Outsourcing some of your workload to a content marketing writer can be an effective way to scale up your efforts. This means that you or your marketing team are free to concentrate on strategic planning and optimization of marketing campaigns.
However, finding a great writer can sometimes be a challenge. There’s plenty of advice around on what you should look for when hiring a writer, but there’s not as much information on the traits you should avoid.
Of course, you can get a good idea of how well a writer will suit your needs by reviewing his or her portfolio. But great writing skills aren’t the be-all and end-all when you’re hiring a new writer. To develop a successful working relationship, you also need to choose someone who has the right personality traits and work ethic to succeed.
If you’re currently reviewing writer applications, keep a lookout for these warning signs. You can’t always tell if a writer has these traits from a written application, so it’s a good idea to build an oral interview or trial period into your content management process before you decide who to hire.
1. Lack of Passion for the Subject
This is possibly the most critical factor when you’re hiring a content writer. Passion is key to engaging writing – if your writer isn’t genuinely interested in the subject they’re writing about, it will be obvious in the content they produce.
Whatever your industry – digital marketing, kids, food, health – make sure your writer speaks enthusiastically about the subject and can demonstrate their passion.
If you’re posting writing gigs on a general jobs board, you’ll likely get many applications from people who may be good writers but aren’t particularly passionate about your subject.
You can avoid wasting time filtering through all these applications by posting your job in places where you’re more likely to find these passionate individuals. This might be on your own website, or on forums about the topic. You’ll probably get fewer applications, but the ones you do get will be of higher quality and more suited to creating content marketing materials for you.
2. Charging Low Rates
This is not strictly a defining factor that determines a bad writer, but you should certainly take care in processing applications from writers who are requesting low rates for their work, particularly if they’re from low economic score countries such as India and the Philippines.
It’s become popular in recent years to outsource content production to these countries to take advantage of the much lower cost of labor. Freelancing is also incredibly popular in lower economic score areas, so you’re likely to get a lot of applications from these countries, as you can see in this data from Payoneer:
However, in this case, it really is true that you get what you pay for. Skimping on your content budget may be tempting, but it’s sure to backfire, as you’ll end up with low-quality content that won’t help you to meet your marketing goals.
Of course native English speaking writers from countries like the US, the UK and Australia also sometimes undercharge for their work. Should you avoid these writers too?
While it may seem like a great deal to hire a cheap content marketing writer, again, there’s probably a reason their rates are so low. Just because someone learned English as their first language doesn’t mean they’re a good writer.
Many writers do charge low rates when they’re starting out and building up their reputation, but if they’re any good, they’ll raise these rates quickly as they gain more experience. This means if you hire a skilled content marketing writer cheaply, they’ll likely abandon you for a better paying gig, and you’ll be left scrambling to find a new writer.
You also need to consider how these cheap writers are supporting themselves on such low rates in a western country with a high cost of living. They’re probably taking on more work than they can manage, and rushing through it just to make enough money to live on. This means you’re likely to end up with lower-quality content, and running the risk of missing deadlines due to an overworked writer.
3. Low Grit
It’s difficult to nail down a single definition of “grit,” but you can think of it as perseverance and conscientiousness combined with resilience and passion.
You can see more about grit in this TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth.
In other words, a writer with grit will work diligently towards their goals, despite any challenges, criticisms or distractions that may be thrown their way.
Writing can be a slog, particularly if the subject matter isn’t interesting. Many content marketing writers start out with enthusiasm but gradually lose this enthusiasm over time as they lose interest and motivation for producing content for you.
A writer with grit will put in the time to improve their skill every day and will find true purpose in their work.
A writer without grit is likely to throw in the towel when they receive back their draft full of edits or get a string of bad comments on a published article.
Which one would you rather hire?
4. Poor Timekeeping and Organizational Skills
Writers have a reputation of being “creative types” – a bit scatterbrained and driven by the passion of their muse rather than being methodical and organized.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being creative. But being creative shouldn’t mean being unprofessional.
Writing is an art, but don’t forget you’re hiring your content marketing writer to help you achieve your business goals. For this reason, they need to be as accountable as any employee.
Missing deadlines, losing drafts, and not checking your content calendar until the last minute are all signs of a disorganized writer who is not methodical and professional in their approach. In many cases, you won’t realize this until you’ve worked with a content marketing writer for several weeks or months.
Life happens, and everyone misses a deadline from time to time. But if it’s happening consistently and impacting the rest of your team or your business, you need to be realistic about whether you can work with this person in the long term, even if their writing skills are excellent.
5. Sensitive to Feedback
Good content marketing writers are constantly working to improve and hone their skills. Part of the way they do this is by responding positively to constructive feedback.
Every writer needs an editor to keep them on the right track and to refine their writing. Writers often get “too close” to their writing, and can’t see that a piece would be improved by cutting out a paragraph or re-wording a heading.
If your writer seems put-out when you make editing requests, this is a huge warning sign. Likewise, your writer should evolve their writing style over time so that it suits your business and requirements better. This means that edits should become fewer the longer they work for you.
6. Formal Writing Style
Many writers applying for content marketing roles come from academic or journalism backgrounds. This is great news for the technical aspect of writing – it means the content they produce will probably have correct grammar and be free of errors.
However, being trained to write in a formal style does not always translate well to writing for the web. Depending on your audience, online content produced for marketing purposes should almost always be written in a more casual tone than academic papers or newspaper articles.
Good content marketing writers can adapt to this new style, and it may just take them a few weeks to loosen up with their writing. But avoid writers who seem to produce only stiff and formal work. This style of writing is difficult to read and non-engaging, even though it may be technically correct.
Finally, avoid the temptation of the perfectionist writer. It may at first seem tempting to hire a writer that is meticulous in their approach, and only wants to publish their best work, but remember the maxim, “done is better than perfect.”
There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfectionism until it starts to impact your deadlines and content workflow. You need to achieve the right balance between quantity and quality, and a good content marketing writer should understand this.
If you want to jump on the back of a trending news story, you need a writer who can get something out quickly, not one who will fret over their words and constantly redraft because they’re afraid of publishing sub-par work.
Your writers should take pride in their work, of course, but they need to understand that they’re part of a team and a business, and getting good content published is more important than making it perfect.
Streamline Your Content Production Process
If you need more help with hiring and managing your content marketing writers, contact the team at DivvyHQ to learn more about how our content marketing platform can help you.
We offer a free 14-day trial, and you’ll be joining amazing brands such as the National Geographic Channel, Mercedes Benz, and Unilever if you choose to work with us. Get in touch today to find out more.