How to Convince Top-Notch Content Writers to Work for Your Brand
Content writers are a dime a dozen these days, with many of them working hour after hour to churn out copy for less than a penny a word. That environment has created the illusion that content writers are a commodity. And, in all honesty, they are — if all you’re trying to do is fill up space.
However, as the competition for readers’ attention gets tighter, and as Google relentlessly nudges the industry toward a focus on quality content, epic writers can name their prices. And, in a gig economy, there are few obstacles to dropping a disappointing client in favor of one with a more attractive offering.
But what if your budget can’t accommodate the high end of the pay range? Does that mean you’re doomed to settling for mediocre content writers? Not necessarily. While top-notch writers do have the ability to pick and choose their clients, they don’t do so based on price alone. If you want a top-of-the-line writer on a middle-market budget, try sprucing up your offer with these lures:
Offer a Byline
I have a private, offline portfolio containing more than 200 of my best writing samples — some of them on meaty, niche-specific topics — that I can’t use because they were ghostwritten. I can’t even share them privately with a prospective client who wants to see a relevant sample.
I agreed to those terms when I accepted the assignments, so I’m not complaining. My point is that bylines have a capital value. Each piece of content that comes with a byline increases the writer’s ability to get future work. So, if you can’t offer more money, consider offering a byline.
Give Written Permission to Use the Content in a Portfolio
While not as valuable as a byline, this is a close runner-up. Visitors to your website will still see the byline of your choice, but the writer will be able to show the content to prospective clients as a work sample. True, it won’t have the writer’s name on it, but most content managers are familiar enough with ghostwriting to give the writer the benefit of the doubt.
Share Fringe Benefits
You may not be able to squeeze more dollars into your budget, but what about the perks that you have access to as a full-time employee or a business owner? From tickets to your suite at a major-league game to a gift certificate to the latest hot restaurant, fringe benefits can help close a rate gap.
Mention the Content Writers in Your Social Media Campaigns
If you’re promoting the content on social media, use a few of your allotted characters to mention the writer. If you love the writing, say so. That kind of exposure is invaluable.
Offer to be a Resource
One thing I’ve been amazed by is how often clients that seemingly have nothing in common turn out to have quite a bit of overlap in terms of topics, audience, market, etc. If you’re an expert in an area that your writer is working on for another client, offer to be a resource. That could save the writer hours of research, and that reclaimed time translates directly into money.
Pay the Agreed-Upon Amount
Different payment platforms charge different fees. If you mandate paying through a platform that charges fees, bump up the payment to cover them so that the writer ends up getting the amount you agreed to. (If the writer mandates payment through a platform that charges fees, that’s on the writer.)
Whether it’s a link to one of the writer’s own blog posts or to a bylined article on someone else’s site, links generate exposure and traffic — not to mention boosting SERP rankings. Those things lead to new clients and, therefore, increased revenue.
Be Clear About What You Want.
I find that clients tend to fall into one of two categories: Either they know exactly what they want and give me explicit instructions, or they just want me to go do it so they don’t have to think about it. And I’m absolutely fine with either of those scenarios.
What’s much more difficult is when a client acts as if they’re in the second category when they’re really in the first. That usually results in round after round of back-and-forth editing, and that extra time drives down the writer’s profit margin. In some cases, content writers in this situation even end up losing money on the deal.
Bottom line: If you know you want something specific, say so. If not, tell the writer ahead of time so that they’ll know they’re in for some trial-and-error and can price accordingly.
Be Clear With Your Feedback
When you ask for revisions, don’t expect the content writer to read your mind. Recently, for example, a client wanted me to go back and cite my sources. I was bewildered, because I had cited my sources. As it turned out, they wanted me to include a link each time I used information from the same source instead of citing only the first reference. That was an easy problem to fix once we straightened things out, but the miscommunication caused wasted time on both sides. So be precise with your feedback. “Make this paragraph punchier” doesn’t mean much unless you and the writer have already had a discussion around your definition of “punchy.” The same is true for comments like, “This is too casual.” Is it too casual because the writer used contractions, wrote in the second person, ended sentences with prepositions….or something else entirely?
Don’t hoard a good writer. If you need the majority of a content writer’s time, put them on retainer. If not, help them fill up the rest of their time with other quality clients. Most will return the favor by prioritizing your work, so it’s a pretty low-risk endeavor.
Avoid the “Hurry Up and Wait” Syndrome
As a business owner, a wife, a mom, a daughter, etc., I know that things come up. Timelines get derailed. But routinely taking days or weeks to give a writer feedback creates a couple of problems. Some clients, unfortunately, use a lengthy editing process to delay payment. The bigger problem, though, is that it makes it tough for a writer to schedule work. If you finally get around to looking at content you’ve had for more than a week, is the writer supposed to drop everything — including projects for other clients — to make your changes overnight? If you really can’t avoid a long editing process, at least respect the writer’s workflow and understand that there are probably other clients in line ahead of you.
These suggestions probably aren’t going to work miracles. They won’t, for instance, convince a $1/word writer to work for $.01/word. And they shouldn’t be used as a bludgeon to coerce content writers into lowering their rates to a level that isn’t profitable. But if you and a writer make a connection and really want to work together — and the only thing standing in the way is a small difference in price — these strategies may help you close the gap.