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If your goal is to create a passive income stream from your niche site, the best way to do that is to outsource some of the work. When it comes to outsourcing, the first, and possibly only, task you should outsource is the writing of your articles.
Writing articles takes a ton of time, so by outsourcing it, you will be able to spend significantly more time focusing on growing your business. This is one of the biggest keys to scaling your niche site or niche sites.
However, if you don’t know what to look for when outsourcing, it can quickly lead your site down the wrong path. Freelancers don’t have the same goals and interests as you, so it’s up to you to make sure they’re meeting your needs and expectations.
My team and I have worked with many freelancers over the past few years. Most have been decent, a few have been great, and a few have been absolutely terrible.
In this post, my goal is to share what I’ve learned from outsourcing well over 1,000 articles, so you don’t have to deal with the same issues that I’ve dealt with. By knowing what to look out for, you’ll be much more likely to get a better return on your investment.
As a quick side note, if this is your first site, I highly encourage you to write your own articles until you start getting some traction. No matter how much time you’ve spent researching building niche sites, you’re bound to make mistakes.
Not only will you identify those mistakes much more quickly when writing your own articles, but you won’t waste any money while doing so. Once you’ve figured out what a good article looks like, you can slowly start to experiment with outsourcing.
Speaking of outsourcing, for this post, I’m referring to hiring individual writers, as opposed to going through a writing agency. For my team, we’ve always used Upwork for this purpose.
To see who we’re currently using for both freelance writers and writing agencies, check out our tools and resources page.
With that behind us, here’s what to do when outsourcing content for your niche site.
1 – Make Sure They’re Fluent
Whenever hiring a writer for your site, it’s important to hire someone that’s fluent in the language of your choice. In our case, that’s American English. I specified American, because you will often find writers from Canada, the UK, etc.
Hiring writers from other countries can be a great way to save some money. Many of them are even adept at writing in American English. Just know that you’ll have to really spot check their work if your language of choice is not their first language.
I’ve hired writers from all over the globe, and many of them have done a great job. However, with most foreign writers, you’ll occasionally have to reword various sections to sound more natural.
Ideally, stick with writers from your own country, as they will be more likely to produce content that’s fluent in your language.
A quick way to test this before hiring, especially if you’re using Upwork, is to have a conversation with the writer. The conversation can be through messages or even a video call.
If you ask enough questions and generate enough dialogue, you’ll easily be able to tell if the person is fluent in your native language.
2 – Check Their Past Work
Another thing you absolutely should do is check some previous articles from the freelancer you’re considering hiring. When using Upwork, the freelancer should already have some past work for you to check.
Don’t be afraid to ask for additional pieces during your interview process. By the way, I use the term “interview” lightly here, as with Upwork, an interview can be as simple as sending a few messages back and forth with the freelancer.
When judging past work, look for things like spelling, grammar, writing style, formatting, etc. The more points they hit on, the better.
If they don’t have any past work listed, ask them if they can provide any. Even if they do have previous articles listed, you might want to ask them for more.
3 – Read Reviews
If you’re using a site like Upwork to hire writers, you should be able to quickly and easily see reviews for your writers. Take the time to read these reviews to look for any red flags.
Many people will leave positive reviews, simply because they don’t want to cause any tension. However, those reviews will generally be very short and generic.
If you see positive reviews that are thorough and point out specific skills that the writer has, that’s a great sign. On the other end, if you see specific shortcomings pointed out in the reviews, that’s something to watch for.
When reading reviews, make it a point to look for timeliness. The absolute biggest problem I’ve run into with freelancers is that most of them can’t hit their deadlines.
In our case, this isn’t a big deal because we schedule our posts out pretty far into the future. However, if you’re hiring just one freelancer, you don’t want to be waiting longer than expected for them to produce those articles.
4 – Make Sure They Can Follow Directions
One of the biggest issues I’ve had with freelance writers is that many of them can’t, or don’t, follow directions. They might check all of your other boxes, but when you get that first article back from them, it doesn’t at all match what you asked for.
The first way to check whether or not a freelancer can follow directions is to ask specific questions within your job posting. Ask a few very specific questions about their past or writing style, then see how they answer those questions.
The second way involves spending a little money, and that is to hire the writer for a test article. This is a step I always do with a new writer.
Send the writer a topic for an article, and make sure to specify items like word count, writing style, formatting (headings, subheadings, etc.), and more. While you’ll have to pay the writer for that article, if it turns out to be a good one, you can publish it on your site.
I can’t even count how many times I thought I had a good writer, only to get that test article back with great disappointment. Whatever you do, don’t commit to a long-term contract with a writer until they’ve proven that they can meet or exceed your expectations.
5 – Check For Spun Content
Spun content is essentially content that was found on other sites and rewritten as a new article. A lot of content on the web will fall into this category, and to an extent, it’s not so bad.
If you’re researching a topic for a new article on your site, it’s only natural that you’re going to reference other sites and pull some information from here or there. The problem though is when someone simply copies large chunks of text directly from other sites and puts it in a new article as their own.
This is the type of spun content that will leave you in the doghouse with Google. You definitely don’t want text to simply be copied from other sites and pasted onto yours.
To test this, again, you’ll have to hire the freelancer for a test article. I recommend checking the writer’s first several articles to be safe. You might even want to spot check their work long after those initial articles to make sure they’re not spinning content.
There are tools like copyscape.com that can help you quickly check for duplicate content online. This is definitely a good initial check to use.
I like to take this a step further though and actually look at competing articles. Basically, put yourself in the writer’s shoes to see what articles they might have referenced when writing the article.
First, browse or read your freelancer’s article. Next, open up each competing article on the topic and browse them to see if you see any glaring similarities.
Like I said, it’s okay to reference other articles to support your own article. What you’re looking for are large sections of articles that were either directly copied or slightly reworded.
We actually received a comment on one of our sites pointing out that a large section of text was copied from another site on one of our articles. After verifying that this was indeed the case, I went back and checked all the articles from that freelancer.
I ended up finding 5-7 articles from that freelancer that were basically copied and reworded from other sites. Luckily, that writer was very inconsistent and only produced about a dozen posts for us.
In that case, we deleted a few posts that had never gotten any traction in Google Search and reworked the other posts to make them better.
Outsourcing is the key to both scaling your business and making it passive. However, it’s not as simple as jumping on a site like Upwork and hiring the first writer that applies for your job listing.
Take the time to figure out exactly what you’re looking for, so you can ask the right questions and analyze the work that’s returned. By knowing what to look for, you can significantly improve the chances of hiring a writer that will produce good, original content that will help your site grow.