments section. This is a pretty typical result for a writer that was not hired.
The first comment is just a link to the card for the article the writer was hired to write. Next, my review or thoughts about the article. In this case I decided to proceed with a second test.
I link to that task as well as make note of a specific article to compare to during Plagiarism checks.
Every step of the way I am recording my thoughts and notes in ClickUp on that writer’s task. I write the comments as if someone else would be reading them.
I try to do everything in my systems as if I had a larger team. Even at this stage I write the comments as I would want my VA to write them if I had someone helping with the writer evaluation phase.
My process for deciding which test articles to assign is pretty specific as well. I have a few types of posts in my system. Most common are:
- List Posts
- Informational Posts
- Money Posts
List posts and informational posts make up 90% of what my writers would be expected to write. As such, each potential applicant is asked to write one of each.
I am still experimenting with which post type is best to offer initially. On one hand, list posts should be so easy that if they screw them up it would be a clear “no” for that writer.
On the other hand, they are so easy that even a bad writer can often turnout a good list post.
Informational articles are typically the more difficult of the two. So if a writer nails the informational article first pass, that is almost a sure sign that the writer will pass the list post test and make it into the system.
On the other hand, if they fail the informational article, they usually fail hard and the post is not usable or requires quite a bit of work to salvage.
For now, I just pick one and move on with my day. At some point I may get more structured for this process.
Hiring the Test Article
I’ll send the writer an offer of a fixed price project at their 1,000 word rate. UpWork uses an escrow system so this means I have to put the money in escrow before the offer is sent to the writer.
I let the writer know that the escrow amount is for 1,000 words and that any words over 1,000 in the final article will be paid as a bonus at the same rate.
This works out well for me typically. All of the articles I assign are between 1200 and 1500 words. Sometimes a writer struggles hitting the 1200 words but, they almost always are able to hit 1,000 words without issue.
At this time I also send over the Content Brief so they know what they are agreeing to write.
The Content Brief
Have you checked out Anne’s site yet? If not, you should. I came up with this process by reading about her process. You’ll notice it is the same theory with a very slightly different implementation.
Because of that I’m not going to go over the whole thing here. Just read her post. I will, however, give you an example of my content brief.
Main Topic: Captain Picard – History and Modern Influence
Length: 1200 – 1500 Words
Possible Sub Topics:
- Origin / Early Life
- Why He Chose Starfleet
- Command of the Enterprise
- X Times Picard Violated the Prime Directive
- Life with the Borg
- Legend and Legacy
Please refer to the following guidelines:
- Post Style Guide – Link to Guide
- Informational Post Guide – Link to Guide
All of my writers are informed that they may add subtopics if necessary based on their research. They can also eliminate a suggestion or two if necessary but that rarely ever happens.
Some of my niches I don’t know all the answers so I’ll ask questions and advise them how to proceed if yes vs. if no.
Sometimes I know there should be a list but I don’t know how many items will be in it. In that case I’ll use an X like the above.
Also, if you use an X…clarify with your writers it does not mean 10. So many writers get confused and think they need to come up with 10 items when I put X (or 20 when I used to use XX). So I am careful to clarify now.
During the hiring process, writers upload their articles directly to UpWork. I try very hard to review them within 24 hours. I pay by the word count. As part of the evaluation, I am looking at three main factors:
- Does the article pass Copyscape
- Is the article Plagiarized or does it borrow too heavily from other articles on the same topic.
The first thing I do is download the article and read it. I am looking for a few things:
- Does it make sense
- Does it flow well
- Any major grammar or spelling mistakes
I also note word count. I don’t change anything or do any fixes at this point. I try never to edit the original document that was submitted.
Next, I run the article through Copyscape. I’ve never had an article not pass, but I’ve had a few come back as 3% or 5% copied and you better be sure I take a much closer look at those articles.
Not everything Copyscape registers as “copied” is actually copied so this isn’t an automatic rejection.
Check Against the Top 10
Lastly, I check the article against the top results in Google. Because I have a few sites that overlap content, I will sometimes ask a writer to write an article for a keyword that I know I rank #1 for already.
This works out well for me to evaluate writers because I can easily spot if they referenced my site to heavily and because even if they copy too heavily from my own site, I can still use the article without too much work.
I don’t have a lot of posts I do this way but it is one tool in my belt. If I don’t have a relevant article, I’m more diligent about checking what is turned in.
I’ll easily spend 20-30 min on this step when necessary. I’d much rather invest the time up front and catch it early. Once I hire a writer, I’ll typically only go through this process if I suspect something or as a random audit.
It’s the little things in life that make you happy right! As writers turn in articles I give them a rating. ClickUp allows you to use whatever emoji you like for ratings and I use this custom field in a variety of different ways.
In the writer section though, right now I use Tacos. Mostly because that’s what AppSumo uses for their ratings and I think its cool 😛
Writers assigned less than 3 tacos don’t make it through to the next phase. I very rarely give out 5 tacos. My rating system goes something like.
- 🌮 – What did they write? Can’t understand it or not coherent.
- 🌮🌮 – The structure is OK but writing would require more editing than I would like.
- 🌮🌮🌮 – Overall the article is OK. Minor edits required before publishing but edits should take 15 minutes or less.
- 🌮🌮🌮🌮 – Very few, if any edits would be required to publish the article.
- 🌮🌮🌮🌮🌮 – Wow, did I write this? The article could be published with zero edits.
As I mentioned, writers are paid by the word for actual word count. I used to add in disclaimers like “You won’t be paid for the title, quotes, or links.”
The reality is that is more of a pain to include than the few extra cents it costs to just pay them for it. Think about it, most titles are what, 10 words max, at .012 per word that is 1.2 cents for you to waste your time counting how many words are in the title.
When I pay them, I either start the second milestone immediately or I give them a rejection message.
Did you read Anne’s article yet? I use her process for this too. Just a short and sweet message that says thanks but makes it clear they are not being hired.
Onboarding Writers for Long-Term Work
Once a writer has passed all test articles, the on-boarding process is relatively simple. They are provided a training video for ClickUp that explains how to claim posts and get paid.
I give them a contract to sign (provided to Project 24 members as part of the program) and ask them for their email address so that I can add them into the system.
Once I get their contract back, I move their card/task in ClickUp to my “Active Writers” list. Once they are in ClickUp things start rolling pretty automatically from there.
I’ll work on a separate post that covers my writing, editing, and publishing process in more detail.
Congratulations if you have made it this far! Is there anything I missed? Do you have any questions? Leave a comment and let me know!