In this new era of Internet marketing, content has once again become king. With Google cracking down on Internet marketers that have been abusing low-quality link building techniques, more and more people are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon.
I personally think this is an awesome trend and I’ve been seeing some really great content coming out all over the Internet. However, it can be difficult to really scale up this type of operation while still being able to make some money. Quality writers are not cheap, and it can be even harder to keep good writers around for an extended period of time.
But, there is a little trick I found to get cheap writers that are very talented. Plus, they are guaranteed to stick around for a while.
Before I get into the details, I want to share a little story.
How It All Began
I was twenty-two and working on my undergraduate degree. I was in a very rigorous year of my degree that required around 60-70 hours of my time a week.
I’d already lost a girlfriend due to my schedule, hadn’t seen my family much, and was exhausted between school and my part-time job.
One day, while taking a short study break, I noticed that one of my friends was lamenting the fact that being an English major didn’t present the same kind of job opportunities that a tech degree like mine offered. He just wanted to write for people on his own schedule while working from home.
I thought about this for a second, and then thought back to a few of the Internet marketing forums that I frequented and how people were always looking for quality content at an affordable price. It seemed that there were either magazine-quality writers that wanted a ton of money, or non-native english speakers that just didn’t have the needed quality.
I quickly sent him an email asking him if he’d be interested in doing some writing for me. He agreed, we worked out the pricing and I sent him a few article topics. What he sent back was very well written. I had to make a few tweaks and it was ready to go.
I wrote up some documentation for him with tips about writing for the web as well as some external links for him to read and had him do a few more articles. This time, what I got back was even better and ready for posting without any edits.
I then started selling his writing as a service on some of the forums I was a member of. Word quickly got around that this content was top-notch, and at the price point we were hitting, it was more than worth buying. He got booked up extremely fast and we had to start turning away customers.
As any good marketer would, I then started going about scaling this enterprise. The content writing service ended up doing $x,xxx a month in revenue throughout the rest of my college career, including through my master’s degree. I was able to pay for school as well as save some money.
The big lesson I learned was in scaling this process and finding the right kind of people to hire.
The Nuts and Bolts
Now, let’s talk about how I was able to find the writers, and how I managed them.
Finding the Right People
As Anand mentioned in his post, you can make more money faster if you’re willing to hire appropriately. Instead of running to oDesk and hiring many of the willing job-seekers from India and the Philippines, I instead ran to the nearest universities.
Typically, I would go to the university website and find creative writing, and public relations professors. I’d then email them a pitch that looked something like the following:
Hi Professor [insert name],
My name is Mitchell Wright and I am looking to hire some of your students as writers.
[Insert something about my business, how they will write on a variety of topics, flexible schedule and better than average pay for on-campus jobs]
I’d like to come in and maybe take 2-3 minutes to pitch the idea to some of your students in your upper level writing classes. If that is ok with you, please let me know when I can come in and do this.
I typically had a pretty solid response rate, and even if I didn’t get to come in and pitch the students, a lot of times the professor would offer instead to send an email out to all the students in the appropriate classes.
Once I received emails from students, I would have them send me a couple sample articles about topics I gave them and would hire the ones that showed promise.
As I scaled up, I actually promoted my first friend to an editor position and had all of the new hires send articles to him directly for revision before I sent them on to the client. This freed up a lot of my time and allowed me to simply be more of an agent. I just had to find clients and send the information on to my editor, who would divvy the assignments out to the writers.
The Why and How
I know that this whole process seems pretty simple and obvious, but I think a lot of people don’t realize the power of it.
First, the reason you can get these people for lower than normal wages is because of the writer’s stage of life. Right now, he/she doesn’t realize the kind of money that can be made simply doing content writing. The typical university student has no idea how to even find these types of writing jobs.
You are offering generally higher wages than what would be made at an on-campus job, and it is relevant to the field of the student. This job is the type of thing that would be great to put on a resume.
Second, the student is not likely to up and leave because he/she still has to finish school. As long as you, the employer, continue to offer a good wage, there is no reason for the writer to stop writing for you. I have even had some writers stay on board after graduating as a way to supplement their full-time job.
I even started looking into offering positions for internship credit. This allowed the students to receive course credit for their work, and for me to get free writers in exchange for training them and providing work experience. This is an even leaner way to get high quality writers!
Go Forth and Be Lean
I want to make it very clear that I do not condone taking advantage of these students. They should still be compensated properly. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, I would find out what theses students can make at a normal on-campus job and make sure that the rates would be higher than this. The higher wage resulted in higher-quality writers that would stick around for longer.
Now, go ahead and build out your team of content writers!
Updated by Adam Steele on June 8th 2015