Fond followers of Bourbon have probably read our previous article about the basics of how to find great writers. With the help of that guide, you’ve hopefully now identified your buyer persona and selected the collaboration options that fit your budget and content writing needs. However, the most difficult challenge is still ahead: not only to have to locate writers in the first place, but you’ll need to ensure they are up to your required standards, are reliable, and fit with your company’s ethos and approach.
Brief blog articles much under 1000 words simply don’t cut it anymore. Yes, content is king, but not everyone can get a crown. Content shock is here which means only the best masterpieces will survive or provide any significant value that justifies investment. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the first question most startups usually have when they want to get serious about content production is:
Where can you find great writers for tech topics?
Here’s a surprise, finding great writers is easy… if you have the money! Assuming that most of our readers are startups and young companies who sit on tight budgets, this revelation isn’t of much help. Money is an issue and that means that locating good tech writers who are in your price range takes a bit more effort. Moreover, for tech companies it’s even harder as the more niche the content topic is, the more expensive it will be to hire a writer. There are probably hundred of thousands food and fashion bloggers out there, but how many people are able to produce high-quality content about image recognition algorithms or cloud-based SaaS network visibility? Probably not as much. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Actually, there are several sources to head to when searching for tech writers:
Referrals & Networks
Simply ask your business partners, employees, friends and family if they know some good writers. Maybe you’ll get lucky.
Meetups, Conferences & Events
Another budget-friendly way of finding talent is to go to meetups, conferences and other industry events where professional writers and bloggers will be present. Speak to people there and grow your network. Even if the people you talk to directly don’t have the tech expertise you’re looking for, they’ll probably know a colleague who might just be perfect for you.
Business social media platforms like Linkedin can also be a good free-of-charge model for identifying great writers, if you get a bit creative and don’t just opt for posting a job vacancy. Search for content writers and professional bloggers and get in touch with the ones who match your criteria. If you don’t have enough time to do all this manual work, join a few Linkedin groups for content writers and, if rules allow it, announce your job there. Your message box should fill up with applicants quickly!
Similar to the Linkedin approach, you can go to Twitter and Facebook to search for talent there. To save time, you might also want to post a message on social media that you’re looking for a tech content writer. If you’ve been kind to your friends and followers lately, they should be happy to help spread the message.
If the content expertise you require is very specific, you don’t need to get desperate. Just search for blogs that write about this specific topic and reach out to the owner or writer directly. You might have a good chance that they’d be interested in working for you as a freelancer.
Your corporate channels
If you want to be a bit more proactive about finding great writers for the future, make a permanent announcement on your website stating that you’re looking for talented writers. This way you’ll receive applications continuously and whenever you really need a writer someday, you’ll be able to go through your pool of candidates. On the other side, if you need someone more urgently, you might consider to just communicate it in your corporate newsletter.
If you feel like your network isn’t quite strong enough and you really need to find great writers to start right away, freelancing platforms might be your best shot. Websites like Upwork, Zerys, Freelancer.com and Fiverr are full of content writers that are looking for gigs. With people offering to create content from just 5€ and up to 100€ per hour, obviously the level of quality varies. Price and ratings are good indicators of quality, but you can’t depend on them exclusively.
If you have some money to spend, you can also go to relevant recruiting platforms and put up a job or project announcement there. In order to receive applications from experienced writers who know the industry, make sure that you publish your gigs on adequate websites that specialise on tech writing. Some of the most common sides for writing jobs include ProBlogger and BloggingPro.
HR Agencies & Headhunters
This option, in our opinion, isn’t really worth it for startups. With the rise of the gig economy there are lots of freelance writers available remotely who can do a good job for a low price. Finding them isn’t too difficult even if your topic area is very niche. This means it shouldn’t be necessary for you to employ HR agencies or headhunters in your search for the ideal content writer.
How can you screen & evaluate tech writers?
If you want to find great writers, you’ll need to do “due diligence”. With the sheer amount of writers available, it’s only natural that you could across anything from genuine high-quality writers through hobby bloggers and up to scam freelancers. Yeah, price might be a useful quality indicator, but ultimately you never know if you’re going to get a peach or a lemon. Go through the following steps to make sure your potential new writer is up to your standards:
Research on Google
A quick Google search should be amongst your basic writer review repertoire as it’s free and doesn’t require a lot of work. Look out for signs that might indicate quality such as a professional website, blogs the person has written for, a good LinkedIn profile etc. At the same time, also look out for red flags such as unprofessional profile images, incoherent information regarding the writer’s background or no proper Google search results at all. If the professional has a very common name, you can still try your luck with Google’s reverse image search function.
Testimonials & References
A good way to evaluate a potential content marketer is to look at their references. Are they mostly tech companies or they a very broad and random selection of companies from all industry sectors? While it’s not necessarily a bad sign if a writer has a generic background, you’ll feel much more comfortable if you know the author of your future blog articles is specialised in your niche. A lack of references should make you suspicious, especially if you need very in-depth technical content.
Asking for examples of the author’s work is another good way to evaluate their skills. Samples can reveal a lot about the author’s writing style, adaptability and quality. Of course, you have to be a bit cautious and take into account that quite often content produced by writers is edited and reviewed by the marketing team. Combine this evaluation approach with others too to be completely confident about your potential marketer’s skills.
Interviewing is a tried and tested method for identifying how a potential talent might fit for a specific job. By having a direct interaction with the prospect, you can gather much more information through asking explorative questions as well as through observing the behaviour, manner and thought process of the candidate. When looking to find great writers for content marketing for tech startups, this is also a good chance to test the applicant’s knowledge about the technology you are using. Interviews are one of the most thorough options for screening candidates, but it shouldn’t be used on its own and without other techniques that we explained here.
A trial period is the best way to make sure the person you hired is talented and produces high-quality tech content. You’ll be able to get to know the writer and see how the candidate actually performs in reality before committing to any recurring gigs or long-term agreements. However, keep in mind that the more experience and the better writers are, the less they’ll be willing to agree to trial periods, test articles and so on as they can basically “pick their clients”. Asking a famous technology author to write a sample text for you as a test will show a lack of respect and probably end the partnership before it even starts.
How to close the deal
Before you enter the negotiation stage, you should do your homework and identify your content creation budget, determine the fair market value for writers according to your target audience and topic, and set a deadline for when the articles are due. When contracting the author, make sure you agree on the payment method (bank transfer, PayPal, etc) and retribution model (cost per word, cost per article, cost per hour, cost per ongoing fee).
Once you find great writers, don’t forget to give them a proper onboarding and always make clear instruction for content assignments. The better you can describe your expectations and demands, the better the writer can adjust and craft the content according to your vision. To find out more about how to get the highest ROI, check our article about outsourcing your content marketing effectively.
Disclaimer: This article is aimed at tech startups that are somewhere between bootstrapping and global expansion after securing their latest funding round. As a result, it’s focused on medium-length English blog posts that are about technologies such as Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning.