Following my article on How To Start A Blog, I have been asked by a lot of people if I can reveal or even share my article writer, who I use to write content for my niche websites.
Whilst I can't share him or his writing services, what I will be showing you in this post is how to find your very own premium content writer, for less than $20 per 1,000-word article.
What You Will Learn
- The Exact templates I use to get quality applicants
- Three tips to save you hours of time
- How to work with and manage your VA
- Outsource tasks to an All -Round VA for just $1 per hour
Where to Find Quality Writers
It wasn't until 2 years ago that I began to understand the power of outsourcing and the time and cost benefits associated with it.
I have tried a number of freelance sites that allow you to hire and outsource tasks to virtual assistants all over the world. However, my go-to site for articles has always been UpWork.com
I also love the way UpWork lets you manage your team with the messaging facility and the automated billing system means I can spend less time working IN my business and more time working ON it.
As with anything online, you will get those who claim to be able to meet your requirements, however, when it comes down to it, they can't. Whilst this is both frustrating and time-consuming, the beauty of UpWork is you don't pay until you are 100% satisfied.
There are ways to ensure we don't waste our time and money. The steps below will put you on the fast track to hiring a quality article writer that will work their ass off to please you.
How to Write a Job Description
Probably THE most important and overlooked part of the whole process is writing the job description.
Make shortcuts here and I assure you, it will cause you headaches further down the line. (I have learned the hard way!)
I have tried many different variations of the job description and today I want to share with you the one template that has proven time after time to yield great results.
Job Title – Premium Writer Required for 1000 Word Article
I have an article writing job that requires a minimum of 1,000 words.
I will provide you with the article title and subtitles and would like you to research and write a 1000 word article.
The article must be high quality and future work will follow for the right applicant.
– Native English
– Interested in completing this job quickly
– Interested in potential longer term writing assignment
– The article must be 100% original and pass Copyscape
– Bid at the $20 guideline
– Include examples of your previous written articles in your application
Please start your application with the word [insert crazy work] so I can be sure you have read and understood the job description.
Ok, now you've got the template we can move on to explain why it works so well.
Weeding Out the Crap
The job description template has 3 key elements that will save you time and money.
- We asks for Premium Content Writers and 1,000 Words
- The title is designed to attract writers looking for a longer term gig, these are the guys that will be proud of their work.
- By using the words “Premium Content“, I find many of the applicants who blindly apply for all content writing jobs, actually think twice about this one. It gives off the impression that we mean business and won't accept anything below par.
- Having “1,000 words” in the title also puts off those who want to rewrite and submit crappy 500-word PLR articles.
- We use the Crazy Word Filter
We will end each job description with the line below;
Please start your application with the word [INSERT CRAZY WORD] so I know you have read and understood this job description.
This may seem strange, however, let me explain.
I won't lie to you, you will get LOTS of applicants whose English writing skills are…poor to say the least. Awful would be more fitting.
What you will find is that these people will see your job title, not bother reading it and send you a copy/paste application that they have stolen/borrowed/or had someone else write.
By asking them to include our “crazy word” (which could be a fruit, an animal or a color) at the start of the application, it allows us to quickly filter out those that have not read the description and didn't include out “crazy word”.
As you can see from the image above, using this sample of 4 applicants, 3 are using my crazy word “Tiger”. The one who didn't was rejected instantly.
Trust me you are better off without these applicants. If they can't follow simple instructions, they will be the cause of those headaches I spoke about earlier!
- We ask for Sample Work
This step may sound obvious, but it's a big one that will save you a lot of time.
I often reject applicants based on the sample articles they attach. If I am still not sure I run the article through a plagiarism tool to check the uniqueness (the tool is given below in the “Assessing the Quality” section).
If they don't attach sample work even though we have asked for it in our job description, once again I will reject their application. This keeps the process slick and only allows those who can follow our simple instructions through.
There are additional filters we can add to our job listing to further funnel our applicants.
- Skill Required – This section comes in handy as UpWork will show you how many of the skills you list here are met by each applicant. I use article writing, content writing, article curation and internet research.
- How would you like to pay? – Always fixed price for a writing job.
- Budget – I use $20 for a 1,000-word article as a guideline, applicants will generally come in under this amount.
- Estimated end date – I usually allow 4 days
- Freelancer Type – I only work with independent freelancers as agencies can be a pain!
- Marketplace visibility – I choose “only UpWork users can find this job”
- Preferred Qualification – It's easier to show a screenshot for this section;
So that's all for the additional filters. Those should put us in a good place to get some good applicants.
N.B – There is a new section when posting a job on UpWork titled “Screening Questions”.
Whilst I haven't used it myself yet, I do think it's a great idea for other jobs such as video creation or hiring a programmer. However for article writers and VA's it will just slow us down having to read the answers to the questions.
Feel free to give it a go, however, I prefer a slick process.
The Interview Process
The interview process can be a big time drain. We should have filtered out the poor applicants by now, however, there will still be some that have slipped through the net.
I take a different approach to most on interviewing; I prefer to pay a little upfront in order to save a lot of time.
Here's what I recommend you do;
- Shortlist each applicant you are interested in.
- Send each one a message with an article title that you can use for a niche site/private network site.
Message each applicant with the following (adding your own info between the square brackets);
Hi [VA's Name],
I am considering you for the role of [YOUR JOB TITLE] and wanted to ask if you would complete a paid test article?
Please could you write a  word article on the following topic, using the same for the article title;
“[insert article title]”
Please add relevant facts and figures, including tables and quotes where possible.
Content should be 100% unique and pass Copyscape, I check all the articles I receive.
Once I have your article I will review, make payment, and then decide if we can work together.
