How to Hire Content Writers | Step-by-Step

Hiring content writers early will allow you to scale faster and stick to a regular cadence. In this guide, I recap my step-by-step process for hiring freelance content writers.

October 20, 2023
Written by
Nate Matherson
Reviewed by
Charles Purdy

Join 1,850+ SEO and marketing professionals staying up-to-date with Positional's weekly newsletter.

* indicates required

Creating fantastic content isn’t easy. In fact, it’s incredibly challenging and time-consuming.

Entrepreneurs, founders, and marketing teams have a lot to do each week. And creating new content often falls to the bottom of their to-do lists.

But as with many things in life, consistency is critical for growing a content marketing channel. 

Throughout my career, I’ve hired more than 100 freelance content writers and spent millions of dollars on content creation. In my experience, building the content creation muscle, and often a freelance writing team, early on is mission-critical to scaling content and SEO channels. 

But how do you find and hire a content writer? And what’s the best way to work with them?

In this frequently requested article, I’ll break down the process for hiring content writers. There are many different types of content in content marketing, and in this post, I’ll primarily focus on hiring writers to create blog posts or articles. However, many of these tips are also applicable to other types of content creation.

Finding Freelance Writers

Finding freelance content writers is the first step. 

Of course, you can also hire writers into full-time roles, and there are many benefits to doing so, but in this article, I’ll focus on hiring freelance writers. 

There are many different ways to find content writers. And in my career, I’ve found that three of these methods work quite well. 

Using Freelancer Platforms

I’ve used Upwork (previously Elance) for nearly ten years now. And in that time, I’ve hired more than 100 freelance writers on the platform.

Upwork is one of many freelancer marketplaces. You’ll post a job, people will respond, and you can choose someone and hire them directly via the platform. Upwork will also handle the contracting and payments process. I’m continually surprised by the level of experience that I’ve been able to get on Upwork. I’ve hired veterinarians, certified financial planners, and platform engineers to create content.

There are plenty of other platforms — for example, Fiverr, although the quality tends to be a bit lower here, and sites like Problogger.

Later in this article, I’ll provide an in-depth look at the process of posting a job on a platform like Upwork, with a sample job posting and screening methodology. 

Poaching (Kind Of)

Odds are that your competitors are also using freelance content writers.

Hiring content writers away from your competitors is a fantastic strategy. Especially if the writers already have deep domain experience or knowledge in the space you’d like them to write about. And when I say competitors, I don’t necessarily mean direct business competitors. These competitors could be non-direct competitors or even industry publications in your space. 

With this approach, you’ll want to build a list of 10 to 15 writers with bylines on competitive websites. Of course, you’ll want to select these individuals based on the quality of their work and the topics they’ve covered.

The next step would be to confirm that these authors are freelancing. Then you can send them an email saying that you’re interested in working with them. Many freelance writers also have personal websites, so finding their contact information is usually not that difficult. You could also find and contact them on platforms like LinkedIn.

On average, if you email 10 of these individuals, you should get between five and eight replies from writers who are interested in writing for you.

Working with a Content Agency

Content agencies are great, too. Content agencies typically have their own teams of freelance writers, and they usually provide editorial support as well.

Agencies are a popular choice for startups, where people are looking to move quickly and probably don’t want to manage content writers directly.

A content agency will typically handle many of the steps mentioned later in this article, including creating outlines and the editing process. 

However, while content agencies allow you to move faster, agencies tend to be quite a bit more expensive — in my experience, two to four times the cost of hiring a writer directly. In addition, for some companies, it can be hard to find a content agency that can support the topics being written about. 

For example, a healthcare company might have difficulty finding an agency that can create fantastic content about consumer health. However, agencies with niche expertise do exist. I’ve worked with specialized content agencies, including, to create developer-focused content.

As a final point here, I’ll note that using both a content agency and an internally managed freelance writing team will make sense for many companies. 

Job Posting Recommendations (Sample)

Posting a job to a platform like Upwork is simple.

In your job posting, you want to be descriptive about the role and the type of content you’re looking to create. You’ll also want to be upfront about compensation (or at least provide a range) and the cadence of new work. 

You’ll likely get a lot of proposals, so you’ll want to include tripwires in the job posting to catch and remove spam or applicants who aren’t thoroughly reading your posting and are applying even though they may not be qualified. 

Here is an example of a job posting that we’ve used recently:


Hey Upworkers! 

We are hiring 1-2 freelance content writers to join our marketing team. Our company is building software in the content marketing and SEO industry, and we are currently building out an extensive library of content on our blog

On our blog, we are creating content on several topics within growth marketing, but we are mainly focused on creating actionable tutorials and guides for individuals looking to learn more about search engine optimization (SEO).

