How to Hire a Writer: Best Practices for Outstanding Results

Writers can give your business fresh leads, stronger sales results, and a more loyal customer base.

But first, you need to figure out how to hire a writer.

It's not hard — but it is a little different from hiring for other kinds of in-house or contracting roles. Understanding these differences can help you land the perfect writer for your business needs.

Here, we'll look at the best practices for hiring writers so that you can quickly find the writing talent you need to help your business grow and thrive.

Let's start with why you want to hire a writer in the first place…

When you hire writers, it helps to start with why you need a writer, and to frame your answer specifically in terms of what you want a writer to do for you and your business.

There are two levels to this:

  1. The surface need that you have, and
  2. The underlying business problem you're trying to solve

Let's look at a couple of real-world examples…

You might be here today because you need to hire a writer to take over your company's newsletter.

Getting the newsletter written is your surface need. Your underlying business problem may be that you need your existing subscribers and past buyers to stay engaged with your company so that they'll buy additional products from you in the future.

So, you need a writer who understands how to do the basic task (write a newsletter) and also how to execute on the overall strategy. The right newsletter writer for you isn't just a “newsletter writer” — it's someone who can write articles that appeal to your audience, motivate deeper engagement, and lay the groundwork for recurring sales.

Or, you might be here today because your social media channels look like ghost towns, and you think that hiring a writer to create more posts could help.

A writer CAN help with more posts — but what you really want them to help with is getting fresh eyes on your company and building a sales funnel that flows smoothly from your social media pages to your checkout pages. Hiring a writer to create social media posts for you is a place to start — but you're really after a writer who understands social media marketing and its place in your overall sales process, so that you can use all your social media properties as effective sales platforms.

Make sense?

If you need help understanding how to match your business needs with specific writing projects, check out this helpful infographic from AWAI.

It's important to spend a little time here getting clear on your desired projects and business priorities. Having this clarity about what you want and need helps you write a clear job description. And a clear job description will help you attract the right kind of writer to take care of surface tasks and solve your underlying business problems, too.

How to write a clear job description for any writing project or full-time writing job

Here at WritersWanted, you have the opportunity to create job posts for specific writing projects as well as part-time and full-time writing jobs.

(Already have a fully written job post in hand from your HR team or a past vacancy? You can go ahead and click here to post your writing job, or read on to see if you need to tweak your posting.)

We'll cover both types of writing job posts here, one after the other. Click here to jump to freelance roles, and click here to jump to part-time and full-time positions. We'll also go over a few things you'll want to avoid doing so that you can attract better writers and fill your vacancies faster.

How to create a clear and effective ad for a freelance writing project

When you're hiring writers for a specific project or sales campaign, your project posting needs to do three things. First, you need to write a posting that attracts the right kind of writer. Then, you need to get these highly qualified writers interested in working with you. Finally, you need to make it clear to interested writers how you'd like them to get in touch with you.

To meet these goals, you don't need to write a novel. In fact, short, straight-to-the-point job posts work best when you're hiring a freelance writer. Plus, since you've already put some thought into your underlying business needs as well as the immediate task that needs to be done, you should have everything you need to create a short, clear project posting.

Here's an example:

Case Study Writer Wanted

Our firm, a leading parts supplier in the agricultural industry, is looking for a talented case study writer to showcase our new just-in-time delivery system for Midwest-area farmers.

Our ideal partner has 2-3 years of case study writing experience and a portfolio of samples to share. Relevant certifications appreciated. An agricultural background is preferred but not required. Must be a native English speaker and available for kickoff and milestone meetings during normal business hours, US Central Time. Competitive rates offered along with a full project debrief and permission to add this case study to your portfolio.

To apply, send a brief introductory hit the apply button below - and be sure to include a link to previously published case studies or other relevant samples. Use subject line “Q1 — Just in Time Case Study” when applying.

Short, but it hits all the bases:

  1. A search-term-friendly “filtering title” to bring you the candidates you want (After all, you don't want a blog post writer, you want a case study writer!)
  2. Information about the basic task AND your larger goal/end user audience
  3. Qualification filters, including relevant experience and any time zone or language requirements
  4. Notes to entice writers to work with you (competitive rates, project debrief, and the ability to add the project to a sample portfolio). Helpful fact — if you're not sure what a competitive rate for your project would be, you can check out AWAI's Pricing Guide right here
  5. Clear application instructions so interested writers can get in touch (and writers not paying attention can be filtered out)

And that's it! You're welcome to write more, of course, but this example should show you that even a few short paragraphs can put you on the path to finding your perfect writer.

