If you’re looking to outsource content marketing, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed with options. There are millions of freelancers out there with a vast range of skill sets and experience, and platforms like our Content Marketplace that can be used to simplify the process.
We asked our audience what’s important to them when they’re choosing a content writing service and then analyzed their answers to find their top priorities and criteria.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at finding a writing service, including:
The priorities our audience had when looking for a content writing service provider
Actionable tips about how to find providers who meet the different criteria
1. The Content Writing Service Must Be Reliable
According to our respondents, definitions of reliability can include:
The ability to meet strict deadlines
Maintaining the consistent quality of work
Being available for ongoing communication
How to Find This
In order to find someone who fits this description, we recommend doing the following:
Tip #1 - Get recommendations from someone you trust.
Your peers won’t recommend someone with whom they had poor working experience in the past.
Tip #2 - Consider working with an established agency or content platform.
Platforms like our Content Marketplace have strict procedures in place to ensure that your content is delivered on time and as expected.
Tip #3 - Look at reviews.
Established freelancers or content writing platforms often have reviews, testimonials, or references that you can check out before hiring them.
Tip #4 - Watch for delays in communication.
When negotiating terms for a project, if someone consistently takes longer than 48 hours to respond, it may mean that they are not responsive enough to be reliable.
2. The Writer Must Understand the Target Customer
Content writing services shouldn’t just be about blindly writing about the assigned topics, but should take the time to understand the following:
Your target audience, including their demographics
How your product or service helps your customers
Your brand voice
The best writing services and providers will dig deep to understand your business’s target customers. This includes not only being familiar with the customers’ demographics but also their key pain points.
What’s needed is an understanding of the customer and their pain. If the content isn’t useful, actionable, and relevant to the target, it’s not going to do much for you nor for the customer.
It's can’t be taught really, but it’s rather a skill that is well honed with experience and tenacity.
If, after all, the content is something that your audience won’t want to read, it won’t do you any good.
How to Find This
Tip #5 - Take note of the questions they ask.
Starting with content writing services that ask questions about your target audience is a good call. If this is never discussed, it means that your content won’t be tailored for your target audience.
Tip #6 - Share the insights that you have early on.
You should provide insights, if you have them, to the service provider upfront and for each project assignment. This should include information about the audience you’re targeting and how the blog post appeals to their pain points.
This should include:
Who the audience is (like “aspiring artists”)
What pain points your product resolves (like “helps you find clients to connect with”)
How the content will help their audience (like “offers solutions for how to expand their reach and build their business”)
If you’re concerned about privacy, ask your service provider to sign an NDA before sharing the information.
Tip #7 - Discuss your goals and audience openly.
If you explain your goals (which could include thought leadership, SEO traffic, or lead generation), they should be able to help you create content that appeals to users at different stages of the sales funnel. This is an important part of the puzzle.
3. There Needs to Be Consistently High-Quality Content
When referring to “quality,” here are some of the things participants wanted to see:
Well-written content with strong syntax and grammar-- no spelling mistakes!
Engaging, interesting content
Content that’s thorough and informative
Fresh, unique, original content with a new point of view
- Authentic, good quality content
- Previous work to prove authenticity
- Award winners/experts
How to Find This
Tip #8 - Ask for a portfolio.
The best way to assess quality from the content writing services and providers you’re considering is to ask to see samples of their work. Ask to see the writer’s or agency’s portfolio, and, ideally, look for diverse sources. If they only write for one site, it may be heavily edited by that client, but seeing a strong body of work across multiple sites is a good sign.
Tip #9 - Request a trial piece.
It’s often a good choice to do a trial project if you’re unsure. Most experienced writers will require payment for a trial, though some platforms may not. You can see one of our Content Marketplace trial articles here.
Tip #10 - Check that revisions are included.
You also want to make sure that some revision is included. Ask how many revisions are included, and what limits are placed on them, if any. Our Content Marketplace, for example, offers three free revisions, allowing you to really make sure you’re getting what you want.
4. They Have Expertise in the Industry
Expertise in the industry can include:
Having written in the field you’re working in before
Having hands-on work experience in the industry that your business is in
Understanding the technical language within your industry and understanding the audience
Knowing or being able to research market trends in your industry
If they don't have much understanding or knowledge of the topic then how can they write a quality piece without copying other blogs.
How to Find This
Tip #11 - Look at previous samples of their work.
