Ten steps you need to take to avoid hiring the wrong writer

Outsourcing your brand writing can go banana-shaped if you choose the wrong scribe. Here’s how to recruit the right one.

We occasionally source writers from the crowd, so I know how to chose the best ones…and it’s not an easy task. By the end of this piece you’ll have an idea of how to select the right writer, and you should know exactly what to expect from them.


1. End in mind

Whoa. Hold on there. Before you even start shopping, you need to decide exactly what you want the words to do. Is it to:

  • differentiate yourself from the hordes (everyone needs that)
  • build in tone of voice that’s unique to you (hope so)
  • build brand awareness / raise your profile
  • become an authority in a field
  • inspire, dazzle, entrhall
  • simplify and condense complex stuff
  • incite an action
  • sell your stuff
  • just explain your stuff in a simple way

As you can see, writing has many functions. And it will dictate your budget, the writer you choose and how you brief them.

2. What type of content? Show me.

Every different type of written content has a different purpose, and each requires different skills, so think about what you want before shopping for who. Once you’ve decided, look for a writer with experience writing that type of content; then ask for evidence. Once you’ve decided what your goals and format are, you can start shopping. 

3. Do they practice what they preach?

All writers are only as good as their/our written words. So every single one of their emails, pitches, web pages and blogs should sing and dance to their individual brand, while being accurate, authentic, useful, entertaining…). Their websites should be brimming with brilliant content that’s educational, relevant, valuable. They should have punchy, snappy one-liners on emails and landing pages, backed up with a solid, succinct brand promise and simple, effective calls-to-action.

If not, be wary. And don’t take the sob story of: “It’s like a plumber with a leaky tap…I’m too busy writing for my clients to write for myself.” This may be true, but, still, it doesn’t bode well.

4. Stalking and interviewing

This might sound a bit creepy, and it is time-consuming, but stalk them online. See what they put out. If you haven’t got time for this, be direct: interview them. They should be used to it. If they’re not, there’s another alarm bell right there.

Here are some more few questions to consider:

5. Are they trained/experienced? Really?

Ask them about their background in writing: they should have some formal training (such as journalism or copywriting). Check out their portfolio and/or ask to see evidence of their work (they should have case studies galore here). If they’re a technical writer, or specialise in one industry, or one type of content, they should have some background, contacts and oodles of relevant experience.


6. Process

Get them to explain the way they work to you. It should involve lots of questions (from their side) about you, your customers, your strategy. It should involve clear deadlines and budgets. In short, the aims and elements of the project should be clearly spelt out so no-one (especially you) is in any doubt about what is happening and what to expect.

7. Pitch

  • Get them to spell out how their work will deliver against your goals
  • Check their pitch for spelling and grammar mistakes (really; be ruthless)
  • Ask them as many questions as you like. If you don’t understand, just ask them to explain it again.

8. Pricing

  • This should be clear from the outset. And, in most cases, the price is fixed.
  • Most writers charge by the project.
  • The price should also include changes/amends. If in doubt, check this against other writers. 

9. How do they communicate?

You’ll need to interact with this person quite a lot (or someone in your organisation will), so you need to make sure they communicate well and that they understand you, your brand and your strategy. If not you could be left with vapid messages and crap content.


10. Things to avoid

Some things are just not done in our world. First, don’t ask them how much they charge per word, this just devalues the whole trade.

Don’t ask them to “send you an idea of how it might sound” before you invest. This will just annoy them. Their work should speak for itself. Plus, you’ve researched their portfolio and experience, right? This video will show you what I mean.

And don’t expect specific results such as ‘1,000 extra uniques’. Most writers don’t create results-driven content. That’s a specialist realm of the SEO and lead-generation writers who charge more based on the results they achieve for you. And that’s a whole other blog.


Oh, if you’re shopping for a writer, the Professional Copywriters Network is a fair bet. Of course, you’re already on a writer’s website, so I’d be foolhardy not to recommend myself.

As one of my clients said: “Searching for really good writers is a pain. So when you find brilliant, flexible, reliable, straight writers, who are affordable and easy to work with, like the Blue Scribe team, it’s a joy.” Hopefully this blog will transform you into a happy client, just like these merry souls. If not, leave me a comment or ask a question below and I’ll do my best to answer it.