Ready to try it for real? Click here to post your writing project now.

How to create a clear and effective job post for full-time and part-time writing positions

Pro Tip:
Use plain English when writing job posts

It's become fashionable to write job postings looking for a “rock star,” a “superhero,” or even a “ninja” to help you. Using these trendy terms can make it more fun to write your job post… but they can keep your opportunity from ever being seen by a well-qualified writer.

Why? Cute names for jobs aren't search friendly. Writers come to this job board (and others) and search for work using the common English names for what they do, like content writer, copywriter, or graphic designer. If a writer is more specialized, they might look for postings that want a sales letter writer, blogger, or UX designer. No one is searching for work as a rock star — though many talented writers will deliver solid-gold work for you. So, although you're welcome to refer to a writer's role in any way you like after they're hired, during the job search process it's in your best interest to use their common names.

When you hire writers for full-time or part-time positions, you need to satisfy two kinds of “fit” at the same time. First, you're looking for a skills fit. Does this writer have the core skills to do what's needed?

Then, you need to screen for culture fit, too. Will this writer fit in with your team and integrate smoothly into your company's day-to-day operations?

You may also be looking to hire writers who check certain qualification boxes pre-set by your HR department. A word of caution about this — many niche writing specialties and direct-response writing skills aren't covered in traditional school settings. For example, we know of no four-year college program offering degrees in SEO, Facebook advertising, or video sales letters. As a result, you may get better results and more highly qualified candidates if you look for skills certifications, such as being AWAI Verified, instead of an English or communications degree.

Much like when you're writing a post to hire a freelance writer, we see the best results from full-time and part-time job postings that are simply written, with a succinct outline of the job's requirements, expectations, and benefits. All successful posts end with a strong, clear set of instructions for how to apply for the position if interested.

Here's an example of a posting for a part-time position:

Part-time Social Media Manager Wanted (100% Remote)

Founded in 2017, our ceramic cookware company grew steadily until the pandemic happened. Then our sales exploded, and they show no signs of slowing down.

To support our online advertising efforts, we are seeking a part-time social media manager. Your responsibilities will include

  • maintaining and updating the monthly social media calendar;
  • coordinating a 3x daily posting schedule across our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest accounts;
  • serving as the “on point” comment responder for two hours per day (on a schedule to be set with your immediate supervisor);
  • working with the graphics team on images, photos, and advertising clips; and
  • working with the social media director to pull sales and analytics reports and prepare them for weekly presentations.

You're welcome to work 100% remote. Our core hours are based on US Eastern Time, and you will be required to attend our all-hands meeting on Mondays at noon Eastern.

Our ideal candidate has

  • 2+ years' experience with social media, preferably for another e-commerce or digital-first brand;
  • experience working with creative agencies;
  • a keen eye for detail, including spelling and grammar; and
  • a willingness to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to get the job done.

To learn more about our firm and our products, click here. To apply for the position, have your resume and links to relevant samples ready when you click here. Position open until filled; competitive hourly wage + partial benefits package (including a full set of our cookware). Interviews conducted on a first-come, first-served basis.

In this posting, you can see a casual tone — this doesn't seem like a buttoned-up or formal firm. That's a great culture cue for applicants. Yet even with the casual tone, it's also clear what specific tasks and skills are needed to succeed in the role.

How about a more formal, full-time listing? Again, we caution you to be wary of pre-set qualifications provided as a “standard template,” since many highly skilled writers train at dedicated writing institutes, as apprentices to more senior writers, or through hands-on work in their own freelance writing business. Still, you shouldn't hold back from specifying exactly what skills and abilities you'd like your ideal writer to have.

Click on each full-time writing sample to enlarge it; you'll see a position advertisement written by a copywriter for other copywriters, a formal posting for an in-house writing job with Meta/Facebook, and a mid-toned posting for from Children’s Health.

Thanks to their different tones, each of these job postings for writers will attract a different kind of candidate. The Meta/Facebook post might attract writers looking for a certain prestige, whereas the Tradesmith specifically calls out writers who are motivated by money. Children’s Health is looking for a writer comfortable in a remote environment day to day with healthcare experience, and Tradesmith’s posting speaks to someone with extensive financial copywriting experience.

