Finding and Vetting Top Notch Freelance Writers

When it comes to building and executing on content strategy today, there’s no denying the impact of freelance writers. They enable you to scale content production—and the best do it while building up the quality and depth of your content.

But the freelance writing market is crowded, and there’s a lot of noise between you and top notch writers out there. There are a lot of places to find writers. So why is it so hard to find good ones?

The most likely answer is this: you aren’t looking in the right places.

Go where the greats are

The best approach to find high quality writers is two-fold: (1) find high quality content and (2) ask around for referrals.

As Ivan Kreimer wrote for Copyhackers last year:

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.

If you’re like me, you consume a lot of content online. When you need a writer, start with by figuring out who’s writing content you love. Who’s writing content your peers love? The answer will often be a freelance writer. They’ve written top content before, and they can do the same for you.

Speaking of your peers, lots of them may already work with freelance writers they love—and there’s nothing writers love more than a great referral (I speak from experience). Ask around your network, and you might be surprised how many names you get.

Reach out to writers you admire

When you find a writer whose work you love, reach out and see if they’re available to write for you.

But.

Always do your research first. Great writers are busy—when you start the conversation before you’ve done the research, you waste their time and yours. Take a look at their past portfolio of work, their website, and social media to answer these questions, at minimum:

Are their rates within your budget?

Do they write in your industry and for companies like yours?

What kind of content or copy do they specialize in?

Are they accepting new clients?

If you find there’s a good fit between the writer and your needs, then reach out. If they were referred to you by someone, ask for an intro to get the relationship moving. Otherwise, write up a clear, concise, and friendly email (or social media message) that outlines:

  • Who you are and what your business does.

  • What you’re looking for from them—what do you want them to write? What are your goals?

  • Why you’re reaching out to them—where you found them, why you think they’re a good fit for your content.

You’ve done your research to qualify the writer’s niche and rates, and you have every reason to expect a positive response. Keep it casual and succinct—and you can hash out the details later.

Pro tip: This can and should be an ongoing process. Build up a network of capable writers, and when you need home run content, you’re standing on second base.

Always do a test project

At the beginning of any working relationship, there’s a feeling-out period for both parties. It’s in the best interest of both of you to test the waters with one initial project before committing to anything long term.

That’s why I always, always, always recommend a test project.

To ensure a smooth start to the relationship:

  • Set them up for success with messaging guidelines, content strategy info, and audience personas.

  • Ask the writer to pitch a few ideas to confirm they get your company and industry.

  • Pay them—top notch writers don’t work for free, period.

The right freelance writer for you

Finding top notch freelance writers is all about starting your search in the right places. Going where the great content is and asking for verified referrals will always be your best bet to find a manageable list of high quality writers to work with.