Loren Baker posted his views on 'How to Find, Hire and Manage Rockstar Copywriters'. I have a lot of respect for Loren. However, I have to admit that I had mixed feelings over this little number yesterday. Now, I understand I'm biased. However, I hire freelance writers and SEO copywriters on a regular basis in addition to writing professionally myself.

In Loren's defense, he did bring up lots of excellent points. He understands the value of a good copywriter and knows they aren't dime-a-dozen.

Here's where Loren and I disagree:

  • Saving money is always a good thing, but be aware that you generally get what you pay for. It was recommended that you try writing sites. These include places like Odesk, Rentacoder, Elance, and many more. This is not to say there isn't professionals working through these sites, but those who have become successful only use these places as fillers if at all.
  • As a writing coach, I recommend that new writers start with sites like these because they have protection for the writer as well as the client. They also have a collection of small projects that give them a good start. Do I recommend they continue working through places like those? Not as a main source of income. Also, here's what he didn't mention:

o You cannot take work offsite for any reason. This protects the site and ensures they get their cut.

o These places charge up to 35% in many instances. Might not be much on a small project, but it's an expense to keep in mind.

  • The first tactic listed in Loren' post was 'Never pay for your first article'. Well, I hate to say it, but quality writer's do not work 'on spec' or work for free. I mean seriously, how many of you work for free? Writers who do are only asking to get robbed and ripped off. In fact, these types of scams have become so heavy lately, I wrote a post on how writer's can prevent having their work stolen. (I am not insinuating Loren is one of these. I merely aim to explain why most writers won't do it. )
  • The question of proving quality brought up the example that magazines require pitches. Professional writers provide you with samples or a portfolio for your inspection. They should also have references or testimonials. Once you do hire the writer, they should also supply you with a proposal and draft copy. In the end, if you do your homework, quality should not be a problem.
  • Loren recommends paying by the hour to save money. It's a good theory, but if you're pushing a writer to get as much done as possible in an hour, be prepared for what you are left with. In many instances, you'll have to spend time editing if the pieces are usable at all. By the way, never, ever, ever, ever, ever publish anything without checking for originality.
  • The subject of having the writer push your work via social media and things such as Twitter also came up. Writer's do offer perks when it comes to being their client, but you are paying them to write...they aren't marketers, web developers or any other job. If you expect this, be sure to negotiate it in the initial deal, or ask what the writer's policy is on that. Some will, but be prepared to pay for it. And if you're only paying them $5 or $10 an hour, I wouldn't expect too many time-consuming perks.

Considering tactics like these, I would not be the least bit surprised if there were quality issues. In my opinion, this is no way to hire an SEO copywriter.

What should you do to find a quality writer? Here's a few tips:

  • Define quality before you start your search. What are you looking for? What do you need? For me, a quality writer is proficient in English, knowledgeable in SEO, aware of the needs of an online market, and willing to become familiar enough with your company and its goals to produce the content you need.
  • Ask those you trust for recommendations. Chances are someone else you know will have found someone they are happy with.
  • Look around in your industry and see who is writing blog posts and other items on the topics of interest to you. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask to find the source, and you will already know what their quality is like.
  • There's nothing wrong with picking one off Google either. Just be sure to check things out before you sign anything or send any money. This includes their portfolio.
  • Writing sites like Odesk are great if you are willing to work with the writer to get what you need.
  • When you do find an SEO copywriter or freelancer, don't be shocked when you're asked for 50% up front. This has become almost an industry standard and it shows good faith on behalf of you and the writer. If you are really concerned about losing your money, consider going through an escrow service until you are comfortable with your copywriter.
  • Most writers go by the word or the piece. This gives us the freedom to work out a schedule that works for everyone. I don't know about anyone else, but the ability to come up with a complete layout and set of ideas under pressure to 'get as much done in an hour as you can' is impossible. I can't do it. If I did, I wouldn't be in this business. I pride myself on my quality and my work, and if I have to jeopardize this, I'd rather turn down the job.

I really recommend that you read the comments on Loren's post. There, he explains that there are instances he can't and won't pay for quality content. Here, I agree with him. Those are the best times to look for newbie or inexperienced writers.

I'm simply stating that you need to be aware of what it is you are paying for before you make the deal and to sort out a few misconceptions. This ensures both the writer and the client have the most positive experience possible.

Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom)

Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.

Angie's Copywriting

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7 Responses to “Advice from a Professional Writer — Finding and Working with Quality SEO Copywriters”

  1. HS says:

    Great to see Angie's comments. Most genuine "rock star" writers – i.e., those with the proven chops to drive measurable response, sales and ROI lift for clients know to stay FAR, FAR away from SEO article writing and most online job boards. Most are a waste of time.

    While part-timers or newbies may be thrilled to earn a few extra bucks and call themselves a "writer", most pro-level writers/designers – i.e., the ones who can generate strong results for you – work full-time, have years of business experience and the confidence to know their value within the marketing mix.

    They also have bills to pay, health insurance to buy, families to support – and yes, strangely enough, dream of dining out or enjoying a vacation once in a while too for all their hard work – (the sheer nerve!)

    -If you want fluff or empty content just to drive engine ranking, you'll have thousands of eager writers at pennies per job. Enjoy.

    -If you want selling copy that reflects your company professionally and is strategically constructed to drive prospects to respond or buy, pay a professional.

    -If you can't tell the difference – how wonderful for your competitors.

    (And by the way…please share if your plumber, electrician or lawn service will do your work free, to "prove" they are good enough to then be paid. That's a company I want to call!)

  2. […] Angie Haggstrom and Loren Baker have a few differences over the finer points of finding quality SEO copywriters…but essentially if you read both of their posts, these two together offer good insight on the ways copywriters and hiring organizations think about each other. Their comparison might help you identify the best ways to find excellent copywriting for your organization, or at least give you insight into how to improve relationships with and  the quality of work you get from copywriters! […]

  3. I fully and 100% agree with everything you've said here. Now, if we could only get those with misconceptions to realize that, webmasters, SEO companies, and writers would all win!


    Angie Haggstrom

  4. Mikael Rieck says:

    I am not sure I get the idea behind the first point you mention about using (or not using) sites like Odesk, Elance etc.

    Are you talking about people how need articles written or writers looking for work?


  5. Hi Mikael,

    My comments are directed towards anyone who wants content that will help your business meet its goals.

    In my opinion, inexperienced writers cannot be expected to create pieces that will attract attention from social media, customers, and search engines. At least not without help and 'training' from you. These things take time and practice for a writer to learn.

    Places such as Odesk do have writers and the odd 'rockstar' copywriter, but you need to be extremely cautious. These sites are used mostly by writers just starting out. Therefore, many of them don't know about SEO, writing for social media, or about writing copy/content for the web. In many instances, this is left up to you as the client.

    In other words, if you want to spend $5 per article, that's fine, but be aware that you will still pay other $50+ you would normally pay a professional. (Instead of the extra money, you pay with your personal time and attention.)

    Sites like Odesk do protect your money, but there isn't a lot of guarantee that you will get a professional quality piece on the first try. It takes trial and error.

    I'm saying don't go to these sites without being aware of what you might get. Use them, but have patience and don't be shocked if you need to send the content back to the writer for touch ups or even a rewrite.

    If you want a quality writer (and therefore quality work), seek them out specifically without going through these sites. 'Rockstar' copywriters do not need (or like) to use these sites to find work.

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEO Scoop/Freedom Freelance

  6. Mikael Rieck says:

    Hi Angie, thank you for your response. I can see that we totally agree on this point. The only twist I feel is needed is that whether you will need that "attention attracting" piece or not is highly dependent on what you will need the articles fore.

    I have several sites that performs way better because of the mediocre articles as opposed to if I had high quality articles that would gain the most traffic from social media.

    But if you want people to bookmark your article, come back often and link to it then you will definitely want someone how know what she/he is doing.


  7. Hi Mikael,

    Oh, I completely agree. The copy has to match the situation. Of course, social media is only one goals copy/content can have.

    You might need it to be SEO optimized, convert visitors to sign up to a list for more info, it could be making a product sound like gold so that it sells, it might be merely informative, it could be proving why your company is better than competitors, or it could be just enough to fill the space and get the page crawled.

    The only thing that truly matters is that you get the content that does what you need it to. In many instances, filler content is the ideal thing. Just not always.

    Fantastic conversation! Thank you, I've enjoyed it. :)

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEO Scoop/Freedom Freelance