Building up any website takes a lot of working with writers to get the most useful quality articles possible. Across all my money sites, I work with a team of writers to keep the content new every week and to keep the organic traffic numbers growing.
As you can imagine, that’s a lot of writers to manage. So this week I thought I’d share the best ways to hire and maintain a team of solid writers, keep them organized, and keep on track with what everyone is doing.
In addition to these practises I have developed over the years many of these lessons have been learned via ContentRefined.com where we have produced over 1,000,000 words/month for clients!
1. Hiring Writers
I’ve talked about this before, but hiring freelance writers shouldn’t be taken lightly. You want a native English speaking, strong and competent writer with solid experience. I always ask them to do a test assignment before bringing them onto the team. Here’s an example job posting from UpWork.
To check for grammar, I always ask the applicant to fix a couple of grammatically incorrect statements. That’s a quick way to check whether they’re legit English speakers or not. If they provide some examples of their work, that’s a good way to quickly check them out as well. But the best way is to assign them a test article to really see their chops.
2. The 10% Rule
I stole this rule from Jack Welch, former GE CEO, about maintaining the best teams. In a nutshell, he says that you should fire the bottom 10% of your staff every year. I apply this (in a way) to writing teams to make sure that they’re always stacked with the best writers. Say you have 10 writers on a content team. Every month or so, I cut out the 1 bottom performer and replace them with someone new. Constantly refreshing teams like this has worked well for making sure that writers are on their game and not getting lazy.
3. No Second Chances
Another tip with freelance writers: don’t give second chances. It’s happened a few too many times where I’ll give somebody the benefit of the doubt for a mistake or a late assignment, and sure enough they go out and repeat that bad behaviour every time. When you depend on sticking to a schedule and you really need writers to be on the ball, you can’t let anything slide. If they screw up, move on and hire someone new. You don’t have to be rude about it. Just let them know the problem(s) and why you can’t continue to work with them. It’s not personal; it’s business.
4. Keeping Organized: Spreadsheets!
A master spreadsheet that shows the status of team members has been the most effective strategy for keeping track of everybody. I check in with a spreadsheet like this one pretty much every day to review the work in progress. If I’ve assigned something and haven’t heard back from the writer for a day or two, I’ll follow up. If there’s still no response, those articles need to be reassigned. This simple spreadsheet will save you the huge headache of confusing emails and trying to mentally keep track of everybody. Just be sure to actually update it and don’t let things slip by, because that will make things confusing really quickly. Especially if you’re dealing with 10 or more writers, and various writing teams across different businesses, you want to make sure everything is well-organized.
I also always have an editor go through every article or piece of web copy that I have written. It’s great to have a second set of eyes on any text to help with spelling, grammar, flow, and readability. It’s usually this editor who I also get to run every piece of text through Copyscape to check for plagiarism. So in this master spreadsheet, you can keep track of what’s on your editor’s plate at the moment too.
5. Consistent Payments
Some freelancers will want to stick with UpWork for payments for security, but more often than not our writers ask for PayPal. It avoids the UpWork fees. No matter which way your writers want to go for payments, I recommend that you stick to a consistent pay schedule. Every week at the same time of day is ideal. Let your writers know when they can expect to be paid, and keep track of the work they’ve completed on a week by week basis. Here’s an example of what that payment tracking spreadsheet can look like. In this example, payments would ideally be made on Sundays, because the weekly tracking goes from Monday to Sunday. So writers know that if they hand something in on a Monday, they won’t be paid until that coming Sunday.
Final Thoughts: Keep Your Writers Happy
Consistent work, positive reinforcement, and clear communication are probably the three main things that have helped me keep some awesome writers around for a long time. When you’re working with someone primarily through email, it helps to have a friendly tone and to be as clear as possible with direction. Mutual respect and trust is the goal.
What have you found to be the most effective way of managing writers or content teams? Are there any tools you use that I should be checking out? Let me know in the comments!