6 red flags to watch out for when you outsource your content writing

Melody Flumendorf

B2B Copywriter & Content Strategist

“As soon as you can afford to, hire to your weaknesses” – Sara Blakeley, CEO of Spanx

Content writing is a full-time job. For a business, it’s hard to consistently create all the content that’s needed these days. Every social media platform needs a slightly different tone and feel for your content, and SEO has become an art form.

Outsourcing this part of your business cannot only save you 8 hours or more each week, but it will also ensure your brand voice is consistent. Now all you need is an excellent content writer to make that happen.

The problem is there are thousands of people on the internet claiming to be great content writers. How can you find the right one and avoid costly mistakes? Here are 6 warning signs you should look out for when hiring a content writer.

They claim to be allrounders

It would be convenient to have one person that can do it all. I’m still looking for one. The truth is, you want someone who knows what they’re doing. A freelance content writer who claims they can also set up your CRM and take photos won’t be good enough in any of those skills. To get really good at something, you need focus.

Their prices are too low

A wise woman once told me, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” The years have taught me she was right. If a content writer is very cheap, they have to take on a lot of jobs to earn a living. That means they have to cut corners somewhere. They’ll either produce generic content that’s easier to write, or skip the essential research stage. Just think of a house with no foundations. It’s not going to work.

Their content isn’t up to scratch

This one comes with a caveat. I know an excellent content writer who is successful and doesn’t even have a website. Her blog hasn’t been updated for a while, either. You’ll find short, witty posts on her LinkedIn profile once a week, which already gives you a hint of her qualities, but that’s it.

There are some freelancers out there who are so booked up that they don’t have time to create their own content. It happens. Usually, though, a lack of content should make you tread carefully. These content writers might treat writing as a hobby or don’t know what to write about. Check if you can find any testimonials (see number 4) or recommendations from others.

If they have a lot of content, check if it’s well-written and there are no major mistakes. You’ll find many websites claiming you can earn easy money with a little bit of writing on the side. As a result, many people who don’t have a clue about good writing (and have never heard about essential writing tools like Grammarly) ) are out there flaunting some rather dubious content. But at least that one is easy – just read a couple of their articles, and you’ll know.

You can’t find testimonials

That doesn’t necessarily mean this content writer isn’t good. They could have just started out, or have clients that don’t want to give their names. However, if you can’t find any positive reviews anywhere and no case studies, proceed with caution. Social proof is vital in content marketing for a reason.

They don’t update their skills

Content writers aren’t SEO experts, but they need to know how SEO works to write engaging content that rates high. Keyword search is a must, along with an awareness of the latest SEO trends and knowledge about content marketing. Google and every social media platform change their algorithms several times a year. That impacts the kind of content you need and how it has to be written. That’s why excellent content writers keep up with the latest trends.

They talk more than they listen

Why is that a red flag? The more they talk, the less time they’ll have to find out about you- and that will show in their work. For a start, they need to know your target audience, business goals and what’s not working at the moment. Good listening skills are a must if you want to create bespoke content that moves the needle for a business, and a seasoned content writer knows that.

Ideally, you should leave the initial meeting with a few new insights and the feeling that the content writer understood your needs even better than you. At the very least, they should have asked you lots of questions regarding your business and customers. If they’re talking about themselves more than you, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Finding a suitable content writer isn’t always easy. Ask your contacts, check Linkedin and have a call before deciding. If you rely on your instinct and look out for these 6 red flags, and you’ll find the right one.

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