How to Find a Writer for Your Next B2B Marketing Project

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    Looking for a good writer for a specific project or ongoing marketing content? Here are some tips for finding the right writer for the job:

    Know the kind of writer you’re looking for.

    Like with any profession, writers specialize in what they’re good at. Some are great technical writers, able to write software documentation in their sleep. Others are made to tell people’s stories, born to paint pictures with their words. And still others are great at business writing – translating a consultant’s words into an article for a magazine, or ghost-writing a book on strategy. Copywriters are another breed – writers who can catch your attention with just a few words in an advertisement, for example, or at the top of a website. Certainly writers can cross over, and if you can find someone with diverse experience, that is great. But writing ad copy requires a different set of skills than those of a technical writer. And some writers who are especially skilled at social media aren’t necessarily well-suited to writing 5,000-word whitepapers. Knowing what you’re looking for will help you narrow down the list more quickly.

    Find someone with the right kind of experience and a willingness to learn.

    This one is tricky. I’ve read a lot of articles about the best kinds of writers for content marketing work. Many say a journalism background is a great qualifier for the kind of work we do day in and day out. I may be a little biased – I am a journalist by trade – but I can see their point. A journalist has been trained in and has experience in interviewing subjects on topics they know little about; as a result they know how to ask the right questions. They usually have experience writing about different topics, and they are able to identify the most important part of the story and bring it to the top – filtering out what’s not important.

    A common question we hear is whether a company should hire writers who already have a background in what they’re going to writing about. I think it might matter more whether a writer has B2C or B2B experience – two markets that (usually) require a different approach. But I am a firm believer that if someone has the underlying skills – researching, interviewing, writing, editing – they can learn the industry. The learning curve might be steeper, which you’ll have to plan for. But if you don’t narrow your search based on industry experience, your talent pool will be much deeper.

    After you have brought your top candidates in, gauge what I call their “nerdiness.” Some writers love writing about anything that’s put in front of them. They’ll dig in and learn everything there is to know about a topic, and they’ll enjoy every second of an interview with an expert in that area. If you’re looking to hire a writer in a particularly niche market, you might want to ask the writer to name the most boring topic they’ve ever written about, and how they made that interesting. Their answer – and their enthusiasm while responding – will be illuminating. I love writers that are able to turn something that’s highly technical into something that is accessible to someone on the outside. That takes real skill.

    Pay your top candidates to complete a small project for you.

    The problem with asking for examples of someone’s writing is that their samples have probably been edited. In many cases, that’s fine. All published work has been edited. But it is possible that the sample articles were heavily edited or even rewritten. You have no way of knowing how much is your candidate’s work and how much was redone by an editor. And at the risk of sounding cynical, you also have no way of knowing whether the sample work they’ve provided is even theirs.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask for samples. Samples of a writing candidate’s work not only show you how well they write, they show you what the candidate is most proud of and what they are good at.

    But to get a real feel for their process and their raw copy, contract with your top candidates to write a blog – or other content in line with the job they are interviewing for. Ask them to interview one of your industry experts as part of their research process. Let them take a day to work on the piece rather than make them sit in the office. While I can work under pressure (thanks to my newspaper days), I produce my best work early in the morning or even late at night.

    Be sure to pay them for the work to get the relationship off to a good start. If you’re still not sure you want to hire them full-time, bring them on as a contractor for a few months to test the waters. Nothing wrong with that.

    Consider their understanding of marketing best practices.

    Not all writers have experience in marketing. That’s not to say you shouldn’t hire a great writer who has only ever written for a magazine. But if you can find someone who not only knows how to put pen to paper, but also speaks the language of a marketer, their contribution to your team will be much deeper. Understanding content development based on a buyer’s journey, for example, is a great skill to look for in a candidate.

    I hope this blog post has given you some tips for hiring a writer that you can use the next time you’re looking for a wordsmith. If I can be of any help, let me know at [email protected].

    Happy searching!

    How to Find a Writer for Your Next B2B Marketing Project