As you consider what you've read, how would your own company's position fit into the mix? Are the words you've chosen and descriptions you've given likely to “call out” certain types of writers, or do you need to add, delete, or modify certain parts of your posting? It's all okay. What makes the writing world wonderful is the diversity of experiences available, and we believe it to be true that no matter your opportunity, you can hire a writer who can deliver for you.

When you're ready, you can click here to post your writing job now. Once it's posted, you could start receiving applications as early as the same day, and perhaps even within a few hours. When those applications arrive, it will be time to evaluate and respond to your potential new writers.

Respond promptly to highly qualified writers

When you have an open posting for a writer, you might get dozens of applications. That's great! What's not good is leaving those writers' applications languishing in your inbox…

There are two mission-critical reasons you want to respond promptly to applications from writers, and especially quickly to any application from a writer who seems, at first glance, like they could be your dream writer.

The first is cash, pure and simple. Money loves speed. The faster you can hire a writer and get them busy creating fresh content and new sales materials for you, the faster you'll see the difference in your bottom line. Imagine what your next few months could be like with high-quality content that brings in well-qualified leads every day… or brand-new sales materials that boost your conversion rates by 5%, 10%, or even more.

Waiting to hire costs you money! Worse, it may cost you the writer…

Right now, we're seeing demand for writers at an all-time high. On the digital side of things in particular, the shift online caused by the pandemic made 10 years' worth of growth in web traffic and e-commerce happen in mere months. Things have hardly slowed down since… and that's just one niche in the writing world.

The truth is that today, writers have more choice than ever about what they do, where they work, and who they work with each day. Many top freelancers are booked out 4 to 6 months in advance (or even longer). Potential in-house writers are equally hot right now, which means the candidate who applied to your job today could very well be working for your competitor tomorrow.

All of this to say… if you see a writer you like respond to your posting, respond to them promptly. Obsessively refreshing your email may not be necessary, but within 24-48 hours is ideal. And, if you're working with an HR team, be sure to keep in close communication with them as applicants come into the system so that you can get the writer you want booked for an interview or test project ASAP.

Hire writers with the best skill set for your business needs

When it's time to make your final decision, hire writers with the best skill set for your business needs.

That sounds a bit obvious, doesn't it — and yet, you'd be shocked by what we've seen happen!

AWAI, the parent company behind WritersWanted, has been at the forefront of copywriting training for nearly 25 years. This has placed us at the cutting edge of copywriting hiring for the last 25 years, too.

Talented writers come from all walks of life. Their varied backgrounds and experiences are a competitive advantage for your firm. Unfortunately, we've seen incredible writers turned away because they've appeared to be too old, too young, too corporate, too casual, too authoritative, too hesitant, and a million other reasons that have nothing to do with that writer's skills.

To keep the focus on writing skills and what the writer can do for your organization, ask each candidate the following five questions.

The five questions to ask any writer you're considering hiring

1. “Do you have experience in direct-response marketing?”

The answer should be “Yes.” Any writer you're seriously considering should be well trained in direct-response principles and able to show you a sample project that illustrates their skills. If they're not sure what you mean when you say direct-response marketing, ask them if they're comfortable writing to sell products, services, events, or consulting. Again, be sure to get a “Yes!” before moving forward.

Why is this “Yes!” so important? You're in business to make money, right? A writer who believes their work is purely for artistic purposes is going to cause a culture clash with your bottom line. Stick to writers who want to sell, and who want to use their words to make YOU money.

2. “Do you have experience in my industry?”

Though not necessarily essential, previous experience helps. A content or copywriter who knows your industry or product already speaks the language and knows the buzzwords. Plus, a writer with experience in your industry can offer valuable perspective, guidance, and insight into your whole marketing function.

The flip side of the coin is that a writer who is new to your industry may bring a fresh perspective to your business copy. They may be able to help you break out of a rut or experiment with strategies that have worked in other spaces. Consider your project goals as you consider experience!

3. “What is your style? Can you give me examples of your writing voice?”

Each and every writer has their own unique writing style and voice — even writers who share the exact same training background! You may be looking for a writer who can take on many different voices on behalf of your company. Or, you may be looking for a writer whose natural writing style is going to become your “brand voice” in the future.

This is a part of the hiring process that helps differentiate writing candidates from each other. Some writers, though technically proficient in the types of writing you want, are not able to change their voice to match your company's style. Other writers can make themselves sound more like you than you do.