Our bar for quality content is high, and we are looking to bring on individuals with deep expertise in SEO and content marketing. A few of our requirements:

  • We are looking for native or near-native speakers.
  • The individual hired for this role can be located anywhere globally but should be available and responsive in EST. Please put “EST” at the top of your proposal.
  • Ability to meet weekly deadlines.
  • Ability to source and reference effectively when making claims.
  • Ability to create at least 1x high-quality piece of content each week (1,500-2,500 words)
  • We do not accept AI-written or plagiarized submissions.

We provide our freelance writers with detailed content outlines. Generally, our content ranges from 1,500 to 2,500 words, although some pieces may be longer and shorter. Our copy editor will edit your work after we receive it. 

We are planning to hire 2-3 content writers from this job posting for a test project. You will be asked to write about an SEO topic (ex. how to do keyword research, what is internal linking, what is a sitemap), and you’ll be provided with an outline.

We are looking to pay between $400-600 for each piece of content, depending on the scope and expertise of the candidate. In your proposal, please provide your bid for this test project for a 2,000-word article. In your proposal, please mention your favorite SEO tool and the reason why. Please provide 2-3 writing samples, and if possible, please send the pre-edited (before they went through an editor) and post-edited copies of those samples. Your exact topic will be communicated via message before hiring to confirm that it is a good fit for your expertise.

You will receive a byline, and you will be provided with a full author page on our website.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions. Thank you so much for reading our job posting.


We were descriptive in our posting but didn’t mention our company specifically. This is a personal preference, but I don’t typically reveal our company in the job posting. Instead, I’ll tell the candidates more about our company after some initial screening. 

You may have noticed that I left a couple of tests in the job posting itself. I asked candidates to mention “EST” at the top of their proposal and to tell me about their favorite SEO tool and why it’s their favorite.

More on screening a bit later!

Expected Costs

The costs of creating content with freelance writers will vary depending on your industry and the scope of the project.

For most companies, you should expect to pay between $300 and $500 for a fantastic 1,500-word piece of content. But the costs may be much higher for companies in very technical industries. For example, companies in the developer tools space might need to pay $1,200 to $1,800 for a piece of content.

You can, of course, find writers on platforms like Upwork who will write for $75 to $100 per article. Still, there is usually a significant difference in quality between a $100 article and a $400 article.

And if you’re hiring experts with deep domain knowledge in your field, the costs might be significantly higher.

On Positional’s weekly SEO podcast, Optimize, I asked a number of our guests about the costs of creating content:

Jimmy Daly of Superpath said he typically pays about $1,200 for a 1,200-word piece of content.

Karl Hughes of, an agency specializing in developer content, mentioned that the cost of a highly technical, 2,000-word blog post ranges from $500 to $2,500. 

Ryan Bednar of Rank Science suggested $500 and up for a high-quality piece of content.

By contrast, one of our guests, Dave Rathmanner, an SEO consultant and website builder, mentioned that he is finding high-quality content at about $0.10 per word, or $150 for a 1,500-word blog post. 

While many companies pay on a per-word basis, I recommend negotiating a flat rate for each piece of content when assigning each month.

Screening Candidates

Once you’ve received your proposals back, either on a platform like Upwork or directly from the content writers who have responded to your email, the next step is to review their sample submissions.

You want to find candidates who have experience writing in your topic area, who fit your budget, and who have provided high-quality writing samples. In addition, if there is a specific voice or tone you’d like to achieve with your pieces, certain writers might be better suited than others.

I generally avoid hiring content writers who mention explicitly that they write for SEO. While hiring a writer with fundamental SEO knowledge can prove to be helpful during the optimization phase, hiring a content writer who overdoes it on SEO might lead to your pieces sounding unnatural. It’s best to create helpful content first and then optimize it for SEO.

After receiving the responses from the content writers, you should engage with them. Tell them more about your company and your specific goals. You’ll want to hire highly responsive candidates.

It often makes sense to hire two or three candidates for a test project, which is discussed below.

Creating a Test Project

Creating a test project is an essential step in the hiring process.

You should provide a test project to two or three candidates and ultimately select the one or two candidates who perform the best.

Assign each of the content writers a different article topic. Be sure to provide a clear content outline or brief breaking down what should be included in the article. You can also use your content outline to provide some recommendations for content optimization — for example, a set of long-tail keywords that the content writer should incorporate in the piece.

Creating in-depth content outlines is a high-leverage activity in the content creation process. Creating an in-depth content outline will often take 15 to 30 minutes. We included a content outline template you can use in our article about creating content outlines

Positional’s Content Planner generates simple outlines, and our Optimize toolset can be helpful for framing what those pieces of content should look like — for example, what the word count should be or which keywords to include.

You’ll then want to assign the article with an outline to the content writer and provide a very clear deadline for when that writer should deliver the content. Charles Purdy, our freelance copy editor at Positional, suggests that you “give writers a deadline that is a day or two earlier than you actually need the work, if possible, so everyone has some wiggle room."

Reviewing Work

Once you’ve received the test project, you’ll want to review the content, to judge its quality and see whether the writer followed instructions.

