In continuance of the last post, I’m going to talk strategically about what would normally be a tactical article: hiring a writer for your website.
Most of the advice surrounding this topic is a vestige of the older eras of the internet and internet businesses. Back then, many website owners straight up did not care about their user base at all.
Traffic was a top-line number, one that was wholly separate from the hundreds of thousands of individual human beings that were actually comprising that number. After all, pleasing the Almighty Google was what mattered to do well back then – not pleasing your readers.
Since many of our actions as human beings are a result of the incentives that we’re faced with, old school website owners did one of a few things:
- Stole content
- Ran content through ‘spinners’ that mish-mashed it into unintelligible (but “unique”) content
- Hired bottom-barrel writers who were effectively human article spinners
All of these tactics have one thing in common: they’re optimizing for the short term.
They also disrespect the user, but that’s a topic for another article.
Back to hiring a writer.
Hiring is Extrinsic and Intrinsic
People do things because they want something (money, freedom, etc.) or because it’s part of their identity. Writers are no different than anyone else, but too many people treat them like workhorses that only care about $ and churning out words.
Come at the hiring process with that mindset and you’ll only be able to see those writers. The reticular formation inside your brain is a powerful thing…learn to use it wisely.
When hiring a writer (or anyone else, really), create a job for them that satisfies both their extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
Here are some examples of both motivators in the context of a writer…
- Enough money
- A consistent supply of work
- Write on their own time
- Don’t have to do much editing, research, formatting, etc.
- Creative freedom
- Genuine interest in topic
- Takes great pleasure in creating a good piece of writing
- Has a general curiosity about life and likes to satisfy that curiosity
Think of these motivating factors as weights on a scale. You can add more on either side depending on your own unique situation.
If you’re running a website or business that’s in a generally dull topic, you might need to weight the extrinsic motivators a bit heavier and find someone that has a personality type that can handle long stretches of writing about dry topics.
If you’re in an fun, exciting, B2C industry, you can often find hobbyists with real experience in the field who are also solid writers. These people are usually ecstatic to get paid anything to write about something they love. Add in a few other key personality traits (love of research, a perfectionist personality) and you have a recipe for someone who can write amazing pieces of content for you.
Hiring on Personality Traits
You might be wondering, “Wait, you’re really not going to talk about where to find a writer?” No, I’m not. If you understood the section above, you’d know exactly where to find a writer for your business (hint: it’s probably not on a freelancer hiring platform).
After you’ve got a solid queue of potential writers and they’ve passed the most basic “can write and follow instructions” test, it’s time to move to personality traits.
These are the ones I’ve found most indicative of a high-quality writer, and why they matter:
Loves the industry you’re in.
They’ll go the extra mile because it gives them internal joy.
Geeks out on researching the topic.
They’ll make sure information is accurate and add context that other writers cannot
Will follow briefs and not miss simple-but-important details like formatting, structure, and tone
Can think for themselves.
Isn’t a keyboard-pressing automaton, will actively make suggestions and improvements to your content and processes over time
There are more qualities to look out for, but if you can find someone with 3/4 of these or more, you’ve got an absolutely rockstar of a writer on your hands.
Make Their Job As Easy As Possible
You wouldn’t hire a plumber to also redo the tile in your bathroom, yet so many website operators expect their writer to also be an editor-in-chief, formatter, uploader, and social media marketer.
This is disrespecting the position you just hired for, and disrespecting the expertise of the person you hired.
Your job as the owner of your website or business is to hire people who are uniquely best at a particular thing, and then clear the path for them to execute on that thing and that thing only.
You can read my scaling content creation article for a few hints at how to do this, but that article is woefully out of date as far as process and tools go.
In my time at Book in a Box / Scribe Media, one of the things that made our initial product so successful is the fact that we broke book creation down into a linear process and then installed the best operators for each part of that process. The core realization that spawned that company was the fact that an author is often not the best person to create a book from start to finish.
It’s the same with your website or your content strategy. Your writers are SEAL Team 6 operators, uniquely good one thing – make sure you let them do it.