At a time when content should form a major part of your marketing strategy, it probably seems tempting to hit up websites like ODesk, Freelancer.com, or Outsource to find someone to write your content for you. Although this offers a cheap and time-efficient way out, nothing beats someone with experience, passion, or a willingness to learn your brand inside and out.
L&T maintains a freelance network of about 40 writers, although that number regularly fluctuates – either rising to meet the demands of additional projects or decreasing as we refine the team to ensure only the top talent remains on our books.
What I’ve certainly learned is that hiring great writers isn’t just about finding professionals in the field. It’s also a process of nurturing talent to develop the best people for the job from within while ensuring they get the most out of the experience as well.
Finding the Writer
We use a range of tactics to find the best writing talent. A lot of our new writers were onboarded by other writers who have enjoyed working for us. And we’ve discovered others through conversations with our personal contacts and social communities.
We also find universities offer a great environment in which to recruit passionate writers who wish to gain invaluable experience in the field of brand journalism – and get paid to do it! As one of the original companies of the Columbia Startup Lab, L&T has close ties with the university and others in New York, New Jersey and around the country – such as Princeton and Kenyon College. In the UK, we have recruited writers from the best media schools in the country, including Bournemouth University, the London School of Economics and Roehampton.
Experience with Client Writing
Although finding experienced people isn’t always my top priority when searching for talented writers, sometimes we’re approached by junior marketers who want to expand their portfolio or are looking for a new challenge. We always welcome these types of writers with open arms, because sometimes they can teach us a thing or two as well.
However, it’s important to stress to those who may have worked for a single client in the past that working for a company with dozens of clients demands a much greater level of flexibility. It’s understood from the get-go that they shouldn’t expect to simply apply their past learnings to every company we ask them to write for. As always, context is everything.
And thus, we always encourage experienced writers to read our clients’ blogs extensively, so they can gain a fuller understanding of the publications’ style and tone (not to mention learn a bit about the subject matter in the process).
How Important Are Interests?
From the moment I start reading a post, it’s immediately obvious whether or not the writer is deeply engaged with the subject matter. And it goes without saying that the more passionate they are about what we do, the more willing they are to dig a little deeper and create an end product that’s insightful and engaging.
You can’t learn or teach passion. So when a writer comes on board, we always find out their interests and assign them articles as closely related as possible to their favored subject area.
Over the last few months, we’ve implemented a formal feedback process to help writers learn where their work may have gone awry, so that they can course-correct and continue to improve their writing and researching skills. I’ll outline the precise process in a future post, but I cannot stress enough the importance of giving regular feedback.
It’s obvious when a writer is lacking the inspiration or motivation to do their very best, and in those cases, we make an effort to give them increasingly focused and detailed feedback, all while reassuring them that they’re far from a hopeless case.
We also ‘grade’ our writers’ work (privately, of course!) so that the entire editorial team can keep tabs on how a particular author is doing. If someone’s grades start slipping, we quickly intervene with more intensive feedback and work to get them back on the right track.
Our feedback is always constructive and never overtly negative, as the idea is to help our writers improve, hopefully boosting their confidence and their future prospects, whether they want to become more involved in L&T or move onto a permanent role elsewhere.
The Future of Great Content
Finding and nurturing great writers is something that, in my opinion, we do best at L&T. It’s the reason our content is so impactful and it’s how we impress our clients every single day with the content our team produces.
Although it’s taken us a few years to build our team up to the size and quality it is today, I feel that we’ve never been doing better work. And as our client base continues to grow, so does the knowledge and expertise of every writer, editor and staff member.
Do you have a team of writers? If so, how did you find them and what do you think are the most important qualities in a writer?