One of the keys to growing a successful business is producing quality content. Yet, consistently writing and producing high-quality content can be an incredibly time-consuming and difficult process–especially for those with little to no experience doing so.
That’s why more and more small business owners are choosing to hire content writers to create their content. However, when hiring a content writer, it’s important to consider that their experience and skill sets will vary. For this reason, business owners need to determine what type of content writer will best meet their needs. Once they’ve established what they want out of a content writer, it’s time for the business owner to begin the hiring process–starting with asking the right questions.
So what is the role of a content writer, and what are the right questions to ask when hiring one?
The Role of a Content Writer
A content writer is responsible for writing content for websites, marketing materials, and even social media. Most content they write aims to entertain, educate, inspire, or convince the reader, depending on where they are in the buying process.
Despite their title, a content writer’s job consists of a lot more than just writing. Their writing process usually involves generating ideas, conducting in-depth research, and becoming familiar with a brand’s voice and tone. Most importantly, they work closely with the business owner to reach their content-related marketing goals, such as increasing brand awareness or building brand engagement.
When to Hire a Content Writer
So how does a small business owner know when it’s time to hire a content writer? Unfortunately, there’s no universal answer for when to hire a content writer. That being said, there are various factors a company can consider to help make the right decision.
Considering every business is different, it can be helpful to weigh the pros and cons of hiring a content writer for a business’s specific needs. Some common pros and cons to consider may include:
- Saves the owner time so that they can focus on running their business
- Provides consistent, high-quality content
- Helps attract website traffic and increase brand awareness
- The owner may feel a loss of control
- The writer may not be as familiar with the company’s industry
- The cost may be outside of a company’s budget
If a small business owner finds that the pros outweigh the cons, it may be time for them to consider hiring a content writer. Although when it comes down to it, small business owners should consider hiring a content writer when it is most beneficial for them.
Top 5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Content Writer
Once a small business owner has decided to hire a content writer, it’s important that they ask candidates the right questions to make an informed decision. The following questions can help small owners develop a solid understanding of a writer’s skills and processes.
1. Which industries do you write best for, and which are your favorite to research and write about?
Some content writers specialize in certain industries or topics, so it is important for companies to ask if the writer has any background in their industry. If they don’t have experience in that particular topic, they don’t need to be completely written off. A strong writer will do what it takes to become an authority on the topic at hand. However, the business owner may want to consider finding a writer who enjoys writing about that industry to produce more meaningful results.
2. What is your process for starting a new project, and what is your turnaround time like?
A good writer will understand the importance of asking questions before diving into a new project. Asking a content writer about their process for starting a new project can help ensure they take the time to understand a project’s purpose and targeted audience before getting started. If they don’t ask questions, they probably won’t produce high-quality content.
At the same time, a content writer should provide a fair turnaround time to complete the project. This will say a lot about the writer’s professionalism, as well as help the small business owner make sure the provided turnaround time fits with their schedule.
3. How do you ensure your content is optimized for search engines?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the biggest contributors to a company’s digital presence and visibility. That’s why an essential part of a content writer’s job is to understand and apply the best SEO practices to their content as a means to increase traffic to the company’s website.
A small business should look for a content writer who has a solid understanding of how SEO works and how to best optimize their content. Specifically, they should demonstrate a solid understanding of the following concepts:
- Keyword Research and Optimization: understanding how to research and select keywords that are relevant to the content and target audience and incorporating them into the content in a natural and strategic manner.
- Content Quality and Relevance: the importance of creating high-quality, informative, and relevant content that satisfies the needs of the target audience and provides value to them.
- Link Building: understanding the role of backlinks in improving a website’s credibility and ranking, as well as the importance of acquiring high-quality, relevant links.
- Algorithm Updates: staying up-to-date on the latest changes to search engine algorithms and understanding how these changes may impact the content and its ranking in search results.
If a content writer can utilize these practices in their writing, they can help small businesses reach more customers and grow their business.
4. Are content corrections and revisions included in the process, and if so, how long will they take?
When outsourcing content writing, it’s likely that a company will want to make changes to the first draft. Considering that some writers include a limited or unlimited number of revisions within their fee, it’s important for small business owners to know what they’re getting into before signing a contract. For that reason, business owners will want to ask the content writer if these types of corrections and revisions are included in the provided fee, as this will help to ensure both parties are on the same page.
Some businesses, such as those that work in a niche industry or have particular expectations, may benefit from the inclusion of multiple revisions – making this a highly-valuable question for them to ask. On the other hand, some businesses may have previous experience working with content writers and providing thorough briefs, making revisions less of a priority for their content needs. So, by determining the importance of content revisions ahead of time, business owners can avoid giving themselves additional work down the road.
Once the business learns how many revisions are included, they will need to know how long those revisions will take. To determine this, the business owner should be sure to ask about the writer’s typical turnaround time and timeline. Discussing the timeline will allow the business owner to plan accordingly and adjust their schedule if needed.
This is also a good time to ask about the potential for an entire rewrite, as businesses will want to know ahead of time if a rewrite will cost them additional money. In addition, it is important for a business owner to know how to proceed in a situation where the content does not meet the expectations laid out in the brief.
All in all, asking these questions now will help to avoid any unnecessary problems down the road.
5. Can you provide samples of your previous work?
Of course, reviewing the portfolio of a content writer’s previous work will give the small business owner a good idea of their writing style and skills. When reviewing work samples, the small business owner should check to see if the information is connected logically, if the writing matches the brand voice and style, and if the content is user-friendly. This will help them decide if the content writer is a good fit for the company.
Additional Questions to Consider
Depending on the company’s needs, there are a few additional questions that a small business owner may want to ask a potential content writer. For example:
How will you write in my voice?
A content writer should have a clear understanding of the content’s purpose for the business (e.g. to inform, to convert visitors, etc.) They will need to be able to adapt their writing style and tone in order to meet those goals. This ability to adopt the voice of different brands requires an experienced professional and is an important part of producing high-quality content.
Who will own the completed work?
When hiring a content writer, the business may want to specify who gets credit for the completed work. In some cases, the piece will be attributed to the company’s team. Otherwise, some writers may want a byline on the company’s website or they may want to add the piece to their portfolio. The company should make sure to clarify these details before starting the project and include them in the contract so that expectations are clear.
What’s included in your fee?
Every content writer provides different fees and deliverables, so business owners will want to clearly understand exactly what they’re paying for. Some writers may charge extra for things like design input, editing, or photos. To avoid any miscommunications, the business owner can ask for a breakdown of the costs.
Overall, there’s a lot to consider when hiring a content writer. However, by starting with a clear understanding of their needs and values, business owners can narrow down their search and ask focused questions during the hiring process. When companies do their due diligence and ask quality questions, they will be more likely to find a content writer who can effectively communicate their brand message and help their business grow.