Content websites and blogs usually start out being written by their owner. This works well because it is cheap, it develops a voice for the website and it helps identify what topics the readers enjoy reading most.
However, once a site is established, it is common for the owner-editor to want to seek help in creating new content. A popular site creates many additional demands on the owner, including answering reader questions, focusing on revenue generation and lots of general site administration. Successful writers also often get drawn into new projects such as consulting, mentoring, public speaking, running workshops and attending conferences.
All these extra demands leave less time for content creation, so how should a site owner go about getting writers to help him/her?
I asked this question to several successful content website owners and have compiled a list of their suggestions.
1) First, Try Free Content
You can announce on your website that you need contributors. Very often, your readers will be more than happy to write an article just to see their name published on the site and to get an inbound link to their own website. Make sure you provide guidelines to all contributors explaining what you will and won’t accept. They should ensure, for starters, that the content is:
• Highly relevant to the target audience
• Not blatant advertising or self-promotion
• Not insulting, libellous or slanderous to other people, competitors, etc.
• Of a similar quality to the content currently on the site
You should also clearly state up front that you have the right to refuse or edit any article submitted for publication.
2) If You Pay, How Much Should You Pay?
If you read many forums, you can find people offering to write blog posts and articles for as little as $5 each. The experience of the publishers I spoke with is you get what you pay for! Typically, they paid between $30/£20 and $200/£150 per article or post. The amount they paid is determined by:
• The length of the article
• The experience of the writer
• How well-known the writer is to the audience
• The complexity of the research required to write the article
3) How Many Articles Should You Get Written By Others?
All the experienced editors gave roughly the same answer: Plan ahead.
They write out a plan for between six and twelve weeks ahead so they have a rough idea of both what topics they want covered and also their own personal schedules. They then allocate the work to the most suitable writers, giving them a tentative publication date for the article. In the online world, you don’t have to be as precise about dates as you do in the offline publishing world.
The content plan should help you get a good mix of your own articles, free contributions and paid contributions.
Some of the editors also suggested having a rolling bank of three or four reserve articles to cover unexpected illness or days away from the computer.
4) Where Can You Find Writers?
All the editors agreed on one point: Hire people with a really good understanding of your subject. Don’t just hire good writers and ask them to research topics in your sector. The audience of a specialist content website will spot the difference.
The best writers will come from your existing audience. Observe which people make the best comments and forum posts, and approach them to see if they will write for you.
Also, do a search for other bloggers in your sector. You will be able to read the quality of their posts on their sites. If you like what they write, ask them to write for you. Many bloggers are looking for ways to make money and will jump at the opportunity to get paid for posts.
5) Do Big-Name Writers Bring Additional Benefits?
The resounding answer was yes! ‘Celebrities’ within your sector add credibility and often bring their own audience. Don’t worry about them being competitors. Your website traffic will grow much faster if you work with similar sites, rather than try to compete with them.
Successful bloggers often exchange articles and links among their sites without money changing hands because they understand the benefits this brings.
6) How Many Writers Should You Have Available?
There was no common answer. Two sites had just two writers they called upon. One site had twenty. Two good points came out of this question. First, the more writers you have, the greater the variety of content. This was generally thought to be a positive thing, but quality needed close monitoring. Second, the more writers you have, the greater the administrative headache they can create. If you take on writers, you need to have good processes in place to manage them.
One publisher also suggested that choosing writers from different parts of the world can both expand the reach of the site as well as provide unique insights.
Another suggested encouraging your approved writers to bid for assignments. (Editor: I’m not sure about doing this, but it is an option you can consider.)
7) How Do You Manage Your Writers?
Some very good points came out of this question:
- Ensure you have a website platform that allows contributors to add their articles (with images) directly to the site. This will greatly reduce your workload.
- Ideally, you should have the ability within your platform to review articles before they go public, but most solutions like TypePad and WordPress don’t allow this.
- Get your writers to invoice you by sending a Payment Request for Money. This allows you to simply log into your PayPal account and click Pay to send them their money.
- Set up a workspace where you can share information with all your writers. One publisher uses Google Docs to share the content plan. Writers can log in and volunteer to write future articles.
- Create an e-mail account for writers so you can keep track of correspondence. This will also enable you to turn over management to someone else as your online business expands.
- Place the burden of invoicing and requesting payment on the writers, but pay promptly to keep them happy.
8) Is There Anything Else You Should Consider When Recruiting New Writers?
A good tip is to create a ‘New Writers Pack.’ This can include:
- Introduction to the website, including the mission and vision for the site going forward
- Terms and conditions to be signed and returned (including who owns copyright of the content)
- Examples of articles to show the site’s voice
- A list of the top ten most popular articles ever published on the site to show what works
- A list of future topic titles
- A list of sources of useful and relevant information
- Contact details
- Invoicing details and process
- Fee structure depending on the article’s length
Hiring content helpers is an inevitable step for successful specialist website owners. If you take time to find the right people and put in place a good process for managing them, it can be a very positive and enjoyable step forward for your business.