If voicing is very important to you, you'll want to look at as many different samples from the writer as you can. You may even consider having them do a few small projects or writing tests before making a larger commitment, just to be sure there's a good voice fit for your business.

4. “What kinds of results have you gotten for other clients or employers with your work? Any hard numbers you can share?”

It never hurts to ask prospective writers how well their work has done for other clients. Now, not all of them will know — some businesses don't share this information in detail with freelancers. And of course, as they say in the stock market, “Past performance does not indicate future results.”

However, writers who have experience and a solid track record behind them understand what it takes to get a good response from a target audience. And, if they have good numbers to share, it's a great place for you to feel out what's possible by hiring this writer as a partner on your next campaign or as a full-time, in-house asset for your marketing team.

5. “I want to hire you! What's the best way for us to get started?”

This question is relevant for both freelance writing positions and in-house hires.

With freelancers, you'll be looking to hear their system for fees, deposits, retainer arrangements, and so on. If there's any confusion about appropriate rates, we recommend taking a look at the AWAI Pricing Guide. This is also the time you should agree on the scope, the deliverables, the materials you'll be providing and the timeline. Do you want to sign off on the idea before they dive into the project? Do you want to approve the headline and lead before they write the full sales letter? Creating some “check-in's” along the way are beneficial for the writer and for you.

When hiring part-time writers or full-time staff, you'll want to get clarity about notice periods and start dates. In the current talent environment, most writers who are not fresh graduates are employed. Some have their own businesses or may even be working for one of your competitors. Get clarity about when a given writer would be available to start working for you, and what you can expect in terms of exclusivity.

Give your new writers the starting materials they need to succeed

The final step in the process of hiring a writer is to give them the materials they need to succeed in their work for you.

You'll want to get each project with a freelance writer off to a good start by giving them a robust creative brief. In-house and retainer writers also benefit from creative briefs but would be armed with onboarding materials and the brief might include less information on the company in general - and more about the specific project.

Not familiar with creative briefs? These one-page project outlines or sales campaign folders can be critical difference makers in the success of your writing projects. Generally, a creative brief should include

  • a clear explanation of your company's brand, brand voice, product/service suite, and target customer profile;
  • key facts about the offer — where to click, what to subscribe to, what to buy, etc., along with any price points, coupons, restrictions, or guarantees; and
  • support materials for the offer and the company overall, such as track records, testimonials, key charts and graphs, expert endorsements, and/or reports on current and past awareness or sales campaigns.

Additionally, a kickoff call helps make sure everyone is on the same page. So after the materials have been delivered, it's a good idea to jump on a call for 30 minutes to answer any questions the writer may have.

Then, your writer should be able to quickly complete their first assignments in the voice and style your company needs to see.

Onboarding plans are a bit different. Along with the key information from the creative brief, onboarding plans contain the information any new hire would need to successfully become a functioning part of the company. This includes

  • organizational charts or departmental rosters, so that your new writer understands who they work with, who they work for, and their role in the overall company hierarchy;
  • critical IT information for accessing shared drives, company emails, or managed media accounts;
  • company “code of conduct” documents, mission statements, and values statements so that your new writer is clear about expected behaviors and boundaries;
  • HR-related information on pay, benefits, and perquisites of the job;
  • a “meet-and-greet” plan for your new writer to get face time (or video chat time) with their key production partners, peers, and supervisors; and
  • a training plan to be sure your new writer knows how to accept assignments, complete assignments, get work reviewed, finalize an assignment, and get an assignment published or otherwise out the door on time, every time.

Both creative briefs and onboarding plans can make or break the integration of your new writer into your production and marketing processes. Though it can seem like a lot of details to pull together at once, having this information clearly organized and available to your newly hired writers will help them ramp up quickly.

And, as we've discussed before, the faster you can get your new writers acclimatized, up and running, the faster you'll start seeing the results of your investment. Fresh leads, higher conversion rates, more sales campaigns to test… Done right, this effort adds up to more money for you and your whole team, too.

Return to WritersWanted to hire more writers as your business grows

As your new writer continues to deliver strong results for you, you may quickly need to hire more writers. This time around, however, you won't have to wonder how to hire a writer — you'll know exactly where to go and what to do.

All your writing needs — whether for a full-time writer, part-time writer, freelancer, or contract writer — can be met right here, at WritersWanted.

Our job seekers and available freelancers represent some of the best-trained and most talented writers working now. See for yourself — just click the button below to get started.

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