Check previous work from the content writing service you’re considering. If someone has proven experience writing in your industry, that’s a great start. Make sure that they have strong samples that demonstrate real knowledge (including technical knowledge if necessary).
Tip #12 - Be prepared to invest more.
Know that if you want to find an “experienced” writer in any particular field, you may need to pay more. These individuals and companies provide an expert article writing service, and they may charge expert prices.
5. Strong SEO Writing Services and Abilities
Writing service providers should have strong experience in SEO, including the following:
Being familiar with popular SEO tools
The ability to conduct strong keyword research tailored to the specific business
Knowing how to fully optimize content
How to Find This
Tip #13 - Check if the provider practices what they preach.
Gary McConnell shared a brilliant way to determine if they were up to the SEO task:
1. Their SEO capability
2. Effectiveness of driving traffic from their own content
3. Frequency of content creation
Find a service provider that practices what they preach.
You can use our On-Page SEO Checker and to assess this.
Tip #14 - Use specialized SEO tools.
Use our SEO Writing Assistant to check the SEO potential of their blog writing services, running a post through the tool to see what suggestions are offered.
Tip #15 - Be clear on what “SEO Optimization” means.
Ask the writer outright what they do to optimize content for SEO.
This should include adding multiple internal and external links to each post and incorporating keywords into each post for starters. SEO content writing is considered to be an essential part of professional writing services, and prior and personalized research is typically required.
6. The Content Writing Provider Is Proactive
Writers or content platforms that will take initiative on their own are frequently sought after and valued. Our poll participants repeatedly mentioned wanting to see providers do the following:
Asking questions (about both assignments and the business itself)
Doing some research on their own
If someone can show me that they're passionate about working alongside me, then it sets them apart from their competition.
& ask questions!
How to Find This
Tip #16 Be clear on your expectations.
You need to be сlear about your own expectations. If you want a content writing company to strictly follow your guidelines and briefs, then proactiveness will only distract and annoy you. Figure this out upfront so you know what to look for when finding the right service for you.
Tip #17 Ask about proactivity upfront.
If you’re actively looking for someone who will be proactive, let the writing provider know. Ask if they’re willing to weigh in on topic development or to offer strategic insight at any stage in the process.
Note that most providers charge separately for full strategy input as opposed to simply writing content, but most are happy to share insight regarding the specific direction a post should take.
7. Easy Work Arrangements Are Available
A difficult collaboration is the last thing most of our participants wanted, frequently opting to work with providers who offer the following:
Transparency in work
Ability to easily work with internal team members
Tip #18 - Look for transparency and stability in the workflow.
Look for service providers who are happy to negotiate terms once, and then move forward in a systematic and procedural way. Ask what their process is upfront, and what you can expect.
You’ll also want to ask about payment options (more options from them is often more convenient for you), and if one standard contract is enough.
Tip #19 - Ask if they’ll work with your tools.
If your team has your entire content strategy mapped out in a tool like Asana, the last thing you want to do is work with a freelancer who refuses to learn the tool. Similarly, if they’re not able to check in with your content calendar, that may not be a great match.
Ask what tools they use on their own and if they’re willing or able to work with the project and content management tools that you’re already using.
Tip #20 - Opt for Content Writing Platforms.
If you want to look for the ultimate ease of use, platforms like our Content Marketplace may be a good choice. We streamline the entire process for you, and payment is quick and easy.
8. End-to-End Content Creation
While some participants simply wanted service providers who could create great content, some wanted to find a more comprehensive option.
One participant mentioned wanting custom writing service providers who can help them develop a content strategy and monitor the performance of the content even after writing it. Some may also want providers who could help with content distribution.
How to Find This
Tip #21 - Look for full-service providers … but only if it’s what you need.
End-to-end work is a specialized service, and not all providers offer this. You’ll want to go out of your way to find a provider who offers strategy, content creation, optimization, distribution, and performance monitoring. Expect this to come with a hefty price tag attached.
Choosing a suitable writing service provider is no easy task, especially if you’re looking for either affordable writing services or ghostwriting services (or both). There are plenty of options to choose from, but not every single one will be right for you.
Take some time to think about what you really need when outsourcing content. Narrow down your list according to your criteria and find someone within your budget.
Interested in finding affordable writing services that offer high-quality work on time? Learn more about how our Content Marketplace can help you here!