I’ve been a contributor to a lot of websites, including Huffington Post and Forbes. I’ve also hired a lot of contributors to help me with all my websites. What frustrates me is that too many people and companies are getting it wrong when it comes to hiring a contributor.
A contributor can be a great asset to a blog team. They can bring in different perspectives, different writing styles, even different knowledge of a subject. However, too many companies try to constrain their contributors and don’t allow them the freedom to allow their talents to shine. As such, the relationship doesn’t work as well as planned for the company, and it usually ends up frustrating the contributor as well.
Follow this guide if planning to hire a contributor for your blog or website was something you’ve been considering.
Reasons To Hire A Blog Contributor
There are a ton of great reasons tot hire a contributor for your blog or website. In my case, I don’t have the time or experience to write for some of the properties I own.
Hiring a contributor can free up time in your schedule by writing content for your sites. They can also provide different knowledge and experiences for your sites.
Take, for example, a science website. You could hire any writer to write for the science site, but chances are you’re only going to get generic content. But, if you hired a science contributor, chances are your content would be much stronger and popular for your audience.
Contributors can also add perspective to blogs. I hire writers for blogs I regularly write on just to have a different perspective. Since audiences are diverse, this can be a great way to have more inclusive content for your entire community.
What To Look For In Contributors For Your Blog
There are a few key things that I look for in blog contributors that I think are pretty universal. First, they must be good writers. I don’t need amazing writers, just good ones that can connect with the audience. If they have blogs already, that’s even better because you can see how they write and how the community responds.
I also want to make sure that they have knowledge about the subject. If you have a parent blog, your writer better be a parent. If you have a finance blog, you better have some good knowledge about personal finance.
But here’s the caveat – knowledge doesn’t mean book smarts. In the personal finance case, you don’t need a CFA to be your writer. Someone who struggled with personal finance and then mastered it, but only has their real life story to tell, could be an amazing fit as a contributor.
Finally, the tricky question – pay. The better the writer, the higher the pay they will command. You need to find a balance between professional writers and bloggers, and new ones just starting out. You need to find writers that match your budget, but you should also consider what they bring to the table – networks, resources, social media followings, etc. These other factors could make one writer more attractive than another.
How To Manage Blog Contributors (and how I do it)
Once you have contributors, there are two common ways to manage them. The first is to create an editorial calendar and delegate out content to your writers. I’ve seen this done several ways. You can either assign content directly to individual writers, such as “Write this article on XYZ Widgets”, or you can maintain a standing list of articles and allow your writers to pick a topic from it.
The advantage of this method is that you can maintain a solid editorial calendar with themes that connect from day to day or week to week. If you have a lot of writers, this can also prevent topics from overlapping or being similar. However, I think that this system has a big drawback in that you are losing the key essence that you are hiring a contributor for. Your goal in hiring a contributor is to have them share their perspective and ideas, and if you are spoon feeding them topics and asking them to stick to a single prompt, you’ll lose their essence in the article.
That’s why I prefer the standing theme method. This is what I employ on my sites, and it has worked very well for me. I ask all my contributors to simply follow a set of themes for their articles. For example, for The College Investor, the theme is simple: investing, student loan debt, and personal finance for college students and millennials. As long as the contributor’s article connects to these central themes, I’m happy.
The benefits I’ve found with this method are that I get really great articles that are in depth and relatable. You also get to see the author’s personality shine through. I’ve outsourced content enough to know that if you give the prompt, you’ll get a simple generic article. But if you give the theme, you get something much more. The biggest con is that you really have to trust your contributor. Beyond the deadline aspect, you need them to be on the same page as you when it comes to the themes you outlined.
What To Do If The Relationship Isn’t Working
The fact is, though, that sometimes things don’t work out with blog contributors. But before you jump to conclusions, I would challenge you to ask yourself – is it something I’m doing or something they are doing?
If you’re giving you contributor specific prompts and are getting back generic articles, ask yourself (or even better the writer), what would have made this topic better? Is it the prompt that was boring, or did we miss something in the theme of the piece? If I gave my author more leeway, would they have written something amazing and I constrained them?
Too many times I’m seeing companies constrain their authors and then are disappointed with the articles. It’s just silly. You hired your contributor to share their opinions, and then you don’t want them? Should you have hired your contributor in the first place?
Have you hired a contributor or do you work as a blog contributor? Share your thoughts on this below!