– [Your Name]
** Don't forget to replace the text in brackets with your own information!
The above message gets a very good response rate as the writer will get paid for the work. It also provides us with immediate content which you will be able to use in one way or another;
- Money site
- Private Blog Network site
- Web 2.0 site
- Fiverr Gig Guest Posts
Assessing the Quality
This should be fairly easy for you to gauge, as it will be your own site you are posting the content on. For money sites I run a tight ship.
For example, on my money sites, I want multiple levels of detail such as facts and figures, tables and links to resources etc.
For blog network sites I am still after quality, but I allow the writer a little more freedom to let the writing take them where it may…as long as they stay on topic of course!
If the writing is very poor then I would consider using this for web 2.0 link building.
I use just one key tool when it comes to assessing the uniqueness and quality of an article;
The Small SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker – https://smallseotools.com/plagiarism-checker/
When you find a writer that gives you 100% unique articles like this, it's worth hanging on to them 🙂
Negotiating a Price
Once you've found a good writer or two, you need to work out a price that both parties are happy with. One good tactic I use is to calculate the price per word you have paid for the initial article.
To use one of my own writers as an example. I paid $20 for the initial article of 1,000 words, which works out to be $0.02 per word.
After a couple of weeks, he was producing 1,400-word articles when I asked for 1,000, 800 when I asked for 500 and so on. The content was that good I thought I was underpaying him and I went back and offered him more work on a per word basis.
So I now have him writing on a $0.03 per word basis.
Managing Your VA
You can download my spreadsheet here which will help you manage your VA and enable you to keep track of content you have requested, received and planned.
For each new VA, I will assign them 5 articles and I always ask them to send the first completed article back to me before writing another. This enables me to check the style, grammar, and direction and put them on the right path if need be.
Once I am happy with the quality and style, I will then send batches of 10 articles each time and ask them to get back to me once they are all completed. This is a massive time saver and one step I recently implemented, which removed the need to continuously log in to UpWork and download documents.
This section covers some additional tips and tricks I have found to get the most out of UpWork and your virtual assistants.
Finding an All-Round VA
I like to have a few VA's in my team that can cover the tasks that take up a lot of my time, or for those, I just plain don't want to do.
For example, I had a niche site that required a huge directory containing locations throughout the UK, including names, addresses, email, and telephone numbers. I wasn't looking forward to the task and as such, I continually put it off for 3 weeks!
I decided enough was enough and I assigned the task to one of my VA's. Long story short, the task was done in 7 hours…whilst I was asleep! I woke up to a completed excel file containing all of the details I needed.
I then assigned the next task to another VA who had access to the backend of the website. He was to use a page I had already created as a template and created over 100 pages just like it.
So it took me all of 10 minutes to create the template and assign the tasks. Total cost to me = $15!
Here's how I find VA's for $1 Per Hour
Here's my process in a nutshell.
- Create a job description similar to the one above for the writer – however I make a few changes;
Hi, I'm looking for a great all round assistant who can do the following;
– Create posts & pages in WordPress
– Add images to posts with Alt tags and descriptions
– Web research to find images relevant to posts
– Able to create PDF documents
IF YOU CANNOT DO THE ABOVE PLEASE DO NOT APPLY
– Good level of English
– Great with WordPress
– Great with Excel
– Good spelling, grammar and writing skills
IF YOU CANNOT DO THE ABOVE PLEASE DO NOT APPLY
I am looking for a long term assistant who can find their way around WordPress without assistance.
Please start your application with the work TIGER so that I know you have read and understood what is required.
Please provide evidence of recent experience.
Notice how I repeat the sentence “IF YOU CANNOT DO THE ABOVE PLEASE DO NOT APPLY”, you will get a lot of applicants. I regularly get over 100 for such a job posting.
Also see the “Crazy Word” tip in use at the end! 🙂
The Hire or Fire Method
What I do is shortlist the standout applicants.
- Those who include the “Crazy Word” at the beginning of the application
- Those who have a good grasp of English
- Those who have a reasonable hourly rate ($1-$2 per hour)
Sending The Test
The next step is to send a blanket test to your top 3 applicants.
This is a big timesaver and the reason I choose my top 3 is simple. If one of them passes the test and I am happy, I hire. That's it, no messing about waiting for 50 people to complete your test.
If none of the first 3 pass the test, send it to the next 3 and so on until you find your All Rounder VA.
What Is the Test?
Here is my test template;
Hi [VA's Name],
I am considering you for the role of [YOUR JOB TITLE] and wanted to ask if you would complete a simple task so I can assess your suitability for this role?
Please, can you find 1 suitable image and 1 suitable video for the article below?
You can use Google Images and YouTube or any other media source you know of.[insert article link]
Please choose an image and video that fit the topic of the article and reply back with the URL links to both the image and the video.
Once I have your links I will review and decide if you are suitable for this role.
– [Your Name]
** Don’t forget to replace the text in brackets with your own information!
The above test does 4 things.
Tests the VA's understanding of written English and their ability to associate an image and video to an article is a biggie, as I have my VA's frequently find media sources for my niche sites.
- Asking them to send the URL's is a simple step and anyone computer savvy should be able to do this….you would be surprised how many don't understand this step!
- Shows us if they can follow simple instructions, whilst also testing their research skills on both YouTube and Google Images.
- We also test the response speed and communication skills of the VA.
From this, we can determine if we should Hire or Fire.
Be ruthless, if you didn't like something either explain and let them correct, or move on.
I hope the tips and templates in this article will help you to hire your first VA if you haven't already done so. I honestly believe the best way to grow your online business is to outsource.
By outsourcing you will free up your own time, so you can spend that time doing those things that will enhance and grow your business.
If you have any tips or best practices for hiring and working with VA's, let me know in the comments below.