You’ll also want to check for both plagiarism and AI-generated content. You don’t want to pay for plagiarized work or work that was largely written with an AI writing tool.

Positional’s AutoDetect toolset has both a plagiarism checker and AI detection. However, it’s worth noting that AutoDetect is not 100% accurate, and false positives and negatives regularly occur.

Plagiarism is a big no-no, and we immediately exclude authors who plagiarize other pieces of work. For one, plagiarism is wrong; in addition, it can cause duplicate content issues.

Google has said mixed things about the use of AI-generated content. We’ve recapped their guidelines and statements in this blog post: “Google’s Guidelines on AI Generated Content.”

Getting in Rhythm

After selecting the one or two candidates you’d like to continue working with, the next step is getting into a rhythm.

Most companies don’t need more than one or two high-quality content writers, assuming they’re creating one or two pieces of content each week. But if you’d like to move faster than that, you could repeat the above process and continue to build out the team.

Planning Your Editorial Calendar

At this point, you’ve likely done some keyword research and planning. While you won’t need to fill out an editorial calendar for the next year, planning your editorial calendar in one- or two-month sprints is often helpful. 

Assigning content or projects to your content writers monthly makes sense for most teams. You can also share your editorial calendar with the content writers and ask them if there are certain articles that they’d especially like to write for you.

When assigning your content at the start of each month, you should set clear deadlines for when you expect each piece of content. Operating on a weekly cadence makes sense for many companies.

Working with a Copy Editor

After you receive the content from the writer, hire a copy editor who can assist in reviewing and polishing the content before it goes to publishing.

Copy editors are specialists who can correct errors of spelling, grammar, word choice, and logic. They can also do simple fact-checking, make sure the content has a consistent and appropriate tone, and improve the general flow of the writing.

Copy editors can be found on platforms such as Upwork, and there are a number of agencies that specialize in editing.

Copy editors typically charge an hourly rate. Costs can vary from $25 to $100 per hour for editors with specialized knowledge or deep industry experience.

A copy editor can often help with SEO optimization, including adjusting title tags, adding internal links, and writing meta descriptions. But you’ll want to do a final review of all of the SEO work before publishing a piece, to make sure that nothing has been missed.

Common Mistakes and Gotchas

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes hiring content writers over the years. Over time, you’ll get into a rhythm and become a better judge of quality.

There are four common mistakes that teams will make when hiring writers.

Don’t Hire Too Many Content Writers

As mentioned previously, you’ll likely only need one, two, or three content writers. A mistake that startups will often make is hiring too many writers. Managing five, six, or seven writers will make the job harder, and you’ll need to spend more time running air traffic control.

Find one or two fantastic writers, and stick with them.

Don’t Forget Content Outlines

To stress this point again, content outlines are critical in the content creation process. While it’s tempting to throw a list of keywords at a writer and then say go, you’ll end up spending more time in the editing and publishing process.

Take the time and create an outline before assigning the work.

Keep Compensation Simple

Paying your content writers on a negotiated flat-rate basis is the right decision.

You should avoid paying on a per-word basis, as often the incentives are misdirected in a number of different ways. And you might end up with the content writer wasting words without adding anything new.

And you should generally avoid paying content writers on an hourly basis. Again, incentives are misdirected in different ways. Fantastic content writers might be able to write an article in two hours that would otherwise take a less experienced writer four hours.

Keep things simple, and negotiate flat rates for each piece of content.

Don’t Cheap Out

You usually shouldn’t hire the lowest-cost content writer. As mentioned above, you can undoubtedly find people who will write for $75 to $100 per article, but the sweet spot for quality is typically $300 to $500 per article for most companies.

A big mistake companies make is that they’ll optimize for cost too early and then wind up needing to go back to all of their previously published articles and rework or replace them altogether. I’m speaking from experience here — this is precisely what happened to us at our first company.

Final Thoughts

Hiring content writers early will allow you to scale faster and stick to a regular cadence.

In this article, I’ve recapped my process for hiring writers.

Keep the bar for quality high in your hiring process — quality is always more important than quantity. Create fantastic outlines, get into a regular cadence, and treat your content writers well. 

Building that factory line or content production process is essential. And with just one or two fantastic writers, you can move quickly.

At Positional, we are building tools for content marketing and SEO teams. We’d love to tell you more about our private beta. If you are interested in learning more, you can book a demo with me directly.

Nate Matherson
Co-founder & CEO of Positional

Nate Matherson is the Co-founder & CEO of Positional. An experienced entrepreneur and technologist, he has founded multiple venture-backed companies and is a two-time Y Combinator Alum. Throughout Nate's career, he has built and scaled content marketing channels to hundreds of thousands of visitors per month for companies in both B2C (ex financial products, insurance) as well as B2B SaaS. Nate is also an active angel investor with investments in 45+ companies.

Read More

Looking to learn more? The below posts may be helpful for you to learn more about content marketing & SEO.